7 Essential Pieces

June 6, 2012

The other day I sat down to read a book I’ve been wanting to read for a few weeks. The mother and daughter design team of Suzanne and Lauren McGrath have answered one of the most important design questions we all ask about making the right furniture purchases for our home – what are the choices you can make that will last a lifetime?

In their informative book Good Bones, Great Pieces: Seven Essential Pieces That Will Last a Lifetime, they explain in great detail why their seven choices are so versatile and timeless they actually will last for decades and through several phases of life, even if you give them a few makeovers over the years!

good bones great pieces book review

I’ve been reading the blog Good Bones, Great Pieces for a year now, and I’m always impressed with this dynamic duo.  Suzanne and Lauren are constantly on the go, hunting down incredible finds at flea markets and antique fairs and featuring the best trends in design.  Their spaces keep popping up in all the shelter magazines too, and rightfully so, these two have fabulous taste!

dynamic duo mom and daughter


As I was reading this book I had to smile, I felt so validated when I realized those same seven timeless and versatile pieces are actually present in my house, some from retail, others from second hand sources.  So what is the McGrath philosophy when it comes to choosing furniture?  It’s not about chasing trends but instead committing to certain pieces that have the ability to live in different spaces as you move through life.  And for someone like me (and you too?) who shops my house, constantly moving things around, having those pieces makes that “redecorating on a whim” possible. 

What are the 7 essential pieces?  Ha!  I won’t give them away, but I completely agree with their choices!  The book is written for all stages of life, from your first apartment to your dream home, whether it’s filled with family or just you and your spouse or simply just you!

Here’s what you’ll find inside, 190+ pages of…

stylish interiors

The book is filled with Suzanne and Lauren’s helpful glossaries and resources for finding those seven great pieces.  They also share seasoned design tips and advice for those wrestling with decorating decisions in the home.

design advice

You can buy Good Bones, Great Pieces: Seven Essential Pieces that Will Carry You Through a Lifetime on Amazon, or find it at your local bookstore.  I also have one copy of this lovely book to giveaway, simply answer this question in a comment on this post to be eligible.

1) What’s your favorite piece of furniture in your home and why?

Leave a comment before Friday June 8th at midnight, US and Canada only.  One winner chosen at random.  Thank you Lauren and Suzanne for writing such a helpful book and sending a copy my way.  It’s a most welcome addition to my library!


Giveaway closed, Winner: #165 Linda Southworth




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640 Responses to “7 Essential Pieces”

  1. Zolane says:

    My favorite piece is a pine corner armoire that my brother in law built for me. It hides the tv and other electronics but does not take up a lot of floor space.

  2. Nancy says:

    My favorite piece is a secretary that was originally owned by my Grandmother. It was mahogany when it was filled with her dishes and stationery. When she originally gave it to me, I painted it yellow and put it in my dining room. It is now a beautiful soft shade of white and is in my foyer. Such a graceful but solid piece of furniture. I’m so glad she gave it to me.

  3. Emily says:

    My favorite piece is the single sleeper futon my grandmother gave me. It’s small enough I can fit it in the corner of my bedroom right next to the windows giving me the perfect place to read or pull out into a bed for friends sleeping over. It’s quirky, versatile, and functional.

  4. kathy w says:

    My favorite piece is a dining room table we had refinished.

  5. Cyndi says:

    My favorite piece is an antique glass front cabinet that has resided in almost every room of my house that I purchased in Spain years ago. It’s probably not a classic, but it reminds me of the time we lived there.

  6. Christina says:

    Our new dining room table — we found a guy on craigslist to make us a 7′ long distressed farmhouse table for $400 — we were looking at ones in catalogs for $2,000+ and wondering how we’d ever afford one!

  7. Sarah says:

    The rocking chair in the nursery (found in the living room, when I shopped the house), is definitely my favorite piece of furniture. It’s soft and comfortable, has great lines and a million great memories of reading time with my son, and there’s more to come with the daughter we’re expecting in July!

  8. belle says:

    My favorite piece is my sofa. Very traditional, great bones. I’ll never buy another one!

  9. Judy Brunk says:

    My antique (?) drop leaf table…..Works as a desk, a bed-side table, an end table, a breakfast table, a computer table, a display table, etc., etc., etc.,

  10. Bethany says:

    My coffee table. It’s big, with metal legs and a beautiful red-brown hue. Lots of charm and elegance!

  11. Susan says:

    My favorite piece is the buffet we had built by a local Amish carpenter…it’s beautiful…it replaces my old favorite piece that was ruined in a recent flood from the upstairs bathroom.

  12. ErinY says:

    I love the side chair in our living room. The simple lines and light blue color will last me through any design changes in the future.

  13. Farheen says:

    I love my bookcases because it makes any room look put together.

  14. Laura Johnson says:

    My stainless steel topped dining table! Still love it after 10 years.

  15. Alanna says:

    I have my great grandmother’s antique dining room table. It has beautiful lines, and a hollow base which my great grandmother hid booze in during prohibition! It’s waiting for some restoration, but is pretty enough (even while flawed) for me to proudly display in my dining room.

  16. Amber says:

    My favorite piece is my 100+ year old piano. It’s just so pretty!

  17. Anastasia says:

    My favorite piece of furniture in my home would be my new desk (new to me) that I got off of Craigslist. It is solid mahogany and has great bones and lines.

  18. Leslie M says:

    My favorite piece of furniture is my buffet. It’s my first second hand piece, my 3rd piece of “real wood,” and my first Craigslist piece. It makes me smile every time I look at it.

  19. Kim says:

    My craigslists find for $33. It’s a Bassett Furniture sideboard that I turned into our media unit/booze and game cabinet and and it is so much more beautiful than anything on the market. It was in pretty rough shape but I spent the next week sanding, re-staining and polyurethaning and voila! I did keep all the original hardware because it was just too beautiful to replace. I painted the interior with a pop of turquoise color. Nobody knows it’s there but me and I love it!

  20. lynn says:

    My fave piece of furniture in my home is a $20 solid wood secretary table that I picked up from a garage sale that I refinished.

  21. Holly Baumgartner says:

    The curved couch n my living room! So darn comfortable and my favorite seat in the
    whole house!

  22. Leslie says:

    My favorite piece is my daybed. I built it with a king size thriftstore headboard, some 2x 6’s and fence post toppers (turned upside down for the feet). Then I sewed the cover and all the pillows for it. I love it because its beautiful, comfortable, and I did it myself. Its the first thing I see when I walk in the room and it always makes me smile

  23. Christine says:

    My favorite piece of furniture is my king-sized Stearns & Foster bed. It was a complete splurge but it’s the most comfortable matress and worth every penny. I always love going home to sleep in my own bed. Definitely splurge on the matress you’ll sleep on every night!

  24. Leanne says:

    My favorite piece is a red (yes, red) wingback chair with a very subdued pattern. It also happens to recline!

  25. Kathleen says:

    My favorite piece of furniture is a bombay table that my aunt purchased in the 1930’s. It is really cool with a Moroccan scarf she bought on a trip to Morocco in the 1950″s. I’ve drug it along from house to house and placed it in different rooms, and I will never get tired of it.

  26. Susan S. says:

    My favorite piece is a long buffet that my husband made for me. It is beautifully constructed and is a timeless piece of furniture.

  27. Cheryl says:

    My favorite piece of furniture is the wrought iron bed frame we found on Craigslist. The headboard is made up of swirly, leafy branch pieces, and there’s a bird perched right in the center. The bed was a little bit banged up, and we needed a CA King rather than a King size, so my wonderful husband cut it apart, welded in new metal to make it wide enough, gave the whole thing a new coat of black paint, and then touched up all of the leaves and the bird with gold paint. I love it, and it cost us less than $100!

  28. Paulette says:

    My favourite piece of furniture is my oak table in the dining room because of all of the wonderful meals we’ve had over the last 19 years.

  29. Teal Lockard says:

    My favorite piece of furniture in my home is my grandmother’s antique mahogany empire chest. I have it in my dining room to store linens and it reminds me of family.

  30. Stefanie Lynch says:

    My favorite piece of furniture is definitely the head board I made for our master bedroom. It has a beautiful textures bone white fabric covering it and it the perfect back drop for fun pillows and accessories. It is so much fun to change out accessories and experiment with it.

  31. Laura says:

    My favorite piece has been with me for over 40 years! I paid $1.50 for a junky dirty old antique trunk that I refinished in my home economics class for a project. I’ve always stored Christmas decorations in it and always looks good in any home or any room.

  32. LauraL says:

    I absolutely love my DIY headboard from the tutorial that you posted on your step-daughter’s room. I think that was the first time I stumbled across your blog. It turned out great and cost much less than other options!! Thanks for the idea :)

  33. Thanh says:

    My favorite piece in our recently purchased home would have to be our maritime brass wall clock we purchased at a local flea market. The chimes ring at different times signaling the change of shifts. Plus we have never seen it used in any decorating mags or blogs which makes it extra special!

  34. Amber says:

    The navy blue cotton velvet wing back chair with tufting I just scored on Craigslist for $50! It needed a good clean up and new nail head trim, but it’s beautiful and makes me feel “grown up”!

  35. Anisa says:

    my desk!! it’s where everything gets DONE!!

  36. Malena says:

    My favorite piece of furniture is our HUGE king-size 4-poster bed. My parents had it made from solid cypress from Louisiana. It is SO BIG. It’s way to big for our bedroom, but I cannot part with it. They had it for quite a while, then when my Dad’s Alzheimer’s started getting pretty bad, it was too difficult for him to get in and out of bed, plus he needed more space for his wheelchair, so they gave it to us. My son used to play under there when he would stay with them, and he would sometimes fall asleep and leave them searching the house for him. It has little marks on one of the posts that he put into it when get got his hands on my Dad’s screwdriver. It will be a piece that we hand down to one of our children.

    We also have a work table in our kitchen in place of an island, that they had they same guy make with more solid cypress, that they gave us when we bought our first little house. Never gonna part with it.

    BTW – Can’t wait to get my hands on that book!

  37. Our loveseat. It goes in almost any room. It’s sage with white piping, but I know some day I will slipcover it.

  38. Dineen T says:

    My favorite piece is an oak pedestal table that is our kitchen table and was the dining room table in my house growing up. My grandfather bought it at a barn sale for $25 over 50 years ago!

  39. The white sectional we have in our sunroom- best purchase ever! Can easily change the look with new throw pillows and it soooo comfortable – the perfect spot to kick back with a mag (and a glass of wine)!

  40. kathleen says:

    My favorite piece of furniture is my parents’ old hoosier from their newlywed days, and it was probably a hand-me-down even then. I’m stripping the old peeling paint off, so it’s a bit of a mess right now. I guess I love it mostly for sentimental reasons. It still has the flour bin in it also.

  41. Kip says:

    I have a step back cupboard that was in the house of a family friend where I spent so many days with them and when I thought about painting the inside that was a very worn greenish color. When I came home with the paint that I fell in love with it matched the old paint that it was painted. How spooky is that. This cupboard is the center piece of my dining room and I see it everyday.

  42. My fave piece of furniture is actually three… The white-slipcovered Montauk roll-arm sofa and chairs that I scored at a second-hand shop. They are the anchors of my pretty, cozy living room and my favorite spot to chill out and look at my other pretties. They still make me smile!

  43. Sheila Woofter says:

    My favorite piece is a Korean knock-off Japanese step-tonsu. I has three parts and has been used in the traditional way, and separately with the two small ‘steps’ serving as end tables and the chest as a buffet. Very versatile as well as a conversation piece.

  44. Lin says:

    It is a small side table that I found in a second-hand store for $35 about 20 years ago. It has made friends with many changes in sofas and chairs and it works every time. It is a dark stained wood (I think oak) and has 2 drop leaves. I have come within an inch of painting it several times, but always decided at the last minute to love her as she is.

  45. Sevann says:

    I love our pair of gray wing back chairs in the living room. So timeless, hoping to pass them on to our children some day.

  46. Karin says:

    My favorite piece of furniture is a curved sofa that we got when we got married 24 years ago. It has been reupholstered once, and is so comfy we call it the napping couch. I’m sitting on it right now!

  47. Melanie says:

    My favorite piece of furniture is my small china cabinet which I keep in my kitchen. It’s an older piece of furniture, solid wood, beautiful, and it’s the first piece of GOOD furniture that my husband and I bought together when we were newlyweds. We even bargained with cash and were so proud of ourselves! I love changing the items I keep in the interior of the cabinet, according to season, holidays, or whim.

  48. Holt Dale says:

    My favorite piece of furniture is the pencil post bed that belonged to my Grandparents! It’s the most beautifully crafted piece of furniture in our home and every time i even look at it, I think of the many memories and oh so many nights the people I love slept in it!

  49. Emili says:

    My Room and Board 98″ sofa in a textured woven fabric. I have three kids and it’s been thrown up on, had chocolate and peanut butter hands on it and been peed on and still looks awesome and every stain has come off! It was pricey but well worth the it!

  50. Ashley says:

    Our dining room table. It is a rustic farmhouse table that my dad made for us as a housewarming present. It is absolutely gorgeous and that fact that my dad made it makes it super duper special!

  51. Debbie says:

    My favorite piece of furniture is a rocking chair given to me by my grandfather. It originally belonged to my great-grandmother and I used to curl up in it to read for hours as a child. It now sits on my sunporch and I love looking at it and using it.

  52. kim rowell says:

    My favorite is a small sofa that used to be my grandmother’s especially since I just had it reupholstered. I removed the skirt, got new legs and added tufting on the back. I had it through most of my 30+ years of marriage and think it will be with me till I die.

  53. Meghan says:

    I love a great couch that the entire family can curl up on to watch a movie.

  54. MotherGoose says:

    My bed! My husband and I bought the very comfy mattress for ourselves as a wedding present, and the headboard as our first “grown-up” decorating project.

  55. Renee says:

    Love my comfortable, beautiful leather couches that I bought from a friend when she moved to a new house!

  56. A chair that I had passed down to me after my grandmother passed away. I’m about to close on my first place and can’t wait to have it reupholstered for my place!

  57. Kelsey says:

    My favourite piece in our young home is a handmade walnut armoire I found at a Goodwill for $60. I love finding fantastic deals & it’s so gorgeous and full of character that I can’t help feeling all warm and fuzzy whenever I look at it. Right now I’m using it as a bar, but it’s one of those pieces that could fit in easily in just about any room; it’s one of MY great, essential pieces! I can’t wait to hear what these lovely ladies say about their essentials.

  58. Love my art deco bar and my mother’s corner vitrine! every room should have a past but room for the future

  59. Margaret says:

    I purchased a hundred year old china closet 30+ years ago before I was even married. I brought it from NJ to FL 24 years ago and now my daughter wants it for her home.

  60. Christi S. says:

    My favorite piece of furniture is a hand-tooled leather cube that I had made in Colombia!

  61. Tiffany says:

    My favorite piece of furniture would have to be my walnut antique secretary. It’s been in my family for five generations. Our home was destroyed in March…and this piece was badly damaged, but a trip to the antique restorers…and she’ll be as good as new. Is the one piece Of furniture that I made sure we saved even though it was so badly damaged. Some things…especially family heirlooms…there just isn’t a price tag you can place on them.

  62. Andrea says:

    My favorite piece of furniture is our master bedroom bed — beautiful sleigh bed!

  63. Cheryl Balmas says:

    I love their blog too! My favorite piece of furniture is a buffet I bought from Thomasville a few years ago on a really good sale. Its not an antique or handed down by my grandmother or anything I refinished. Its just a good solid wood piece that is pretty, practical and functional. It’s a large presence in the room and has classic lines that won’t go out of style and is sure to be handed down to my daughter. We have affectionately nicknamed it the ‘Phoebe Buffay’ after one of our favorite characters in friends. However, because my husband never watched Friends, when he asks ‘where do you want me to put this platter’ I tell him ‘put it on the Jimmy Buffet’.

  64. Melissa says:

    I have an old glass door hanging above my bed as a headboard. My boyfriend and I found it on the curb in his neighborhood. I forced him to help me carry it all the way to my apartment!

  65. Nicki says:

    My favorite piece is an acrylic portrait painting I purchased at a yard sale the first year I was married. 8 years later I still love it!

  66. jodi says:

    I love the new very soft comfy leather love seat I just got to replace an old chair and a half that was falling apart.

  67. Andrea says:

    Hmmm, this is tough. I think my favorite piece of furniture is probably my 12 foot church pew! :)

  68. Kristen L. says:

    I love our antique ice box that my dad found at a flea market 40 years ago and refinished. So special!

  69. vel says:

    My favorite piece of furniture is my sofa – a cheapo from Value City furniture but it’s got clean lines, has held up well for 6 years, and most of all, a gift from my mom!

  70. Karen says:

    My favorite piece of furniture the bed in our guest bedroom… it’s a Stratton bed from Pottery Barn, but I designed a wall mounted headboard with bead-board and hard-wired sconces to fit it and the limited space in our room (it was my first design & build project) . This combination would probably not qualify it for an ‘essential’ piece, since the headboard is there to stay, but I’m still in love with it.

  71. Melissa says:

    It rather a toss up. I am in love with my new chair. It has a crazy floral pattern and just makes me feel happy. I am also rather fond of my bookcase. My dad built it years ago in shop class. It has been in my home my entire life. It once held my parents favorite books and now it holds mine. It will always be a special piece of furniture.

  72. Erin says:

    My favorite piece of furniture is our uber-comfy couch–I’ve nursed 3 babies on it for hours and snuggled my husband. It is on it’s last back brace however, so this book would certainly help as I go forward in rethinking our “grown up” home design! :)

  73. Danielle says:

    My favorite piece of furniture is my desk chair. I rescued him (and his sadly broken twin brother) from a rainy Oakland sidewalk. After a little TLC (read: a cream paint job and a lovely, velvety grey cushion to hide the not-so-lovely old wicker), he’s a the perfect high-backed addition to my home office.

  74. Tonya says:

    My new sofa because it is my first real “grown up” furniture purchase and I love it!

  75. Laura says:

    I love my chair, but sadly it is wearing out. I am looking for a replacement but have not found anything that suits me yet.

  76. Deni says:

    My favorite piece is my chaise longue where I like to curl up and read! So comfy!

  77. Lanay says:

    My favorite piece is my coffee table because my husband made it.

  78. Rina says:

    It is a Greek key table that I found for $30 while thrifting.

  79. Lori says:

    I love my couch, so timeless, neutral and comfy too! I can see reupholstering it in the future if needed I like it that much!

  80. Emily Johnston says:

    I currently love Caroline the most. She is a gorgeous Victorian era steamer trunk I found on Craigslist that I’m refinishing. Did I mention she is gorgeous?
    Close second is a reclining wing chair. Comfy. Lovely & perfectly sized for a corner in my loft.

  81. Jennifer says:

    My half-round table in my entryway is my favorite piece. It has a bit of storage behind a door and in a small drawer, and I change the displays on top and on the side shelves whenever I want a new look. A faux-antiqued 70’s mirror wall is behind it. I can’t figure out how to get rid of the mirror short of calling in a professional, but it’s fun to play with the reflection of whatever sits on top of the table!

  82. Sharon B. says:

    My favourite piece(s) of furniture are two new modern wing chairs that we bought just a few months ago. They are chocolate brown velvet. They are classic and comfortable and will always fit my home. My other favourite piece is a cabinet I got from Value Village for $20, painted white and store display all my favourite china, cake plates and Royal Doultons on, many of which I inherited from my mother and grandmother. It makes me happy every time I look at it.

  83. Lisa says:

    My personal favorite is a scrolly wrought iron baker’s rack with distressed off-white planked shelves. It’s been with me now for over 20 years and I think it’s been used in evey room in my house, at one point or another! Still love it!

  84. heather says:

    My favorite piece of furniture is my antique (1928) dining room table. It’s just a beautiful piece of art that I get to eat on daily. I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

  85. Laura says:

    Antique white tallboy from my Grandmother. It’s technically a child’s piece (my mom, aunt’s and uncle all used it when they were baby’s) but it fits beautifully in my guest room for now (until it’s time for babies).

  86. Jane says:

    My favorite piece of furniture is an antique eastlake marble topped dresser from my great grandfather. I use it as a buffet and to store my china.

  87. Castle Swanson says:

    I have the dining table that was in my parents home when I was young. It’s had new legs put on it, been used as a craft table, garage work table, kitchen table, desk – but it is still gorgeous (solid wood top) and sturdy and I wouldn’t part with it for anything.

  88. Jen says:

    My favorite piece of furniture is a vintage china cabinet that I got from my grandmother. It really adds some charm to our dining room. My grandmother use to love to entertain and have dinner parties so everytime we entertain, memories of my grandmother come back to life. I’ll have it forever.

  89. Amy Dow says:

    My favorite piece of furniture…hands down….is a set of caned chairs that belonged to my husband’s grandmother. When she moved into a nursing home years ago every grandchild was told to go through her condo and take what we wanted. We went last and I expected to find nothing left…but there were these chairs…covered with light blue velvet fabric…and I DIDN’T TAKE THEM…at first. I didn’t think I had a place for them. After thinking about them for a day and talking to my mother (who knocked some sense into me…hello?) I went back and got the chairs. I had them reupholstered years ago and they spend their days in my living room (where I sit and sip coffee while gabbing on the phone). Nowadays, I walk by them and think…”creamy white paint and linen fabric are next for you guys!” I will definitely hand them down to my daughter…someday!

  90. Heidi says:

    Our sofa. It’s just so comfortable and begs to be crashed on!

  91. Jennifer says:

    Probably an antique buffet I purchased at an auction when i was in high school many years ago!

  92. I love my brown daybed from Crate and Barrel. It might not be a fun color, but it is super soft, comfortable and so easy to dress up with pillows!

  93. Cindy says:

    My favorite piece of furniture is my entertainment center. It is extra tall to fit in our great room and made from beautiful wood (and very very heavy). I never get tired of looking at it.

  94. Jenn in Portage says:

    My favorite is a pair of dressers I found for $60, painted (following your sound advice on sanding, primers, and paint) them colors I love, and have in my bedroom. I love the shape of them and the amazing hardware, it makes me happy to look at them every day.

  95. Shirley says:

    Loving my mom’s Chinese deco table in our formal dining room. I’m refinishing the chairs and can’t wait to host an occasion.

  96. Linda says:

    My favorite piece of furniture is an old sideboard that we acquired in England. It is versatile in that it can be used to serve food, houses family portraits, not too large and fits right into any style of furniture.

  97. Laura says:

    My favorite is a sofa we picked up at an estate sale years back — when we got it we paid about $15 for it — but I could see it had amazing lines and just needed some TLC. We recovered it, rebuilt the cushions…etc…it’s now the amazing couch in our living room and I love it because it has a long history and we’re only part of it.

  98. Shirley says:

    Definitely my 6′ Shaker table, which was made for us at Bon Accord Farm in Guelph, Ontario in 1976. I remember the exact date because it was delivered the Friday before March Break and I flew out that night on my much-anticipated first trip to England and Scotland. Started to feel unwell on the plane and had swine flu the entire time I was away. No fun, but way luckier than my husband who was sick at home with our two young children. But I digress …
    This table has moved with us through four homes and has played a vital part in every family celebration over the past 36 years. As expected, it bears the scars of countless craft projects, board and card games, homework sessions, children and grandchildren experimenting with knives and forks, and the odd accident (a gouge where my Mom dropped a heavy pot, cleat marks where I cleaned my husband’s golf shoes — what was I thinking of anyway, cleaning my husband’s golf shoes?). It’s the centre of our happy home and a beloved record of our family history.

  99. Nora Rose says:

    My favorite piece is our sectional!

  100. Caroline says:

    My Ethan Allen armoire I received for my 16th birthday. I chose this over a beater car and am so glad I did because it is a piece that will last a lifetime – the old car would already be long gone. I’ve used it as a wardrobe, entertainment center, to store china and linens, as a game cupboard and craft storage. It has floated all over our home, is solid, versatile and looks beautiful whatever we put inside. I love it!

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