Buying furniture is a subjective, time-consuming and ultimately, an expensive adventure, especially if you want your purchase to last.
I remember taking home my first couch from a local department store long ago. The oversized bat-wing back pillows drew me in. Years and a divorce later, I don't even know where the piece is.
I realize now it truly wasn't that special. Heck, I could have 20-plus cushions of the same styling and be enjoying them today.
With that in mind, CultureMap scoured Houston for the best furniture destinations for pieces that will leave an impression on you and your home. Some recommendations are for the budget-restricted; some are for those people ready to make lifetime investments. All the stores on this list have that extra appeal that makes them stand out, subtlety or sensationally, whether that "wow" factor comes in design, quality or service — or even location.
In any situation, I hope these selections will help you discover Houston's best furniture stores — and not leave you with vague memories of a bad purchase.
19th Street in the Heights — Best shopping destination
Budget to expensive
Take an afternoon — or entire day — to peruse the many stores that line this funky little historic district. Shop Eclectic Home for shiny, new objects to brighten your abode. Jubilee, mainly a chic clothing spot, sells some of its display units of antique French country design, including buffets, wardrobes and dressers.
A.G. Antiques is chock-full of Mid-Century modern, early American and Italian furniture mixed in with accent pieces such as vases, lamps, porcelain and even ladies' vintage hats. At Gen's Antiques, find the full gamut of collectible furnishings, from juke boxes to art deco to classic European and more Mid-Century modern — plus work by local artists. Don your best linens for White Linen Night each August for a celebration of it all, with stores open for perusing, street music and dance for entertaining and restaurants for indulging.
Carl Moore Antiques — Best antique store
1610 Bissonnet St.
Moderate to expensive
In a white, two-story clapboard house in Rice Village, Carl Moore Antiques quietly sits as not only a treasure trove of antiques, vintage finds, art work and accessories, but also a source of 30 years of knowledge in the industry — thanks to owner Geoffrey Westergaard.
"The best antique professionals are those who are willing to take the time to explain and share their understanding of what makes something an antique," Westergaard says. "Frankly, most clients want to know and conversely, we also want them to know. Sometimes a small clue is able to open a whole world."
Westergaard encourages shoppers to look for what he exactly does on his extensive buying trips to Europe: Magic, or that combination of creative imagination and superior skill that makes you fall under a spell. Some "magic" Westergaard recently brought back to his shop includes a very rare find: A Regence/Louis XV-period painted corner cabinet or buffet from France, c. 1740. And there's much more at Carl Moore.
High Fashion Home — Best eclectic conglomeration
3100 Travis St.
Moderate to expensive
With four stories, 125,000 square feet and more than 60,000 products, High Fashion Home really can't be beat for its selection of eclectic stock - plus home accents, gift ideas and even clothing. Think classic contemporary, vintage European, casual shabby chic and exotic Asian flair — and more. HFH's online catalog does offer about 4,000 products, but it's the downtown destination building — the only location — where you'll find all the goods.
You also can customize the fabric on much of the furnishings. And it's no secret: HFH's store across the street, High Fashion Fabrics at 3101 Louisiana St., is filled with bolts holding miles of textiles in the 30,000-square-foot showroom. Truly a Texas-sized selection.
IKEA — Best assembly 101 for cheap
7810 Katy Freeway
Who hasn't made their way through the three-storied maze to furnish a college dorm or apartment or even a first home? You may get lost in this adventure (I do, every single time), but everyone walks away with budget-conscious furniture pieces.
These are not even hand-me-downs, much less heirlooms. Who cares, at these prices?
IKEA is also a great place to shop for seasonal flair, such as fun, plastic outdoor dinnerware and home accents. With Allen wrench in hand, everyone can be a "builder." Reward yourself in the cafe with some meatballs. But remember: These are not even hand-me-downs, much less heirlooms.
Who cares, at these prices? You get what you paid for, and for temporary furnishings, IKEA can't be beat.
Kuhl-Linscomb — Best contemporary complex in town — with a dash of old
2424 W. Alabama St.
Moderate to expensive
In addition to housing in the 70,000-square-foot retail mecca some of the most classic contemporary brands to be found, such as Herman Miller, Eames and Kartell, owners Pam Kuhl-Linscomb and Dan Linscomb offer for sale prized antiques they have collected through the years, going back to even before store opened in 1984. Stop by again for the latest green editions from Cisco Brothers and Gus Modern, as well as outdoor favorites from Dedon.
While most of the large furniture pieces are located in Building 3, you'll discover the inventory overflows into Buildings 1 and 2. A suggestion for the store? Add a tea room with the planned expansion to the adjacent space that Cierra Furniture formerly occupied (a Houston loss). Customers will enjoy getting a bite to eat and a refreshing drink, regrouping and then continuing to shop.
Lam Bespoke — Best custom upholstery (with a Heim Lam seal of approval)
2032 W. Alabama St.
Moderate to expensive
This gem is an extension of the masters of upholstery at Hein Lam, where I watched not too long ago an "apprentice" of 20 years perfectly match a diagonal pattern on the front and back of a chair — in fine fabric, of course. On the floor are neutral couches, chairs, headboard, ottomans and more in clean, timeless designs from a North Carolina vendor plus Lam Bespoke handmade creations just waiting to be expertly upholstered in your choice of textile.
Hein Lam's woodworkers and metalsmiths also can construct custom pieces that are then finished by the local upholstery artists. The store is packed with a great selection of accent pillows, too.
Ligne Roset — Best comfy, cool, contemporary and French
2800 Kirby Drive, Suite A-210 in West Ave
Sit in any of Ligne Roset's luxury foam-filled (not stuffy) chairs and couches and you won't want to get up. Ligne Roset enthusiasts already know this, and they — and you — will come back for more with the a chaise lounge in the popular Togo collection by Michel Ducaroy now available and deliverable by order within days.
Sit in any of the luxury foam-filled (not stuffy) chairs and couches and you won't want to get up.
Designer Philippe Nigro expands on his Confluences line with more puzzle-like configurations for seats and couches. And don't forget to check the new armchair for Ruché by Oliver Sievers, complete with one shorter arm rest to throw a lady-like leg over.
Made at New Living — Best artisan furniture
6111 Kirby Drive
Prices depending on project
What began just four years ago as owner Jeff Kaplan's passionate vision as a paint store for nontoxic, environmentally friendly finishes grew to an organic mattress center (headquartered now at New Living Bedroom on 19th Street in the Heights) and has branched out like a fast-growing tree into a furniture store with a one-of-a-kind concept. Customers partner with local artisans in creating custom furniture made of locally sourced materials. All with the goal of improving the quality of life at home with healthy products.
Look for Made at New Living furniture examples at Oxheart and Punk's Simple Southern Food, not to forget a recent commission for a huge conference table for the new JW Marriott Houston Downtown's $81 million renovation of an old building. Sign up for finishing school classes to learn how to bring personal treasures back to life — in the greenest of ways.
Meredith O'Donnell — Best soft contemporary to fine traditional
1751 Post Oak Blvd.
Moderate to expensive
With Houston's largest inventory of Baker Furniture, the respected furniture design company headed by a tremendous team of designers including Barbara Barry (I still swoon over her glamorous creations), Thomas Pheasant and Jacques Garcia, Meredith O'Donnell is the place to go for soft contemporary to elegant traditional. Find Trosby Furniture's fine reproduction pieces, 100-year-old Hickory Chair's handmade treasures and Stickley, maker of America's premium hardwood furniture.
Maitland-Smith creations are destined to become family heirlooms and quite possibly valuable antiques for future generations.
Note: Baker Furniture in Uptown Park is moving to Decorative Center Houston late this year, as the building is to be destroyed in the $1.2 billion renovation of Uptown Park. Their offerings at the new location are to include retail and to-the-trade pieces. The question is: Will they still charge for shipping and freight? Meredith O'Donnell doesn't.
Roche Bobois — Best in European designs
4810 San Felipe St.
With most of Roche Bobois' furniture designers being architects first and furniture designers next, the store is a playground for innovative design — and relishes in the Europe-based company's motto, l’art de vivre (the art of living). Sit at the Astrolab and let a design expert press a button to set shiny, visible gears in the middle of the large glass table in motion to seamlely drop two extensions in place at either end of the dining room piece. We think an engineer must have been involved in the development.
Mah Jong modular sofas and pillows from designer Hans Hopfer in Bohemian-influenced Missoni Home upholstery and endless configurations continue to be a popular choice. And new to the Houston showroom floor: An indoor/outdoor collection, Escapade, featuring three-seat armless couches and adjustable back rests covered in bright solids and floral patterns in a waterproof material by Papavero Outdoor.