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Affordable Craftsman Furniture

Many people keep asking me to write about affordable (what a subjective term!) Craftsman-style furniture. Anything made by a craftsman with excellent materials won't be cheap - it can't be. And I hesitate to call some of the reproductions out there, made of fruit woods and veneers "Craftsman," even if they look it - that's an insult to the great craftspeople who today are creating pieces that will be passed down for generations. BUT! There are pieces out there that you can afford. With the aesthetic (if not the spirit) of the A&C movement in mind, let me suggest a few options.

1: build your own furniture! If you have a bit of experience with your tools - and the room to use them - you'd be surprised what you can build with good instruction, decent materials and a lot of patience. There are some fantastic books out there, and a number of collections of very easy-to-follow plans for beginners, that will help you build good, sturdy pieces that will give you the look you want in your home. Robert Lang's excellent series [ 1 / 2 / 3 ] is a good place to start, as are a number of other good books for non-expert woodworkers [ 1 / 2 ]. However, a lot of us don't have the skill, time or inclination to build our own furniture, so...

2: reclaimed materials. A few craftspeople are building some wonderful Craftsman and Mission style pieces using all sorts of reclaimed materials - wine barrels, floorboards, barn doors and the like. At the high end, you have people like Whit McCleod, whose steam-bent wood from winebarrels and other retasked materials are beautiful but not inexpensive. Retailers like The Wooden Duck in Berkeley CA sell plainer but much more affordable items made from various recycled woods.

3: the el cheapo route. Inexpensive, lower-quality repro designs that flaunt the entire concept behind the humanistic, community-centered approach embraced by the founders of the movement, but hey - you can afford it. This glass-fronted cabinet is one example - well under a thousand dollars, in mahogany and veneer. Sometimes furniture liquidators have good deals on decent pieces, and I've even seen affordable seconds from some of the bigger distributors and makers - such as Strictly Wood Furniture's endless closeout sales.

Adirondack chairs from Amazon (discovered by our friends over at House in Progress); lighting [ 1 / 2 / 3 ], a magazine rack, a $60 coffee table and console table, and a few other pieces from Amazon, The Bright Spot and various Yahoo stores;

4: get lucky. There are some very good deals to be found on well-made and attractive pieces out there, but you have to keep your eyes open. Small local antique auctions are a good way to discover some great treasures for far less than they would usually go for. Estate sales and garage sales frequently turn up gems, as well. My wife and I found two repro Stickley cube chairs for $200 each - with leather cushions - at a local junk shop. Architectural reclamation companies are another place to find unique and interesting items at good prices; Ohmega Architectural Salvage in Berkeley is probably the best spot in the Bay Area (along with their sister store, Omega Too). Other firms include Bygones, in Canterbury England, which does a brisk business in all sorts of reclaimed architectural details and furniture. Beyond Waste, in Cotati, produces some great wood flooring and some furniture items from reclaimed lumber; there's also Caldwell's Building Salvage in San Francisco and the Sink Factory in Berkeley. If you know of more places like these, please email me for a future article.