Take the pain out of the hunt for the perfect piece.
Whether you’re looking for a specific piece, a whole room, or an entire house, buying furniture can seem a bit daunting and a hefty investment. For the unpracticed, knowing where to put the most money and where to cut back might not be obvious. Likewise, quality questions make some homeowners nervous. Perhaps most difficult of all is deciding what goes together and how it will look when you get it home.
Will the kids destroy it, or will the piece hold up well? And if the new sofa withstands the children, can it survive the dog? The good news is that even a novice can create a furniture plan, find the right pieces, and place them correctly. Sometimes a little professional help is needed, and it’s available at more affordable rates than you might imagine. With the facts about furniture, shopping for that perfect new dining room set or armoire can be fun!
The bare necessities
Before hitting the shops, prepare yourself. “You always make a plan,” says Shirley Mitchell, owner of S. Mitchell Interiors Inc. “I always suggest that you start with the minimum amount that you need in a room.” For example, in a bare living room, begin with a sofa, chair, and coffee table. Find the more significant pieces first, the secondary components next, and the accessories last.
Even if the entire plan cannot be implemented at once, the vision will guide furniture selection in the future. Mitchell also warns against impulse buying. Begin with a specific idea of which pieces or rooms will consume more of your money. You might start by looking through magazines and cutting out pictures of particular designs you find appealing.
In the planning stage, consider the function of the room and furniture. “Function is essential in our homes,” Mitchell says. Suppose the piece will be in a high-traffic area and endure much use. In that case, it’s wise to opt for durable, “forgiving” fabrics, says Daria, defoliant, owner of Daria Designs. Heavy weaves and neutral colors with patterns fit well into this category, as does leather—if it becomes stained or scratched. It can look intentionally distressed rather than ruined.
Seek out quality
With a plan and some styles in mind, it’s time to hit the pavement (or the computer, for Internet shoppers). When looking at and choosing pieces, quality is essential. Across the board, the primary factor in determining rate is craftsmanship. “A Material World through fabric’s countless combinations
The owner of Anew Design Inc. K. L. McCall Interiors Ltd. “Look for good quality craftsmanship. The more ‘handmade’ it is, the better.” When considering antiques, the piece’s history can affect, besides, the manufacturer and the craftsmanship. Additional aspects to notice concerning quality include solid construction—meaning all wood and not particle board. And the Dovetail joints inside the drawers, well-fitting and level drawers and doors—no spaces or gaps, high-quality hardware, beautiful finish.
The wood type also is a factor. Pine and oak are readily available and less expensive, while cherry, maple, and mahogany cost more. Some pieces that quickly show the level of craftsmanship are armoires, chests, and other carved items. Examine the detail to determine whether the article was hand-carved. “If it looks too perfect, it’s not hand-carved,” defoliant says. Also, make sure that most of the piece was created as a complete article.
For example, the legs should be carved out of the same wood instead of attached separately. Contemporary furniture follows the same rules as antique and traditional pieces. “One of the fundamental characteristics of modern design is quality craftsmanship,” says Kimberly Leach, studio proprietor at Design Within Reach. “I look for the type of materials used, method of assembly, and finally, and most importantly, attention to detail.”
Even with all the focus on craftsmanship, mass production does not necessarily mean lower quality. “In this day of high-tech tools and precise machines, most furniture is mass-produced to a certain stage of production, as in the cutting of the components,” Price says. “Usually, mass production equals better affordability.
However, value is always added when the assembly and finishing are done by hand.” If you still have trouble determining quality, try asking the salesperson, who should be well versed on the different lines.
Know where to spend
Although translating craftsmanship into an understanding of quality may be possible, most people do not begin searching for furniture with bottomless pockets. To know where and on which pieces to spend the most money can be just as important as realizing when a part is of high quality. For starters, defoliant says, invest money in pieces that will be used for a long time. Dining room sets and armoires are two things that warrant a good investment.
However, sofas and chairs usually have a short life—perhaps five years. The couch can be a place to save a little money and still be able to accomplish the look you want. Even a very well-constructed sofa probably will need to be reupholstered in about five years.
The quality of the Furniture
Another way of thinking is to buy the best quality that you can afford at the time (since the cost of the furniture will probably only continue to rise). “Put extra money into a focal piece and pieces that will incur heavy use to save the expense of replacing them,” Price says. Also, look for bargains on trendy items since these will need to be changed lest they date your design.
Speaking of bargains, what about those mystical trips to places like High Point, N.C., often called the Home Furnishings Capital of the World? According to the High Point Chamber of Commerce, “High Point is the largest wholesale home furnishings show in the world. Buyers and sellers come together from all 50 states and 106 countries around the world.” For someone interested in finding out what is new and searching for good deals, making a “pilgrimage” might be just the thing.
However, keep in mind that hidden costs might outweigh any price advantages found. “If you need to purchase several pieces or a whole houseful of furniture, you could probably save a good deal of money. If you are prepared to pick it up and transport it home yourself,” Price says. In this type of situation, the buyer’s responsibility becomes high. “Two trips are required as very few places sell off the floor unless you purchase samples,” Price says.
Furniture Cost includes Travel expenses.
“To the cost of furniture, you need to add the number of your travel expenses and truck rental or shipping charges. And then determine if you are still saving enough money to make it worth the trip.” Of course, if the trip is intended partly for pleasure—a little furniture vacation—it can be a fun getaway.
Another Mecca of home furnishings right here in Georgia is the Carpets of Dalton campus 80 miles north of Atlanta. In addition to the carpet superstore, the campus includes American Home Showplace, World of Outdoor Living, and Buy the Room for a total of more than 750,000 square feet of home flooring and furnishings.
Even at home in Atlanta, bargains are readily available. Consider shopping retailers in January when they are closing out last year’s inventory, suggests defoliant. Many retailers will host weekend sales at warehouse spaces, and great deals abound.
If, for whatever reason, searching does not yield results and your perfect pieces remain elusive. Custom-made furniture can save the day. It can answer many design issues, including working within an unusual space or catering to specific storage or display needs. Custom-made and designed furniture also will allow you to have a one-of-a-kind piece.
When looking for a unique custom-made piece, it is good to contact a professional interior designer first. Designers have great resources and access to places that sell only to design professionals. A designer will also know how to create a custom piece and handle construction, fabric, and finish. Custom pieces are expensive, and no one wants to make the wrong decision. Even better, many designers can sell these pieces at below-retail pricing.
Designers also can help pull it all together. Leach recommends mixing in a little bit of a modern look with antiques. “I think we express our personalities when we choose furniture for our homes,” she says. “And I think for some of us, that is a mix of the old and the new. I have always said as long as you choose items that you love, they will all work together.”
Get professional help
If doing the mixing on your own seems a little scary, do not hesitate to call in a pro. Some designers will consult for a few hours to help you create an initial plan or even discuss placement and selections in the final stages. A good designer will want to hear what you have to say, and even if you have an idea that does not work, he or she will pull something from that idea to learn about your preferences.
According to Mitchell, a home should be creative and unique, so buying pieces usually wins out over buying a “room.” When combining, the scale is vital. Create a sense of balance. Finally, when outfitting a room, do not “overbook” the area. “You have to leave space in a room for the people and the energy of the people,” Mitchell says.
The waiting game
Once selections have been made, the awaiting process usually begins. Unless you buy off the floor, the furniture will need to be shipped, or in the case of custom orders, made. For an “in stock and ready to ship” company like Design Within Reach, the items are ready to go in just three to five business days. Retail stores can also have quick delivery waits, depending on what is in stock; a delay of four to six weeks is not unusual for ordered furniture.
Custom-made orders take much longer, naturally. It would include a furniture store purchase of a standard design sofa for which you chose the fabric and custom-designed and created pieces. Await of 12 weeks would not be at all unusual in such a situation.
Finally, have fun
However, filling a house can seem overwhelming with the multitude of options available today, from Internet shopping to antiquing and visiting retail stores. Homeowners have many ways to be sure they are making the right decisions about Decorating Small Places. If necessary, professional designers are available for everything from consultation to makeovers to full-service interior design. Remember, your home should be comfortable and reflect your style, and the furniture-buying experience should be fun!