The Mainstream Furniture Zeitgeist

I have a £75 Ikea table next to me as I write this. For purely research purposes, I decided to subject it to a “strength” test. (I totally didn’t do the “test” to give myself an excuse to get a new table). After a few minutes of destructive tinkering, let’s just say Ikea doesn’t make the sturdiest stuff (go figure). The layers of wood practically escorted themselves out of my table like they were suspiciously meant not to stay together. Granted, Ikea is supposed to be cheap and effective. But Cheap I can vouch for; effective, on the other hand, not so much.

This little experiment shows one crucial fact about “value” furniture stores – the cost at which they sell is not nearly enough for well-built or even remotely sturdy products. Sure, it’s is almost ridiculously cheap. But my destructive tendencies show that they are not particularly solid and/or secure. You add a child into the mix, and it’s likely to be toast before you can say “Ikea”

To wood or not to wood

The key problem here is the layers of wood. You know the stuff that keeps falling out ever so often out of cheap furniture. Said “wood” is not really wood per say, it’s usually something like ply or MDF. The essentially tiny pieces of wood are glued together in a mushy swishy paste. Predictably, the stuff is really fragile and not really good for furniture.

But why is it used in furniture then, wise guy? I hear you ask. The answer is the same for most not-fit-for-purpose things in life: Money. MDF is cheap. Like really, really cheap. It’s a fraction of the cost of wood, and hence a fraction of the £££ Ikea would have to spend on actual wood. The downside, besides the obvious fact is that it’s fragile, meaning it is prone to breakage and stupidly flimsy. It’s like cigarette companies all over again; most people don’t know this because powerful companies don’t want you to know this. In a nutshell, it won’t kill you, but it’s not broccoli either. I don’t know about you, to me this is reason enough to get your hands on furniture made from real wood.

There’s a reason solid wood furniture is really expensive – it’s made of real, not-mushy-wood-paste
real tree wood. The time and money used to make it really drives the costs up astronomically quickly; which is understandable – you’re getting natural wood instead of, to quote Donald Trump, fake wood.


Be gone, wood paste!

Due to the maladroit of furniture companies in making actual wood furniture – Hint: starts with I and rhymes with Pikea – customers are gravitating towards other real furniture companies. Excusing my obvious saltiness towards this topic, these companies are big ones like Hill Interiors and Pacific Lifestyle and little ones like Artisan Furniture (especially Artisan, their furniture is solid-wood and really tough, even by my destructive standards). These aren’t the cheapest ones out there but you can bet your last dollar the stuff they make is tougher than a pancake the morning after.

So essentially it boils down to,

MDF/Ply = Cheap = Flimsy = arguably dangerous = wood paste

Solid wood = Relatively Expensive = Sturdy = Real wood

Hence, you can go for instant wallet gratification and buy cheap and flimsy furniture from mainstream value retailers, or you could be a rational human being. I rest my case.