Running—for office, to safety and out of patience
Celebrating our woman of the year
My favorite drugstore and discount retailer finds—from skin care to the perfect nail polish
I share my Rent the Runway dress-rental experience with Mark and Susan on Live at Five
Nothing says "I love you" like a cute, crafty and handmade item—so stop by the Valentine's Day Craftacular.
Grace Chosy Gallery celebrates the art of Warrington Colescott.
8 Books On My To-Read List
New furniture can be a lot of fun, but it's hardly frivolous. Unlike washers and dryers or furnaces, new furniture can give your home a whole new look. Yet like appliances and mechanicals, furniture can carry big price tags.
The economy has many consumers proceeding a bit more cautiously, yet shoppers are still in the market to update their homes. Most remain very value conscious as they make big-ticket decisions. So instead of searching for the lowest prices, most buyers are shopping for the best values—and of course they want things to look good, too.
So it's all about shopping smart so you find the best quality, the best construction, the best style, the best look—really, the best value—for your money. "People will still spend money on something if they know it's a quality item that's going to last," says Kris Wilke, manager of The Stool Store.
That is why many furniture retailers, including Woodworks manager Kelly Hofmeister, consider furniture an investment. Purchasing decisions should be made carefully and thoughtfully, and shoppers should strive to buy the best quality they can. You certainly don't have to buy the most expensive thing out there, but if you buy the cheapest you'll probably end up replacing it in a few years.
"You really do get what you pay for," Hofmeister says. "There is a lot of really stylish, beautiful furniture out there that, upon closer inspection, is substandard in construction, materials and finish."
Price offers some indication of quality, but it's not safe to assume that the most expensive piece of furniture is the best. And if you're prepared to pay top dollar for furniture that will last a lifetime, you want to make sure that you're really going to get it.
Brad Stevens, owner of Stevens Design, which deals in Stickley and other North American lines, such as Hickory White, Zimmerman Chair and Virginia Sterling, advises shoppers to do their homework and to spend a lot of time with salespeople before making a purchase. "You need to know your retailer. You need to ask questions," he says. "You need to make sure your designer or salesperson understands the product they're selling. They need to explain construction to customers."
Construction, Hofmeister agrees, is key to quality. She advises shoppers to look at the fit of drawers and open them to ensure that they move smoothly. Upholstered furniture is a little trickier since customers usually can't see what's behind the fabric. "Consumers need to look for solid hardwood framing, coil-spring suspension, fully padded outside arms and backs, and good tailoring," Hofmeister notes.
Some retailers will have frames available for inspection or catalogs with images of frames and their own construction processes. And if your salesperson doesn't offer those kinds of shopping tools to you, be sure to ask for them regardless of how taken you are with the look of a piece. After all, Hofmeister cautions, "the most beautiful fabric in the world won't make up for substandard construction."
Indeed, form is little without function. Jacob Harlow, manager of The Century House, the near west side retailer of mostly Scandinavian and contemporary furnishings, says comfort is as critical to many shoppers as quality and often more important than style. "[Comfort] drives a lot of purchasing decisions," he says.
After all, no one wants to buy a couch for a family room only to discover that the seat is too low and deep or that the cushions are too firm. That is why Stevens urges customers to test run showroom pieces the same way they would use them at home. He advises shoppers to not only sit on sofas but to also take their shoes off and even lie down. "They're buying it once," he explains. "They're buying it for life."
The Stool Store's Wilke agrees that customers should use all tools at their disposal to make the best purchases. She notes that many Stool Store customers are coming in with digital images and even videos of their spaces. "That really allows designers to get a feel for the space and work with them," Wilke says. "It's almost like we're there."
Harlow says The Century House is also embracing new media to help customers get to know the store and its products so they can shop smarter. Facebook and a company blog, for example, have opened up communication lines with customers.
Yet more than anything, Wilke advises shoppers to take their time. Most people aren't going to find exactly what they want on their first trip out, even if they are simply looking for stools. "We show 600 stools in our store. To be a smart shopper, you've got to come in a few times. You've got to narrow your choices down to your top ten and go from there," Wilke says. "It can be overwhelming. A really smart shopper will spend some time."
If you've spent the time, shopped around and you still can't find the style and quality you want on any showroom floor, consider custom furniture. Jeff Hensen, president of Hensen Fine Cabinetry, says his company builds high-end wood furniture at competitive prices. He acknowledges that custom pieces cost more than something from a big box store, but says it's not as much as people expect since there are no middlemen (such as a distributor or separate retailer) involved. You also have more control over the style, materials and construction.
Hensen says he works with clients to make sure they get both the pieces that they want and the function that they need. For bedroom suites he has visited homes to measure rooms, he has built mock-up headboards to showcase sample wood choices and he has shown clients three-dimensional drawings of their furniture in their homes prior to construction. Hensen and the employees who build the furniture even make some of the deliveries. "Everything we do here is try to match up our work with what our customers' desires are," Hensen says.
That kind of service, though, isn't exclusive to furniture makers. For examples, Stevens Design employs its own delivery people instead of using a different service or company. That way Stevens Design employees accompany furniture to customers' homes. For many issues, his employees can perform in the field, Stevens says. As a result, customers don't have to call with requests for service or—worst-case scenario—complaints.
After all, things do go wrong and sometimes even high-quality items break. It's a good reminder to consider warranties and available service prior to purchase so that you know what kind of business you'll be dealing with after the sale.
Hensen Fine Cabinetry, for example, offers a five-year standard warranty on all products and a lifetime warranty on hardware. Yet Hensen encourages customers to call if they have problems even after the warranty period has expired. "We're a family-owned business," Hensen explains, noting that the company tries to work with all customers to resolve problems. "Our name is our label. We have to stand behind it."
*SPECIAL PROMOTIONAL SECTION
More working, or no-longer-working, adults are upgrading their skills through higher education in the post-recession era
Find more storage space in the closets you have, clear up floor space for improved livability and functionality without remodeling or adding on, and grow closer to your friends … all by getting organized. Who knew?
You're finished with the hard part. You pared down your belongings and took the usable stuff to Goodwill or handed down the kids' clothes and toys. All of your paperwork is filed. Old catalogs are recycled. And yet you still feel overwhelmed by clutter. Now what?
April Corrao, a designer with California Closets, says the age-old adage is true. Most people, she explains, struggle because they don't have a specific place for everything. No matter the room, everything should be able to be put away. Corrao says that is where organizational systems for storage spaces are invaluable. "We're able to help people out in their garage, pantry, mudroom, laundry rooms, wine bars, craft rooms, you name it," she says. "Anything that can be organized, we can build a system for."
A lot of people think they need more storage space, but what they really need is better storage space. Therein lies the beauty of organization systems: they can help you maximize the storage space that you already have. That way you can stow away more of your belongings when you're not using them and yet find them easily. Not only does it conquer clutter, but it also improves the livability of the rest of your home when there aren't piles of papers, stacks of shoes or other random items lying around.
Closets are obviously the first place people look for space, but homeowners need to be clever and flexible about finding additional storage space. Dawn Shaw, vice president of Shaw Building and Design, says homeowners are still incorporating desk areas into kitchens to help with bills and school paperwork, but they're using cabinetry to hide flat-screen monitors when they're not in use. They are also using stackable washers and dryers to optimize laundry-room space.
Sometimes the changes need to be bigger, such as "changing a wall or maybe taking out a large tub and putting in a shower to make room for a linen closet," Shaw says. She advises clients to think about how they want to live in a room, not just what they want to store there. Shaw asks a battery of questions, including "what would you need in this room?" and "where do you want the TV to be?" to help her clients think more strategically about their homes and remodeling projects so that they don't add space and still struggle with storage issues or livability.
Most of us, though, can find more storage and more functional living space without major remodeling. Shaw points out that a closet organization system in a bedroom can incorporate drawers and shelving, eliminating the need for some furniture. That opens up the room and makes it feel more spacious without actually adding square footage.
You also don't need a giant walk-in closet to benefit from an organizational system. Corrao says a traditional closet is one of the best places to look for extra space. "You can actually gain quite a bit," she says, noting that adding a second bar for hanging clothes and some shelving for shoes and sweaters can make a huge difference. "A lot of times you can get double the space, and you get the most out of your money."
There are other benefits of an organized home, says Denis Pochevalov. "When homeowners frequently organize their homes, it takes less effort and stress when it comes to cleaning, " says the owner of Cleaning Bees, which provides comprehensive cleaning services for homes and offices. Plus, it's easier to clean the nooks and crannies when you can get to them.
Pochevalov also points out that getting organized at home can reduce your stress level. You know where things are, so you don't have to waste time and energy looking for your keys before work or your son's backpack as the bus pulls up to the house. It also saves money, Pochevalov says, because you don't have to replace things that you can't find (only to find them later when you're looking for something else).
Sometimes the only thing lacking is motivation. Pochevalov notes that many of his clients often tell him that the one thing that really prompts them to clear the clutter and clean well is having company over. "I say, ‘invite over more people more often.'"
Pochevalov really isn't off his rocker. The more you go through the routine of picking up, putting things away and cleaning, the easier it gets. Plus, having company over every now and then strengthens your social ties while you're at it. Heck, if that's what it takes to get you to dust and vacuum, it's really not a bad idea … as long as you don't mind cooking for a crowd.
Seemingly it's been around forever—even the ancient Greeks enjoyed it.Virtually every culture that makes cheese makes some kind of cheesecake.I remember my own first encounter with what I was sure would be a yucky dessert.It was at Sam's Subway, a delicatessen in Indianapolis and I was in second grade.Cheese here to for was something I was only accustomed to seeing on a sandwich. I only tried it because my mother told me I wouldn't like it.
January 27th, 2010: The Greater Madison Convention and Visitor's Bureau 2010 Partner Connections was held at The Majestic Theatre
January 17th, 2010: The DMI- New Faces, New Places at Segredo event was held at Segredo.
February 1st, 2010: The February Madison Magazine Business Lunch was held at The Madison Club
January 30th, 2010: The 24th Annual Frostiball was held at the Wisconsin State Capital
January 21st, 2010: Best of Madison Business Awards were held at Monona Terrace.
November 3, 2009: The Leadership Greater Madison Alumni Association Golf Outing was held at Vitense Golf Land
Tea & Trains, Madison Children's Museum's annual holiday fundraiser, was held Dec. 5 at the Madison Club, and raised approximately $23,000!
December 17th, 2009: The MAGNET + DM + AIGA Holiday Party was held at the Brink Lounge.
December 12, 2009: The Senator's Annual Ball was held at the home of Dan and Tiffany Neely.(Pictures By: Jaclyn Nussbaum)
MMoCA's latest exhibition explores symbols of Americana.
October 23-25, 2009: The 8th Annual Madison Food & Wine Show was held at the Alliant Energy Center.(Photos By: Jaclyn Nassbaum)