It seems that different people are reacting in different ways to the state of the economy today. Those who may have considered moving a few years ago have now decided to stay in their current homes and are investing money making those much talked about upgrades like remodeling a kitchen or redecorating the family room. Others are taking advantage of the buyer’s market and incentives for first time homebuyers and, therefore, have new or larger homes to furnish. And then there are those who have grown tired of losing money in the stock market and have pulled that money out to spend and enjoy. Some of those consumers are using that money to also remodel and redecorate. Whatever the reason, there are many consumers in the market for home furnishings lately. So whether you choose to use a designer, shop by catalog or spend your weekends visiting store after store, the question remains:
What should you look for to ensure you get quality furniture for your money?
The following are a few guidelines to use when shopping for new furniture:
Materials: Whether you are in the market for case goods (dining tables, entertainment centers, dressers, cocktail tables, etc.) or upholstered pieces (sofas, loveseats, or occasional chairs), the wood that is the foundation of the piece should be solid hardwood. The hardwoods that are most often used for fine furniture frames are ash, gum and yellow poplar because of their strength, stability and shock absorption qualities. Laminate hardwoods are also good for frames as they prevent warping. Woods for exterior surfaces, like cabinets for example, should be those that can be carved, finished and polished such as birch, pecan, cherry, maple, mahogany, walnut and oak. To ensure that your furniture will not show signs of splitting over time, the preparation of the wood is very important. Because wood contains quite a bit of moisture, it should be air dried for approximately three to six months, depending on its thickness. Next it should be kiln dried for two to eight weeks which assures the stability of the finished furniture.
Construction: Floating joint systems are used in the construction of most fine furniture because they allow the wood to expand and contract as it reacts to heat and humidity. Look for joints that are glued and nailed. Mortise and tenon construction is used on both case goods and for the frames of upholstered pieces. Dovetail construction is most often referred to when talking about drawer construction. When looking for upholstered pieces, ask about the seat structure. 8 way hand tied construction is the best. In this process, tempered steel coil springs are hand tied at 8 points for comfort and proper seat support. Steel bands under each row of springs guarantee lasting comfort. Sinuous spring construction is also acceptable. S shaped springs are tied together with steel wire to ensure a consistent seating platform. With either construction, look for pieces that have solid hardwood legs which can be hand finished in the color or stain of your choice.
Cushions and Upholstery: Ask about the different levels of cushions on your upholstered furniture. Top quality furniture manufacturers offer different levels or upgrades for cushions. The one you choose depends upon the look and feel you are interested in. For example, the standard cushion offered by most fine furniture companies utilizes a 1.8 density foam core enclosed in cotton ticking that has some combination of either down, feather or fiber mix blown into sewn channels. Upgrades are usually to cushions that have either greater firmness and support or a greater amount of feathers and down for the feel of sinking into your chair or sofa. If you are in the market for an upholstered piece, it is best to choose a vendor who offers custom upholstery. This means they will offer a wide variety of fabrics for you to choose from in order to customize the look of your piece without having to deal with an outside upholsterer. Custom pieces are usually more expensive than those that are offered in a few standard, stock colors, but when investing in a piece of furniture that will be in your home for years to come, it is usually worth the extra expenditure.