Have you recently declared yourself a grownup, and as part of your new identity you’ve decided you’re not going to buy your furniture from Ikea anymore?
Good, because this is an important first step in getting your home to look more like a magazine and less like it does now. And once you make the transformation, you have to keep it up. If all your new stuff ends up buried under piles of papers and carpets of pet hair, then the bloom will be off the rose.
The DMV is a fantastically diverse place to shop for furniture. From the lowest-quality junk made out of cardboard (and not even corrugated!) to an $18,000 sofa covered in Bahia leather, you can get something that fits your budget as well as your style.
Furniture stores tend to cluster in certain areas, likely due to a theory that customers are attracted to choice and variety, and enjoy looking at similar items in different stores (hence the invention of the mall). One such location is Rockville Pike in Rockville, Maryland, home to almost every chain store in America with ample free parking in front of each one.
Rockville Pike has 13 furniture stores if you count World Market, which does have some cool furniture, but also sells items like pajamas and marshmallow fluff, so it doesn’t really fit the mold.
I visited three recently to browse the selections as part of my active fantasy life in which teenagers do not leave cleats and empty tortilla chip bags on the furniture and cats do not claw at and deposit hair on the upholstery.
Bassett Home Furnishings, a chain of more than 100 stores, also has locations in Falls Church and Sterling, Virginia, and Catonsville, Maryland. This furniture company was born in a sawmill in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the 1800s. A line about this authentic bit o’ history is affixed to the showroom wall in large letters, hinting at the kind of prestige you thought was reserved for the walls of the Jefferson Memorial.
Bassett’s philosophy includes the idea that “furniture does not need to be expensive and should be available to everyone.” Checks of price tags on the showroom floor confirmed many items under $1,000.
Their showroom is, of course, beautiful, replete with today’s most popular colors: gray, blue and white with a few touches of beige and seafoam green. Upholstered headboards graced luxurious beds covered in fluffy pillows. You can’t be too tired at night to get into some of these beds, however — you need a running start and some strong leg muscles.
Words like “natural beauty” and “heirloom quality” are used to describe the current trend of “weathered” and “vintage” furniture like dining room tables. According to many DIYers, the way to achieve this is to take a perfectly good piece of wood and beat it with chains. Because in grandma’s time, it was pretty common to slam some chains down on the table before digging into dinner, right? I’m not sure the look of this dining room table was achieved this way, but you get the process.
Next I stopped into Havertys, where the furniture is more classic — no violence is used in the making of these pieces. Havertys is the place you want to go if you literally have a library in your home or if all of the members of your family eat dinner at the same time — sitting down. I’m pretty sure fancy hotels get their furniture here.
Havertys also dates back to the 1800s, when the company was started in Atlanta, and they also currently have over 100 stores. Other nearby locations are in Sterling, Bowie, Fairfax, Dulles Town Center and Columbia.
Their showroom is stunning, and all the dark wood and intricately carved pieces made me want to speak in hushed tones, before some adult with a smoking jacket and an ascot came in and threw me out.
Last I went to Arhaus. I considered running away from home and trying to live there like Claudia in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, but alas, my teenagers need their tortilla chips replenished.
Arhaus has only been around 25 years, and that may explain why it’s so cool. Chandeliers and lamps dripped with teardrop crystals, throw pillows were adorned with glittering beads, and clear glass orbs hung from the ceiling at different heights. Store speakers played a snazzy version of Anything but Love — I was sure if I kept looking, I’d find Marlene Dietrich on a sofa somewhere, smoking a cigarette in an holder and wearing a feather boa.
Fabrics and décor were metallic meets animal hide meets lamé. If you live in a chic apartment with big windows, you’ll want to shop here. You’ll also want to bring plenty of money — a stunning round dining room table that looked like marble but was really wood caught my eye, but alas, at $6,000 was a bit more than I paid for my last car.
But you’re not just buying furniture here, you’re designing a room. If you wanted a good, sturdy, brown sofa, you’d just order it from Macy’s the next time they had sale.