Shopping for furniture over the web can be daunting. After all, you need to make an important purchase decision based on what the online retailer has chosen to show and tell you. Shopping the web for solid wood furniture can be especially tough because many retailers follow Humpty Dumpty's thinking in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass: "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."
Consumers typically expect that "solid wood" means a genuine wood product, not one made chiefly from "engineered wood" with an ultra-thin wood veneer glued to its faces. "Engineered wood" is a composite board made from sawdust, ground wood scraps, and other wood waste heated to extreme temperatures, mixed with glue and pressed into panels. You might know them as particleboard, chipboard or MDF (medium-density fiberboard). Though increasingly less common, the glue is sometimes formaldehyde resins.
While ground chuck wrapped in minute steak does not a sirloin steak make, many retailers and manufacturers advertise their veneered particleboard and MDF furniture as solid wood. How can you protect yourself? Start by getting familiar with some of the tactics used, including these five:
1. "Solid Wood" only in the Name
Be on your toes if the product only has "solid wood" in its title. Solid wood is the gold standard in wood furniture so the use of the term to get the product into more popular search results sometimes sadly trumps truth in advertising. Not many shoppers search for "particleboard veneer furniture."
2. Is it a kind of wood you would want?
If a retailer - or manufacturer for that matter - does not consider it worthwhile to tell you the wood species used to make the product, it might not be worth your hard-earned money. Different species have different qualities reflected their suitability, desirability and cost. Even within solid wood there is a hierarchy. Cherry and Walnut, for example, are luxurious American woods.
3. Solid Wood Construction
"Solid Wood Construction" is another phrase used often by retailers and manufacturers selling something other than truly solid wood furniture. Usually some parts are indeed some kind of wood (see #2 above) - like legs or door frames. The vast majority of the product - like its tops, bottoms, and sides - are in fact veneer on particleboard or MDF. (We will cover in a future post how to spot a veneer.)
4. Wood Color in Finish Only
Be careful when you see an item with a wood species in the finish or color but not in the actual materials listed. Genuine Cherry and Walnut is expensive. No surprise then that you see a lot Walnut and Cherry color finishes out there. Very rarely are these products Cherry or Walnut solid wood, and sometimes they are not even Cherry or Walnut veneer.
True solid wood costs more, especially any species worth identifying to you, the customer. As that age-old saying goes, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."
So what is a savvy web furniture shopper to do? Here are some suggestions:
1. Check the specs!
Sometimes the clarification that you seek can be found within the specs of the product on the web site. For example, we use high-quality, all-wood, cabinet-grade plywood veneer in select instances (not MDF or particleboard veneer) where "wood movement" or warping due to thinness are concerns (like back panels). You can find what every part is made from in our product details.
2. Ask the retailer or the manufacturer.
Try asking the retailer and/or the manufacturer. You might get an accurate and truthful response. Or you might not, as we show below. So keep checking the facts and keep them honest.
3. Read reviews.
Sometimes you will find negative reviews from customers disappointed in the materials used despite descriptions to the contrary. You also might find positive reviews from customers previously fooled, so be thorough.
4. Do your own web research.
If you like a product, research it before you buy to learn about the manufacturer and the product. Search for the title and/or SKU and add a term like "MDF" or "veneer".
Do a Google search (without quotes) for "12420339 52 inch Solid Wood TV Console with Drawers" and click the top organic result (not an advertisement). It's title should read "52-inch Solid Wood TV Console with Drawers."
As of this posting, this is what you will see on the site of a well-known online retailer:
Sounds like a quality solid wood TV console for just $299 right? Wrong. In this one example, you can see virtually all of the tricks that we warned you about. "Solid wood" is used many times to describe what the reviews and Q&A section show to be an MDF veneer product.
When shopping for wood furniture on the web, be on your guard for products masquerading as solid wood when they are not. Ask lots of questions, do a lot of research, and know the facts before you buy. There is nothing wrong with a veneered product advertised as such. However, when a retailer or manufacturer chooses to blur or obscure the truth, maybe it is time to keep looking.
In this first installment of our "Head-to-Head Reviews" blog, we compare our Majestic e7022 solid wood TV console to the BDI Novia 8429. Review the chart below to see some major differences. For example, the Majestic e7022 has more equipment room, active cooling, and many options available. Plus the Majestic e7022 is made of real wood in the USA while the BDI Novia 8429-2 is made of veneer on MDF in China.
|Overall Dimensions||70" W x 22" H x 22" D||74" W x 23" H x 22" D|
|Country of Origin||USA||China|
|Materials||Solid sustainably-logged local Pennsylvania Hardwood (no MDF or particleboard veneer)||Cherry veneer on MDF (Don't be fooled by misleading language like "real wood construction")|
|Side Enclosures||19-3/4" W x 18" H x 19-7/8" D||17-3.4" W x 16-1/4" H x 19-1/4" D|
|Center Speaker (in drawer)||24-15/16" W x 7-3/4" H x 14-3/8" D||24-3/4" W x 7" H x 14-1/4" D|
|Center Speaker (no drawer)||27" W x 8-9/16" H x 20" D||26-3/4" W x 8.5" H x 16-1/2" D|
|Material||Tempered Safety Glass (1/4")||MDF veneer (1/2")|
|Weight Capacity||50 lbs||50 lbs|
|Shelf Positions (32 MM spacing)||7||5|
|Concealed Speaker Compartment||Yes||Yes|
|Active Ventilation||Yes - temperature-controlled quiet fans||No|
|IR-Friendly Door Glass||Yes||Yes|
|Removable Back Panels||Yes||Yes|
|House gear in space below speaker shelf||No||Yes|
|Infinite Divider Placement||Yes||No|
|Store Media Vertically to Max Storage||Yes||No|
|Choice of Door Glass||Yes - Clear or Tinted||No - Tinted Only|
|Choice of Decorative Hardware||Yes (Black or Brushed Nickel)||No|
|Choice of Woods||Solid American Cherry
Solid Red Oak
Solid Hard Maple
Solid Black Walnut
|No - only Cherry veneer on MDF|
|Choice of Finishes||Black
Natural (Clear Topcoat)
|Natural Stained Cherry
|Optional Full Grill When Drawer Removed||Yes||No|
|Optional wood door panels||Yes||No|
|Optional door fabric grill panels||Yes||No|
|Optional additional adjustable shelves||Yes||No|
|Optional top drawer media drawer upgrade||Yes||No|
We will be the first to admit it - buying furniture for your home theater over the web is NOT easy. There are lots of site offering lots of entertainment furniture at lots of different price points but not a whole lot of details, accurate or otherwise. We make it easier by providing our visitors with lots of detailed information and lots of photos. Plus we send out free wood/finish samples free of charge. We still receive questions, of course. Often, for example, a shopper wants to know how our Product X compares with a competitor's Product Y. As a result, we decided to start this "head-to-head" blog, where, with a nod to Joe Friday, we will present you with just the facts.
We are proud to say that our AV furniture is made in the USA by proud Americans. More specifically, it is made in Pennsylvania by proud Pennsylvanians, in the state where our Nation's founding fathers adopted the Declaration of Independence. Our cabinets do not depend on Chinese labor or Chinese MDF or Chinese particleboard like so much of the "TV furniture" offered these days. Our furniture is crafted by American hands working with genuine American hardwoods.
In recognition of the July 4th holiday, our offices are closed July 4. At times, help will be available via chat and email.
We wish everyone a happy and safe July 4th!
Alan and your Standout Designs Teams
I would like to share a favorite story of mine, one that my Dad told me when I first started working with him at Cabinet Industries. When CI began making cabinets for television manufacturers back in the 1940's, it used real wood, of all things, to build them. TV's were outrageously expensive then and the TV cabinets were likewise very high-end. The TV company buyers were quite demanding. For example, naturally occurring "figure" grain - like bird's eye in Maple - were not welcome (see the photo to the right for an example).
As the television industry evolved over the next few decades, the TV manufacturers cared more and more about the electronics and less and less about the TV cabinet that housed the electronics, at least when it came to budgeting costs. Pressure to reduce the TV cabinet cost component led to something that might sound familiar in the Ikea age: real wood was out and "engineered wood" was in.
Masonite - a pressed fiberboard - made its way from the back of the TV cabinet to the cabinet's top and sides. To make this possible, CI invested in a special printing press (affectionately called "the print line") to literally print wood grain on the very smooth, plain material that was Masonite.
If you have made it this far, you must be wondering by now what about this TV furniture history lesson could possibly make it a favorite of mine. Well, when CI designed the print roller patterns that would determine the grain printed on the Masonite, the TV company buyers insisted that the rollers have a little bird's eye. Why? To make the simulated wood grain look...more realistic!
So there you have it. I think about it virtually every time I gaze upon a piece of our beautifully unique American solid wood furniture - just like my Grandfather use to make!
Until next time,
Welcome to our new web store, powered by the Shopify e-commerce platform. We hope that you enjoy your time shopping with us. Today's re-launch would not have been possible without the tremendous talents and efforts of Grant Eagon, Senior Developer at SineLabs. So THANK YOU Grant for making our every web store dream come true! Now take a few days off.
This blog is titled "The Cabinet Corner" after a column that appeared for decades in the (printed) employee newsletter of the company that gave rise to Standout Designs. For decades, Cabinet Industries, Inc. made high-quality TV cabinets for TV manufacturers (for you youngsters out there, TV's were once housed in cabinets). CI founder Joseph Adler established "The Cabinet Corner" and Stanley Adler continued it after taking the Cabinet helm. Perhaps we can persuade Stanley Adler to contribute a post here!
In addition to sharing many tales from CI's nearly 60 years of making TV cabinets from Dumont in the 1940's to Sony in the 2000's, we will use this blog to discuss all things Standout, AV, furniture, and just plain-old interesting (to us at least).
Alan Adler, Founder
Free Threshold Delivery is included with your console purchase. It is performed by one person with a dolly or hand truck. You may need to help steady larger items (like the Haven EX 82w) on the dolly or hand truck.
White Glove Delivery cost varies with shipment weight. Starting at $150 for up to 240 pounds. Each additional 20 pounds (or portion thereof) is an additional $15.
White Glove Delivery is performed by one or two people depending on the size of the pieces ordered and whether or not flights of stairs are involved.
Need more info or have questions? See our Shipping & Delivery page. Or email, call, or chat with us! We'll be happy to discuss with you.
* In cases where our freight carrier charges a surcharge due to its difficulty in reaching a particular destination (e.g. an island), additional charges will apply. We will contact you in such cases to alert you to the charges, and if necessary, cancel the order.