Updating your home with new furniture is one of those wish list items for everyone at some point in their lives. If you’re trying to balance your household budget, keep up with the latest decor trends, and educate yourself on what the options are, it can turn into a headache quickly. It’s supposed to be a positive experience!
It’s a good idea to prepare yourself for your shopping expedition by brushing up on some basics of furniture construction and materials. You’ll know what to look for, what to ask, and keep the wandering around in furniture store down to a pleasant minimum.
Before you ever head out, ask yourself some basic questions:
WHERE will you be using it?
Take a critical look at the rest of the room, and take a quick photo of it, if possible. You’ll want to make sure your new piece works well with the other interior elements.
Measure the area that you will be placing the piece(s) in. When you’re shopping for furniture, remember that you’ll need to allow some extra room in addition to the actual furniture measurements. For example: Allow space for dining room chairs to be pulled out around your table, or to add an end table near your new sofa.
HOW will you use it?
This can be a deal-breaker. Think about what the new piece will be exposed to. You may have a total style crush on that velvet sofa, but if real life situations mean that you’ll be sharing it with your cat and glitter-loving kiddos, it’s going to require lots of vacuuming and upkeep.
WHAT are your Hard “No’s”?
Curate your list of requirements: price, features, colors – and then stick to them. When you’re shopping, have a top dollar amount in mind, and don’t be tempted by no-interest payment options.
Steer clear of a sale price on something that won’t really work in your home. If you’ve already decided on acceptable colors or styles, don’t try to convince yourself that you’ll make it work. More often than not, you’ll end up with an awkward piece that you never get finish redecorating around.
Know your materials
All “wood” furniture is not the same.
If you’ve never spent a lot of time furniture shopping, it’s quite possible you haven’t given a lot of thought to how furniture is made – the closest you’ve gotten is wondering why the coffee table from that big box store can be so much cheaper than the one you’re admiring in a magazine.
Here’s the difference: Cheaper furniture is usually made with thin plywood, particleboard, pressboard or fiberboard. There may be a veneer on the top layer, but the underlying material is what’s important. The best choice is to select furniture made of solid wood.
Try it out first
Think of purchasing furniture as like buying a new car – you’d never just admire the exterior, turn to the salesman, and say “I’ll take it,” now would you? Of course not – you’d test drive it, see how comfortable the seats are, open up the trunk, look under the hood, and see if it’s a good fit for you.
Don’t be afraid to get comfortable on the sofa, sit down in the chairs, and open and close drawers and doors. See if everything works smoothly and slides easily. Make sure that the cushions are supportive, and that nothing creaks or rocks when you sit down. There should be adequate padding on the armrests and backs.
Look for signs of good construction, like dovetail and mortise & tenon joinery, reinforcing corner blocks, and dowels and screws holding the wood together. If you see glue or staples, it’s made cheaply.
Yes, you’re trying to get the best look for your hard-earned dollar, but if you end up with a couch that no-one wants to sit on, or a dresser that has drawers that are always getting stuck, you’ll be looking for a replacement before you know it.
It’s entirely possible to create both a stylish and affordable look in your home. Before you go out into the overwhelming world of furniture showrooms, arm yourself with some forethought and practical knowledge.
Be prepared to bounce on some cushions, open some drawers, and look closely at wood finishes – and don’t forget your measurements, measuring tape, and photos. Remind yourself that you’ve already set your budgeted amount, and then have some fun. New furniture is a big change in any room – enjoy it!
Make sure you check out this budget friendly project – my tutorial on making throw pillows out of placemats!
About the author
Ken has a huge passion for writing and living a comfortable life. He’s a big fan of DIY and figuring out ways to make his home as organized as possible. He is also the enthusiastic content strategist for Vancouver Woodworks, maker of beds, cabinets, and other solid wood furniture.