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Furniture Buying

Consider several factors before you shop for furniture. No matter what style you choose or what you end up paying, be sure the furniture is something you’ll like living with for years to come.

Before you buy

There are several ways to buy furniture, whether it be from a showroom, online, secondhand or custom made. And no matter what you're buying, be it a new sofa, table or bed, before you step into a furniture store and decide to bring anything home, conside these factors:

Measure your space

One of the most common interior decorating mistakes is not taking proper measurements before making a purchase. Oftentimes, consumers think they can "eyeball" a piece of furniture in the store and know whether or not it will fit perfectly in their home — which could be a very costly mistake. If the furniture doesn't fit, you'll most likely have to pay a restocking fee — that is, if the store accepts returns at all. Then, you may have to pay an additional delivery fee to get the correct sized furniture to your home. It's much easier to save yourself the headache and take the exact measurements with you while you shop. Don't forget to measure your front door or stairwell as well in order to make certain the furniture will be able to get to where it needs to go.

Material and fabric

First, consider what materials or fabrics you like. If you're buying a sofa, for example, would you consider microfiber? Do you love the look of leather or the texture of cotton? If looking for a bedroom set or dining table, do you prefer wood or another material, such as metal? And if you like wood, consider the many species and colors from which to choose. Maybe you like the traditional look of maple or oak or the more modern look of metal and glass.

Lifestyle needs

When choosing furniture, consider your lifestyle. Do you have children or pets? If so, you'll probably want something durable and easily cleaned. This may limit you to certain fabrics or styles, but will ensure a longer life for your furniture. You might also consider purchasing a warranty for your furniture, but be sure to read the contract thoroughly. Consumers should be aware of several key points when it comes to a warranty, including: Does it cover everyday wear and tear or accidental damage such as a water ring on wood or spilled wine on a couch? Will the consumer be responsible for in-home inspection fees or transporting the product back to the store? Are refunds available? What actions would void the warranty (such as improper cleaning or non-residential use)?

Design and theme

Make sure the new piece fits into your home's current look. Whether you prefer traditional, modern or eclectic design, you'll want the piece to flow well with the rest of your home.

Save money

When buying furniture, keep an eye out for clearance sales and holiday sales, which can be a good time to get the best furniture deal. During sales, stores often try to sell things in packages. For example, if you're buying a sofa and love seat, you may be able to get end tables at a good price. Or, if you're buying a bedroom set, the store may include a mattress at no extra charge. In some instances, you may be able to get a better deal by showing the sales associate that you can get the same item at a lower price at a competitor's store. Especially when it comes to buying a mattress — most sales associates are willing to strike a deal or throw in something extra, like free delivery or a mattress pad.

Another option to saving money when buying furniture is to inquire about purchasing a floor model or browse through the "scratch-n-dent" items. If they're a little less than perfect in looks, but still perfectly usable, stores may be willing to sell them at a discounted rate. Also, don't be afraid to negotiate. The sales associate is there to help you, and you never know what type of discount you may receive unless you ask.

If you've inherited a piece of furniture, you may consider reupholstering it in order to suit your taste. And while it might sound like an economical option, reupholstering can be expensive depending on the size and condition of the item.

In addition to price, the overall value of a piece of furniture is also an important. Make sure you really like the piece so that you're still happy with the purchase long after you've forgotten its original price.

Assembly and price vs. quality

Some furniture needs to be assembled. If you buy a piece online (or from IKEA), you'll most certainly have to assemble it yourself. Which, in some instances, can take quite a bit of patience. If you're short on time, tools, or patience, you can hire help to get the job done. Options include the store's staff, as well as a handyman or furniture assembly service. But before you hire any help, make sure you know if the item happens to be damaged during assembly, is it covered?

Consider also the quality of the furniture, as items that require assembly aren't the most solid option. If your goal is a piece of high quality furniture, consider the following:

Wood furniture comes in three makes: solid, veneer, and plywood/particleboard. Solid wood is what you want; it may cost a bit more but, as the name suggest, it's 100 percent solid wood. Veneer is a core of plywood coated in higher quality wood, while plywood is compressed sawdust and wood bits.

If you’re looking for upholstered furniture, check the quality of the springs in the base, the substance of the stuffing, and the structure of the support system. If you can, look for sofas with a fifth leg in the center to offer more support.

If the furniture squeaks or makes noise, it’s not very good quality and should be avoided.

Furniture made with screws and dowels are the best; if it's primarily assembled with nails and glue, avoid it.

Price doesn’t always dictate the quality of an item, so make sure to check it out thoroughly before buying.

Care tips

Once your furniture is part of your home, you'll want to make it last. There are different sets of guidelines for differenty types and materials, so it's best to double-check with the manufacturer regarding proper cleaning methods. Even if you don't have children or pets, consider making a few investments to prolong the life of your furniture:

A washable sofa cover can keep fabric looking like new.

Consider a fabric protector, which is applied at the factory before delivery. It makes cleaning up spills on fabric much easier.

A glass top can protect a wood table from scratches and water marks.

Braces and anchors will help secure heavy or tall pieces from possible tipping.

Custom made furniture

Custom furniture is made to a person's specifications by special request. It's something that you can design or you can choose a style and decide on the details, such as which materials or fabrics to use. It's an opportunity to create an one-of-a-kind piece of furniture that fits your taste and home perfectly. Custom furniture isn't necessarily more expensive than ready-made pieces from a chain store, but it does take time to produce. If you need a piece of furniture immediately, you're most likely going to have to buy a ready-made piece.

The first step to obtaining a piece of custom furniture is to find a furniture maker. Whether it's building shelving, a dining set or custom couch, check Angie's List for a custom furniture maker in your area. Next, you'll have to decide on the basics - what type of furniture do you want? A comfy oversized chair with matching ottoman? A mahogany china cabinet? Do you like items with clean, straight lines or do you prefer curves and soft edges? Narrow your focus as much as you can, and discuss the details with the custom furniture builder. He or she should be able to take you through the process of planning the perfect piece of furniture.