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Furniture flirt


My friend, Shaan*, once said that “I’d flirt with furniture.” Until recently, I wasn’t sure if that was true. I mean, I flirt with men and women alike, old and young, but an inanimate object? What’s the fun in that? They can’t flirt back. Then my husband and I bought our first home and I suddenly found myself having the sole responsibility of decorating it from the ground up. It sounds like a girl’s dream, but I found it very stressful.
At first it was fun imagining how every room would look once we moved in but I soon discovered decorating a home is different from decorating an apartment. I hadn’t lived in the same place for more than two years during the past twelve years. Now I was living in my first home. It was time to throw out the old Ikea furniture and invest in some items that would last longer than a botox injection.
I didn’t know where to start looking to get ideas so I turned to HGTV, Pottery Barn catalogs, and decorating magazines. I picked up tips on design and developed an idea of what my tastes were. I even started using “an ideas board” on which I tacked pictures that inspired me (when did I become such a desperate housewife!). After a short while, I had each room mapped out. I knew I needed to stay true to the architectural integrity of the building but I could still make each room its own, depending on its function. Now, it was time to shop.
Santa Monica has many boutique shops that have some wonderful furniture but most of the shops like to think of themselves as a Hollywood starlet and have the price tags to match. I first went to Design Within Reach on Santa Monica Boulevard. I thought the name was meant to reflect its prices but it was quite the opposite. It was a beautiful, well laid out store, but the prices were definitely not within reach.

Next I ventured to the commercial shops like, West Elm, Z Gallerie, Pottery Barn, and Restoration Hardware. All of them had furniture that was a mix of traditional and modern. The furniture was well made and functional but it seemed like I’d be paying for the name instead of the product. Out of all of them, Z Gallerie does have some very reasonable prices on their art and photography and I found a few pieces of furniture that (on sale) were very good value. But, when I discovered it was going to take three months for them to upholster one of their sofas, I moved on. Patience is not one of my virtues.
I never thought of myself as being crafty (at least, not in the decorating sense) but after watching several episodes of HGTV’s makeover shows, I decided I could buy some second hand pieces and do my own refinishing. I was a little apprehensive the first time I ventured into the Salvation Army on Olympic and Eleventh, worried I’d be wasting time and money. I bought an old wooden mirror and brought it home. I laid out my supplies (sand paper, primer, & paint) and got to work. And, three hours later I was shocked to see a beautiful new mirror in front of me. Subsequently, I became a little refinishing happy, and have done a desk, bed, and another much larger mirror.
For some of the bigger pieces, I stumbled upon this fabulous shop, Painted Ladies, just outside of Santa Monica in Venice. It is a very small furniture shop run by husband and wife team, Mary and Robert. Mary is wonderfully flighty. She’ll do anything for you (refinish, build, upholster) and her prices are very economical. She buys everything below wholesale and then refinishes it for you and sells it for far less than normal retail prices. I love her energy and her eccentricities (one of her more endearing features is that she only ever gets around to lining one of her eyes with blue eye-liner), but be prepared to encounter a few hiccups along the way. She’ll always deliver what she promises you but it may take a few visits to her shop to get it perfect. Still, after countless hours of looking for most of the larger pieces of furniture I had only found a few pieces. I finally broke down and ventured outside of Santa Monica to find the rest of the major furniture. I ended up getting my living room and dining room furniture at Living Spaces. I was weary of them at first, but when I got there (go on a weekday if you can - it’s a zoo on the weekends), I saw that they had a huge selection and a variety of different styles, and it was all excellent quality. What I liked most was that the sales associates do not work on commission so they are not pushy and are just there to help. Customer service is their top priority.
For smaller accessories I suggest taking a stroll along Main Street or Montana Avenue. There is an abundance of small boutiques along those streets and they all always have a wonderful selection. Make sure to keep an eye out for clearance items. If you don’t see any, don’t be embarrassed to ask when they are having their next sale. A lot of these shops have big sales about twice a year to get ready for their new inventory.
It has now become a part-time job trying to find just the right piece for every room in our new home and it seems like it will never be done. But, what I have bought, I love. I now understand why people can be so protective of their furniture; particularly if they’ve put a lot of thought and effort into picking out the perfect sofa, coffee table or accent pillow. For me, I love sitting on my new sofa and snuggling into the chaise sectional. I think I’ve even uttered those three magic words, I love you, which is better than just superficial flirting. It’s the real thing.