The Ultimate Furniture Buying Guide: What to Know Before You Buy

June 25, 2021

Whether you need to furnish a single room or your entire home, furniture can be an expensive investment. If you don’t know what to look for when shopping for new furniture, you could end up paying too much for items that won’t last — or that won’t enhance your life and home. There are certain things to look for when you shop for new furniture, from trendy furnishings for the modern home to practical items like a new office chair. Here’s how to find the best furniture for your needs, your lifestyle, and your budget.

Set a budget

Before you head to the furniture store, it’s important to set a budget so that you don’t end up spending too much. Here are a few budgeting and buying tips to help you protect your hard-earned cash.

Figure out how much you can spend. Set a limit on how much money you’d like to spend on each piece of furniture. Use this amount as a guide to help you find the best prices and to ensure that you don’t end up overspending. You can start by setting a budget for an entire room or pick a price limit for each piece if you’re planning to buy as you go.

Prioritize which items to buy. Think about the things you need most and start there. For example, if you desperately need a new couch for the living room, but chairs can wait, look for the couch first. Make a list of the furniture you need, and order it from the most pressing needs first to the pieces that are more “wants” than needs.

Buy at the right time. If you need new indoor furniture, shop during the end of winter and toward the beginning of summer to get the best deals. For outdoor furniture, it’s best to do your shopping near holidays like the 4th of July or Labor Day. Most stores are looking to get rid of their outdoor stock by the end of August.

Find the best deals. Check sales in your area by reading the local circulars or checking the store’s social media or website to determine when the newest sales will occur. You can also buy furniture online, where many websites offer free furniture delivery and discount codes.

How to choose the right style and design

Furniture comes in an endless variety of styles, material options, and designs. Consider these tips to help you find the ultimate style for you.

Follow the trends. If you want to keep up with the trends, read a few interior design blogs and magazines for inspiration. Some popular trends in furniture styles right now include a farmhouse, shabby chic, and mid-century modern.

Pick furniture that matches your personality. If you have a cheery disposition, try a couch or futon with bright yellow upholstery. People with more serious personalities might enjoy items like a dark walnut computer desk or coffee table a bit more. Go as classic, vintage, or funky as you like.

Browse different styles. Explore the different types of furniture styles to decide which one best suits you and your home best. Maybe you prefer a classic, tailored look over the sleek and unique contemporary and modern furniture designs. Think about what type of style will complement your home and make you the happiest. 

Decide what finishes you like. Furniture comes in a ton of finishes, including shiny, weathered, distressed, or matte. Visit a few furniture stores so you can see and touch the finishes. This will give you a better idea of what finishes you like best. 

Design a layout before you shop. Measure the room’s total size where your new furniture will go, then draw everything on paper, so you have a better idea of where you want to place everything. Account for space to walk between furniture and leave enough area so you can easily walk in and out of the room without bumping into things. You may need to place furniture against the wall if the room is small. If the room is larger, it’s fine to leave a gap or even arrange everything in the center of the room.

How to select furniture for each room

Here are some tips to help you select furniture for various areas of the home.

Outdoor furniture. Buy durable items that are designed for the outdoors and that are rated as weather resistant. Store your outdoor furniture in a garage or shed during the off-season to protect it.

Living room. Pick furniture in coordinating colors for the living room, and choose upholstery that fits your lifestyle. If the kids and pets are always piled on the couch, pick a durable fabric or leather. If you often eat in the living room, choose a large, sturdy coffee table that’s easy to clean. If you’re single and minimalist, choose a sleek glass and metal coffee table. Use rugs to designate separate spaces in the living room visually.

Bedroom. The bed is the centerpiece of any bedroom, so make sure it’s comfortable and big enough for your needs. A simple nightstand adds storage and a place to keep your phone, a bottle of water, and the books you’re reading. Choose dressers and chests that are big enough for your wardrobe.

Kitchen. If you have an island, pair it with some comfortable counter stools or bar stools for a fun breakfast area. Bar carts make excellent kitchen furniture to give you additional storage for glassware and alcohol. If you have an eat-in kitchen, you’ll want a dining table, but make sure you get one that’s not too big for the eating area.

Basement. Decide how you want to use your basement to determine what type of furniture to buy. If you’re making it a home office, you’ll need a durable desk and comfortable chair. If it is a family room, get a sofa and a durable coffee table and side tables.

Multifunctional furniture. Anything that blends style and storage in one is a bonus. Ottomans, benches, and tables with drawers or a lid are excellent storage options that will also give you a place to sit and add style to any room.

Furniture storage. If you need to store your household goods at any point, always clean and wrap your furniture before putting it away for the long-term. Take items apart if you can to save storage space.

Furniture buying tips

When you head out to browse the selections at your local furniture store, be prepared with questions and a checklist.

Quick quality checklist. Before you buy anything new, make sure it’s made of high-quality materials. Solid hardwoods are much better than plywood or veneers. Couches should be comfortable yet firm. Look at the construction of drawers, and check to see if they open and close smoothly. Write out a quality checklist you can use to confirm that each item meets your standards.

Pet-friendly furniture. Keeping the house impeccable gets complicated when pets also live in it. But there are fabrics and furnishings that better resist its impact. The important thing is to look at the fabrics, materials, and color palette. Choosing materials well and seeking a balance between aesthetics and practicality are the keys to a happy coexistence.

Furniture buying for the children. There is a whole universe of design, furniture, and accessories created especially for the little ones’ comfort. It is essential to choose quality furniture that does not shake with movement. Be aware that children climb onto beds and sometimes climb onto furniture. Security in this regard is essential. Babies and toddlers have unique and very different needs than adolescents. It is essential to incorporate furniture with soft surfaces and rounded ends. If you choose a neutral designer bed, desk, and chairs, they can last into your children’s teens.

Limited mobility furniture. Our capacities and our needs vary depending on different factors such as age or functional limitations. Adapting furniture to the characteristics of each person may improve their independence and quality of life. Besides promoting their safety, it enhances the ability to perform daily living activities, reduces barriers to mobility, and compensates for the loss of physical, mental, and sensory abilities.

Return policy. Don’t overlook the store’s return policy. Often, clearance items are final sale, which means once you buy them, you’re stuck with it. Read the fine print carefully, and make sure that you’re able to return items for a refund if you end up unhappy with them. A common mistake people make is buying something on final sale or missing the window to return it.

Online vs. in-store furniture buying

Buying furniture online might give you more choices and lower prices, but you can’t sit on it or feel it for yourself until it arrives. Here are some things to know about buying online versus in-store.

Differences between online vs. in-store.  Most physical furniture stores offer furniture assembly, but many charge a separate delivery fee. You’ll also have access to live salespeople, which can either make the shopping experience a little intimidating or much more comfortable, depending on your preferences. Going into a furniture store allows you the chance to see and feel the furniture you like physically, but many brick-and-mortar stores carry smaller inventory, older styles, and tend to have higher prices.

When shopping online, you can browse through thousands of products from the comfort of your own home and get what you want with the click of a button. Buying online is an easy way to get trendy furniture at a great price. You can also find unique pieces this way. However, returning furniture you bought online can be a pain, and some websites don’t offer free returns once you purchase something.

Make your furniture last

When you take good care of your furniture, it will take good care of you. Here’s how to keep your furniture in excellent condition:

Clean it properly. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when cleaning your furniture. Pay close attention to leather and wood furniture, which need a bit of extra TLC. Wipe up spills immediately by blotting them with a soft cloth or paper towel. Never use abrasive cleaners on finished furniture, and dust it often to keep it clean.

Clean according to the finish. A glass table needs different care than one made of wood. Clean each piece of furniture according to the finish and material to avoid damage. Knowing how to clean furniture according to the finish will keep it looking newer, longer. A good rule of thumb is that most dust, dirt, and spills can be cleaned with a soft microfiber cloth, which removes dirt and germs and won’t scratch the finish.

 

How to sell your old furniture

If you’re ready for a change, and your old furniture is in good shape, you can sell it to make room for new pieces for your home.

How to sell it. Place an ad online, or host a yard sale if you need to sell some of your old furniture. You can also ask family and friends if they’re looking for anything specific for a quick, easy sale.

Talk it up. Write an excellent, detailed description and take clear, well-lit photos when selling furniture online. Be honest about the furniture condition, and don’t forget to mention it if the price is negotiable.

Start the price higher than what you want. Look up similar furniture pieces to see how much others are asking for them or how much they’ve sold for. Start your price a bit higher, and let people know you’re willing to bargain or negotiate down to a lower price if you need to get rid of it quickly.

Brush up on the art of negotiation. Remember that most people buying used furniture are looking for a deal. Be willing to go down on your price, and you’ll probably sell the furniture a lot faster than if you don’t budge.

Whether you buy online, in a store, or purchase your furniture new or used, it’s essential to make sure that you choose pieces you will admire and love for years to come. Always check the measurements, and plan your room layout before you commit to any new furniture. With a few simple tips and some savvy shopping, you’ll find plenty of beautiful furniture items that you’ll enjoy in your home for a long time.

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