It’s a timeless pursuit: We want what nobody else has. That seems particularly true when it comes to home furnishings; we want our personal surroundings to represent who we are, to express our individuality.
Achieving that goal isn’t always easy. “The bottom line in furniture is that there is an overabundance of it,” says Janice Kanter, who with her father, Theodore Kanter, runs Theodores furniture store in the District. With so many styles and places to shop, people can get confused. It’s like having a choice of 40 kinds of toothpaste in the store, she says: “Furniture has become the same thing.”
That’s why people often gravitate toward something they haven’t already seen in ten different stores or catalogs. Shoppers have become more discerning. “They want to know how a piece was made and where it was made, so they can pass the story on to their peers,” says Kaleo Kala, a furniture maker in Fredericksburg.
Uniqueness especially matters when every dollar counts. “People are selective about how they spend their money,” says Sean Amini, manager of DC’s Anora Home. “Not only do they have to have good quality and good workmanship, but they have to have a unique design or purpose.
“Our typical sofas? No one even goes near them. If they’re going to spend money, they want to spend money on things that are a little bit different, that stand out for them.”
The desire to be different exists at every price. “I try to encourage customers to have some sort of unique item in each room,” says Kelly Tyree, owner of Madison & Mabel in Frederick, whose inventory includes found and salvaged goods.
The challenge is knowing where to look. These are our favorite spots—from regional chains to independent retailers to woodworkers across the region who focus on one-of-a-kind pieces, whether antique or modern. While some national retailers do fine customized furniture, such as Thos. Moser, we’ve focused on locally owned businesses offering products that aren’t being replicated anywhere else in the country. Many also take custom orders for furniture, art, window treatments, rugs, upholstery, even bedding.
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