Buying Furniture for your Home

by Nikki Willhite

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Buying furniture can take a big bite out of your wallet. Even with careful thought and wise shopping, it is a major expensive.

Sometimes it is worth paying a little more money to get a piece that will last for years, rather than a very inexpensive item that will fall apart or become hopelessly outdated in a short time.

On the other hand, some people pay outrageous sums of money for their furniture. Most of us neither want to do that, nor have the financial means to do so.

There are some basic rules you can follow to keep the cost of buying furniture down, while selecting items that will serve you best for years to come. There are also factors to take into consideration so that your furniture stays in good condition and is both practical and comfortable.

Here are some guidelines:

  • Remember the design element of scale. Some sofas are oversized, and others are small and seem to hug the ground. IKEA is a discount store that sells a lot of very low furniture. If you have a big room, you will want larger pieces. Smaller sized furniture looks better in small rooms and apartments.IKEA manufactures their furniture in Scandinavia, where dwellings are typically smaller than in the United States. One notable benefit of their furniture is that it is fire resistant, which is not the case with most furniture.
  • Another thing to consider when buying sofas is the height of your family members. You will not be comfortable sitting in a sofa when your feet do not reach the ground. On the other hand, if your knees are in your face, the sofa is too small for you. This is why couples should always shop together for furniture.
  • Buy the best quality furniture that you can afford, preferably used. You can find bargains in the chipped and dented section of many furniture stores, as well as in the classifieds. If you have children, your furniture is not going to remain pristine anyway, and a few scratches are nothing to get concerned about if the quality is good.
  • Try and select classic styles for your large upholstered pieces. Furniture with classic lines is easily slipcovered and looks a lot better than furniture that must be covered with a one-size-fits-all slipcover.
  • Keep your large upholstered pieces in a neutral color. Visit Goodwill to visualize what happens to trendy pieces. Very few people are comfortable with a cut-velvet lime or burnt orange sofa in their living room. Colors return, but they are in different shades. The hottest bright green now is a kiwi color. I personally like that color, and have a futon cover in that shade. When it becomes hopelessly outdated, I will just replace the cover. When your furniture is in a solid color, it is very easy to drape an afghan, quilt, or blanket over it to hide worn spots.
  • When buying wood furniture, as a general rule, the darker the wood, the more formal the piece. Again, if you shop at IKEA, you will notice all their furniture is casual, and almost all of it is very light wood. Wood grain with a lot of red in it, like mahogany, is difficult to blend with lighter colors. For the most versatility, buy your wood stained in medium to light shades.
  • When you look at the upholstery fabric on your furniture, remember that it is only as strong as its weakest fiber. When I was taking my Interior Design classes in college, we tested the fibers in fabric. We pulled them apart, and ran tests on them for several things, including strength and durability. The durability of a fabric can be ruined by a small amount of weak fiber. Fabric that is made from several different kinds of fibers will probably not be as durable as a closely woven fabric made with one material. These are usually fabrics with a very smooth texture and tight weave.
  • Buy pieces that are as versatile as possible. See
  • Pieces that can be used in several ways, and in different rooms of your home, will serve you for years. Buy real wood when possible, and you will have the option to stain and paint it over the years as needed.
  • Buy furniture you know you will use. Think about the function of each piece. Be sure you are spending money on something you really need.
  • Use multi-purpose pieces whenever possible. If you are short on space, placing a television in a bookcase is more practical than placing it on a stand. Use small bookcases for tables, trunks for coffee tables, and beds with drawers in the frame for children. Buy shelving and tables with drawers or baskets. You can hide a lot of items under fabric-covered tables. You can buy simple cardboard stands, meant to be covered, or make them yourself by cutting a circle out of plywood and putting it on a sturdy base.
  • When you select chairs for your dining area, think about how they will look when you pull them into the living areas of your home for extra seating.
  • Finally, remember that mixing and matching is now in full fashion. You want your room to look like it has evolved over a period of time. This gives it the character and warmth you do not find in a furniture showroom.

Make good use of furniture that comes to you from all sources. Reupholstering chairs is not hard, and stripping wood and refinishing or painting it is a do-it-yourself project.

Careful shopping, including buying interesting used pieces, will give character and personality to your home. Bring in the shabby and the chic, and make it your own for less!

Nikki Willhite, mother of 3 and an interior design graduate, has been writing and publishing articles on the topic of frugal living for over a decade. Visit her at - where you will find hundreds of frugal living tips and articles. Frugal Happy Families- more than just money! Article first published at

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