Here are a few things to consider when looking for “forever” pieces of furniture

Guest post by Sherry Miller

collapsable dining room table

Over the years I’ve carefully worked to make my home as comfortable as possible. Part of this has been a sort of furniture foster/adoption process. I search for the right piece to fit exactly where I want it, or what I want it for. But then the re-arrange bug hits, and everything shifts one place to the left, and one piece no longer fits — a furniture version of musical chairs.

Many pieces have come and gone this way in the 13 years since my first apartment. Some were pieces I swore I would love and keep forever. Some plain wore out. Some the kids helped reach the end of their life faster. There are also those attached to memories I no longer wanted (divorce furniture is a real thing). And some survived, and will always survive, even though they will never have a place or purpose (the cradle/rocker my dad made for me when I was eight).

My homes have seen the fabulous ’80s, paint splattered, hide-a-bed sofa that wandered out of my dad’s living room into mine, and eventually landed in my brother’s bachelor pad. There was a futon, a papasan chair, ottomans, and desks of all kinds… Let’s just say I owe many people many beers for helping me move way too many things way too many times.

Currently, there are several pieces that I both love and hate. These are pieces that I carefully considered, shopped around for, lovingly adopted and brought home and now live in limbo between deep love and deep hate. Here are a few things to consider when adopting your own forever pieces.

big daddy chair

“Big Daddy Chair” also known as a cuddle couch or an oversized reading chair

Why I love it: If you’re a snuggle-up-in-a-corner reader like me, this really is the “big daddy” of chairs. It’s soft, deep, round, and mine even swivels. It can fit two people (and I’m not little), and you can sleep in it comfortably. The only reason you need to ever leave this chair is if your servant has a day off and can’t bring you snacks and more books.

Why I hate it: The color. Cream takes on stains the second someone looks at it, or sneezes in that general direction. There are several tips for cleaning micro-fiber; I decided to ignore all them and simply machine wash the cushion cover and line dry. It works, but is instantly dirty as soon as it’s back on the chair.

collapsable dining room table

Dining Room Table: Pub height, hidden butterfly leaf, dark finish. 6 matching chairs (sold separately, of course)

Why I love it: The height. I’m 5’8” so sitting at most standard dining room tables is a symphony of knocking knees. Pub height leaves plenty of room for long legs and is an easy lean across/set things down when your hands are full level. The hidden butterfly leaf was the biggest draw for bringing this piece home. It shrinks down in summer when I want the house to feel more spacious and opens up in the winter when it seems like things should feel more cozy. I can have two people for dinner or fit up to eight. The leaf doesn’t get lost or need to stored under the guest bed or fade over time. It’s right there in the middle of the table whenever you need it.

Why I hate it: Oh. My. Scratches. I have never seen a kitchen table scratch or stain so easily, especially for a dark wood. An easter basket was set on it for a few seconds and the straw left a scratch. Warm pizza boxes leave steam stains/white marks. Kids pushing too hard on pencils doing homework have left math problems until the end of time in the finish. I had to learn early on to let go when it came to keeping the table in tip top shape.


expanding coffee table

Coffee Table: Double expanding top, medium cherry wood finish.

Why I Love it: GAME NIGHT! Well, it’s never actually be used for game night, but I love the idea of having a top that could open up and accommodate a cards against humanity or board game night. Or, maybe an Indian-style dinner complete with floor cushions and eating with our fingers. Oh the possibilities!

Why I hate it: Grooves. The “barn wood” style translates into gunk/crumb/spill/mess catcher. The grooves are not sealed and catch EVERYTHING. How many people do you know that vacuum their coffee table? I DO. Finally, coffee tables are clutter-catchers, so if you want to open up one of the leaves you have to clear off everything (and clear off to close). Not a big problem, but sometimes it’s the little things that annoy us the most.

I’m currently browsing online to find the perfect chair to replace the big daddy chair, I’m considering doing a lacquer finish or sealing the top of the coffee table, and I’ve come to peace with my dining room table being “well loved.” I’m constantly rearranging rooms in my mind, browsing Pinterest for new ways to fit things in, different ideas for repurposing or that unique/unusual find.

Home is an ever changing space for me. It’s a learning and growing process. End of the day: if you love it, adopt it, try it. Even if you hate it, you’ll love it for teaching you what to look for next time. Also: measure twice, purchase once.

Comments on Here are a few things to consider when looking for “forever” pieces of furniture

  1. I love that coffee table!

    I also totally agree with the comfy reading chair. I have a big, oversized arm chair in our nursery. It’s perfect for nursing, reading a book, or whatever. My parents had these awesome blue bucket seats that spun when we were little that were perfect for that as well.

    The dining room table scratches are hard, but the first few are the worst! We got our dining room table gently used, so it already had a few scratches in it. When we have company over, I put down placemats and a runner and it doesn’t matter. Plus, I don’t have to be worried that I’ll be the first person to mark it up!

  2. Have you considered fixing some of your issues? Reupholster that chair! Put a piece of glass or plexi over that coffee table (and then you just have to vacuum if it get’s unfolded). And refinish the table, or distress it further with some steel wool. Or like someone else said, table runner / cloth. Just some ideas…

  3. My husband and I are moving across the country into a new home soon, and I am fighting tooth and nail to keep my “forever” dining table. Everything else is going, can’t I just keep that one piece? It is big, solid oak, with a hidden leaf. It is not bar height, and it is very heavy to move. It reminds me of the OP’s table. I love it so much <3.

    As for the scratches, I cover the table with a table cloth when company comes over. For hot mugs and plates I use hot pads and coasters. Every week I lovingly wipe it down with furniture polish. The scratches I just let be, because over time it will become just another part of the patina of the finish.

  4. I rarely buy expensive furniture. Most of it is cheap second hand jobs but the occasional piece I splash out on is forever furniture. I will even spend a lot on second hand if it is forever. At the age of 30 so far I have 1 free-standing drawer, my piano and my coffee table that are forever pieces, that’s all. I make them fit, wherever we go!

  5. I have moved many times, upsized, downsized, and back up again, and I am a major collector, and love decorating. I become immediately sentimental about anything I acquire because either it holds memories, it was my first grown-up___, I worked hard to pay it off, or for whatever reason.

    That said, I’m a firm believer in letting go of what is no longer serving you, even if nobody wants to buy it on Craigslist. One thing that has helped me let go over the years, is something someone once said to me during a move; If it’s something you can go out and buy a similar one of when the time is right again, get rid of it.

    I too had the pub-height dining set that was super expensive, and beautiful and meaningful. After a breakup, I found an apartment with an eat-in kitchen that would just barely fit it, after hunting for months, checking out and fighting for dozens of apartments (the San Francisco market is insane – there are no words). It was only then, that I was able to admit I was pushing it to squeeze in something from a life I had left behind (however recently purchased at top dollar). I posted it on Craigslist and nobody would buy it. I finally sold it at a really low price, just to get it out of my life and be done with it once and for all. Do I regret it? Not at all. I now live in a bigger space, and have a long farmhouse style dining table I adore. I’ve considered what I would do with it if I had no space again, and it’s okay. Life goes on. Go to Cost Plus and buy another when you’re ready. It’s only the *uncommon* antiques, and heirloom pieces I really hold on to now. Irreplaceables.

  6. Ooo, thank you for the term “forever furniture.” I was using the term “grownup furniture,” but I didn’t really like it. So far my purchased “forever furniture” is a dining room table and set of chairs from a small furniture maker. I agree with those above who said that the scratches are painful, but they are already starting to blend in and develop into a “loved patina” aesthetic.

    I am lucky to still have some forever furniture from my childhood- a dresser and a mirror. They are definitely starting to show their age – the drawers don’t shut flush with the front, and the finish could stand to be redone. I am hoping that between my spouse and I we can tackle that as a project, or I might look into a local furniture repair service.

    Something that was never intended to be forever furniture but has lasted me 20 years are wooden crates that I painted. They are old apple crates and have been the perfect portable bookshelf and moving boxes! They weren’t in style when I stated using them, so it will be amusing to see how many times they go in and out of style before they irreparably bite the dust.

  7. My parents have a dining table almost exactly like yours (same butterfly folding leaves and height) and I’m obsessed with it. I picked it out, in fact. My family is all tall (Me 6’4″, sister 6’2″, husband 6’1″, father 6’4″, my mom is tiny at 5’8″) so it’s mandatory that we have a tall table. My dad has trouble using it ever since he had his stroke, because the height is more difficult for him to balance on, unfortunately. My mom once mentioned that I could take the table when I started a family of my own, but now that my husband and I are trying to relocate across the country, she’s having second thoughts. I want that table!!!

    We also have a similarly expanding coffee table (in ours, the top lifts off to become sit-at-the-couch-and-eat height) and it’s awesome, with lots of storage inside.

    My two favorite recliner chairs will not be making the move with us. It really pains me because I LOVE both of them so much, but one’s been around since 1989 and the other since 1993, and both of them are so sagged in the middle that you instantly need a chiropractic visit after you sit for five minutes. The blue one I will hopefully be able to replace because it’s just a standard recliner, but the red one is a magical one where the back and feet recline independently of one another, so if you want to recline your back but keep your feet on the floor, you can. It also can be “set” in various states of recline– the legs will ratchet as high as you want them to go. It’s the best chair in the world and I’ve never seen another one like it, but it hurts to sit in because it’s so worn out now :'(

  8. I don’t have any “forever furniture”. I inherited my bed and coffee table from my grandmother, my kitchen table (used more for plants and cooking than eating, since I eat with my laptop in front of the television) came from my grandfather when he passed. I bought my couch (my parents helped by paying for the shipping to the middle of nowhere), but it was dirt cheap and I expected to have it only while I lived here. Same for my shelves and “dresser” which is really a bunch of Target cubes with fabric cube bins–I could leave it all behind and be perfectly happy, though my housing department would be very unhappy, since I rent from the school district where I work. I figure I can wait for forever furniture for when I live in a house I own.

  9. My parents have that very same coffee table, and I can confirm that it makes for amazing board games nights and take-away sushi while watching movies! The crumbs are insane, though, I hear that.

  10. Last year we moved to a house. We spent nine months looking for the perfect forever dining room table and chairs. Then my whole family decided to spend Christmas at our place and we had to make a quick decision. We now have a table that have pretty much the same specs that the OPs table. It is our first “big purchase” (well, if we don’t count the house) and I love it!

    Other forever furniture is s huge bookcase in massive wood. It is old and has spent the last decade moving from student apartment to student apartment, from one friend to the next. We have a good friend that refused to help us move unless we promised that he wouldn’t need to move that piece again!

    We also have a small set with two armchairs, a table and a lamp from my mother’s paternal grandmother. And a desk from my father’s side of the family.

    All these things have quirks I sometimes really hate, but every piece is important and useful. All the inherited stuff will need some TLC in the near future, but I would never replace them!

  11. This reminds me of an article from a few years ago on this website about the big pink chair:

    I’ve bought and disposed of many things over the years, but I have some forever pieces: I have three huge, beautiful bookcases from a company called This End Up, which I’m pretty sure doesn’t exist anymore. I also have a set (huge dresser with hutch, two end tables and a writing desk) of wicker furniture by Henry Link. Love all of these, and would never, ever get rid of them.

    • You can get table pads for a lot of wooden tables. Kinda defeats the point if you like the look of the wood, but if you plan on eating with a tablecloth putting down the pads first isn’t that big a deal. Of course, we have a separate homework table, so some of the *other* scratch inducing uses of a dining room table aren’t really concerns.

  12. Beautiful pieces of furniture! You are right, there are many things which come and go when we change places and grow up, but there are a few things which get stuck with us practically forever. I had a similar huge chair in our house when I was little, and it’s still there, even though about 20 years have passed. Right, it looks horrible now and the colour is not the same as 20 years ago, but it’s still there.

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