This nationwide return to value has been missed by most media outlets. In a July cover story illustrated by a muscular Uncle Sam with pasties attached to his nipples, the British magazine The Economist posited a “Comeback Kid” American economy but used as its prime example Ethan Allen, an upscale furniture maker based in Connecticut. Now it’s true that in the first quarter of 2012 Ethan Allen saw 8 percent growth in net sales over 2011. And furniture is a perpetually overpriced industry that strongly encourages its customers to take on debt. (In many store windows you see prices listed in monthly installments.) Yet even here the real growth is, literally, in the cheap seats. Wisconsin’s Ashley Furniture Industries sells loveseats for about a third of what Ethan Allen charges and pulls in about six times as much money. If Ashley’s too rich for your blood, 15 percent of Americans shop in consignment stores and another in 18 percent favor thrift stores, according to America’s Research Group, a consumer behavior research firm.(Note: I once went to apply for a job at an Ashley furniture store. I walked in the door and got a lecture from a sales guy, about what they sell, how they sell it, what they do and what they don't. I turned around and walked out.)
After reflecting on Free Northerner's Status Update, I've decided that I quite like the idea of buying a house. And then I'll build my own cabinets and furniture. I just inherited my grandpa's woodworking tools, and I know how they all work and I like using them.
My aunt just bought a house after moving back to Wisconsin after her husband died. Dad has pointed out that the work done in her house was not done by a professional. "There is not a straight line in the place."
I need more woodworking practice, but I'll build all of my stuff. Then I'll replace whatever I've done that is worst. I'll continue to replace the worst pieces and eventually I should have quite a nice furnished house. Perhaps some money from the old stuff that I can sell.
Instead of thinking, "I need a desk. I'll build a flat surface with supports and drawers." I'll think, "This whole room is my office. How can build a desk surface and storage into the whole room?"
A study with dark wood everywhere and floor to ceiling bookshelves would be excellent. But the focus of the room will be a pair of elephant tusks.
Or maybe I should just hunt the elephants and sell the tusks to the Chinese.
If I had infinite time, then I'd also buy a late sixties Alfa Romeo GTV and a late seventies Chevy truck.
Being able to take each car fully apart to each individual part, with no worries about repairs, because I will have rebuilt them, and know what to do. No worries about finding a good mechanic, because that would be me. Minimal electronics and other such junk wouldn't make work on them difficult because they were built before all of the heated seats, GPSs, and computers became standard. Just mechanical parts that work, or don't. Parts that can be fixed, or replaced.
And none of these huge plain lumps that we call cars today.
So that's part of my long term plan. I don't know if I'll get to all of that, but we'll see.