"Look at the detail!" one of our regular customers exclaimed stopping short right in front of a newly arrived item, an Eldred Wheeler Collector's Edition Bonnet Top Secretary.
No wonder. With 12 small drawers, 14 secret drawers, and exquisite fan carvings, the secretary is an extraordinary example of the art of woodworking. What caught her eye, though, were the two small and delicate shelves of wood that slid smoothly out from beneath the cabinet doors. "What are these?"
"Those are the candle slides," Ron, our showroom manager and furniture expert, explained. "Before electricity, you would need a candle near to provide light for your work."
The Eldred Wheeler piece is a reproduction, but it tells a lot about the way of life in Massachusetts in the 1700s. Woodworkers spent days - even weeks - on the fan carvings and details. Hidden drawers and subtle pigeonholes were a secret delight for the owner.
Which got me thinking. In last week's blog, I killed off Queen Anne, declaring that once-popular furniture style now out-of-date. Pieces as exquisite as the Eldred Wheeler are rare - and so expensive that few but the most ardent collector can afford them. So what's next for the rest of us?
We are at a crossroads. We're taller and fatter. We aren't farmers and small-town laborers like they were in the 1700s. We roam the planet like hunter-gatherers now. We shed belongings - and buy more - with every move. We like quality but we won't pay for it.
What does that mean for furniture? Are we happy to live on chunks of foam wrapped in polyester? Has furniture become the new Dixie cup: disposable? Are we still willing to pay for quality, detail, character and art? What do you think?