Dear PoPville – What are Good Furniture Alternatives to IKEA?


Photo by PoPville flickr user Sandra Sitar

Dear PoPville,

My boyfriend and I just purchased our first home together, a small condo in Bloomingdale. We are in the market to replace our ratty, mismatched furniture (the result of blending two apartments four years ago) and buy a couple of nice contemporary pieces of furniture for the new place. (No more IKEA for these two grownups!)

We want to finance the purchase, but only spend a few grand. Does anyone know of a decent store in the area that has good furniture and also finances? The research we’ve done hasn’t been too promising.

82 Comment

  • I actually like Macy’s. I bought a nice contemporary living room set there. Also, check out Pier I.

  • I love the furniture at West Elm!

  • Nothing but praise for my Room and Board chair and couch. I also like how they put where everything is made on their website.

    My metro sofa/chair were made in North Carolina :)

    No idea if they offer financing but if I were you I would live with what you have until you can afford to pay cash for something. No reason to accrue interest on something that will just go down in value.

  • Have you gone to Skynear at 18th and Wyoming? They have pretty cool stuff at very affordable prices–no financing to my knowledge, though. I bought a sleek couch, coffee table, and bar stools there about 5 years ago, all for under $1500.
    That MIGHT get you a footstool at Room & Board or any of the other over-the-top furniture stores on 14th ST.
    Can anyone tell me how to justify a price tag of $3,000 or more for a couch???

    • When I was looking at Room&Board they have several sofas that I liked under $1,500 (wasn’t expecting to find them- plan was window shopping). I still ended up going with Ikea, but I don’t think EVERYTHING at Room&Board is unreachable price wise (though a lot is.)

    • Room & Board is expensive because most of their furniture is made in the US out of real wood, and it will last for a long time. So, while it costs more than Ikea (chemical-saturated “engineered” wood products made by workers earning almost nothing) it will last much longer, and there are other side benefits to buying it as well.

    • Agreed with the other anon — live with what you’ve got until you can pay cash for replacement furniture.

      • Go online at Room and Board–there are a lot of couches they sell for half off or so that are custom made and then returned. We got a stunning sectional for about $1700. I saw it in a NYTimes spread that quoted it as a $3500 couch. We found the one we liked on line, went in store to see it, and then ordered it from the computers in the store. They were so helpful.

  • Sorry but West Elm is just more expensive Ikea- everything they say is wood is wood composite and peels. Total junk for the money

    • novadancer

      hmm. we have several sofa’s from WE that have held up remarkably well. Two are in the basement that has flooded 3x’s and the legs are still perfect! think it depends…

      • figby

        The WE stuff is not good qulaity. Their sofas are fabric-covered foam blocks that lose shape and support really quickly.

        • Speaking from experience, this is not true. Their sofas are remarkably good quality. Solid wood frame, good springs, and a polyester blend stuffing (not foam). There are only a couple of minor things that separate the construction of west elm sofas from the much more expensive pieces that come from places like Hickory.

          Their wood furniture, though, is cheaply made crap. Thin veneers, cheap wood. For the money over the long term, you’d be better buying something else.

          My favorite furniture shop is eBay and Craigslist. You can find great things there cheap, if you know what you’re looking for.

  • Another vote for Room and Board. Their rices are reasonable for the quality. We have lots in our house and have been very pleased.

    I also like Urban Essentials and it is a local business (I think).

  • Check out Urban Essentials at 14th & Rhode Island. They are more expensive than Ikea but less expensive than most other furniture stores. I have always thought that their pieces were very well selected. I have bought a number of things from them over the years.

  • Do you have a car? If so, try Bassett Furniture in Rockville along 270. It’s well made, has finacing (no interst for a year!), and you don’t pay sales tax because there is not a store in DC. That said, they may not carry the type of furniture that you want for a small condo (I’m thinking sleek, modern), as they tend to be more traditional is sizing of pieces. In any event, if you order from a place that does not have a store in DC, you generally don’t pay sales tax, which can add up to a lot of savings.

    • “and you don’t pay sales tax because there is not a store in DC.” Can you or somebody else explain this further? I haven’t heard this before.

      • Yeah, I’m curious, too. The way you’ve phrased it makes no sense.

        You would still have to pay local/state sales tax (if Rockville or MD has it).

        • bfinpetworth

          It’s called nexus (or lack thereof). It is why you don’t pay sales tax on purchases from Amazon, and why you do pay sales tax on internet purchases from, say, Barnes and Noble. One has a physical presence in DC, the other does not. All related to the commerce clause of the constitution.

          However, don’t forget that you still owe use tax on those purchases! There is a line item on the DC income tax return for just this purpose.

      • It’s just like shopping on the web. The retailer does not have to charge you sales tax if you are out of state, and the retailer doesn’t have a store in your state. This does not mean that you don’t owe the sales tax, however. I’m pretty sure that you are supposed to pay it yourself, though few do.

        • How is this possible? Most retail store POS systems add tax automatically and there is no way to remove it, regardless of where the purchaser lives.

          • It might have to do with delivery. I assume the furniture store is shipping the item to your house in DC, so no sales tax. It’s like people who shop in New York, but live in Delaware. The sales tax in NYC is like 10% and DE doesn’t have any, so if you’re making a big purchase in NYC, it’s usually cheaper to pay the shipping to your home in DE instead of the sales tax.

          • It is not only possible, I have experienced it when buying furniture in Maryland.

          • Yes, sorry I should have added that you don’t pay sales tax when the delivery is to DC. If you pick up in store and transport yourself, then you pay tax. Delivery charges aren’t bad . . . better than pottery barn or C & B that charges based on purchase price. And yes, you probably are supposed to pay the sales tax when you do your taxes, but there is also a sales tax deduction for out of state purchase that you are allowed to take, so it’s probably just a wash. It’s optional for the retailer, so they can charge tax, but in this area it’s a draw for business for them not too and I know many furniture retailers do not add it.

    • I would absolutely NOT recommend Bassett furniture. We bought a china cabinet and a bed from them earlier this year. They delivered the wrong china cabinet (the pieces didn’t match) and refused to refund our money or own up to the mistake. It required us placing a stop on our credit card payment and starting a complaint with BBB to get them to take it back. After researching online, we found that our experience was not out of the ordinary. Additionally, what they advertised as solid wood actually is particle board/mdf.

      STAY AWAY FROM BASSETT.

      (although, yes, we did get our items tax free because they don’t have a brick and mortar store in DC)

      • Just wondering – did you order online or go into a store? I have had good expereinces with them, but have always ordered from the store where I was able to inspect pieces of furniture first. They were also very quick to replace a couch seat cover when it ripped while under warranty still.

        • We went in to the store in Rockville. We still have a bed we bought there, and like it, but it is definitely not the quality we thought it was. The price just doesn’t seem to fit the quality, in our opinion. And after doing more research and talking to the owner of a small furniture shop in Old Town, apparently the Bassett family has let the quality slip. They don’t source from US furniture makers anymore, rather they have their items made in China (India maybe?) and shipped back and assembled here.

  • If you’re mobile, check out Zadia wood furnishings in Rockville. They sell unfinished wood. Over time, I bought cubes to build my entertainment center, a solid oak file cabinet, night stand and armoire. They are very nice sturdy pieces.

  • I got a small couch and dining chairs from World Market, and I’m really happy with them. The couch is super comfy, and the chairs are solid but also easy to move around. And the prices were pretty reasonably compared to other places.

    • I second the furniture at World Market! Frequent sales and discounts for members. It’s a good price for higher-than-Ikea quality stuff.

    • Two of my friends in Baltimore rave about World Market (I think they said it’s in Rockville or Bethesda? Or Gaithersburg?) Although I’m not sure if they have financing and how wide a variety they have (my friends’ furniture is all one particular style–and it’s nice, but probably not everyone’s taste, and I don’t know if that’s the dominant style at World Market or not.)

      I agree with some of the comments about West Elm not being that much better than Ikea, quality-wise. But I have some of their stuff and I think some of it at least looks nice or more polished than Ikea. I’d say it’s kind of a first step up from Ikea. Room & Board’s stuff looked nice when I web-surfed, but that was out of my price range. Crate & Barrel is also mostly out of my range, but I got a couple of nice small pieces there (and I think CB2 is a little brighter-colored and cheaper if that’s more your style.)

    • I have a small dining table and dining chairs from World Market. So far still look great after 3+ years, no complaints whatsoever. Quality seems to be a step up from IKEA. Bought online, didn’t go to the store.

  • GiantSquid

    Another vote for Room & Board. We own a loveseat from them and I just bought the matching sofa online today. Very sturdy, durable, wears very well which is important with two dogs that climb all over it. It’s a good investment. Plus the delivery rocks! They came right at the beginning of the window, were really friendly and polite, very careful with our house and the loveseat, and took all the wrapping with them. They will be getting more of our money in the future.

  • Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams – we have two couches from there that we LOVE and they make great stuff for smaller spaces (really important in the city).
    I have a chair from World Market that I love and our Crate and Barrel dining room table has been great for us.

    • Second on Mitchell Gold if you are looking for an ultra modern look. 14th St. and Georgetown are your best bets for finding quality unique pieces.

      We felt that Room and Board was nice, but you can get a similiar look at Crate & Barrel and CB2 for half or a quarter of the price. I wouldn’t say Room and Board was a good deal because who is really going to like the same furniture in 10 years when you have move on to your second house after 5-7 or have different tastes?

      I would recommend carefully considering nice artwork and then finding moderately priced furniture at CB that has a similiar look to Room and Board. When you get bored with your furniture, get something new.

  • Random Harvest in Georgetown is more transitional than contemporary stuff. And it isn’t cheap. But the quality of the pieces is just exceptional. And, you basically end up with Baker-level quality, for less $$. My wife and I have some very nice, grown-up pieces from there that we put in our “living room” part of our condo. The owner is a wonderful resource too.

    • p.s. If you are buying a significant number of pieces, it’s worth the weekend trip down to High Point, NC. There’s more furniture there than anywhere in the country. And of all styles, including contemporary stuff.

  • And there’s always Craigslist, where I managed to buy to upholstered chairs and leather ottoman that were originally from Gold&Mitchell for only $300. They had been $3000 orig.

    • At one time, I’d have considered Craigslist, but I’m paranoid about bedbugs!

    • If I had to do it again I’d find Craigslist furniture that is well made and has good bones and get it reupholstered. I’m not sure what reupholstering costs, but the end result would be a high quality piece of furniture that is exactly the color/material you want so I think it would be a better alternative than buying cheap crap.

  • CB2 has a lot of contemporary-looking stuff that is a step above Ikea.

    • Ditto CB2. Its a nice step up from Ikea. Not crap, but doesn’t break the bank either.

    • I’ve been really pleased with CB2′s quality. And a lot of their stuff is scaled down to fit smaller apartments, which is a big plus.

    • agreed re: CB2; I just bought a nice sectional from there. i suspect overall durability is only a marginal step-up from IKEA, but it looks a lot nicer and is only marginally more expensive. i was also really please with their customer service when i called with questions, set up delivery, etc

  • World Market in Pentagon City

  • ditto for room and board. they have sales (in store and online), so check that out first. you pay more, but it’s very good quality. if you’re working with a small/awkward space, they also have a section of the store where they help with planning layouts, etc.

    also try goodwood on U st b/t 14th and 15th. used but generally good quality and often quirky.

    • I second sales at Room and Board. We got a great sofa with material that had been discontinued, so it was affordable. Still expensive, for me, but good price for the quality.

  • Good Wood (U ST) and Miss Pixie’s (14th) always have great 2nd hand finds.

  • If you have a car and are willing, I highly recommend heading out to the furniture stores in Fort Washington, MD. My husband and are purchased a beautiful new, real wood, made in America bedset for $1,000 less than we were quoted at other stores in the area selling the exact same set.

  • If you like Room & Board’s furniture and are planning on buying several pieces, you might consider a trip to Minneapolis to shop at the store’s only outlet, where items are deeply discounted (40% and more): http://www.roomandboard.com/rnb/more_ways_to_shop/stores/store.ftl?x=outlet

    A friend whose sister lives in Minneapolis recently told me about it. She saved a couple of grand buying a couch, chair and bed at the outlet this fall. The charge a flat rate to ship unlimited items to a single address. (I think $85.) The outlet’s only open on Saturday and Sunday and, apparently, it’s a bit of a mad dash when they open the doors in the morning. Sounds like fun.

  • I’m surprised no one has mentioned Crate and Barrel yet. When we were in the market for a pull-out sofa we comparison shopped at R&B, C&B, and all the chain stores up in Rockville and out in Leesburg (Bassett, etc.). We’re very happy with our purchase, it was middle-of-the-road price-wise, and they gave us store credit when the price of our piece dropped $200 3 months later. We also received better customer service there than anywhere else.

    Other ideas depending on your style/budget:
    Miss Pixie’s on 14th–love the farm tables in the back
    Restoration Hardware

  • My husband and I just bought our first home too! We have a lot of experience buying furniture – here’s my take: we bought a $3000 leather sofa from Macy’s 5 years ago, and the cushions sagged so badly after 2 years that we got rid of it. We bought the Karlstad loveseat (it’s the “apartment size” version) at Ikea in white and have no regrets. We’ve had it for two years with no sagging. For the price, I don’t think you can beat it.
    That said, we also bought an upholstered chair from Room & Board and a leather recliner from Pottery Barn off of Craigslist. Particularly if it’s leather, I would highly recommend Craigslist.
    Also just a tip: we hated the legs on the sofa we bought from Ikea, so we found a furniture maker online would built/stained new legs for us in a mid-centry modern style. Highly recommend doing this to make it look more high end.

    Finally, Barewoods in Chantilly is pricey, but you can get made in the USA, beautiful pieces from them. We bought our entertainment cabinet (needed a custom size, which they could do) and side table from them, and it is far and away the nicest furniture in our house (definitely a splurge though).

    • For what it’s worth, I have an IKEA Karlstad sofa (with fabric upholstery — not sure if the poster above got one with leather upholstery) and it’s held up very well.

      • I also have a KARLSTAD and I can not stand it. The back cushions are extremely stiff. The seat is really low to the ground and it slopes toward the back of the couch. I am glad, however, that I know what I need to look for in my next couch. Oh, also during assembly the screws for one of the feet never fit, so it is loose

  • I purchased a customized king size bedframe from Ethan Allen last year with no interest financing. Currently they offer 48 month no interest financing. I went to the store in Clarendon and delivery was on time.

  • overstock actually has a lot of good stuff and shipping is 2.95. be sure to google overstock promotion code for an extra 10-20% off. I actually just bought an amazing console on ETSY. if you want modern repo knockoffs you can usually get themon ebay for cheap.

  • I bought a sleeper sofa from Room and Board when I moved to DC a few years ago. Despite being the primary couch in my little apartment, it has held up incredibly well. It’s also actually quite comfortable as both the couch and the bed which was critical to me since I don’t have a spare bedroom but wanted to have a place for overnight guests. One of those guests just messaged me last night to find out where I got that super comfy couch because she needs to replace her guest room set up and wanted the same one. Worth every penny.

  • I did a lot of research for our couch (west elm, cb2, crate and barrel, R&b and lots of local stores), and settled on one from mitchell gold and bob williams. It is a high end store but the couch was $1200, came in a lot of different colors for no additional cost, and the fabric was pet friendly.

    I would also suggest craigslist; you can often find a R&B sofa for a lot less but still in great condition.

  • I suggest not buying all your furniture as one store, even if you get good financing. It will end up looking like a showroom.

    And i definitely recommend Craigslist!

  • I second Craigslist – takes some work, but you do it from the comfort of your computer. If you want a sofa-bed I recommend Creative Classics – I’ve had one for 7 years – holding up well. http://www.creativeclassics.com/sleepers.html. And Macy’s furniture gallery in Ballston is good.

  • bfinpetworth

    So, all of you that are still espousing purchasing from Ikea, are you aware of THIS?!:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/17/business/global/ikea-to-report-on-allegations-of-using-forced-labor-during-cold-war.html

    Please, don’t buy from a company that built its business on the backs of political prisoners in Germany. I don’t care how long ago they stopped the practice, they deserve to be put out of business. Yuk.

    • WTF is up with the NYT weblinks? Sometimes I can get them to work and other times it requires a subscription. Is it free or not? and if not how am I able to sometimes look at it? soooo frustrating ….

  • We bought some furniture at Arhaus out in Tyson’s and I think they have decent credit options. When they have sales, especially, their furniture is reasonable. If you have the time for a drive, Greenfront out in VA is supposed to have great deals on more classic looking furniture.

  • Room & Board is awesome, both quality and style. They have a lot of mid-century inspired stuff that my wife and I (also recent home buyers!) love.

    I like Crate and Barrel and West Elm’s style, but their quality is inconsistent and often not that much better than Ikea’s despite the higher price. I still love Ikea, but understand you have to be picky. We have a leather Karlstad sofa that’s just great. It’s holding up well and we replaced the feet with mid-century style legs that make it look great. Also, DON”T BUY ANYTHING FROM MACY’S. We bought an awesome looking $3k leather couch there that took all of a few months to start sagging uncomfortably. It looked awesome but was garbage.

    If you’re like us and can’t afford to outfit the whole house, I’d suggest checking Craigslist often. We bought a Room & Board chair there, and if you like the style you could mix with vintage (cheaper) mid-century stuff.

    Also, another recommendation for Barewoods furniture in Chantilly. They don’t have it in the showroom, but they can order more modern looking collections.

  • I second Creative Classics on King St. All solid wood and their manufacturers are small, US companies. Our table was made in Ohio. We chose the wood and stain and it was made to order.

  • World Market (Friendship Heights, Falls Church) is my go-to furniture store, as well as http://www.homedecorators.com. Ordering online isn’t so bad if you rely on the reviews.

  • World Market (Friendship Heights, Falls Church) is my go-to, as well as Home Decorators (online).

  • Aren’t there any pieces or at least a single piece of furniture either from you or the SO that you could keep and start with to add furniture that matches? Why throw the baby out with the bath water here? There’s gotta be something salvagable instead of having to buy every single piece of furniture new? I’m sort of surprised by some of the recommendations here, which while nice furniture places are pretty expensive, given that the OP wanted to spend a few grand. Or is the idea to get rid of all the mismatched furniture in order to buy new furniture as a couple together, so it’s the buying as a couple that becomes more significant symbolically then the furniture itself?

  • I love the odds and ends and accessory pieces at Home Goods in Alexandria. You won’t find a couch there, but you will find fabulous chairs, end tables, storage units, etc. Generally their prices are very good.

    • Home Goods is a good store, albeit it is Marshalls/TJ Maxx, really. I think their stuff is perfect for “look at” rooms/corners, but cautious about using as everyday items. Outside big cities TJ Maxx often carries a fair amount of the same stuff if there is not a Home Goods nearby.

  • I love my couch from the now departed Reincarnations on 14th. American made, custom fabric, delivered on time by local people for less than $1000. Those guys said they might reopen in a new location some day, I hope they do.

  • For well-made stuff at Ikea prices, I’ve often recommended Cort Furniture Clearance centers… They resell all of their rented furnature from beds to couches to TV sets. (For the squeamish, everything is sanitized.) And they have an ace delivery and set-up infrastructure because of the rental side of the business.

    The only issue is that style is a crap-shoot. Having the apartment in a box set up as soon as my lease went into effect was one heck of a life saver when I moved to DC from the west coast, though.

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