How Shipping Delays Turned Used Furniture Into A Hot Commodity
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How Shipping Delays Turned Used Furniture Into A Hot Commodity

Those fed up with endless waits for new purchases, are turning to antique, vintage and even contemporary resale furnishings.

By MICHELLE SLATALLA
Tue, Feb 8, 2022 11:21amGrey Clock 6 min

THE PARENTS of the bride were thrilled to announce that after many Covid-related false starts, their daughter was at long last ready to tie the knot. They had a date, an intimate guest list and a wedding dress. There was just one problem—the chairs.

Sasha Adler, the interior designer decorating the Los Angeles home in anticipation of the November 2021 party, had ordered 14 custom scallop-backed dining chairs a year ago. The vendor said they’d be delivered in about four months, by May. Which changed to June. Then July rolled around and still no chairs. Shipping delays, logistics, Covid, Covid, blah blah, the vendor said.

In late August, Ms. Adler came up with a bold Plan B: Buy a set of exquisite, antique Louis XVI chairs from online vintage marketplace Chairish. They weren’t perfect—the chair seats needed new upholstery. But in today’s chaotic, supply-chain-challenged world, buying vintage and tweaking it is as close as we’re going to get to near-instant gratification.

“Really, what other choice is there these days?” asked Ms. Adler, who got the chairs shipped to an upholsterer, re-covered in miraculously in-stock leather and delivered to the clients a few weeks ahead of the celebration.

In short, old stuff is the newest trend in interior design. After a year of record-breaking, months-long waits for new furniture, homeowners and pros are turning to preowned and vintage furnishings.

Once an afterthought for buyers, “secondhand furniture is becoming mainstream,” said furniture-industry investment banker Timothy Stump, noting that the U.S. market for used home goods and furniture is projected to grow by 38% by 2025, from $17.05 billion last year to $23.56 billion, according to consumer-data provider Statista. “If people are told they have to wait 30 weeks for a new sofa, they search for available options.”

And then there’s always your own attic.

“Looking around for a little cabinet to go in my hallway and seeing the shipping delays, I remembered I had an old dry sink that had been in my childhood home,” said homeowner Sierra Hartley, who lives in Medfield, Mass. “I painted it exactly the colour I wanted—it took about four hours—and now I have this piece in my home that has a story to it.”

Fueling the popularity of preowned purchases is an awareness of how much furniture is thrown out every year—12 million tons in 2018, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. “People are bringing me things that in years past would have gone to the landfill,” said furniture restorer Paul Casaccio of Paint and Rehab Designs in Nutley, N.J. He recently refinished a beat-up dining room table for neighbours. “It’s solid wood, and after I stripped it down, it had a beautiful grain.”

The surge in secondhand chic, coinciding with the ascendancy of the so-called grandmillenial style that is fast turning “frumpy” into a synonym for “fashionable,’’ has also created a new, relaxed approach to decorating.

“It’s almost bizarre the way people are breaking all the rules we used to have, mixing antiques with modern things, putting things from the 18th century in the same room with things from 1950,” said Al Ruschmeyer, an interior designer in San Francisco. “For a friend who was an art dealer, I combined her modern art with a Victorian chair and a teddy bear.”

Vintage furniture site Chairish, which posted 54% year-over-year revenue growth in 2021, has seen a surge in sales of jewel-toned Chinese Art Deco rugs, armchairs upholstered in nostalgic florals and roll-top desks. “People are interested in the warmth those pieces bring,” said co-founder Anna Brockway.

Also sought by shoppers trying to circumvent shipping delays are nearly new contemporary pieces, often still in production, found on resale sites such as AptDeco, Kaiyo and even Facebook Marketplace. For instance, Kaiyo, in New York City, promises to deliver a “gently used” RH Maxwell sofa ($2,100) in as quickly as two days to the lower Northeastern states. Expected delivery of a new version (from $3,695) is between June 23 and July 22, according to the RH site. RH said a company spokesman was unavailable to comment.

Although used furniture can be a quick solution—even with truck-driver shortages, most pieces can be delivered domestically in weeks—designers, upholsterers and restorers caution that it’s not always less expensive.

“It’s a piece-by-piece situation. I have one client who needs a bigger dining table and who wants to re-use ornate table legs and get a new custom table top, which will cost more than buying a new table,” said Tina Ramchandani, an interior designer in New York City. “But for a different client, we are reupholstering her headboard and side rails, and the cost turned out to be cheaper than a new bed.”

Thanks to designers and homeowners who are buying vintage sofas, armchairs and chaises, business is booming for the nation’s upholsterers. “I have a six-months waiting list,” said Rachel Fletcher of Knox Upholstery in Knoxville, Tenn., and president of the National Upholstery Association. “When Covid hit, we all thought we’d go out of business. Instead, I’m expanding out of my house into a commercial space. My dogs will miss me.”

Reupholstering costs vary widely. Extras like nailheads, welting, buttons, fringe and multiple cushions add up. “If you buy a vintage or antique sofa, new upholstery will probably cost half the purchase price,” said Lauren McGrath, a Greenwich, Conn., interior designer. “The rule holds true for a fully upholstered chair, like a wingback.”

Don’t expect perfection when buying secondhand furniture, said Chloe Kalk, an interior designer in Los Angeles: “It’s a little riskier because it might need a screw or a sealant or even help from a handyman, but in the end you can say, ‘I’m the only one in the world who has this 1930s coffee table from France.’”

Buyers also should check delivery costs before clicking to buy. Shipping internationally is much more of a challenge than a year ago, both because of delays and the increased expense, said Ray Allegrezza, executive director of the International Home Furnishings Representatives Association in High Point, N.C. “There are a record number of ships waiting for berths in the harbours and the cost of a shipping container that used to be $2,000 a year ago now is over $20,000.”

Most in demand? Furnishings you can refashion for a new purpose: demilunes as desks, vanities dragooned into duty as console tables. “These things may have lasted for a century or more already, [and are] suddenly getting another life,” said Anthony Barzilay Freund, editorial director at online antiques seller 1stDibs, where sales of dressing tables rose more than 35% last year.

Also enjoying a renaissance are 20th-century, solid-wood “brown furniture” brands manufactured in the U.S. and known for silhouettes in traditional styles like Regency, Georgian and early American. At Kaiyo, prices of Drexel Heritage and Ethan Allen increased by 13.8% and 9.9% respectively last year, said founder Alpay Koralturk. “It makes sense. They are old brands, with a lot of high-quality product out there, and people now are willing to mix and match anything.”

Buyers are also snapping up vintage free-standing cupboards and small dressers to use in lieu of custom kitchen cabinetry they can’t get built because contractors are backed up. “I have a kitchen project where a client has a pie safe her grandfather built. Her initial reaction was ‘It doesn’t fit with what we’re doing and I’m going to get rid of it,’” said Tabitha Mahaffey, a designer in Fort Worth, Texas. “But we had a discussion: ‘It’s right here right now, so what if we paint it and put new hardware on it?’ And now it works in the space.”

The year has given many shoppers an appreciation for the human stories behind their new, old furniture. Consider the experience of Shannon Eddings, an interior designer in Austin, Texas, who wanted an inexpensive swivel chair for her sitting room.

“I found the perfect 1980s chair on Craigslist, and I wanted to re-cover it in a checkerboard fabric I loved,” Ms. Eddings said. When she went to seal the deal, she found “the chair belonged to my neighbour two doors down.”

No Pro Necessary

Six quick ways to perform a facelift on flawed used furniture, if it isn’t worth the time or money to pay someone else to do it.

1. Magic Marker

“For case goods, touch up or minor repair is generally easily resolved with furniture pens,” said Highlands, N.C., interior designer Jamie Elliott McPherson.

2. Strip Show

“Use Easy-Off Oven Cleaner to strip furniture if you love the look and feel of raw, unfinished wood,” said Hillary Kaplan, an interior designer in Westfield, N.J. Leave a coat of it on for an hour, then scrub it off with warm, soapy water.

3. Flute Music

Embellish a plain-Jane dresser or sideboard with detailing. “You can add fluting to a piece easily with Pole-Wrap, a trend I’m seeing on Instagram,” said Denver, furniture flipper Leslie Jarrett. The pliable sheets of decorative wood were originally designed to spruce up basement columns.

4. Cover Story

Throw a beautiful vintage rug over the back of an imperfect chair or sofa, said Ms. Kaplan. “It gives a lived-in-but-elegant look.”

5. Finishing Touch

Swap in sleek hardware to instantly give old furniture a new look, suggested designer Ashley DeLapp, of Charlotte, N.C. “The piece will look more cohesive in a modern room,” she said.

6. Shape Shift

Remove stylistic frills to declutter the lines of an old piece, said Paul Casaccio, of Paint and Rehab Designs. The Nutley, N.J., restorer recently removed a sea-themed medallion from a coffee table. “Without the shell motif, the table was a simple shape and an easy fit in any room,” he said.

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: February 4, 2022.



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A Killer Golf Swing Is a Hot Job Skill Now

Companies are eager to hire strong players who use hybrid work schedules to schmooze clients on the course

By CALLUM BORCHERS
Fri, Jun 14, 2024 5 min

Standout golfers who aren’t quite PGA Tour material now have somewhere else to play professionally: Corporate America.

People who can smash 300-yard drives and sink birdie putts are sought-after hires in finance, consulting, sales and other industries, recruiters say. In the hybrid work era, the business golf outing is back in a big way.

Executive recruiter Shawn Cole says he gets so many requests to find ace golfers that he records candidates’ handicaps, an index based on average number of strokes over par, in the information packets he submits to clients. Golf alone can’t get you a plum job, he says—but not playing could cost you one.

“I know a guy that literally flies around the world in a private jet loaded with French wine, and he golfs and lands hundred-million-dollar deals,” Cole says.

Tee times and networking sessions have long gone hand-in-golf-glove. Despite criticism that doing business on the course undermines diversity, equity and inclusion efforts—and the fact that golf clubs haven’t always been open to women and minorities —people who mix golf and work say the outings are one of the last reprieves from 30-minute calendar blocks

Stars like Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie West helped expand participation in the sport. Still, just 22% of golfers are nonwhite and 26% are women, according to the National Golf Foundation.

To lure more people, clubs have relaxed rules against mobile-phone use on the course, embracing white-collar professionals who want to entertain clients on the links without disconnecting from the office. It’s no longer taboo to check email from your cart or take a quick call at the halfway turn.

With so much other business conducted virtually, shaking hands on the green and schmoozing over clubhouse beers is now seen as making an extra effort, not slacking off.

Americans played a record 531 million rounds last year. Weekday play has nearly doubled since 2019, with much of the action during business hours , according to research by Stanford University economist Nicholas Bloom .

“It would’ve been scandalous in 2019 to be having multiple meetings a week on the golf course,” Bloom says. “In 2024, if you’re producing results, no one’s going to see anything wrong with it.”

A financial adviser at a major Wall Street bank who competes on the amateur circuit told me he completes 90% of his tasks by 10 a.m. because he manages long-term investment plans that change infrequently. The rest of his workday often involves golfing with clients and prospects. He’s a member of a private club with a multiyear waiting list, and people jump at the chance to join him on a course they normally can’t access.

There is an art to bringing in business this way. He never initiates shoptalk, telling his playing partners the round is about having fun and getting to know each other. They can’t resist asking about investment strategies by the back nine, he says.

Work hard, play hard

Matt Parziale golfed professionally on minor-league tours for several years, but when his dream of making the big time ended, he had to get a regular job. He became a firefighter, like his dad.

A few years later he won one of the biggest amateur tournaments in the country, earning spots in the 2018 Masters and U.S. Open, where he tied for first among non-pros.

The brush with celebrity brought introductions to business types that Parziale, 35 years old, says he wouldn’t have met otherwise. One connection led to a job with a large insurance broker. In 2022 he jumped to Deland, Gibson Insurance Associates in Wellesley, Mass., which recognised his golf game as a tool to help win large accounts.

He rescheduled our interview because he was hosting clients at a private club on Cape Cod, and squeezed me in the next morning, before teeing off with a business group in Newport, R.I.

A short time ago, Parziale couldn’t imagine making a living this way. Now he’s the norm in elite amateur golf circles.

“I look around at the guys at the events I play, and they all have these jobs ,” he says.

His boss, Chief Executive Chip Gibson, says Parziale is good at bringing in business because he puts as much effort into building relationships as honing his game. A golf outing is merely an opportunity to build trust that can eventually lead to a deal, and it’s a misconception that people who golf during work hours don’t work hard, he says.

Barry Allison’s single-digit handicap is an asset in his role as a management consultant at Accenture , where he specialises in travel and hospitality. He splits time between Washington, D.C., and The Villages, Fla., a golf mecca that boasts more than 50 courses.

It can be hard to get to know people in distributed work environments, he says. Go golfing and you’ll learn a lot about someone’s temperament—especially after a bad shot.

“If you see a guy snap a club over his knee, you don’t know what he’s going to snap next,” Allison says.

Special access

On a recent afternoon I was a lunch guest at Brae Burn Country Club, a private enclave outside Boston that was the site of U.S. Golf Association championships won by legends like Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones. I parked in the second lot because the first one was full—on a Wednesday.

My host was Cullen Onstott, managing director of the Onstott Group executive search firm and a former collegiate golfer at Fairfield University. He explained one reason companies prize excellent golfers is they can put well-practiced swings on autopilot and devote most of their attention to chitchat.

It’s hard to talk with potential customers about their needs and interests when you’re hunting for errant shots in the woods. It’s also challenging if you show off.

The first hole at Brae Burn is a 318-yard par 4 that slopes down, enabling big hitters like Onstott to reach the putting green in a single stroke. But to stay close to his playing partners and keep the conversation flowing, he sometimes hits a shorter shot.

Having an “in” at an exclusive club can make you a catch. Bo Burch, an executive recruiter in North Carolina, says clubs in his region tend to attract members according to their business sectors. One might be chock-full of real-estate investors while another has potential buyers of industrial manufacturing equipment.

Burch looks for candidates who are members of clubs that align with his clients’ industries, though he stresses that business acumen comes first when filling positions.

Tami McQueen, a former Division I tennis player and current chief marketing officer at Atlanta investment firm BIP Capital, signed up for private golf lessons this year. She had noticed colleagues were wearing polos with course logos and bringing their clubs to work. She wanted in.

McQueen joined business associates on the golf course for the first time in March at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. She has lowered her handicap to a respectable 26 and says her new skill lends a professional edge.

“To be able to say, ‘I can play with you and we can have those business meetings on the course’ definitely opens a lot more doors,” she says.

MOST POPULAR
11 ACRES ROAD, KELLYVILLE, NSW

This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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