An interior design specialist shares professional secrets on how to buy furniture correctly.
Budget and duration of use of furniture
Step zero in choosing furniture is to realize how important it is and/or how long you plan to use it. It sounds trivial, but this stage has an important task – to simplify your choice psychologically and prevent a future conflict of interest.
For example, if the beauty of the things around you is important to you, the expected period of use does not matter. When buying a temporary, pass-through item, you convince yourself that you could save money, you spend time and effort choosing an economical option, and then you still buy more expensive – what you really want. Realizing this peculiarity of yours “on the shore”, you can save – just not money, but time, immediately choosing with your heart. Or quickly decide to postpone the purchase, realizing that now there is not enough money for what you like.
The other extreme – complete indifference to the appearance of one’s own situation – makes no sense to consider, since in this case there is no problem of choice.
But in an intermediate situation, when appearance is important and money is a pity, introducing rational criteria will help. For example, consider temporary furniture to have a useful life of less than two years. For such furniture, it is important to go to ebay, a cheap furniture store, or even a construction store: the “do it yourself” format allows you to get neutral-looking furniture, the required functionality, and for minimal money.
Functionality and dimensions
The most understandable stage is determining the technical parameters. For example, a sofa. Model: straight, angular, semicircular? Dimensions? Sleeping place: is it necessary, for guests or for daily sleep? Which mechanism is suitable: is there room for folding forward or just book-folding? Do you need drawers or a storage box? Do you need anti-vandal upholstery (water-repellent fabrics, “anti-claw”)? The result is a ready-made list of search criteria for going to the store, both online and offline. All that’s left to do is decide what this set of functions should look like.
Design and appearance
The most important part of an interior designer’s job is to answer the question “What should the furniture look like?” If you hire a specialist, as a result, you receive an exact shopping list with part numbers of specific manufacturers or specific parameters (design, dimensions, material, color, decor) for ordering. But what to do if there is no specialist and you have to choose on your own? You need to find out what you like.
The easiest way is to view pictures on the Internet. A convenient resource for such work is Pinterest. Here is an approximate search algorithm using a sofa as an example.
- Primary search. Start searching for the word “sofa”, and save all the cute pictures to the “Sofas” board created for this occasion.
- Search for similar images. Under each picture you like, the system will offer many similar pictures, and this similarity can be based on different characteristics. For example, you liked the photo of a blue-flowered sofa with wooden legs. In similar pictures, you will find many blue sofas, floral sofas, structures with wooden legs, and even completely wooden ones. Choose what you like among them, and then look at similar images again. The cycle can be repeated 3-5 times – it’s a fun process and the results may surprise you.
- Preference analysis. When there are 20-30 pictures on the “Sofas” board, look at it carefully and find what the sofas you have chosen have in common. The purpose of the analysis is to clearly formulate why you like exactly what you chose. For example, in the mentioned sofa you like the blue color, wooden details, floral print of the upholstery, curved lines of the armrests, or a combination of these qualities. So, in addition to purely technical characteristics, you will have approximate criteria for choosing a sofa in a store.
This is another effective method. The best way to assess not only the degree of comfort (in the case of a sofa, is it elastic and soft enough), but also its compatibility with the decor is to visit furniture showrooms, where furniture is displayed not as individual items, but as entire interiors and rooms. A well-known example is IKEA. You don’t have to buy furniture there, but it’s very useful to come and try to “live” in different rooms, even if only for five minutes, to understand what colors and textures you feel comfortable with. It may turn out that you came with a dream of a white glossy interior, but you would be more comfortable in a matte gray with bright accents. It is impossible to find out this online – only by being personally present in a real room.
In addition to showrooms, there are also furniture exhibitions. Exhibition stands are also often designed as a room with a ready-made interior. You can “try it on” for yourself, touch the furniture, and smell it. And this is not a joke: furniture made of quality materials should not have an unpleasant odor.
Live inspection of furniture is also necessary to assess its quality. Depending on the type of furniture, this concept includes very different parameters, but there is also a basic list of what to look for when looking at furniture.
General accuracy of execution
For cabinet furniture – minimal gaps, absence of different-sized cracks and distortions, neatly screwed handles, uniform support (adjustable or simply level legs standing firmly on the floor), absence of dents, chips, scratches, continuous fit of chipboard edges.
For upholstered furniture – straight seams, no distortions or unnecessary folds, uniform color of the upholstery without faded spots, no defects on the fabric.
For metal products – minimal even gaps in joints, neat, carefully processed welds, and an even paint layer without chips, bubbles, or unpainting.
This is the first thing you need to pay attention to, and the last thing you can save on. There are generally recognized German brands that set the bar for quality, but less famous fittings can also be assessed visually: ease of movement, smooth opening, and closing, fixation in extreme positions, noiselessness (the creaking of an exhibition sample should alert you), good appearance (it would seem that look, but the high-quality fittings are well made and look beautiful and neat).
Materials and Technologies
Depending on the material of manufacture, various types of joints are used in furniture. Solid wood furniture should not have visible metal connecting elements. Technological connections of wooden furniture should also be made of wood. Such furniture is lighter, and more beautiful, but more expensive and comes already assembled.
If you buy inexpensive wooden furniture for self-assembly, it is impossible to comply with the rule of wooden joints: metal fasteners are usually included in the kit. This is due to the fact that it is difficult to make wooden joints yourself without being a carpenter – assembling furniture with self-tapping screws is much easier.
But furniture made of chipboard and MDF, on the contrary, must be assembled with metal fasteners.
For upholstered furniture, you should pay attention to the presence of removable covers – such furniture is much easier to clean.
Budget allocation strategy
Home furniture can be divided into basic and additional. Each category has its own saving strategy, which ultimately allows you to get an interesting, “expensive” interior.
Base – kitchen, cabinet furniture for storage (cabinets, dressing rooms, chests of drawers), furniture for relaxation ( bed and/or sofa).
Additional (accent) furniture – armchairs, poufs, chairs, tables, racks and shelves.
It is better to look for basic furniture from a large manufacturer with well-established production and service. You can save on material, but not on fittings. You should focus on the average price on the market, which is calculated by comparing offers from different suppliers. To get an idea, 5-6 options from major players are enough. Take the time to compare: the process reveals not only the most favorable price but also the quality of communication with you as a client. The more adequate the service is before making a purchase, the higher the likelihood that it will remain decent after. Although, of course, there are no guarantees.
But accent furniture does not have to be average in price – it can be quite cheap, desperately expensive, or both. Don’t be afraid to mix different price categories in one room – this will make the interior fresh and uncluttered.
To evaluate simple objects (like coffee tables) made from natural materials in small batches or to order, in addition to your own feelings of “expensive – cheap,” you can focus on the cost of the material.
This is a valuable source of information. Reviews can be paid, both positive and negative. However, they are great to work with. Here’s my way of analyzing reviews.
You can rely on positive reviews on services like the Masters Fair or Etsy (the same fair, but on an international scale). It is impossible to leave a review there until you place an order and the master fulfills it. And since private craftsmen and small workshops are mainly represented there, they take personal responsibility for the quality of the product and value their reputation.
As for reviews of large companies on various services I recommend, you just need to look not at the reviews themselves (there are few positive ones because it’s not interesting to write about good things), but at the content of negative reviews and that how the company works with them. If a negative review contains only emotions and assessments without facts, or it revolves entirely around an inconspicuous scratch on the back wall of the cabinet, its value is questionable. If a company even responds to such a review in a timely manner, gets in touch, and offers to look into it thoughtfully – 10 points in its favor. If the company does not respond to reviews at all or snaps back in an unconstructive manner, you should not get involved. The absence of negative reviews also leads to suspicion, because with large volumes of production, defects are inevitable. What is important is not the absence of defects, but the ability to work with dissatisfied clients and get out of the situation with dignity.
Good luck with your shopping and cozy interiors!
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