What do I need to keep in mind when buying new furniture?
Think about how much space is available. Take measurements and make a rough sketch. Make a list of the pieces you need. Prioritize what is more important to you: style, comfort, or functionality. Look at pictures of styles you like. Prepare a budget range that you are comfortable with.
How do I choose a decorating theme?
Make a list of favorite colors, patterns, or fabrics. Do you need child-friendly pieces? Do you need pet-friendly pieces? Have fun! Buying new furniture is one of the nicer things in life.
What if I like to redecorate often?
Choose furniture that is more flexible, like pieces with neutral colors that will blend with new decorating schemes later. Have fun and choose trendy pieces. Plan to spend a little less for less durable pieces.
What if I want my furniture decor to stay the same for years to come?
Choose less trendy pieces. Plan to spend a little more to get more durable pieces.
How long should my new furniture last?
It depends on your lifestyle. If you choose a light-colored sofa and your two-year-old spills cranberry juice on it, you may have a problem. The upkeep will be exhausting and repeated accidents will take its toll on the life of the sofa. Even with normal wear and tear, fabrics that are occasionally professionally steam-cleaned will last longer. Pay attention to the recommendations of the manufacturer, throw in an occasional professional steam cleaning, and your furniture should be good to go for years to come.
Do I have to give up style for functionality?
No. There are so many choices today that you really do not have to give up anything. Simply tell your sales representative what is critical, and what you like. He or she will guide you to something just right for you.
What should I look for when I'm in the store?
Jackie Hirschhaut, spokeswoman for the American Home Furnishings Alliance, recommends you shop for furniture the way you shop for a car. Here are her tips:
- Kick the Tires - Not literally, of course. But do put likely pieces through your version of a quality test. Lift one corner of a sofa to see if the frame feels sturdy. Press gently outward on the arms to make sure there is no give. Ask what materials are used and how joints and stress points - such as arms - are reinforced. Frames made of link-dried hardwood and hardwood plywood hold pegs, screws, staples, and nails more firmly in place than do softwood plywood and strand board. If the sales associate cannot answer your questions, find another associate - or a store with a better-informed staff.
Look Under the Hood - Some stores have handy cutaways to show how upholstered pieces are assembled. But you probably will have to rely on the know-how of a well-trained sales associate to explain the hidden benefits of a piece. A variety of construction techniques offer comfort and durability but, in general, the number of springs in a foundation and the way they are reinforced determines the cost and quality level.
Take a Test Drive - Don't buy a sofa, chair, or recliner without sitting, slouching, or reclining in it - for at least a few minutes. Put your feet up. Put your head back. Settle into the piece the way you would at home. Furniture cushions may be constructed using springs, cotton, or polyester fiber or down, but most are made from some type of polyurethane foam. Generally, the higher the density the foam, the more durable (and expensive) the cushion. But the only way to tell if the piece is going to feel comfortable to you is to sit on it yourself.
Think Safety - Make sure the piece carries a gold UFAC tag, which indicates it was manufactured according to fire-safety standards developed by the Upholstered Furniture Action Council. Those standards reduce the likelihood of the furniture catching fire from a smoldering cigarette, which is the leading cause of upholstery fires in the home.