New PoP Feature: Decorating and Design Questions

Photo by PoPville flickr user JosephLeonardo

Following is a new guest column by Jessica Bonness of JGB Interiors. Jennifer will answer PoP reader questions about decorating and design. If you have a question send an email to princeofpetworth(at)gmail(dot)com and write ‘design question’ in the title.

“Dear PoP,

Following up on your posting about Design Within Reach, I’m wondering if your readers know of good places to buy furniture without breaking the bank. I’ve recently bought a new house, and I’m trying to find a dining room set, sofa, etc., but not looking to shell out $3,000+ for a sofa while still looking to get some quality furniture.”

Jessica responds:

I’ll share a couple of things you need to know about buying sofas, the most important of which is this: you don’t need a $5,000 couch any more than you need a $50 cheeseburger. Sure, there are huge differences in the craftsmanship of a $250 loveseat and a $17,000 Italian sectional. And yes, the loveseat will probably start to creak and get torn up by your girlfriend’s cat while the expensive sofa will last 100 years. The thing is, you probably don’t even want a sofa to last that long. Luckily there are tons of pieces in the $800 – $2,000 range that are durable, great looking, and available right here in DC.

I always advocate mixing pieces from several stores and price ranges, and think it’s great to have some Ikea bookcases mixed in with a Mitchell Gold couch, thrift store coffee table, lamps from your mom’s house, and $600 painting you fell in love with on vacation.

Continues after the jump.

Photo Credit: Apartment Therapy
A Room and Board sofa, Crate and Barrel table, and some Ikea stools and bookcases make for an interesting space with great color and textures.

If you’re looking to outfit most of your new home with “quality furniture” I’d head over to 14th Street NW and take a stroll between P and U Streets. You’ll find a bunch of great stores with sofas well under $2,000, and you’ll probably have some spare change to decorate the rest of your house. Reincarnations (1401 14th Street NW), Miss Pixie’s (1626 14th Street NW), Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams (1526 14th Street NW), Room and Board (1840 14th Street NW) and Vastu (1829 14th Street NW) are all worth browsing, and if you’re willing to hunt through their stock or look at floor models their prices might surprise you. Most of these places have great sales (especially Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, and you just missed the big one in July!) and they all have a lot of choices that are priced on par with a standard like Crate and Barrel.

Photo Credit:
A sampling of some interesting finds from Vastu, via their website.

Also keep in mind that we do live in a pretty big city, and if you find something you want to purchase from a major retailer it’s always a good idea to search for it on Craigslist first. I’ve known too many people who bought Ikea shelves for $40 that they could have had for $15 if they’d only been willing to drive to Gaithersburg.

Good luck finding that perfect sofa, and remember to always read the online reviews and measure your floor plan and you door openings twice before you pull the trigger: there’s nothing worse than getting stuck with a gorgeous piece of furniture that can’t fit up your stairs.

29 Comment

  • I’ll also throw in a vote for Urban Essentials on U street. We bought two awesome couches from them and they have great style while being less expensive than Vastu or Mitchell Gold.

    • I definitely agree and they have monthly sales listed on their website. I bought a bed, dining room chairs, dresser and armoire from them, all at great prices!

    • 3rd for Urban Essentials. Prices are great and you are getting the same quality stuff that would cost much, much more on many of the 14th St showrooms. Just expect to wait awhile, almost everything except their floor models is custom ordered. We were able to furnish a whole extra room with the money we had budgeted just for the living room.

  • This is going to be my new favorite feature. And, oh, do I have some submissions.

  • Anyone have any similar suggestions for purchasing deck furniture? We want something that will look nice & last a long time. We don’t have a place indoors to store it, so we’re looking for something that would do reasonably well outside year-round (though we can certainly cover it for the winter). Thanks!

  • We did the sofa hunt last year and ended up at Macy’s. They have reasonably priced, stylish sofas. I second Urban Essentials they had some very nice sofas, however, at the time my price range was less than $1000.

  • I just purchased a sofa for around $600 (with delivery costs) from Cost Plus World Market. They may not be the finest product you can buy, but if you are looking for something stylish that won’t destroy your budget, I recommend them (great for accessories too!) the closest one to downtown DC is in Friendship Heights.

    • World Market’s great for furnishing apartments and condos (not to mention tiny rowhouses) because their furniture is small and compact. Finding a sofa that’s not “oversized” can be difficult at most furniture stores.

  • my wife and i have furnished our place with a combination of:
    floor model sales from various places
    the open house at the design center
    antique thrift stores in hampden baltimore
    terrapin traders
    restoration hardware warehouse outlet sale
    the salvation army on kenilworth avenue
    local theatre prop sales
    ruff n ready
    reincarnations on 14th
    ikea, but with some hacks. and their seconds room has great deals.

  • Check this store out. Great stuff:

  • Great posting. Thanks. Looking forward to more.

  • Love Urban essentials! We have a lot of furniture from there. It is high quality, great prices, and the staff was extremely helpful.

  • It really depends on your style. This wouldn’t be ideal for a sofa, but I’ve found some amazing pieces at antique shops in and around Frederick, MD.

  • Second Chance Inc. Architectural Antiques Salvage in Baltimore has an amazing selection and is affordable.

    • I have disagree about the “amazing” part. They do have a buttload of stuff, but frankly most of it is not in very good condition – at least on my last visit there a few weeks ago.

  • Ruff and ready on 14th street has many amazing finds – if you are willing to put some work into them.

    Craigslist – use HeyCraig software to have search results emailed to you.

  • If you have the time to get away from work, and the patience to wait for something to come up, Weschlers auction house on E St ( can be fantastic. Their weekly auctions usually have a few things worthwhile and funky on offer. Most of the “vintage” shops in the area get a lot of their supply here in fact. On a couple occasions I’ve seen pieces auctioned off for $20 or $30 on a Tuesday and out on the sidewalk on 14th St for sale for $150-200 that very weekend.

    There is a LOT of crap for every auction, and a lot of the bidding is a little inside baseball (I’ve had bids not acknowledged and the item closed in 5-10 seconds because the auctioneer was concentrating on the regulars who are there every week). You can get some amazing deals, though. Besides, it’s just fun to go poke around and bid! Weekly previews are on Mondays, auctions on Tuesdays.

  • Reincarnations on 14th and R.Island Ave.

  • I definetly vote for Urban Essentials – the staff is fantastic and we love our dining room table & chairs we bought there.

    We did the sofa hunt last year and spent a lot of time going to stores all over DC and NOVA – we ended up purchashing from DESI Living Innovations at Pentagon Row – fabulous staff and helped us pick a great sofa. They were by no means the cheapest but they were NOT the most expensive we looked at – we paid around $2500 for a really nice sectional, two small ottomans for extra seating, and a large coffee table size ottoman.

    • We bought a great sofa and loveseat from DESI, too, in their Rockville location. They consistently offer discounts, plus, as DC residents, we didn’t have to pay sales tax, which can mean pretty significant savings on such a large purchase. Most of their stuff is apartment or condo-sized, they have a nice variety of fabrics, and the pieces are modern and stylish yet comfortable.

  • don’t forget about ruff and ready (no website) on 14th street and Millennium Decorative Arts on U street (since 1992) … fun selections at both places

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