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Thu Mar 28, 2013, 09:59 AM

Shopping for Furniture or Cabinets? Buy Only Items Made of Renewable Woods.

Take a close look at the materials used to make the wooden furniture, hardwood floors and cabinets you buy. That beautiful wood grain may be destroying tropical rainforests. Instead of exotic woods, choose furniture made with renewable hardwoods that are sourced from the US. Maple, Walnut, Oak, Birch, Ash, Hickory, Sycamore, and other domestic hardwoods are renewable resources. Exotic woods with romantic-sounding names almost all come from tropical rainforests that are being clear-cut to supply solid wood and veneers for custom cabinets and furniture. Those woods are often very beautiful, and attractive to buyers, but they're disappearing, because the rainforests are disappearing.

At one time, for example, Mahogany was the most popular hardwood used in furniture. That was during the 18th and 19th centuries. The species of tree that produced that mahogany is now gone. It is virtually extinct. What is called mahogany today is from other rainforest species, because the original wood is unobtainable. Ebony, Grenadilla, Rosewood, and many others have suffered the same fate. Soon, its replacement woods will also be unattainable.

Back in the 1980's I used to design and build woodworking projects for several popular magazines. Early in that career, I made the decision to use only renewable hardwoods for those projects. I could have used anything I wanted, since I never had to pay for the materials I used for those projects, but I recognized the danger that popularizing exotic rainforest hardwoods represented. It took a while to convince the editors of those publications that we should not be designing projects that used such woods, but eventually I succeeded and all of my projects specified domestic, renewable hardwoods.

So, when you're shopping for furniture, hardwood flooring or kitchen cabinets, just say no to woods with exotic-sounding names. Stick with woods that come from US mills and that are renewable. Somewhere, a tree in a rainforest won't be cut down for your pleasure. The effect won't be instantaneous, but it will be real.

Exotic hardwoods are beautiful. There's no question about that. Renewable hardwoods are beautiful, too, in their own way, and that beauty is magnified by not exploiting endangered rainforest species.

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Reply Shopping for Furniture or Cabinets? Buy Only Items Made of Renewable Woods. (Original post)
MineralMan Mar 2013 OP
LiberalEsto Mar 2013 #1
MineralMan Mar 2013 #2
geek tragedy Mar 2013 #3
MineralMan Mar 2013 #5
geek tragedy Mar 2013 #7
MineralMan Mar 2013 #8
geek tragedy Mar 2013 #10
MineralMan Mar 2013 #13
superpatriotman Mar 2013 #33
geek tragedy Mar 2013 #34
superpatriotman Mar 2013 #36
geek tragedy Mar 2013 #37
superpatriotman Mar 2013 #39
geek tragedy Mar 2013 #41
superpatriotman Mar 2013 #43
MindPilot Mar 2013 #4
MineralMan Mar 2013 #6
MindPilot Mar 2013 #9
MineralMan Mar 2013 #11
MindPilot Mar 2013 #16
JVS Mar 2013 #12
MineralMan Mar 2013 #14
Sissyk Mar 2013 #15
MineralMan Mar 2013 #17
Sissyk Mar 2013 #18
MineralMan Mar 2013 #19
Sissyk Mar 2013 #22
MineralMan Mar 2013 #23
Sissyk Mar 2013 #24
jeff47 Mar 2013 #20
MineralMan Mar 2013 #21
Progressive dog Mar 2013 #25
patrice Mar 2013 #26
MineralMan Mar 2013 #27
patrice Mar 2013 #30
Mopar151 Mar 2013 #28
MineralMan Mar 2013 #29
patrice Mar 2013 #31
Mopar151 Mar 2013 #44
Sissyk Mar 2013 #42
Orrex Mar 2013 #32
SoCalDem Mar 2013 #35
badtoworse Mar 2013 #38
csziggy Mar 2013 #40
Post removed Apr 2013 #45

Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 10:04 AM

1. The Lorax thanks you from his heart

 

He speaks for the trees.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 10:45 AM

2. Another Possibility if You Must Have Exotic Wood

Buy antique furniture. It was already made long ago, and was made before the problem was recognized. I consider this to be a questionable choice, but at least no more antique furniture is being made, so it's not currently contributing to the problem.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 10:49 AM

3. Buy vintage--better for the environment and adds

 

character and interest.

Some exotic hardwoods are grown on plantations but you have to do your homework.

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Response to geek tragedy (Reply #3)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 10:56 AM

5. Yes. I added a note to that effect just above your post.

Personally, I own a few antiques that are made of woods I would not use or choose if I were buying something new. One is a church bench from the 1870s that is made of solid African Mahogany. It is a beautiful piece, and made of a wood that is no longer available. I found it at a church rummage sale, where the church was selling it because it was old and somewhat worn. The price was too low to even think about skipping.

You're right about plantation growing of some exotics. The problem for consumers is that it's very difficult to know whether the piece you are buying is made of such wood. If it is advertised as being from a sustainable, managed source, then that would be OK. But, you're not going to find that at the average furniture store, sadly.

The Gibson Guitar company found itself in hot water for using ebony and other exotic woods that were not produced in accordance with laws prohibiting the import of those woods. In fact, it hid the fact that they were illegal. Bad business.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #5)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 11:02 AM

7. Another great thing about vintage is that

 

you're guaranteed to have something that won't become 'dated' as much contemporary furniture is.

Our midcentury credenza and side table will never be out of style, like your church bench never will be.

We obsessively research every piece of furniture--living in a 1000 square foot apartment forces that.

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Response to geek tragedy (Reply #7)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 11:11 AM

8. The funny thing is that you can often find a vintage piece

for far less money than a brand new piece of furniture. Many years ago, my parents built a new house on their citrus farm. My mother pretty much tossed all of her old furniture and bought new stuff to replace it. It was a new house, after all. We were talking about a dining room set for the house, and she was complaining about how shoddy most of the stuff was she was seeing in the furniture stores and how expensive.

So, I took her on a shopping trip to several antique shops. She found a beautiful oak dining table with two extension leaves and 8 chairs at one of the shops. I'd estimate it to have been made in the 1920s. The top of the table was book matched quarter sawn solid oak. Spectacular looking. When she saw the price being asked for it, she was just floored. It was less than a similar-sized set she had looked at, that had a veneered top and molded features made of wood paste. So, that's in her house, instead of some cheap crap.

I love vintage and antique furniture. We just got a terrific-looking Sheraton-style highboy dresser reproduction made in the 1920s. All solid walnut, with dovetailed drawers, etc. The finish is a little rough, but I'll refinish it with the same materials used when it was made. Beautiful. $50 at an estate sale.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #8)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 11:14 AM

10. Yep. Generally superior workmanship and there's

 

always a chance you'll get something worth a LOT more money than you paid for it.

ALWAYS check out a piece of vintage furniture for stamps indicating who the manufacturer is, where it was made, etc. Our credenza is worth, conservatively, 5 times what we paid for it because it's from a noted designer from that era.

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Response to geek tragedy (Reply #10)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 11:17 AM

13. Yup. Sometimes those stamps or labels are hidden, too.

I've found them on the undersides of drawers and other places where you wouldn't think to look. I haven't found a label on that highboy, though. I'm still looking. It's a nice piece. Out of style, of course, today, but who cares. My house has no theme at all. My wife's dresser is pure 1960's Danish Modern. I also have a yellow pine dresser from about 1890 that I love. All three are in our master bedroom. Mix and match.

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Response to geek tragedy (Reply #10)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 02:45 PM

33. PLease share

Who is it by?

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Response to superpatriotman (Reply #33)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 02:53 PM

34. You're a collector? nt

 

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Response to geek tragedy (Reply #34)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 03:05 PM

36. Let's say yes...

An admirer. MCM is my porn.

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Response to superpatriotman (Reply #36)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 03:06 PM

37. Not a big name,

 

Edmond J Spence (Swedish collection)

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Response to geek tragedy (Reply #37)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 03:10 PM

39. Nice

Try buying furniture like His new. It is unbelievably expensive, and nowhere close to the same quality. Thanks for sharing!

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Response to superpatriotman (Reply #39)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 03:21 PM

41. They don't make furniture like his new.

 

We have this piece with the original two-toned cherry veneer:



with a single matching nightstand like this:




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Response to geek tragedy (Reply #41)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 03:32 PM

43. Clearly

I was trying to draw a simile to modern workmanship. Studio furniture, certainly, could mimic it, but could not match it for style. Your pieces are treasures!


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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 10:55 AM

4. I have book called "What Wood is That?"

 

It was a textbook for HS woodshop in the 60s. It has a large fold-out with a couple hundred sample chips of actual veneers. When I take it out today, it is astonishing how many woods that used to be commonplace simply aren't available anymore.

I'm a big fan of recovered lumber, harvesting wood from sunken logs, old buildings etc. Interesting bit of carpenter trivia: In George Lucas' house, most of the finish woodwork was done with wood reclaimed from an old railroad trestle bridge.

Bamboo is one of the best renewable woods around, and if industrial hemp becomes available on a wide scale, we may never have to kill another tree. (that last part was hyperbole in case I needed to explain that)

A whole bunch of furniture and cabinets made today are from manufactured lumber, chipboard, plywood, MDF (Medium Density Fiber) and very thin veneers.

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Response to MindPilot (Reply #4)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 11:00 AM

6. I have a copy of that wood sample book. It's a favorite

possession of mine. And you're right...many of those woods are no longer available. They're gone. In some cases, the species is extinct.

I like recovered wood and reclaimed wood. It's not typical, though, to find exotics that way. I had some redwood timbers from the Giant Sequoia species. They came from an old barn. Huge, thick timbers over 100 years old. I had them resawn into planking that I used to panel the living room of my home in California. Nothing like that wood will ever be available as new material, and it's a good thing, too.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #6)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 11:11 AM

9. I have a door I made with what I call RCR

 

Real California Redwood. Palomar College (a bit north of San Diego) has one of the best woodworking programs in the country with their own sawmill and kilns. They also have what they call their urban forestry program where the school gets first pick from any trees that are taken down for construction, fire prevention disease, whatever. I happened to be taking finish carpentry & millwork when a nice big piece of RCR came available.

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Response to MindPilot (Reply #9)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 11:14 AM

11. Nice. I made my own front door at my California home

of clear redwood, and incorporated a salvaged stained glass window in it. It turned out beautifully. I used contrasting birch pegs to assemble the door. Fun times.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #11)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 11:25 AM

16. The front door of my house _looks_ like a giant slab of redwood.

 

But is really fiberglass.

It is surprisingly noisy as it expands and contracts from the temperature changes...something I didn't anticipate, and it a bit startling at first. The dogs bark, thinking there is someone knocking.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 11:17 AM

12. We hear a lot about genetically modified food crops.. It would be cool if they could use...

genetic engineering to bring back some old woods or create new woods.

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Response to JVS (Reply #12)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 11:20 AM

14. Very unlikely to happen.

There's too long a period before the result could be harvested. The reality is that those trees that are no longer available as wood still exist, but not in numbers large enough to harvest. They could still be planted from seed or cloned, but the growing time for those rainforest hardwoods is simply too long to make that a proposition anyone is much interested in.

There's one exception, though. Grenadilla or African Blackwood, as it is often called, is an essential material for professional grade oboes and clarinets. That wood is now being plantation grown, since there is really no substitute for it, and the end products are very expensive.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 11:24 AM

15. We just put down a new

bamboo floor in our kitchen. Best floor in the house by far. Love it!

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Response to Sissyk (Reply #15)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 11:28 AM

17. Bamboo is great! Grows fast and is

infinitely renewable. It's not my favorite look, but it makes great flooring.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #17)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 11:42 AM

18. It's a bit more expensive but

Hubby and I laid it ourselves, which helped with the cost. We chose a darker bamboo (sort of in the walnut family of color) and it looks fantastic. We couldn't afford new cabinets (our kitchen has 18 cabinet doors!!! plus the island). We went over all the cabinets, doors and trim work with turpentine and stained with a clear gloss and they match the floor beautifully. Used colored concrete on the counters and island and tile for backsplash. I love our kitchen!

Since it is so durable, we will never have to replace again.

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Response to Sissyk (Reply #18)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 11:52 AM

19. Good for you guys! Doing your own work

is the key to affordable remodeling. I must say, though, that I hate laying floors. At 67, I'm just too damned old to do it. I redid our living room floor with engineered wood flooring. I could hardly walk for two days afterward. Too much getting up and down for my old knees.

I like the concrete counters idea. I'm redoing our kitchen this year, but I'm probably going to go with a tile counter and backsplash. Light-colored tiles and dark grout. Grouting can be an issue with kitchen counters, so you might as well start with a dark color. The grout will be dark soon enough, no matter what you do. Our cabinet doors are pretty beat up, so I think I'll just make a new set of doors and completely repaint the cabinet framework after dealing with dents and dings. Birch plywood is great, so I can make all 18 doors fairly quickly. Primer and paint and you're done.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #19)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 12:06 PM

22. Yes, hubby has said

NO MORE FLOORS! lol!

The concrete counters were time consuming to mix, color, build forms, pour, etc. but Hubby is an Engineer and builds bridges. We thought the counters would be a piece of cake. lol! They are gorgeous. No joints, no lines, very durable and easy to clean.

The cabinets were custom built in the house when it was built in the early 80's so you can imagine how durable and sturdy those things are. A bit of cleaning up and new hardware is all it needed anyway.

Our bathroom floor was tiled last year. I was worried at the time that the grout was going to be way to dark for the color of the tile. I knew it would darken after drying so I actually argued (a little) with hubby that we should go lighter. Glad he didn't listen to me. The darker grout really ties it together better and hopefully doesn't show up foot traffic as much.

Painted cabinets in the kitchen always brings brightness into the room. Hope it works out for you.

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Response to Sissyk (Reply #22)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 12:09 PM

23. I may give concrete some more thought.

I can picture an exposed aggregate surface that would be pretty nice. Hmm...

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #23)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 12:24 PM

24. Go for it!

There are so many types of counters now made of concrete, or you can pour yourself with the exposed agg. Ours doesn't have exposed agg but is not smooth either. It has minor swirls, feather strokes (I call them, lol) and other imperfections but looks great.

The exposed aggregate would look great, also. A friend did an outside bar top that way. Looks awesome!

When we looked, I was amazed at what you could get. Colored concrete frames that fit over your existing counters, concrete slabs you could cut to size, and so on.

Look around and you may change your mind from tile.

Also, sorry to get your thread off track from exotic wood.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 11:53 AM

20. Most teak and mahogany is plantation-grown these days.

Yes, the plantations are in former tropical rain forests, but they were already clear-cut when the plantation started.

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Response to jeff47 (Reply #20)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 12:01 PM

21. There are some serious issues with those plantations.

First, the species is not native to the places where those plantations are, and Swietenia is truly an invasive species that can overwhelm local plants. It can't be grown for harvesting in its original locations, due to legal restrictions. So, introduction of an invasive species can be a real issue.

Teak has similar issues. Most commercial teak growing operations are in Central America, not in the Asian countries where the Tectona species are native. Again, introduction of a non-native tree is a real issue. Simply growing exotics in new locations is hardly a solution, and presents a whole new set of issues.

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Response to jeff47 (Reply #20)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 12:36 PM

25. Plantation grown teak is readily available in the US

But not the mahogany that used to be the most popular furniture wood, (Cuban or Spanish mahogany). It is now plantation grown in S.E.Asia where it becomes coarser grained according to Wikipedia, but not sure i it can be bought in U.S.
A fair amount of recycled Cuban mahogany is still available from wood suppliers.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 12:41 PM

26. ... and flooring. nt

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Response to patrice (Reply #26)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 12:45 PM

27. Yes. I included flooring in the body of my post, but not

in the title, for lack of space.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #27)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 02:30 PM

30. Good! I have been looking at STRANDED bamboo, which is the hardest next to hard-woods & can be

"printed" very realistically.

Just contemplating a hard-wood floor makes me sick to my stomach.

Wondering where hemp is in this market. There are hemp rugs and I assume carpets, but I have not found hemp flooring. Do you think maybe that's because hemp is too precious for other kinds of markets just yet? Maybe with more development there will be hemp flooring too. Or maybe it isn't suitable for flooring?

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 01:33 PM

28. I have friends who saw, kiln, and mill local hardwoods

I was visiting backalong, and Doug showed me the new cherry floor in his dining room, that used to be the neighbor's tree.



http://mooressawmill.com/main.html

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Response to Mopar151 (Reply #28)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 01:39 PM

29. Nice. I like the design, too.

Craftsman-inspired, it shows off the material and puts function ahead of details. My favorite design concept, along with Shaker-style designs. Functional design leads to beautiful furniture.

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Response to Mopar151 (Reply #28)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 02:32 PM

31. That IS beautiful. I guess they are also much more respectful towards their LOCAL resource too. nt

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Response to patrice (Reply #31)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 08:19 PM

44. You can bring your own trees if you want!

The Moores use an interesting mix of technology to accomidate the reality of salvaged wood - they use a metal detector to check for nails, fence wire, and the like. Their big saws use old school steel inserted teeth instead of the now ubiquitous tungsten carbide, as they handle metal and dirt a lot better.
Much of the wood they saw would go for firewood/wood chip fuel otherwise. But their small scale and vertical integration lets them work around defects , crooked trees and very small mill runs. Unfortunately, they had a fire in the loft which held their "varietal" woods a few years ago, but I'm sure they are tucking away what they can.

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Response to Mopar151 (Reply #28)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 03:26 PM

42. Very nice piece!

Is that as large as it looks? Would make a great island in the kitchen if so. Lots of other things, too; but that is what I first thought of. Probably cause we just finished the kitchen! lol!

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 02:39 PM

32. Whatever you do, don't buy from IKEA

They make extensive use of illegally and non-sustainably harvested lumber.

As if you needed another excuse not to buy their shitty looking labor-outsourced furniture.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 03:01 PM

35. Love my new maple cabinets

I am partial to light-colored woods.. I loathed those yellow-y highly grained oak ones I had for THIRTY TWO years

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 03:08 PM

38. We just had our kitchen remodeled with natural maple cabinetry - beautiful!

 

House was built in 1965 with oak flooring that we had refinished - again, beautiful.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Thu Mar 28, 2013, 03:14 PM

40. I usually buy antique furniture

But now if I needed a specific piece of furniture (for instance, we really need a pair of bedside tables and I haven't found any antique or vintage ones I like) I would consider contacting one of the local craftsmen that buy trees felled locally. One came and salvaged the cherry tree we recently had to cut out of a pasture and is eager to have access to any other trees we cut. He makes all kinds of things from the wood he gets, so he might be able to make furniture for me from wood taken off our farm.

The problem is we already have pretty much all the furniture we need and I will probably inherit more furniture. So custom furniture is not something I am likely to need.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

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