The time has come for you to purchase some living room furniture. For some this can be a very exciting experience. For others it can be a stressful time. What type of furniture do I need? What is my design style? Am I getting good quality or am I paying too much? Being prepared with the answers to these questions will make your shopping experience much more enjoyable and possibly save you some money in the long run.
One of the first things you must determine is what pieces you will need to furnish your living room. How the room is used and the number of people in your family will help you answer this question. If your living room is the primary gathering spot for your family and guests you will most likely require quite a bit of comfortable seating. This comes in the form of couches, loveseats, easy chairs, recliners and ottomans. However, if you want to combine your living room with work and pleasure, you may want to consider fitting home study furniture. Lighting is a necessity. You will need task lighting for reading and crafts, ambient lighting such as small lamps and sconces and accent lighting in the form of table lamps and overhead lighting. The room isn’t complete without the addition of items such as coffee and end tables. If the television is in the living room you will need a piece of furniture to house the TV and components.
Now that you have decided on the necessary pieces of furniture, you will have to identify a “style” you like. Do you prefer the clean, straight lines of modern or contemporary furniture? Or is the ornate carving and dark wood of Louis XIV more your style? Perhaps you like the informality of country or rustic furniture. This is always a hard question for people to answer since most of us like elements of many different styles. Take a look around your home and see if any of your favorite pieces have anything in common. For example, is most of your wood dark or light? Are your existing upholstered pieces over-stuffed with rounded arms or are they clean and simple? Is your favorite room filled with antiques? The answer to these questions may help you identify a style that you lean toward more than others. Another method is to browse through decorating magazines and books and make note of those rooms that catch your attention. Identify what you like and/or dislike in each room. Perhaps it is the shape of the loveseat or the glass-topped coffee table. Maybe you like the modern living room with the antique desk in the corner. Or maybe the picture of the book-filled library with its overstuffed leather chairs makes you feel warm and cozy. Once you make note of your likes and dislikes you will, most likely, discover a recurrent theme that will help you identify your decorating style.
Determining whether you are buying quality furniture is much easier than trying to identify your decorating style. When purchasing upholstered pieces the frame is the most important part of the furniture. A kiln-dried, hardwood frame is an absolute must. The most common hardwoods used are oak, maple and ash. In a quality piece of furniture, the frame will be joined together using dowels and blocks that are not only glued but screwed together. The legs should be part of the frame and larger pieces such as couches should have a center leg for additional frame support.
The springs are the support system of the furniture. There are two types of spring systems commonly used in upholstered furniture; sinuous and eight-way hand-tied. A sinuous spring system consists of s-shaped wires that run the length of the furniture and are spread a few inches apart. The quality of this type of spring system depends on the type of metal used to create the springs and the number of springs used—the more springs, the higher the quality. Eight-way hand-tied springs are considered the highest quality spring system available. This system is created through the use of coils attached to webbing on the bottom of the upholstered piece and tied together with high quality twine at the top of each coil to keep the coils from shifting during use.
The padding is the next item to consider when purchasing a piece of quality upholstered furniture. A quality piece of furniture will not only pad the cushions but also the entire frame. This prevents fabric from touching and ultimately wearing out from rubbing next to the wood frame. The most commonly used padding materials are either high density foam wrapped in Dacron (least expensive) to cushions with innerspring coils wrapped in foam. The ultimate in padding is down or a down blend. The feathers are wrapped around foam and covered with a muslin bag. While this type of padding requires “fluffing” after someone has sat on it, it offers the most comfort and a luxurious look.
Finally, the type of upholstery you cover your furniture pieces with needs to be considered. You must first determine what is most important—durability or appearance and feel. If durability is the most important issue for your family you will want to choose a fabric with a high thread count. Synthetic fibers such as polyester, nylon and olefin and natural fibers such as wool and cotton are extremely durable. If your furniture is not going to be exposed to excessive use or wear and tear and you are looking for a luxurious look and feel you may want to consider a linen, silk or blend of rayon and acetate for your upholstery. Be sure to take into consideration not only the amount of use your furniture will receive but also any elements it will be exposed to such as excessive heat or sunlight.
It is important to purchase the highest quality upholstered furniture your budget will allow. A well-constructed piece can be reupholstered and/or or restyled as your tastes change. Purchasing less expensive versions of items such as tables and lamps can free up money for a higher-grade upholstered piece that will last you for years to come.