Last fall you fell in love. Now, just three short seasons later, your beloved has let you down. Time has revealed that your love affair—not to mention the object of your affection—wasn’t nearly as timeless or as durable as you thought.
How did this happen, you wonder. How could you have so badly misjudged the quality and style of the dining room set you bought just one year ago?
For most people, furniture-buying decisions are either based on emotion—‘falling in love’ with a piece—or on the lowest price. Neither way is likely to lead to a happy, satisfying long-term relationship with your furniture. This is especially true of upholstered furniture, where poor construction and quality can be hidden beneath layers of fabric and padding.
Successful furniture shopping requires a careful balance between emotion and intellect. If you’re planning to update your décor with some new furniture this fall, here are two important areas to examine when assessing furniture. If the piece measures up to these standards, chances are you’ll still be able to love it next year and for years to come.
If you’re shopping in a showroom, be sure to ask the sales person about the frame under the upholstery. If you’re shopping online, be sure it’s with a company that can answer this basic question—what is the frame made of? Hardwood frames like oak, maple and poplar provide a strong, solid foundation for the furniture. Avoid soft woods like pine or plywood. Wood should be kiln-dried hardwood, which imparts strength and durability.
Of course, the strongest wood in the world is no good if it’s cut too thin.
If you’re buying from a larger furniture store, you’ll likely have several fabric selections to choose from. These manufacturers are able to buy their fabric in volume, keeping their costs down. If you go with a smaller company you may find yourself with more choices—or even the ability to supply your own fabric. If you’re having furniture made for you, the manufacturer should be willing to send you sample swatches of the fabric you choose.
When choosing a fabric type for your upholstered furniture, keep in mind that durability is a key consideration. Some materials commonly used include:
- Cotton—A natural fiber, cotton resists wear, fading and piling, but is less resistant to soiling. Blending cotton with other fabrics can address soiling issues.
- Acrylic—Originally developed as imitation wool, this synthetic fabric resists wear, wrinkling, soiling and fading.
- Nylon—One of the most resilient fabrics, nylon is rarely used alone. Most often, it is blended with other fibers, making it one of the strongest upholstery fabrics. It’s highly resistant to soiling and fading.
- Olefin—Often used in blends with other fibers, olefin is a perfect choice for furniture that will get heavy use and wear.
- Polyester—Most often blended with other fibers, polyester resists wrinkles.
- Rayon—Developed as a silk alternative, this synthetic is more durable than silk but does wrinkle.
If you’re furniture shopping in a showroom, carefully inspect the upholstery and repeat your inspection when the furniture is delivered to your home. Look for fabric that is clean, free of rips, tears, or stains. Also, if the fabric is patterned, be sure the patterns line up at fabric seams.
Scale and Style
Durability of a piece of furniture is not the only thing that will impact the way you feel about it. It is also important to make sure that the piece works in the space that you have intended it. If you are shopping for living room furniture for a small formal living room you may want to consider purchasing more delicate pieces than if you were shopping for a large den that opens into the kitchen. Be sure to keep scale and style in mind when you go furniture shopping.
Another key design element to keep in mind is the pattern of the fabric on the furniture. When designing a room from scratch, upholstery patterns are wide open as long as pieces compliment one another. If you are looking to purchase one piece of furniture for an already decorated room, fabric patterns need to be considered.
If you are adding furniture to an already decorated room, first look at the patterns on your existing furniture and for an overarching theme to your room. You may not want an ultra modern print fabric for dining room chairs if the room is already outfitted with Queen Anne furniture. Along the same lines, large print patterns can compete with one another. So, if you already have a piece with a large pattern consider getting a new piece with smaller patterns or even skip the patterns altogether and get a solid colored piece.
By following these simple rules when making furniture selections you should be able to find pieces you will love this season and for years to come.