Inspiration and Ideas From Our In-House Experts & Customers

How The History Channel Inspires Us to Make Better Furniture

American RestorationIf you've never seen the show, you might be in for quite a surprise. The tough looking crew from Las Vegas are really history geeks at heart. It seems like their favorite projects are pieces of Americana that were made between the late 19th Century to the early-1950s. They can take an old gas pump, vending machine or toy and restore it to a condition that is as good as if not better than new.

So you might be wondering why you're reading about this on a furniture website. The answer is simple: we are inspired by the construction and longevity of classic American made objects and artifacts. For much of the industrial revolution many everyday objects were made not only to be functional but also to be sturdy and nearly indestructible. This began to change in the 1960s and by the 1990s it would be rare to find any consumer good that was designed not to be essentially disposable.  That's why the show is so interesting. While the items brought into Rick's shop my be dirty, rusted or dinged--in most cases they still work. A phrase that you'll hear time and again is, "They don't build'em like that any more." How true.

The people that work at Carrington Court have the same attitude as those that worked at making products at American companies in the first half of the 20th century. Fashions change and furniture wears out, but our goal to make beautiful dining chairs, wing chairs and benches that will last. We're not going to cut corners to save a few cents here and there, nor do we intentionally design something to wear out after a certain period of time. Carrington Court has been in business since 1984 and nothing makes us happier than to have a customer call and ask for slipcovers for chairs she ordered 20 years ago.

So if you haven't had a chance to see American Restoration, sit back and enjoy a few episodes. You'll enjoy seeing what real craftspeople can accomplish and get a history lesson at the same time.

read more

6 Design Styles for Decorating Your Ranch Home

Decorating a ranch style home can be difficult , and deciding on the style you want to showcase can be challenging with so many different, unique designs out there. Even more difficult is being able to put your ideas into action.

Never fear. Here are 6 ways to transform your home into the ranch you have always dreamed about.

Mid Century Modern

The Mid Century Modern look is making a huge comeback. The design will fit the style of the ranch house very well, because they both originated in the same time period. The look usually incorporates a variety of patterns and textures, as well as wallpaper, which is also making a huge comeback.

read more

The Myth of Free Shipping

What is it about the "idea" of free shipping that is so attractive. I, myself have been lured by this phrase many times. But how can this be? UPS, FedEx and the USPS don't work for free. Does it really matter? At least we're saving some money.

A retailer throwing in the cost of shipping as an incentive for buying their product is believable enough. For instance, on if you spend over $25 you often are eligible for free standard shipping. Since a lot of the items that Amazon sells is books, CDs and DVDs one could see how eating a dollar or two is possible--especially since Amazon is such a huge seller. It's not like they are paying the same shipping rates as the average Joe on the streets. They get deep discounts and they play the averages to know that in the end, they won't lose money.

Where you should be suspicious about free shipping is on large or heavy items. Things like refrigerators, tires, auto parts, big screen TVs and furniture are extremely expensive to ship. It doesn't matter how large the company selling these items is. They are not going to be able to negotiate the price down enough with the carrier to give away free shipping. The cost is going to have to be made up somewhere.

So, how do retailers offer free shipping on these larger items. There are several ways, but here are the most common methods:

  • They hide the actually cost of shipping in the price of the item. This is an especially effective tactic on expensive items. For example, let's say that a big screen TV is priced at $3000. The retailer may pay something like $2500 for it. If the big box retailer is a big shipper, they may be able to negotiate a shipping rate of $150. So they offer "free" shipping to spur interest. In the end the retailer is still making $350 and has probably charged a higher retail price to cover those charges.

  • Another particularly effective method is the use of "standard" shipping. Let's take the example of the big screen TV again. The retailer may offer this TV for $2700 with a cost of $2550. Once again the actual cost of shipping is $150. Of course if they offer free shipping, they won't make any money. So how can they do it? They offer free "standard" shipping. The customer is told that the order may take 2 to 4 weeks for delivery, but if they wish to receive it within the next few days they can use an expedited shipping method and the cost will be $200. Of course many customers will be anxious to get that new TV so will go ahead and pay the extra shipping charge. The retailer actually makes an extra $50 on the transaction and this helps defray the costs of the customers that accept the free method. It's just a matter of averages.

This same principles apply to low cost shipping. The lesson here is that shipping is always charged and you may not see it. Once again, you may think, "big deal, at least I'm saving money one way or another." The problem with this mindset is that the true cost of the product is hidden. Let me give one more example to illustrate my point, this time from an industry that I'm more than familiar with: furniture.

Furniture Co. offers a wing chair for $450 with free shipping. The chair price is a steal in itself, but free shipping takes the cake. Now lets say that shipping the chair costs $200, which is not an unreasonable amount. That would put the cost at $250. Now think about this for a second. A wing chair for $250. Is this a rational price? Think about the cost of manufacturing. In that price is the fabric, frame, springs, cushions, finishing, upholstery, sewing and all the other parts and labor in addition to the profit to be made. Can you really make a quality chair for this price? One other thing to consider is that if this is sold retail (not direct from the manufacturer) there is a 30% - 50% markup.

I'm a strong advocate to showing customers the true price. That is one reason why Carrington Court breaks out the shipping price. We want you to understand that we are not hiding anything. Along those same lines we don't treat shipping as a profit center. Our goal is to break even on shipping. There are times that we lose a couple of dollars on shipping, but we never overcharge. We're in the furniture business not the freight business.

There's a lot more to be said about shipping. I know some may think this is a boring subject, but when you're purchasing furniture, it is a subject that is important to be informed on. I also don't want you to think that everyone offering free shipping is trying to rip you off. There are good deals to be had, but it is in your best interest to reflect on all the costs of your purchase. In the coming weeks I'll be posting an article detailing all the ins-and-outs of furniture delivery, the costs involved and different shipping methods available. Let me know if you have any questions.

read more

Slipcovers - Change the Look of Your Dining Room Without Spending a Lot of Money

The holidays are coming up and I know many of you would like to redecorate before having friends and family over. Of course this is easier said than done, especially during a recession. Even if you have the money you may be reluctant to part with it.

We think we have a solution that will allow you to dramatically alter the look of your dining and parsons chairs without costing you a fortune. What am I talking about? Slipcovers. We have added five new slipcover styles to our line and there are more to come.

At the very least, a slipcover allows you to change the look of a chair by permitting you to change the fabric without going to the expense of buying an entirely new chair. Slipcovers can also dramatically change the look of a chair. For example you might go from unskirted to skirted. You may want to have one color on your chairs for fall and winter and then take the slipcover off for spring and summer. A slipcover offers a lot of flexibility and since they are relatively affordable, you can get multiple sets to change the look as often as you like.

Slipcovers may not be for everyone. Although they are tailored to the chairs we offer, you won't get the crisp look of an upholstered chair. However, I have to admit they can really come in handy. My family uses slipcovers in our breakfast room. With two cats and two children they are more of a shield than anything else. If we get food or cat hair on them, we can just take them off for a cleaning. And when company comes, we take off the slipcovers and have pristine chairs to display for those special occasions.

read more

Faux Leather A Good Choice if Price and Cleanability A Concern

Nothing beats the soft, supple feel of genuine aniline leather. That's why Carrrington Court offers over a dozen leather colors. However, there are many circumstances where leather may not be the best choice for dining chairs. In those instances we recommend looking at faux leathers. These fabrics have come a long way in recent years, offering simulated grains and textures that mimic the real thing. Some advantages of faux leathers are:

  1. Cost - High quality leathers are expensive and can increase the price of a dining room chair exponentially.

  2. Maintainability - Leather is easy to clean under most circumstances, but faux leather is made of urethane and polyester and is easy to clean with simple water-based cleaning solutions. In many cases a spill will wipe right off with a damp rag.

If you're torn between the real deal and the man-made alternative, you'll probably want to consider the following:

  1. Do you tend to redecorate often or are you planning to move? If you're not sure you'll stick with your dining chairs for very long, faux leather may be the way to go. You'll save hundreds of dollars and won't feel guilty in a couple of years when you decide to take your room in a different direction.

  2. Do you have young children? It'll probably be much easier to clean up a spilled juice box or a PB&J accident with the faux than with leather.

  3. Do you have pets (especially cats)? While faux leather will not fair any better to cat claws than the genuine article, at least you won't be out hundreds of dollars and you may be able to repair the damage more easily and at a lower cost.

As I already mentioned, faux leather dining chairs offer a very reasonable facsimile. You still miss out on the feel and the patina that leather offers as it ages. At the end of the day, the good news is that you have choice!

read more