November 10, 2005

Feeling Distressed

If there's one thing my girlfriend and I disagree on, it's everything. Therefore, decisions regarding house decorating and furnishing can be knock-down, drag-out affairs.

For example, she'll want a nice, comfortable couch in the living room, while I'll want a Lay-Z-Boy recliner with a built-in refridgerator and laptop computer, universal remote control and large treaded wheels for transporting me from the television to the bed. Those are our battle lines, and we defend them vigorously.

I kid. . . sort of. I generally don't care about a lot of furniture decisions she makes. So long as it's comfortable, or functional, and looks pretty good, she typically gets her way about 70 percent of the time.

Well, last week, she approached me in that coaxing, coercive way of hers' that just screams that she wants something. She then showed me a picture of a console table she fell in love with and just totally, totally, TOTALLY had to have.

I looked at the picture for a bit. It showed a white console table with a finished hardwood top. However, just as I about to admit that I had no problem with the table, I noticed something.

"Wait a minute," I said. "The paint's chipped all over that thing. It looks like it was dragged behind a car."

"No, it's supposed to look like that," she explained. "It's 'distressed.'"

I pondered this for a bit, wondering why a console table would be distressed--I mean besides the fact it had been sawed off at the trunk, been planed into boards and then tacked together to serve the human purpose of holding up candles and lamps. All that would be distressing, I suppose.

But, no, "distressed," as it applies to furniture means that the piece is lovingly crafted, carefully painted, and then attacked by a sander to give the furniture a worn, used look.

Now, maybe it's just me, but I like new furniture to look. . . well. . . NEW. I've had years and years of experience giving furniture a distressed look, and I'd like the opportunity to have at least a few months or so of enjoying a pristine piece of furniture before I put the first inevitable ding in the finish.

These were the battle lines we drew regarding the console table, and we both started piling sandbags up to protect our positions. She insisted that the distressed look was in, and I fired back with my .50 calibre "I Don't Care" sniper rifle.

There was no way I was going to start moving in furniture that basically came pre-damaged. Damaging furniture was MY job, and no one was going to deny me my responsibility.

"You don't have an eye for decorating like I do," she protested. "This will look great in here. People like the look of distressed furniture!"

"Hey, remember how I accidently ripped the soap dish off the bathroom wall?" I asked. "I was going to replace it, but I think I'll just say the bathroom simply has a distressed look to it. Duct tape and plastic are CHARMING!"

This line of argumentation went on for a couple days, not necessarily non-stop, but pretty close to that. I think I heard her making an argument for distressed furniture in her sleep, but she may have just been snoring, which would be about as convincing.

In the end, she finally understood that there was simply no wiggle room when it came to my complete distaste for distressed furniture, and she agreed, reluctantly as all hell, to look for an alternative console table.

All of which makes me simply dread purchasing an entertainment center.

It's all very distressing.

And now for some shameless name dropping in the hopes of boosting Web traffic: Alexis Bledel. Alexis Bledel. Alexis Bledel. Alexis Bledel. Alexis Bledel. Alexis Bledel. Alexis Bledel. Alexis Bledel.

Posted by Ryan at November 10, 2005 12:47 AM | TrackBack

Now, maybe it's just me, but I like new furniture to look. . . well. . . NEW.

It's not just you.

And at the risk of incurring the wrath of your undoubtedly fine and gracious lady, distressed furniture is very 2003.

Posted by: ilyka at November 11, 2005 04:13 AM

Here's the thing, dude-- "distressed" is just another kind of finish. So, like, I'm opposed to the clothing people buy at Urban Outfitters because all those holes and fake wear and tear and shit actually shorten the useful life of the clothing. But in furniture, it's a whole other deal. Like, think about wood laminates, which have been in use for hundreds of years-- are they supposed to convince you that the whole desk or dresser or whatever is actually made of burled birch? No. Anybody knows better. It's just a finish that people find pleasant to look at. Likewise, think about a computer desk that's made of particle wood and covered in white plastic laminate or something like it-- are you supposed to think the whole thing's made of white plastic? No. It's just a finish that's applied in pursuit of a certain aesthetic; the Star Trek look or whatever.

But, to get back to Urban Outfitters-- I object to the artificial wear and tear because it weakens the clothing. But I don't object to it aesthetically and, odds are, you don't either. You buy your jeans pre-washed? That's distressing. Remember when Levis used to be all dark-blue and stiff, and they took years to break in? They didn't start to look good until they were a little bit used.

Distressed furniture finishes are the same kind of thing. They're just meant to break up a single-color finish so it's not quite so aggressive-- kind of like how pre-washed jeans come in a faded palette, rather than the INDIGO of full-on new un-washed Levis (which, for all I know, they don't even make anymore). Same deal.

That said, my beef with artificially distressed furniture is that it's usually really obvious that it's artificially distressed. So you know, far as that goes, you and I are ultimately in agreement. I'm just saying-- don't write it off altogether. Artificial distressing has its place.

Posted by: Joshua at November 11, 2005 04:37 PM

i SWEAR i've read this post before....maybe it's the wine.

Posted by: joseph at November 11, 2005 05:07 PM

Joshua, exactly. Artificially distressed ANYTHING looks just, well, artificially distressed. I don't care if it's clothes, furniture or what. Maybe it's the coin collector in me, but genuinely old-looking items carry more visual value because they're genuinely old. You can't fake that.

Posted by: Ryan at November 14, 2005 11:45 AM

Artificial distressing may allow you more freedom with any wear and tear that may occur naturally. It's not a blank check, but you might not get the look when you put your dogs up on the table, or if you get a little agressive with the vacuum. And so on.

It could be worse, you could be asked to buy a new piece and have to distress it yourself.

Posted by: seed at November 14, 2005 01:48 PM

Fender sells 3 different levels of "distressed" guitars.

Level 1 is not really distressed at all; the guitar looks like it was built in the 50s or 60s (same parts/specs as were used then) and then time-warped to today.

2nd level is called "New Old Stock" and is built like it was back then, and well-cared for over 40 or 50 years.

3rd level is the "Relic" and looks like it was played every day since it was built. Nicks, dings, scratches, and RUSTED hardware.

That 3rd level costs an extra $110.

I can imagine dings and scratches in a guitar that old. But over the years, you WOULD replace rusted hardware.

Posted by: Rob@L&R at November 14, 2005 04:45 PM
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