The Dilemma of "Brown" Furniture

Real Estate Agent with Baird & Warner Real Estate



What is "brown" furniture? One of the best lines I've read this year is from an article by Richard Eisenberg for Next Avenue:

"Dining room tables and chairs, end tables and armoires, (brown pieces) have become furniture non grata. Antiques are antiquated."

I know my two millennial aged children have no interest in a beautiful armoire or the buffet in Ikea furniturethe dining room. They are classic antiques that are sturdy, incredibly well made, and stunning to look at. But younger generations are keen to Target, Home Goods, and Ikea - stuff that won't make it past their own generation.

Kids are mobile nowadays, they like to live minimally, and don't want to be bogged down by a lot of "stuff."  They want modern clean lines in their homes and are simply not interested in antiques, china, lamps, brooches, crystal, flatware, and tchotchkes.

Making matters worse is that a lot of our parents' furniture was not antique quality -mostly mass-produced  furniture bought at the time. It may have held up well (still better made) but not the right color, style,  design, or cachet of the pieces younger generations covet today.

Particularly unpopular today are large things like heavy mahogany pieces, china cabinets, wall units, and dining room sets. I have heard that even Goodwill and the Salvation Army reject donations of home furnishings.

It's possible that if you are in your 70s or 80s, your own children might be downsizing right along side you. They might not want to be burdened by your treasures - however much you cherished them. Even if they wanted to take them, they simply might not have the room either.

So what to do when you decide to sell your Winnetka or North Shore home and downsize?  Here are a few ideas:

1.    If you have a house full of good quality items, it would behoove you to have a conducted estate sale. There are many such companies that operate in and around the North Shore that are familiar with what sells and doesn't. They generally take a percentage of the sale as their price and most will cart off everything that doesn't sell as well. Home sellers generally have the estate company donate the leftover items, but pieces that are valuable could be sold on consignment or listed by them online. An example is Hummel figurines which are not popular here but are in Wisconson.

2.   Give yourself plenty of time to sell your things. You may have to clutter up a spare room or basement, but it probably will take a while to find a buyer. I have the names of several people who can help you assess your belongings and then sell them for you - not as a conducted house sale if you don't want to go that route.

3.   Your jewelry should be appraised regardless of what you decide to do with it. If no one is interested in costume jewelry, it can be donated and more valuable pieces can be held onto or sold. I received a very nice sum for a small number of silver and gold chains which were sold for the weight of the metal, not the piece itself.

4.   Consider hiring a Senior Move Manager. Like hiring a contractor to add a room to your home, hiring a Senior Move Manager delegates that person to help direct the project of selling and downsizing.

Please call me for more information and referrals. I have many resources for estate sale companies, organizers, consignment shops, online selling options, and Senior Move Managers. It's not an easy task - and it's important to know that you might be disappointed at what becomes of some of your belongings. While the current young generation migh have no need for these items, I believe that their time will come again and "brown" furniture will again be popular. But unfortunately,  it probably won't be in our lifetime . . .




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Margaret Goss is a full-time real estate broker since 1998 working in the North Shore communities of Winnetka, Wilmette, Kenilworth, Glencoe, Northfield, Glenview, and Evanston.

She can be reached at:

Phone:  847-977-6024


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Margaret Goss - Winnetka and North Shore Real Estate Broker
Specializing in homes for sale in Winnetka, Wilmette, Kenilworth, Northfield, Glencoe, Glenview, Northbrook, and Evanston.

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Re-Blogged 2 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Ginger Harper 11/21/2017 05:42 AM
  2. Elyse Berman, PA 11/27/2017 02:45 AM
Real Estate General Information
Illinois Cook County Winnetka
Almost Anything Goes
Midwest Rainers
brown furniture

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AndreaBFerreira CRS - SRS - CLHMS
Keyes Co. - Davie, FL
Miami Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County in FL

Sign of the time... new x old... we always will have this in our minds, the way to address is that makes the difference. I like when you mentioned "  Give yourself plenty of time to sell your things" the detach process will be easier when done in steps and calmly. Happy Holidays...

Nov 21, 2017 08:08 AM #30
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Experienced Agent in Kansas City Metro area

This point is on point however I have not heard of the term 'brown furniture'.  I get it now!  Younger pp don't want all that stuff--they want practical, versitile furniture in their homes.  Most don't even want a formal dining room

Nov 21, 2017 08:12 AM #31
Cynthia Larsen
Cotati, CA
Independent Broker In Sonoma County, CA

Well, I'm in trouble then because I have a ton of brown furniture. Antiques I collected along the way and my grandmother's stuff. I'm keeping the brown, everything else can go :)

Nov 21, 2017 08:15 AM #32
John Wiley
Fort Myers, FL
Lee County, FL, ECO Broker, GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA

What sage advice you have shared with us.

Used furniture is hard to sell, especially if it is not antique quality.

It is a difficult task to get people to realize that it will not bring much money and their children are not likely to want it.


Nov 21, 2017 08:49 AM #33
Jack Tenold
Jack Tenold LLC - Spokane, WA
Specializing in Reverse Mortgages

UBF -- the term makes me laugh!  I have not heard that before but it is sure spot on. The size alone of some UBF pieces makes moving them a really big deal. My kids love IKEA and it is OK that is doesn't last forever.  Takes a weight off their shoulders both physically and mentally when they move. Condo and apartment living spaces are typically too small for those brown sets of furniture.  Enjoyed your insightful blog.  Happy Thanksgiving. 

Nov 21, 2017 10:16 AM #34
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Margaret-hard to believe and admit that I am of an age that I finally realize what my mother must have felt when I told her I wasn't interested in keeping some of the things she had saved for me.  We have to remember that and understand why our children may not what our "treasures."

Nov 21, 2017 11:15 AM #35
Linda Metallo DiBenardo
RE/MAX Impact, Lockport, Illinois - Lockport, IL

Let's see, I have moved my upright piano at least 10 times.  I have my 70's dresser with the dovetail drawers that slide so easily,  been dragging that around.   Brown furniture is ok in my book,  but I do get why folks like cheap and easy to move.

Nov 21, 2017 01:09 PM #36
Pat Starnes-Front Gate Realty
Front Gate Real Estate - Brandon, MS
601-991-2900 Office; 601-278-4513 Cell

Poor brown furniture. I am a fan of "Flea Market Flip" and salvage shows and try to rescue whatever I can. There are markets for these furniture pieces but many are made over into something fun and funky. What a wonderful article you created and shared with us. Thanks for the insight, Margaret.

Nov 21, 2017 02:42 PM #37
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good evening Margaret Goss ,

Love your post and so glad to see it featured! You are right on don't want your relics (I mean antiques) and I have to admit I've been purging as buying clean lines with less clutter and love it!

Nov 21, 2017 04:44 PM #38
Marney Kirk
Cummings & Co. Realtors - Towson, MD
Towson, Maryland Real Estate

Margaret, GREAT post! You are so right that younger people don't want those heavy, big pieces of furniture. Your ideas of how to downsize and get assistance are terrific! 

Nov 22, 2017 05:25 AM #39
Anna Banana Kruchten CRS CRB, Phoenix Broker
HomeSmart Real Estate BR030809000 - Phoenix, AZ

HI Margaret - love this title and post!  This is so so so true in my area. Staging has gone neutrals and light tones and the brown stuff is out. People ( and here it's all ages) just don't want the old antiques and/or big heavy dark stuff anymore - they want light and bright and modern.

Nov 22, 2017 10:45 AM #40
Jane Peters
Home Jane Realty - Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles real estate concierge services

This is definitely a niche practice that is going to be needed more and more. Downsizing and moving. Your experience is going to become an increasingly valuable commodity.

Nov 22, 2017 11:13 AM #41
Corey Martin
Martin Presence Group - Ruston, LA
Real Estate and Management Solutions

Millennials are an interesting group. They really don't want "stuff" and they prefer to be on the move. That's why so many of them are going with tiny houses on wheels. Great post. Thanks for sharing. 

Nov 22, 2017 08:54 PM #42
MaryKay Shumway
The Kellstrom Ray Agency, Inc. (Est. 1948) - Sister Bay, WI
Door County Wisconsin's Real Estate Expert

Great post, Margaret, and you are correct--my on-the-go girls look at my bookcases and shudder.  I, even from Wisconsin, think of Hummel figures---and give a little of the same shudder!  However, one man's trash is another man's treasure.  I just saw on the news last night that Green Bay is the nation's "drunkest city" (another shudder)---trust me, we see a lot of green and gold "treasures" and especially beer stein collections.  That's a lot of stuff.


Nov 23, 2017 07:13 AM #43
Elyse Berman, PA
Best Connections Realty, Inc. - Boca Raton, FL
Boca Raton FL (561) 716-7824 CRS, ABR, GRI,ePR

Margaret Goss This is a great post and exactly what is happening here, as well.  I was recently in an antique store that was filled with collections of everything people had collected their entire lives.  And there it was just laying in the store - no one seems to want it.  Pocket knives, watches, china, you name it.  The "brown furniture" goes right along with it.  

I read an article where a woman was donating her things to a thrift store.  Her reasoning was that if someone came in and bought it, they would really want it as opposed to just giving it away.  

You make some great points, so I hope you don't mind if I reblog your post.

Nov 27, 2017 02:38 AM #44
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker, Blackstone Realty Group - brokered by eXp Realty - Kalispell, MT
The House Kat

My parents owned a big brown china cabinet/desk combo. They had it in the house when I was growing up - it was so big, they called it "The Monster." I never had any desire to own that; it was definitely not my speed. So I can understand the move towards less stuff. 

Nov 27, 2017 02:54 AM #45
Barbara Todaro
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Retired - Franklin, MA
Previously Affiliated with The Todaro Team

Good morning, Margaret Goss what a great post... light, white, bright and open space is what's in...with plenty of glass.... brown doesn't fit anymore.... contemporary flaired homes with furniture that reflects that flavor...

Nov 27, 2017 04:23 AM #46
Sheila Anderson
Referral Group Incorporated - East Brunswick, NJ
The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133

Good morning Margaret. Trends come and go but I like antiques and tend to go with what I like. I do agree with your assessment though.

Nov 27, 2017 05:00 AM #47
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg Real Estate

What's that guys IQ that says antiques are antiquated? Yeah, ok. I know people now are into Mid-century aka 50's furniture. It's the newest rage.

Nov 27, 2017 09:46 AM #48
Eileen Burns
Trans State Commercial RE Ft. Lauderdale/Miami/Palm Beach - Fort Lauderdale, FL
FL Probate Agent, Hotel & Land Specialist

Margaret you are sooo right!  When we began the renovation process Mom would not give away her spanish oak dining room set nor her california king bedroom set.  The idea of downsizing and going with gray/white/black and accent color ended up half and half. 

Dec 12, 2017 01:58 PM #50
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Margaret Goss

Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate
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