Friday, July 25, 2008

Because We Know Our Readers Like Shopping — Summer Furniture

14th and U Streets have become an incredible destination for furniture shopping. Below, I've reviewed stores along 14th and U Streets and created a guide for your weekend shopping. I may have missed a few spots along the way, but this listing should keep you plenty occupied.

Reincarnations, 1401 14th Street, NW
I will admit my personal bias for this store. To step into Reincarnations is to be overwhelmed by color and eclectic store displays — in a great way. I would summarize Reincarnations as imaginative and funky. Nothing in the store resembles your grandmother's couch, nor does the furniture tend toward stripped-down modern design. If you like punchy twists on traditional designs, this is the place for you. In no other neighborhood furniture store will you see the diversity of upholstery colors and textures that you will fund at Reincarnations.

Reincarnations also offers some good values. If you look around, you can easily score a piece of furniture for around $500, and much of the store's offerings are under $2500. If you just want a few fun accent pieces, the store always has bedding sets, curtain panels, serving ware, bar ware, and decorative vessels.

It's for you if: Your decorating preferences run toward bold color, patterns, and textures

Timothy Paul Carpets and Textiles, 1404 14th Street, NW & Timothy Paul Bedding and Home, 1529, 14th Street, NW

Timothy Paul Carpets and Textiles has existed at the corner of 14th Street and Rhode Island Avenue since 2003, long before Logan/U Street became the furniture shopping destination it is now. The textiles you will find in this location are heirloom quality from around the world. Some are new and others are antique. This location primarily got the attention of interior decorators and designers, but not as much consumer traffic.

New this past spring is the Timothy Paul Bedding and Home store between P and Q Streets on 14th. The owner's love for textiles is still the underpinning of the store's inventory, but you will also find some accent furniture, table wares, lighting, and paintings, among other small treasures.

The store's decor is decidedly near-eastern in feel; you will see plenty of filigree lanterns, intricately inlaid wooden tables, and Asian textiles. The most plentiful textile is a style of Uzbek tapestry known as Suzani. These are cotton or silk fabrics hand embroidered with floral and organic geometric patterns. You may have seen these designs knocked off at Anthropologie. Some examples of Suzanis from my own collection are included here. Buyers must understand that these are hand-made pieces of art, some of them semi antiques; it will brace you for the prices that range up to around the $1000 mark.

Bedding is the highlight of the store. At least a third of the store's space is dedicated to luxury linens and accent pillows. For the most part, colors are soft and the patterns range from demure to bold. If you are willing to invest in your bedding, Timothy Paul linens will make your bed the jewel of your household furniture. If you want a less expensive household accent, take a look at the toss pillows. For around $100, you can score a gorgeous silk mini bolster or an ikat print pillow.

Don't skip the little gems at Timothy Paul. There are plenty of accent tables and surprisingly comfortable metal mesh chairs great for casual living spaces. I fell in love with some paintings of Shenandoah landscapes priced at a very reasonable $100. You can also find special small-scale touches for your home such as pewter-stemmed wine glasses for $70 each.

It's for you if: You view textiles as art, you crave a little luxury, and/or you want your home to reflect your unique tastes.

Dragonfly, 1457 Church Street, NW
Dragonfly stocks home furnishings and art from Asia. Most of the inventory comes from China or Tibet, and many pieces are antiques. The inventory includes abundance of cabinets and chests. You will see a variety of finishes from dark wood, cinnabar red stains, and multi-colored hand painting. There are also plenty of screens as well as tables and wooden seating. You can score plenty of original art at Dragonfly ranging from abstracted representational to black and white photos of female nudes.

It's for you if: You like the Asian aesthetic and/or the art and heirloom quality of antiques speaks to you.

Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, 1526 14th Street, NW
If you like subtle modern updates to traditional furniture profiles — shaker, wicker, tub chairs, spool tables — this is the store for you. The most prominent store displays show living room furniture, but Mitchell Gold does also carry dining and bedroom furniture and has a smattering of junior-sized offerings for the youngest folks in your life. The store caters to a variety of tastes with a range of styles every season and an overwhelmingly plentiful selection of fabrics.

I do like Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. Though I've never purchased anything there, the displays of elegant neutral upholstered chairs and couches accented with splashes of colors of the moment, have drawn me in several times. Yet I can't escape the feeling that this is the Banana Republic of furniture — not too expensive, but not cheap either and elegant without being terribly original.

There are some stars among the standard fare, such as the $900 curved bar cabinet pictured at right. Mitchell Gold is also a good spot to pick up some standard decorating accessories such as vases and mirrors. If you are have trepidations about bringing your living room together without the help of a designer, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams has some fail-safe combinations of upholstered items and wood accent furniture in styles that will remain fresh for some time to come.

It's for you if: You want your home to look nice and pulled together, but you're not one to rock the boat.

Miss Pixie just came to 14th Street this spring after vacating its long-time Adams Morgan digs. I adore this resale shop. Just $200 to $400 will buy you a gently used piece of furniture. Upholstery is all in great shape and funk-free. If you see something you like, jump on it; The eclectic but quality inventory turns over very often. The prices are so great that some of the furniture leaves the floor within a week to a month of its first display.

Many of the wares are seasonal. Now is a great time to buy painted wrought-iron patio furniture. You will also see plenty of offbeat accent items. The way furniture is displayed causes you to reconsider grandma's lamps as fun and funky rather than gigantic and outdated. Just window shopping at Miss Pixie's will give you plenty of ideas for displaying your yard sale finds. Who knew a phrenology head model could fit so well into the center of one's décor?

It's for you if: You who love the Shabby Chic aesthetic, but don't want to overpay for it at Rachel Ashwell's store in Cady's Alley.

Ruff & Ready, 1908 14th Street

Ruff is a popular furniture resale shop (it's too interesting to be categorized as "thrift"). Much of what is stocked are furnishings from the first half of the 20th century that have been selected by the owner at estate sales and local auction houses. As the name implies, you may want to freshen up your purchases with new upholstery or wood refinishing. For a more detailed write-up, check out this Prince of Petworth post. It is a must-visit if you like browsing, grabbing the unique shopping find, and furniture with unique character. Ruff & Ready also offers the thrill of the bargain find. Those with an budget under $500 can walk away with more than just some new bedding or an end table here, and $1000 would buy you some of the largest and best furniture in the shop. The basement is really musty, but you can find some really great values down there. Right now, all of the basement inventory is heavily discounted.

On a non-furniture related note, Ruff has lost its mascot cat. If you see a lone all-black feline in the area, check it against the descriptions on signs along 14th Street.

It's for you if: You think that combing thrift stores is as good as or better than the experience of bringing home new furniture and housewares.

Vastu, 1829 14th Street
Vastu is decidedly ultra modern, ultra chic and high-end in its feel if not always in its prices. Simple lines and unadorned design define Vastu's selections. Neutrals, unaccessorized wood, and metal accents are common elements in the furniture here. You will, however, find the occasional frisky touch like animal print on the upholstered furniture.

Some of the furniture might remind you of Baker with its dark wood trim and elegantly plain fabric. Other items resemble more of a higher quality West Elm look. If you like the modernist furniture of the mid 20th century, Vastu is your source for the Knoll reproductions of the Wassily Chair and the Barcelona Chair.

It's for you if: You've ever expressed your design preferences with the descriptors "modernist" or "clean lines." Vastu is also god for those who crave a living space in various soothing shades of neutral colors.

Muléh, 1831 14th Street, NW next to Vastu
Muléh features high-fashion contemporary furniture in striking geometric designs. Many pieces incorporate the textures of natural materials such as a chair woven from coconut fibers, stools topped with rattan poles, and an abaca coffee table. If environmentally sustainable manufacturing is important to you, these natural materials are great as is the reclaimed teak used in some of
Muléh's furniture. The large scale of the furniture, woven textures, and higher prices just aren't for me, so there's only so much description I can summon up.

It's for you if: You want nothing short of bold for your home. You like one-stop shopping for designer clothes and furniture.

Urban Essentials, 1330 U Street, NW
The design ethos here is a little like that at Vastu, but the feel is a little softer, a little more colorful. The furniture on display is mostly in shades of darker neutrals. Accent colors are kept in reddish tones from coral to warm brown. If leather upholstery is your thing, Urban Essentials is a great source. You can also find fun modern lighting designs here. Chrome, colorless crystal, and lucite all feature prominently. Urban Essentials also always has a good selection of bar stools and high-top tables for you entertainers. As well, this is the only local store that I know off that offers Tempurpedic beds. (My apologies for the crummy pics. Please visit the UE website for some better shots.)

It's for you if: You like the idea of Reincarnations, but you want something more reserved for your own home.

RCKNDY, 1515 U Street, NW
RCKNY self describes its furnishings and home accessories as "sweet décor." Indeed, even the fly swatters here are cute. At RCKNDY you can find upholstered furnishings (mostly couches), chairs in various modernist styles, brightly-colored lamps, and bedding. I think of its style as contemporary but playful.

The couches are from Gus Modern, and the floor stock includes a range of
styles from love seat to sectional with prices under $2000 in most cases. The other furniture brand stocked at RCKNDY is Blu Dot, maker of angular solid color furnishings.

The lamps are a highlight of RCKNDY's offerings. Prices are more than fair, with the floral print turqouise shade at left sale-priced below $60. Another inexpensive and punchy home accent option are the Judy Ross throw pillows featuring high contrast graphics in floral and geometric patters.

High-impact but low cost decorating options at RCKNDY include clocks and wall art. Check out the mirrors with brocade designs screened onto the glass and the pictured clock with a paint-by-numbers floral pattern.

It's for you if: You enjoy both the Brocade Home and West Elm catalogs and/or you want to upgrade your Crate & Barrel bed linens, but you aren't quite ready for the full Timothy Paul investment.

Good Wood, 1428 U Street, NW
Good Wood stocks beautiful antique and semi antique wood furniture with some carefully selected decorative items. You won't see anything new or anything upholstered. You can find pieces to fit any style here. I can imagine some Good Wood furniture in a farm house, other pieces in an elegant Victorian townhome, and still others as part of an eclectic contemporary apartment.

Everything at Good Wood is incredibly high quality. The finishes are either pleasingly worn or near-perfect. Construction is always solid wood and hardware includes crystal knobs and brass key holes. It's not uncommon to find marble-topped sideboards and chests here either. The look of the furniture ranges from rustic to elegant. At Good Wood you'll see the styles from historic periods that inspire new furniture designs at stores such as Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams.

Prices for furniture range from the high hundreds to several thousand dollars. At Good Wood you're getting a beautiful antique for prices similar to the inexpensively manufactured knock-offs Ethan Allen sells. However, savvy antique enthusiasts can easily find better deals.

It's for you if: You like mixing old with new, you like the warmth of real wood, you believe in recycling whenever possible and/or American craft appeals to you.

Sweet Magnolia, 1534 U Street, NW
Every flat surface in Sweet Magnolia is packed with charming goods. The selection is "girly," floral themes and soft colors dominate.

This is a good store for sweet touches. There are hand-painted wooden signs, one featuring the quotation "
Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez," and another to mark a powder room entrance. You will also find plenty of chandeliers and lamps. The chandeliers include the crystal-adorned metal designs you've seen in Brocade and Anthropologie, and lamps are mostly small types that are good for accent tables or the bedside.

For your walls, you will find tapestries and romantic prints. There is also a painted four-panel screen that has been in inventory for a while. Will someone out there give it a good home before I'm tempted to snatch it up? Furniture does not seem to sell well at this store, but there are some lovely painted cabinets, chests, and table display pieces, many of which are for sale.

Rumor has it that Magnolia will be relocating the Capitol Hill soon. Take advantage of the store while its in our neighborhood and keep your fingers crossed for a good moving sale.

If you believe that fragrance is as much a part of interior decorating as furniture, this brilliantly frilly store is a great place for you to stop in. Scent connoisseurs will appreciate Seda France candles, lovely potpourri, and a variety of soaps.

It's for you if: Your style could be described as girly, frilly, or romantic.

And Beige, 1781 Florida Avenue, NW
As the name would suggest, And Beige is a neutral haven. Don't write it off though. The merchandise selection is warm and interesting with featured colors including charcoal gray, chocolate, warm oak, bright white, and metallic gold. And Beige exudes elegance. Rich accents are luxurious but used sparingly; you may be inspired to take some more adventurous steps in your own decorating by including a mirrored chest of drawers, shell-adorned lamps, or a wreath of antlers. Particularly noteworthy is a range furniture fashioned from petrified wood, which includes stools, chairs, side tables, and coffee tables.

And Beige is a good destination for those seeking mirrors and art. Mirror selections include sunbursts, convex porthole styles, and a Chippendale style mirror with an inlaid frame. Interesting but subtle decorative objects include gorgeous natural materials such as horn trays and driftwood stacking boxes. And Beige fights furniture shopping fatigue with goodies you won't see anywhere else in the 14th and U corridor.

You need not go whole-hog with the neutral palette; you could easily mix and match And Beige's offerings with those from other stores. I think that good style pairings would include furniture from Good Wood or Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams.

It's for you if: You crave livable elegance, and you have no pets or small children at home.

Not Quite Ready to Make That $2000 Couch Investment?
There are some great places along 14th Street to pick up inexpensive home accents. Try Go Mamma Go (1809 14th Street) for table linens, garlands, paper lamps, and beautiful sushi sets. Home Rule (1807 14th Street, NW) has great colorful curtain panels at prices just a smidge above Linens N Things or Bed Bath and Beyond. You can also pick up a funky wall clock, a nice bathmat, or simple but elegant glassware. It's amazing how much plants can perk up small living spaces. Visit the new Garden District (corner of 14th and Church Streets, NW) location for gorgeous houseplants from carnivorous pitcher plants to orchids and even cacti.

Sales and Values
Reincarnations is selling its floor samples at reduced prices.
Dragonfly will be having a sidewalk sale August 2nd and 3rd.
Mitchell Gold is current having its summer sale.
Miss Pixie's Furniture and Whatnot always has fantastic prices.
Find great buys any weekend at Ruff & Ready.
Urban Essentials is having a sale on dining sets and floor samples.
RCKNDY is having a 20% off sale, and some clearance items are discounted even more.

Just skip it
L&N Thrift
There's more old clothing and electronics than furniture here, and the store reeks of mildew. Seriously, all I can think about while in L&N is Dateline specials about black mold.

Capital Carpet & Furniture

This store has two storefronts, one on either side of the post office. Skip both unless your tastes veer toward tacky designs in synthetic fabrics. If you're shopping for an inexpensive new piece or two, you are much better off going to the Columbia Heights Target.


Anonymous said...

Yes, I'm too looking for some home furniture for my newly constructed house.

Anonymous said...

nice roundup! i like walking around reincarnations and sitting in all the furniture. its a good place for inspiring your decorating ideas

Anonymous said...

I'm coming to this post last in the summer season but I'm surprised to see that you didn't mention Hunted House on 14th Street between T and Swann.

They are directly across from the Source theater and sell some very cool vintage pieces, mostly Mid Century Modern. Every weekend I'm there usually as I make my trek down the "furniture strip" to see what's new. Lots of great finds here often and what's really cool about the place is the layout---it is a converted apartment house and each room is a vignette.

They find often, awesome pieces and sell them for pretty good prices, definitely lower usually than other stores that sell furniture from the `50's through `70's. If you haven't been by you should make it a point to. They've had quite good press and they have pretty good turnover usually.