New Stock Arrives Daily
While we don’t have time to take and post pictures of the dozens of new pieces that arrive every week, we will attempt to give a quick weekly update on some of the new arrivals, and include a few pictures of our favorite pieces of the week. If you want to see all the new arrivals you’ll just have to pay us a visit.
COVID19 UPDATE: Our reopening went well and we are confident that we have everything in place to operate safely, so we will be expanding our hours. The Barn will be open during our regular business hours 10am to 5pm, Thursday through Sunday. We will also be open by appointment only Monday and Tuesday, and closed on Wednesdays. If you would like an appointment please email us and include your phone number as well as your preferred appointment time. We will contact you to arrange an appointment time. We will continue to severely limit the number of people allowed in the store at one time. Also we are requiring all customers to wear a mask or face covering. Please stay safe and healthy everyone.
Quarantine Series: Springwater Woodcraft
This week as a follow up to changing styles, we thought we would talk about changes in manufacturing. Or more specifically changes in where the products we sell are manufactured. By highlighting one of our oldest business partners, Springwater Woodcraft. The Barn has always carried antique and new products. This post is all about the new end of our business.
NAFTA and other trade deals have had a tremendous impact on our business. These trade deals have kept new furniture prices low. But they have also done major damage to Canadian manufacturing. Twenty-five years ago approximately 80% of the new products we carried were made in Canada. Today it has reversed and the majority are imported. If you would have walked into the Barn in 1992, a good year [Blue Jays first world series]. You would have seen pieces on display from all kinds of local Ontario manufactures. We had people making furniture for us in Midland, Owen Sound, Hamilton, Shelburne, and Port Credit to just name a few. It was great, if you wanted a custom made piece you could get whatever you wanted at a very reasonable price. But one by one most of those shops were put out of business because they just couldn’t compete with cheap labour overseas. A few found a way to survive by pivoting to what was once the norm and now has become high end custom work. And some new companies started up, and found a niche.
In the 90’s reproduction pine furniture was all the rage. Martha Stewart and some of her cohorts convinced everyone that painting or finishing furniture yourself was the thing to do. Unfinished pine furniture shops sprung up everywhere. I remember driving through the business district in Oakville and counted four unfinished pine furniture stores on Lakeshore road. Seriously, they outnumbered Tim Horton’s.
White Rose garden centers was a big chain of nurseries at the time, and they sold simple unfinished pine furniture made by Springwater Woodcraft. When White Rose got into financial trouble, Springwater lost their business. White Rose was their biggest customer at the time. So Springwater sent out representatives to try and find some new customers.
The Barn never got into the unfinished furniture trend. At the time we were more focused on higher end Canadianna reproductions which were extremely popular as well. The most popular finish was dubbed “Barn colour” by on of our suppliers because we ordered so much of it. It was a combination of equal parts “golden oak” and “early American” Minwax stains. This is important later in the story.
So one day a Springwater representative wandered into the Barn to show us samples. They had just started offering some painted furniture options. They only had three or four colour options to start. We told him that we didn’t want to carry unfinished furniture, it wasn’t our kind of thing. We had enough going on and we thought the unfinished furniture trend would not last long. But we got to talking and they were open to new ideas. So we told them about Barn colour and how popular it was. They soon came up with a similar version which they called “classic stain clearcoat”. Today it is still their most popular stain, but no longer their most popular finish. They now have dozens of finishes and colours to choose from.
As they were trying to come up with some new items that would sell, we designed a few pieces for them. More then 20 years later two of them are still in their catalogue. #515 Small Hall Table, is a multifunctional little table that used to be a big seller. It still is for them. Our best selling Springwater item these days is #439 Ladder Shelf. We also designed #418 Acadian Cabinet to fit a set of Encyclopaedia Britannica’s. Yes there was a time before the internet when people would have a set of encyclopedia’s in their house. Incase they wanted to look something up without going to the library. Feeling old anyone? The Acadian Cabinet is still a great little two door bookcase even though no one buys them for encyclopedias anymore. We have one on display in the Barn right now. It’s a piece that looks great in lots of different colours. The Acadian Cabinet, Ladder shelves, and a bunch more Springwater pieces can be seen in the photos below.
We soon found out that Springwater Woodcraft was and is a family run business. Grant, Tricia, and Simon Lloyd are still running things even as they have grown across Canada. They have always cared about the environment. They switched to non-toxic water based finishes long before most companies did. They only use only solid North American white pine from sustainably managed forests. No MDF or particleboard is ever used.
Today they have a fantastic catalogue with dozens of finishes. A few years ago they started doing distressed hand rubbed finishes they call Vintage. They are by far their best selling and best looking finishes. Even better than Barn colour we must admit.
We generally have between forty to sixty Springwater pieces in stock in a variety of colours and finishes. However sometimes things sellout faster than we can restock them. You can order anything in their catalogue through the Barn. We have their catalogue and a large supply of colour samples available to see at the Barn anytime. And of course we always have the lowest Springwater prices. For now you can check out the Springwater section on our Reproductions page. Or you can go directly to their site www.springwaterwoodcraft.com. After all its a great time to support a local small business, still located in Springwater Ontario. Hopefully they will be up and running again soon.
COVID19 UPDATE: The safety of our staff and the safety of our customers is our first priority in these difficult times. Therefore we will be reopening at a slow gradual pace. We will be severely limiting the number of customers allowed in the store at a time. And we will be requiring all customers to wear face masks or coverings. Also we are asking everyone to please use the hand sanitizer we will be providing upon entering The Barn. Starting May 21st The Barn will be open by appointment only. We will also continue to offer curbside pickup and contactless delivery. If you would like an appointment please send us an email with your phone number and we will call you back to arrange an appointment time. You can also call 905-822-6574 for an appointment if you are nearby. However we are no longer keeping regular business hours so your call may not be answered. We understand that these measures are an inconvenience and that not all stores are taking such strict measures. We believe that it is better to be overly cautious than not cautious enough. We will post updates in this space as things progress and we gradually try to return to regular business hours. Thank you.
Quarantine Series: Changing Styles
As a follow up to last week’s article about antique prices we thought we would write a little about changing styles. What follows is a generalization of what was the most common style at the time. There are always exceptions.
At least once a month someone comes in the Barn and says something like: “I haven’t been in here in twenty years, this place looks exactly the same”. While the place has always been packed with lots of cool stuff. The stuff we carry is very different from twenty years ago. For example 20 years ago furniture accounted for well over 80% of our sales, today it’s closer to 60%. Accessories have replaced items like formal dinning sets. So the contents of the Barn are actually very different from twenty years ago.
Let’s begin in the 1950’s through the 1970’s. Back then many kids grew up with what is now called midcentury modern furniture in their homes. By the 1980’s those kids had grown up and were buying their own furniture. And the vast majority of them hated midcentury modern. Or as it was inaccurately called at the time “Danish modern furniture” or the “horrible crap my parents had”. I know this is hard to believe now that midcentury modern is so popular. But in the 1980’s we really couldn’t give it away. Fun fact the term mid century modern wasn’t coined until 1984, by Cara Greenburg.
The vast majority of our customers were in one of two camps in 80’s and through the 90’s. You were either formal or country. If you were country you bought Canadianna or primitives. And you cared about things like original milk paint and how many boards were on the top of your table. If you were formal, Victorian, Duncan Fyfe, and French styles were what you were looking for. And if you were lucky enough to find an original Georgian piece you nearly lost your mind. Seriously, this stuff was in such high demand that occasionally our customers would fight over a piece, literally. That is why to this day when a customer tells us they want a piece we take the tag off of it. That way it’s clear who it belongs to, and no one gets in a fight. Getting beat up while antiquing does not make for a good story.
Today another generation has grown up and is rebelling against their parents formal furniture. By buying what they think is more modern furniture. But what is really their grandparents furniture. The furniture their parents hated.
Today we sell lots of reclaimed wood furniture. But that is nothing new. We’ve been selling reclaimed wood furniture for over 40 years. It’s just that back then we called it furniture made from barn board. Or we just said it was made from old wood. Obviously we weren’t as good at branding as today’s generation. Reclaimed wood is much catchier.
These days greys are very popular. There are lots of “sundried” products on the market. Industrial collections are popular, lines with names like-stark, concrete, ironsides, and industrial[ that one is a little on the nose]. But it’s still generational. We carry the entire line of Irish coast reclaimed wood furniture in a more traditional colour called African dusk. The line is also available in sundried. There are photos of examples of the two colours at the bottom of this article . More than 90% of the African dusk colour pieces we sell are bought by customers over the age of 40. Conversely about 90% of the sundried pieces we sell are bought by customers under the age of 40.
There has also been a move toward more natural forms lately. Live edge tables are the most obvious example. I am particularly found of the root coffee tables we carry. And what we call stump vases. Where everyone is unique. If you’re not sure what I’m taking about there is a photo at he bottom of this article. Or you can check out the “Nature Form” section on our “Reproductions” page.
So if you are trying to figure out what style is coming next just look to the past. Or maybe technology and modern forms will push out warmer classic style for good. But that would be something new.
Quarantine Series: Antique Prices
“Brown furniture is dead and no one wants it, that is why antique prices are so low”, is something we often hear. It is true that there is very little demand for “brown” furniture compare to the past. But lots of antiques aren’t brown or even furniture. So it is a bit more complicated than “no one wants brown furniture”.
First, there still is a significant demand for antiques. If there wasn’t we would not be able to stay in business. Until the recent shutdown, the Barn was selling more antique pieces to retail customers on a daily basis than we have at any point in our history. We have to sell more because prices are so low. That is the only way it is profitable to sell antiques these days. Antiques still sell well, but only at a very low price point.
For those who are unaware, the antique market has collapsed. Prices for most antique pieces are 30% of what they once were and many are significantly lower. We are in the middle of the great depression for antiques. The start of the collapse dates back to the great recession starting in 2008. And prices gradually declined for over a decade. Before 2008 antiques were an investment. For thirty years antique prices rose tremendously. Very much like the recent real estate market. People would buy antiques and just hold on to them for a few years, and make a tremendous profit when they resold them. Also many would fix up antiques and resell them at a tremendous profit.
We were recently contacted by a customer who bought an average antique bedroom set at the Barn 40 years ago. She was downsizing and wanted to resell it. She was shocked to find out how little it was worth in today’s market. She told us when she originally bought the bedroom set she had to decide between buying the bedroom set and buying a car. That’s who valuable antiques were 40 years ago. We informed her that if she had decided to sell the set 20 years after she bought it, she would have tripled her money. But unfortunately she waited until after the antique market had collapsed and her set was now worth a fraction of what she paid for it. Sadly this is not an uncommon situation. Antiques were a great investment for decades until the bubble burst.
Why did the antique market collapse? There is a lot of factors. For starters free trade, most consumer goods are significantly cheaper because of all the goods that are constantly flooding into the country from overseas at low prices. The prices of the new items we sell has come down significantly as well due to free trade. Changing styles is also a factor, younger people don’t want the “brown furniture” their parents had. Changing lifestyle is a big factor. It used to be standard for a woman to receive a formal set of dishes when she got married, not anymore. Everyone used to have a formal dinning room set. Now almost no one does. No antiques have dropped more in value than formal dinning sets. Also people don’t collect things as much as they used to, and houses and condos are smaller than they used to be. Open concepts and open spaces in homes is more normal than filling a space with collections. The rise of the internet also brought prices down. But the number one factor in my opinion is that most people don’t care about history the way they used to. Or rather they aren’t willing to pay for history. The history and age of a piece was largely what gave it value. We used to get asked dozens of times a day: “How old is this?”, “Where was it made?”, “Do you know the history of this piece?”, “Is it in original condition, or has it been altered?”, “Do you know what house it came from?”. We almost never get asked these questions anymore. Now most pieces just sell for their utility, quality, and aesthetic value now. History is no longer a consideration for most customers. There are obviously some exceptions. Like probably most people who are reading this article.
There are some exceptions to lower prices. We couldn’t give manual typewriters away 30 years ago, now the price of them just keeps going up. Sterling silver prices have held their value. Sterling still sells at a high price. What is now called mid-century modern furniture is and has been in high demand for many years. In the 1980’s we couldn’t give away mid-century modern furniture. Seriously, donation centers wouldn’t even take it. Lots of it went to landfill at the time. The old stereo’s from the 60’s and 70’s are selling now. We used to give them to furniture makers to use as glue tables.
The conclusion to all this is that there has never been a better time to buy antiques. There is tremendous value in antiques these days. For many items you could not buy the raw lumber required to make the antique furniture we are selling for the prices we are selling it for. You can furnish an entire home with wonderful pieces that will last many lifetimes for a fraction of the cost of buying new low quality items made of MDF that will not last. Buy the way, none of the new items we carry are made of MDF. The downside is that if you invested in antiques before the market collapsed you lost your shirt. The upside is that thanks to free trade cheap shirts are widely available.
Hello again! We thought we covered all covid19 topics relating to the Barn in our May 1st. update. However from all the email questions we’ve been getting, it’s clear that we left a few things out. So lets deal with a few more topics.
We keep getting asked about how we can receive payment. Until we reopen, we can only accept Visa and Mastercard payments. We will take your credit card information over the phone when we call to arrange a pickup or delivery time. That is why we always ask for your phone number.
We have also been getting photo and inventory questions. Because we carry thousands of items we can’t post photos of everything on our website. However there are lots of photos to look through on our site. We normally get photos when items first arrive. We often unpack items outside and get photos before the items come in the building. We can’t do that right now for obvious reasons. So we will be using some older photos and a few new ones, on this page until things return to normal.
As for supply chain questions. The Barn is packed and we have additional warehouses full. When things shut down in March we had many shipments enroute. Plus we had an estate that we had already committed to buying. So even though we’ve been closed we still had to deal with shipments arriving. We are not lacking inventory. We have a huge backlog of antique pieces ready for when we have space in the building. And we have extra stock warehoused of most of our Reproduction items. We buy in as large of volume as possible, that is one of the ways we keep prices low. And it means that we will never be lacking inventory.
The only supply chain issues are that once we run out of certain imported items, it will take longer to restock anything that is not already in country. And some of our made in Ontario items like Springwater woodcraft pieces will take longer for special orders, because the factory had to temporarily shut down. Also a few seasonal outdoor items will not arrive this year because of the shutdown. The good news is that about 85% of what we had planed to stock for outdoor/garden season did arrive and is in stock.
Here is an exciting opportunity! One of our suppliers, LH imports, which has an enormous catalogue online. Has created a special login and password for our customers during this unusual time to help with online shopping. This will allow you to login to their site directly. See product photos, details, dimensions, whether or not the item is in stock, and MSRP. We are offering a minimum of 35% off MSRP on anything on their site. Most pieces we can offer even higher discounts. Just let us now what pieces you are interested in, and we will quote a price. When you place an order, the item[s] will be shipped to us and then we will deliver it to you. We receive regular bulk shipments from LH imports. This cuts down on shipping costs. And no one beats us on the lowest prices on LH imports products. Our high volume allows us to offer these discounts. Plus many of their items we already have in stock at the Barn, so you can get them right away. Also, we have stock of some items they no longer have in stock. Here is the link: www.lhimports.com Login email: email@example.com Password: April2020 The password is case sensitive.
Fun fact! Our best selling item since we had to close our doors has been the giant pink flamingos. It’s nice to see that covid19 hasn’t hurt our customers sense of whimsy.
Hopefully I’ve covered everything this time. Stay well everyone!
Hello, we hope everyone is staying safe and healthy during the quarantine. We would like to thank everyone for their emails of well wishes during this difficult time. Many customers and friends have reached out to let us know how much they miss the barn and their regular visits to wander around and see what new treasures arrived. We look forward to seeing everyone again soon.
We’ve been getting a lot of emails with similar questions. So we thought we would update everyone on what’s happening. A lot of people have been asking when we will be reopening. The answer is that as soon as the government allows nonessential business to reopen, we will reopen. Hopefully we will have a date soon. When we reopen we will have to do things a little differently. Social distancing will be required. Fortunately the barn is a large building and we should be able to make things work to keep everyone safe. More details on that to follow once the government announces dates and regulations.
We’ve also had several requests from customers wanting to come into the store to shop. We cannot accommodate those requests at this time. We would like to ask everyone to please respect the stay at home orders. We believe it is in everyone’s best interest. Plus none of our products are perishable. In all our years in business we have yet to see a furniture emergency.
We are still open for business via contactless delivery or curbside pickup. If you would like to purchase something please just send us and email and include your phone number. We will give you a call back and arrange a pickup or delivery time. We are currently offering free local contactless delivery.
If you are looking for something in particular and would like to see what options we have in stock. Just send us an email and let us know what you are looking for, in as much detail as possible. Please include your phone number. We will send you photos of the best available options.
Also, most of the items on our Reproductions page are in stock and available for contactless pickup or delivery. We have begun receiving regular shipments of reclaimed wood furniture again. As our customers have been ordering items from our website, as well as from the extensive selection of reclaimed wood pieces that can be special ordered through the barn. If you need a link or a login to see what’s available just send us an email and we would be happy to direct you towards what you are looking for.
We would also like to encourage anyone who can, to support your local small businesses at this time. We have a lot of relationships with small business owners who are really struggling right now. I think many of us have come to realize how important our local businesses are to us now that they are closed. And I really don’t want to wake up in a world where there is nothing but big box, chain stores, and online stores left. The Barn will survive this, but we are concerned that many of our friends business won’t. Shop with a local small business if you can.
And lastly we are going to be posting new content on this page every week from now on, no matter how long quarantine lasts. We’ve been asked many times to offer talks or classes on various subjects relating to antiques and furniture. For now, instead of an update on new arrivals, we will be posting a series of short articles on a variety of topics we often get asked about. Everything from antique pricing, to changing styles, to the history of the barn, to furniture repair and cleaning, to spotlights on the various types of products we carry. If there is a topic that you would like us to cover, just let us know and we will try our best to cover your topic.
Better days will come, and we will see you soon.
What a difference a week makes, things are changing fast. For those readers who don’t know I write this update over the weekend in between helping customers, and it gets posted on Mondays. So as of now we are planning to stay open, however things could change quickly and we may have to close temporarily. If we do close we will post a notice on our website. We will be suspending the weekly updates until things get back to normal. Doesn’t normal sound great at the moment!
I will say that an enormous amount of new items came in this past week including a shipment of reclaimed wood furniture. We’ve had a bunch of new china cabinets come in lately, so we unpacked dozens of boxes and filled them up with all kinds of goodies. And as always a pile of antiques arrived.
We have shipments already en route for the next couple of weeks. A truckload from our “Nature Form” line is coming on Tuesday, 6 sizes of the ever popular stump vases are included as is lots more great stuff. Another shipment of reclaimed wood furniture is also coming next week including a great new large hall seat from our Provence line. The long awaited Provence small bookcases that were specially designed and created just for The Barn will be in that shipment. The following week there is two shipments of outdoor items arriving.
So as long as we are able to stay open there will be lots of great new stuff. And if we temporary close that just means that there will be even more great new stuff when we reopen. We are pausing the updates temporarily because it is one less thing to deal with at the moment.
Please everyone stay calm and safe, better days will come.
We’ve decided it’s time for spring! So we brought in lots of new outdoor/garden items this week including: pagoda lanterns in two sizes-a photo is attached, cast iron benches in white & bronze, the famous yellow butterfly bench, pairs of foo dogs, a whole bunch of fun garden gnomes-a photo is attached, more metal birds including a 30” tall rooster & a funky rusted crane, and more. The pagoda’s have cool LED light options that stay lit for 6 hours, than automatically shut off for 18 hours. Or you can just go old school and use a candle. Lots of antique wall art arrived this past week including: 4 unusual 1960’s framed porcelain pieces with an Asian motif, extra large 1970’s framed paintings, and lots of nice framed prints including a map of the world. Antique furniture arrivals included: pair of Victorian ladies’ & gent’s chairs, pine medicine cabinet, pine spice cabinet, smoking cabinet, rare folding valet, set of 4 white ladder back chairs with rush seats, assorted mirrors, set of 4 bentwood arm chairs, pair of small mid-century bookcases, Duncan Phyfe tilt top coffee table, walnut china cabinet, and assorted odd chairs. Some odds & ends included: a nice bowl & pitcher, mantle clock, a batch of cups & saucers, more vintage phones, Royal manual typewriter, 2 small stained glass windows, 3 milk cans, large silver plate tea set, some large glass vases, a really cool pair of medieval looking cast iron post wall sconces, sewing box, porcelain umbrella stand, large cast iron kettle, and more. Also lots of lamps arrived-china, crystal & brass.
More outdoor metal birds, this week pelicans! A photo is attached. Also the famous fish and turtle wall planters are back in stock. A terrific rare batch of 11 antique & vintage phones arrived, a photo is attached. Antique furniture arrivals included: 2 pine blanket boxes-one with a curved top, primitive pine lamp table, oak caulk box, walnut treasure box, pair of mid-century modern teak chairs, 2 wall curio cabinets, Chippendale sofa table, 6’2” formal sofa table, pair of Pembroke tables, leather top coffee & end table, large Chippendale coffee table & end tables, walnut vanity/desk, Louis XV style bergere chair, walnut china cabinet that could pass for a 2 door bookcase, Florentine [nest of tables, end table & waste basket], a nice set of 4 Victorian chairs, mahogany vitrine, 2 footstools, corner whatnot, assorted odd chairs, and more. Odds & ends included: 2 batches of cups & saucers[Aynsley, Paragon, Shelley, Foley, etc.], 2 bridge lamps, assorted antique tools, terrific large bevelled ornate gilt framed mirror, 2 floor lamps, 6 assorted chandeliers, copper fire extinguisher, pair of iron floor grates, 6 gallon open crock, wooden barrel marked “Pearl River Brand- Made in People’s Republic of China”, 3 framed needlepoint, a few paintings-one watercolour, small window mirror, 27” x 37” stained glass piece-a photo is attached, Coleman camping stove, black Underwood manual typewriter, nice pair of Oriental lamps, and lots more.
The giant pink flamingos are back, in two styles, a photo is attached. Antique furniture arrivals from this past week included: walnut half secretary desk, large bachelor’s chest, French wing chair, nest of 3 Queen Anne tables, leather top lamp tables, Victorian chaise lounge, press back rocking chair, exceptional trunk with 2 carriers inside, pair of press back chairs, pair of red bamboo chairs, Eastlake store counter painted red, terrific 6 piece banded bedroom set with 7 1/2′ high carved poster bed, fantastic redone walnut rocking chair, Canadian made banded hall table, some outdoor chairs, concave glass full size secretary desk, pine toy box, extra large cedar chest, 3 pieces painted Chinese red[wall shelf, chair, & rocking chair], and more. Odds and ends from this past week included: a violin, ornate 12 piece flatware set, brass mortar & pestle, coffee grinder by Leinbrock’s, 21piece Herend set, assorted sets of crystal glasses, assorted office organizers & in and out trays, assorted floor and table lamps, a batch of cups & saucers, large silver plate candelabra, assorted crystal, 1930’s working adding machine, pair of bathroom mirrors, 2 open crocks, wicker creel fishing basket, miniatures, lots of assorted glass & china, step ladder, 4 large Royal Doulton’s, a great pair of 15” hand painted Victorian vases, and lots more. We also brought in a fresh batch of old boards, making your own shelves out of old boards is very popular at the moment.