The rules of shopping well

Men laying new hardwood flooring

In an ideal world, buying furniture would be best described as an easy task. Your home would be a blank canvas and your pocketbook would be without limit. But in reality, that’s just not the case. Here are expert tips to help you in your furniture-buying quest.

How to … decide what you need

Save some time, money and frustration by drawing up a game plan. Take inventory of what you will keep, and rid rooms of furniture that isn’t used often enough to merit the occasional dusting. Sell spare furniture in the classifieds, give it to a young family member decorating her first apartment or donate it to a non-profit organization.

How to … measure your space

Employ an old-fashioned tape measure to find the distance from wall to wall. Or, splurge and purchase a new laser tape measure and let it do the work for you. When all the measurements are collected (don’t forget to measure from baseboards and include windowsills), create a to-scale layout of the room where 1 foot of a room equals a 1/4 inch on paper.

How to … mix and match pieces and styles

When it comes to mixing furniture, the key is to blend all elements of a room together. For example, try using an accent color throughout the room or one kind of wood to help weave a common thread. While you might not want to mix styles that were designed to be worlds apart (like Victorian and Arts and Crafts), you can incorporate each of those with other genres.

How to … mix and match patterns and colors

If you have a very large-scale print, either mix it with something that is equal in proportion or go with something that is much smaller in proportion. An itty-bitty polka dot, for example, shouldn’t be put with a tiny stripe. Pair that small polka dot with a big stripe. When it comes to two shades of the same color, you either want them to have a greater divergence or to match perfectly.


new look without the cost

New furniture isn’t always necessary (or cost-effective). Reworking older furniture is a great way to get what you’re looking for without spending big bucks. Here are a few ways:
➤    Reupholstering: If you’ve found the perfect sofa or armchair but don’t really like its plaid fabric, seek out a professional upholsterer and change up the fabric.
➤    Slipcovering: A fast and affordable way to alter the look of a seat is a slipcover. Try Sure Fit covers, which cost less than $100;
➤    Painting or refinishing: As long as the furniture isn’t an antique (100 years or older), painting or refinishing is a simple way to freshen up a beaten surface.
➤    Adding new hardware: Rolled brass handles may date your chest of drawers, but an effortless change of hardware can completely update it. Handle and hinge options are plentiful at local hardware stores and national home centers.

how well is it built?

The first thing you should do when looking at furniture is ask to see the underside. Solid construction is vital to good quality in furniture. If it doesn’t look like it could withstand a few years of use, it probably won’t. If the sofa needs to last at least 15 years, spend a little more money to make sure it suits your long-term needs.

budget buys

Focus on furnishing the main areas of your house, such as the dining room or the master bedroom, with quality furniture. When those are furnished, budget-buy the rest.

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