Monday, March 1, 2010

Make lemonade.




Nia commented today on THIS old post and I thought I would throw it out there for comment.


The implied premise here is that if you aren't willing to spend $700, you won't get a quality product. I don't buy that.


Price isn't always an indication of quality; sometimes it's merely an measure of arbitrary mark-up... or economies of scale (or lack of). If you want something custom, or if you're buying bench-made shoes, one component of price in the shoe example might be the creation of the last. You need to make & sell a certain number of shoes from it before you can cover the cost of your capital expense. This is probably the same with lighting. There's this initial cost to get the item into production and then you have the benefit of economies of scale, right?

But when this topic comes up, no one can actually explain to me WHY the light at Veritables is better quality than a knock-off at Restoration. I am not interested here in discussion why one should or should not buy a knock-off. What I am interested in discussing is, on what basis could someone look at a $700 light from Circa and tell me with this much certainty that a $400 light wouldn't be just as good in terms of quality and function?

40 comments:

Bloggers Abode said...

Uhmmm...HUH???!! That whole response made no sense to me. Over and out-

Anonymous said...

There are objective ways to measure the differences: The finishes, the quality of the details, the way things are attached or joined, the weight and strength of the materials...

Years ago I bought a little bitty Jonathan Adler lamp for something insane: I think $200 or $250, I blocked it out, I was so embarrassed. But I have to tell you: the hardware! It's HEAVY and beautiful and glossy...I know, I'm just talking about on/off switches and harp holders and sockets and things, but it's so beautifully and thoughtfully made. I swear, everytime I turn that lamp on or off, I feel happy.

I can't justify it exactly, but I understand it.

ita darling. said...

it really is no one else's business why you would spend this or that for something but not for a light fixture.

i spend a lot more money on shoes than i do lighting- primarily because I rent. shoes travel (ha.)

I like the fact that you distinguished separating the discussion from "should i shouldn't i buy a knockoff"- (but damn those faux missoni kartells look tempting on overstock!)

i agree with the economies of scale viewpoint- which is also why I buy a lot of stuff on ebay. I can buy lightly or barely used miu mius for a TENTH of the price of retail. and i will wait months to years for that to happen.

so if i also have to wait for a lighting design to make it mainstream (like to CB2 or a noguchi-esque style to filter down to ikea..) i will wait for that too.

point being: buying full price / retail only really buys you the privilege of getting it before anyone else- not necessarily exclusivity or immunity to quality knock offs.

rebecca said...

I have to agree with anon 8:41. Inspect for quality. Measure it in real, objective ways that have nothing to do with money.

I'd also recommend checking on warranties and word-of-mouth, both which could indicate quality.

Finally, buy any damn thing you like. You earned your money, right? It's one of the few perks of adulthood.

Jessica said...

I should probably wait to respond to this until after the shock has worn off but I'm quite floored by Nia's comment. I've been knee deep in "lighting world" for longer than I'd like to admit trying to figure out ALL the lighting for our new home and my goodness...there are some crazy high prices out there and if you can find something you like/love for a decent price by all means go for it! Remains has two fixtures, one for $655 and the other for $1400. I found the SAME fixtures (give or take canopy size) for $150 & $232 respectively. Hmmmmm, which one should I pick?!? There are a few from Circa I'm considering, one being the Small Hicks Pendant (thank you Decorno!) but I have also found wonderful fixtures that won't break the bank and will balance out the more costly ones nicely all while looking fantastic and working just as well! I actually have two fixtures I've kept from my old house that were from Lowe's (10 years ago), one I particularly love and am trying to find a place for in the new house and I will be very sad if it doesn't find a home there. Dollars don't mean sense, style or gaurantee durability.

Amy said...

I think you might be missing the point. I think the response was intending to say that if you REALLY love that fixture (that you may be comparing all others to it and those others are falling short in your heart), why wouldn't you just stretch and buy it, given the fact that you will probably have it for a really long time. Wow, talk about a run on sentence.

That if you splurge on boots, dinners or other items (doesn't really matter what they are) going ahead and buying the fixture you really want isn't such a splurge after all.

I definately get that you don't always or even ever have to buy the most expensive thing. But sometimes there really isn't anything else that will make you as happy for your project. You seemed very sensible in your budgeting for the kitchen. Add the final jewelry and be done with it. You will wish you didn't wait so long.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the comment implies that there is a difference in quality between the $700 original and the $300 knock off. It says that we all occasionally spend money on somewhat extravagant items and if you're going to do that why not do it on something that you will likely keep for a long time. Purchases of high end goods are about emotion, not common sense. Jeff in Charlotte, NC

Debbie said...

I will have to admit as a retailer of Visual Comfort- there are details of their lamps and fixtures that no other line has. I live in Dayton, so trust me, I've seen and tried the cheapies. I am always pleased with my VC lamps which I cannot say the same for other lines. What ticks me off about VC though is the time it takes to get the fixture. I ordered a ceiling fixture for a client in October 08; it finally arrived in August 09. That ought to earn a discount, wouldn't you think? Good gosh, I could have mined the metal, taken a class in how to, and made the damn thing in that time. For similar fixtures- try Hudson Valley and now Murray Feiss has got some knockoffs.

stephendrucker said...

You can debate it all you want. In the end, shopping isn't logical, it's emotional. I rarely regret extravagances but I often regret talking myself into the cheap, logical solution.

ModernSauce said...

If I spend $400 on a light it sure as shit better be good quality. I doubt there is any discernable difference between the working components of either fixture. Perhaps the $700 one had the wiring carried from the factory on the backs of grass-fed humanely-raised cows and blessed by fairies before being mailed to your home in which case the cost may be justified.

I think Nia just drank the overpriced koolaid her decorator told her to drink.

Anonymous said...

"I rarely regret extravagances but I often regret talking myself into the cheap, logical solution."

I think you need to be at a certain income level to feel that way.

Bailey @ peppermintbliss said...

On one hand I get what she is saying. I am obsessed with this lantern from Urban Electric Co. that is absurdly expensive, and quite frankly, I can't afford it.So I am looking at knock offs, and while I can't speak to the function, I am noticing they lack the beautiful details of the UEC light and that gives me the sads. If I am always going to look at the knock off, which is still 'spensive, and get the sads...I might as well splurge.

BUT

I think there is also a certain amount of snobbery in the original response. The great thing about the design revolution ala ikea, pottery barn, west elm, restoration, is that it makes good design affordable on all budgets. The assumption that even if someone desperately wants to splurge and just flat out can't, and go for the Restoration version, are somehow fooling themselves is ridiculous.

What? Do those of us without flexble/large budgets just have to hang bare bulbs in our ceilings?
Sometimes the splurge just ain't an option, and the good thing, I think, about restoration etal is that they have taken something that FUNCTIONS perfectly well and imbued it with the elements of lustworthy style of their fancier counterparts.

Thus is the word of Peppermint Bliss
Thanks be to blog.
(aka sorry for being so preach-y)

stephendrucker said...

Anonymous 7:22a I know what you're saying but I'm trying to make a bigger point. I felt the same way when I was 24 and barely making the rent.

Anonymous said...

If you're going to ban "LOL," you should also ban "the sads."

Freddy J said...

RESPONDER has a point.

I'm a bargain girl through and through - never met a dumpster I wouldn't dive in.

BUT - all that's just savings for when I do love something a little pricier, I buy it.

Granted, if you're just out of college, $560 (w/ discount) may be a lot of clams, but if you can make it work - GET IT! Love it, swoon every time you walk in the room and turn it on and feel the bliss of not cheaping out, of the visual feast you let yourself have.

The Circa light imho is much more special than the restoration hardware light, which is plenty nice, but I've seen everywhere.

And as we all know in decorating, it's the details - the circa light has that. Plus, it's amazing how plunking one truly high end/ special item in a room, brings up all the other humble pieces.

I don't get that from the Restoration Hardware light, which is nice, bur not a room-maker.

jean said...

"I rarely regret extravagances but I often regret talking myself into the cheap, logical solution."

and then: I think you need to be at a certain income level to feel that way.

I don't know what the "certain" level is here, but at a middle-low income level, I do regret the cheap easies I've settled for. If I added up the money I spent on them, I'd have a few nice pieces, instead of useful but crappy pieces. Whatever your income level, crap is crap and if you don't love it when you buy it, you never will. Now I take my time, save up for the good stuff and often shop second hand.

KathleenG said...

Frankly I think the knockoff debate is an important one. You're essentially not paying the designer for their work and allowing someone else to steal their idea and profit from it. I'm a hypocrite though because it's rare that I can afford an original. I do strive to buy LESS and higher quality for everything (including shoes) because in the long run you are better off.

Anonymous said...

As others noted, shopping IS an emotional thing. And Decorno, your response to Nia's comment is a bit, well... emotional. This isn’t about snobbery or “you get what you pay for” adages. As Jeff in Charlotte pointed out, Nia’s comment is about the choices we make when we spend money, and how those choices often have little to do with rational assessments of value.

I used to shop at a high end clothing boutique where the proprietress hand dyed, designed and fabricated much of the inventory. As the store closed its doors for the last time (this was years ago… pre-recession), she remarked that women in this city wouldn’t hesitate to spend $800 on something for their house, but they would not spend $800 on a dress for themselves.

That is certainly true of me. And yet many women would say just the opposite. I have one friend who uses the term “homeowners” (disparagingly) to describe people who spend money on their homes; she’d rather buy jewelry and doesn’t give a shit about her house.

Spending habits are a lot like dating habits. Both relationships are influenced by deep seated needs and emotions... dysfunction… whatever. Some people make better choices than others. Some people spend loads of money on cheap crap. Some people are label whores. Some people have no idea why they spend money the way they do…and so on.

The Countess of Nassau County said...

If you work within a budget you have to sometimes adapt a high end look to a budget that won't accomdate it. That's how things work in the REAL WORLD.

HOWEVER - Her response does not necessarily advise you to blow the budget. If this is your splurge, so be it, just be prepared to make adjustment accordingly.

Holly said...

To me, uniqueness and stellar quality are worth a premium. Years ago, I bought a pair of outrageously expensive lamps made from gorgeous old iron salvaged from New Orleans. I ate Rice Krispies for a month to afford them. I love them, they are beautifully handmade, they make the room, they will last my lifetime and beyond and they are unique in all the world. That's what made them worth it to me. Every time I switch them on, I get "that" shiver! But there's no way I would have paid that price for mass-produced lighting of any kind, I don't care who's selling them or what designer name is on them.

Anonymous said...

"$60-$90 on a fancy dinner (including a tip)" Seriously, that's a fancy meal? Nia obviously doesn't splurge in fancy restaurants!

Debra said...

Sometimes I look at things I want to purchase with a cost per use attitude. If something is fabulous and it's more than I want to pay, I regret not buying it. On the other hand, many of my light fixtures that are one of a kind beauties come from the flea market, purchased in the wee hours of the morning usually by my sweetheart for very little money.

Heather said...

Just chiming in with Amy and Jeff to say I think you misinterpreted the premise of her comment. And I think she's right that occasional, indulgent overspending often adds up to the same as a single really large purchase.

Can you be happy with a cheaper light? Most likely. Is $700 a ridiculous price for a fixture? For sure. Will you blow the $300 you saved on the light on something less worthy, like a dress and pair of shoes you don't need? Maybe.

I just can't get over how expensive light fixtures are in general. Am off to check out Debbie's suggestions...

Decorno said...

No, no, no... anon... re-read the original post. The one to which Nia posted a response.

It was a throw-away post about kinda wishing/hoping for some $700 light to fall into my lap. It wasn't serious (in fact, it's not even the light I ended up wanting). Nia's comment was pretty fired up, no? She seemed to make a lot of assumptions about how I spend my money. She was also trying to make a pretty obvious point about spending what it takes to get a quality product. I get that, and I agree. But nothing suggests that that particular $700 light was (a) the right one (b) better quality than others I was considering, etc etc. Her comment seemed a little... over the top, considering the context of the original post.

I think it gets down to... who cares how people spend their money. What was Nia's concern? That I am not spending mine properly?

And beyond that, who would rush to the defense of the $700 fixture? Why is that a better purchase than a $300 light? No one has answered that for me. And I think that's a worthwhile topic in a culture that seems to think that paying more always means "better" and I think that's false.

Anonymous said...

I would say look closely at all the lights you are considering in person person and see what the differences are (the more expensive light may have better details or it may be indistinguishable). If you still love the more expensive one more and will be disappointed buying the cheaper one you might want to save up for it and splurge.

Some of the increase in price will be due to better quality parts or materials or the fact that some designer items are handmade to order instead of mass produced. Most of the difference in price, I'm convinced, is just to pay for the brand name.

Ultimately though, it only matters if the differences mean enough to you to spend the extra money. Everyone will have a different opinion on that.

The book Deluxe: How Luxury Lost It's Luster describes some of the difference in luxury goods and mainstream goods (mainly clothing and shoes but it can certainly apply in other cases). It's a pretty good read if you like that kind of thing.

Anonymous said...

stephendrucker,

Yeah, got the larger point: Nicer things are nicer. But your "24 and barely making the rent" seems somehow different from, say, "42 with two kids, a newly unemployed husband, and a mortgage payment about to be overdue."

Anonymous said...

It's why I don't have a blog: Strangers start fantasizing about how you live.

hush said...

If it looks good, then it is good. Isn't that a dominant message of American culture? So if the putative "$300 light" looks good to you, by all means, buy the shit out of it. Ain't nobody's business but your own.

I respectfully submit that sometimes it does matter, in the aggregate, how people spend their money. Case in point: last year's financial meltdown. Perhaps then the only truly "improper" way to spend one's money in the lighting scenario would be to charge $300 to a credit card, and keep a balance over many months, until eventually the $300 lamp actually costs more like $900 and a ding to the credit report.

cybill said...

There is no guarantee of quality in anything any-more, at any price point.

ModernSauce said...

yes the quality/function question was lost in the money discussion. I SHOULD respond that I hope that if I'm paying for a $700 light fixture (or other expensive item) that I'm paying for the knowledge that my item was carefully thought about and the manufacturer was concerned about the details and giving me the best product. And then marked it up accordingly for his unique expertise. The $400 one? Still thought about but not as expertly designed. The $50 one from Home Depot? No thought - great price.

But I AM a designer of things you purchase for your home I can tell you that's not true - I design both low end and high end products and it's not my expertise that changes but what the product is (a hand-knotted rug for example) and what the customer is looking for. The difference in my industry is labor involved and material cost. Probably the same with designers who work for Ikea, Target, etc.

But I don't know if it's the same for other areas - I can't imagine that the material costs and labor for making a small pendant light would be that much different across price categories...?? I wish an expert would enlighten us!

Anonymous said...

I don't buy the implication that we have only two choices: "extravagances" vs. "cheap, logical solutions."

Think about Zach Motl's apt., from that recent NYT. He did a room, a kitchen, and a bathroom for $2,500, using eBay, Home Depot, lamp-parts stores, vintage stores, stuff on sale, etc. It's "cheap" in price, but it's full of beauty and inventiveness and character.

anon said...

Such an obnoxious post. Maybe it wasn't intended that way, but it seems like it. Decorating isn't about spending. At all. Anyone who is home centered and has a budget, should understand that.

Kevin said...

A couple of months ago I was in an antique store in Pacific Grove, CA, and they had one of those Syroco mirrors made out of resin with the eagle on top for sale at $800. The markup was just outrageous. You can buy those mirrors for $50 on ebay. And I think that is one aspect of this question.

The quality of the two items could be roughly equivalent despite a higher price point for the one. Sort of like choosing between going to Harvard or UC Berkeley- both are great schools but Berkeley costs half as much, and it comes down to personal preference.

Then it could be like when you go to the Banana Republic Outlet and the suits there cost half as much, but the fabric is coarse, the cut is strange, and the seams are uneven, and you can definitely tell the quality difference between the Outlet and the regular line of clothes. It seems like that kind of quality issue would be easy to identify.

ModFruGal said...

Cybill nailed it.

Anonymous said...

Bloggers Abode,
You're not too bright!

LB said...

I have to agree with some of the posts here. My husband and I are slowly trying to furnish our little apartment without having to resort to Ikea or the Salvation Army for everything. But living in Norway, it's damn hard. The coffee table I just love is 3 months pay. The chairs I love, are each 2 months pay. But I can go to Ikea and furnish my home completely, in one months pay. I cannot justify in any way shape or form 3 months pay on a coffee table. And it's not some gorgeous well-known designer. It's just not Ikea.

But I don't think that is the point of your post.

Look at the materials. If both lamps are using the same kind of metal, the same kind of wiring, etc., there's no reason for such a big price difference.

Sometimes we have to either save up and buy what we want, or deal with a cheaper version that will function just as well and look just as nice.

Anonymous said...

why are people obsessed with telling OTHER people how to spend their money? i think the point here is we all spend our money in different ways. I agree with anon earlier that $60-$90 for a NICE dinner is a joke. I also think you can buy $300 boots that would last you 10 years...

Kristin said...

I wish I wrote down the names of the writer and her book, but I didn't. But I watched a fairly in-depth presentation by a lady who researched the techniques of retail. She stated that Ikea minimizes costs by getting their hardwood from the backwoods of Russia where the laws of the wild west reign. So perhaps there isn't much of a difference in the quality of the raw materials that make the $700 item vs. $300 item, just a difference in how those materials are acquired.

Anonymous said...

I think the point that everyone might be missing..... is that you have to start looking at the longer term costs of buying badly made things.... we have allowed ourselves to become dependent on badly made things - made by people in horrible working conditions - in countries which have very poor environmental/human rights practices. We know these things - but we chose to ignore them to save a few bucks. How hip and cool are we now?

When I was in my 20's - I bought antiques to furnish my first apartment. When I came across the sterling silverware of my dreams - I set aside money every month - for months to pay for it. At the end of a year - the $4,500 set was mine.

I cannot understand this mentality of now... now...now.... all that you are doing is buying junk - which you will need to replace in no time - ultimately spending more in the long run. You are also contributing to the loss of jobs in this country. Maybe not yours - yet... but it will happen eventually. You are also contributing directly to the poor treatment of others, as well as the costs to the environment.

So - what's the real value of CHEAP?

niabassett said...

Oh wow. I had no idea you reposted my comment and that such a heated debate followed. Sorry if I offended. But good discussion.

Expensive does not equal quality and cheap does not equal poorly made. Good photography can make anything look good, so it seems important to be able to comment from a first-hand perspective or ask around and get a general consensus of the light or brand. This light, by the way, is really well-made. Have you seen it in person? It is quality.

So your repost was asking, what makes this light "worth" $700? I think the response is the same response people always tie to art purchases: it's only worth what you're willing to pay for it. Several commenters hit the nail on the head. This would absolutely count as an emotional purchase. No reasonable bone in your body would tell you to spend $700 so you could see inside your house.

Your original post was, "I really need this light, but not for $700 dollars." So is this light worth $700? Obviously it is to some people and it's not to others. I don't know why I felt the need to comment on how you might have actually spent $700 on several smaller purchases. The choice on how to spend your money and what is valuable is a personal decision and you're the only one who can say whether or not this purchase would be worth it to you.