Comparison Shopping for Furniture

We all love a bargain, don’t we? But often times the lower priced item is not necessarily a bargain. This is certainly true when it comes to purchasing furniture. Inexpensive items may be poorly made and fall apart very quickly or have some hidden defect that you can’t see until it rears its ugly head when you get it home. How do you know you are getting the most for your money when it comes to buying furniture? Arm yourself with a little bit of knowledge and do some comparison shopping before you lay down your hard earned money for any item.

For example, do you know the difference between a $150 chair and a $300 chair? And is the $300 chair the same as the $650 chair? Let’s break it down.

Elements of an Inexpensive Chair

An inexpensive chair frame is very often made of particle board and wood veneers instead of solid wood. While there is nothing wrong with veneer, recognize that it will eventually peel and break off, can discolor over time and cannot be sanded and restained. Once it is damaged it will need to be replaced.

Soft woods are commonly used to make inexpensive furniture. This would include pine, cedar and spruce, non furniture grade plywood and, of course, particle board. Particle board is a man-made material that is created by compressing several particles of wood together that are then bound with some type of resin. A veneer is attached to give it the appearance of wood furniture.

Inexpensive furniture is often assembled using staples, nails and glue that will, over time, come apart. Also, soft woods do not hold the screws and nails in place very well, allowing them to come loose. The result is wobbly and unstable furniture. Inexpensive furniture may also have webbing as the support system in place of springs. Webbing is not particularly comfortable and, since it is a fabric, will eventually wear out. Your furniture will be stuffed with foam cushions that may or may not have a muslin covering to help keep your fabric in place.

Fabric is loosely woven, allowing it to tear or come apart at the seams. It may not be resistant to fading and may even feel scratchy and uncomfortable to the touch. Yes, even style is reflected in the price. A comfortable chair will have a rounded back vs. straight, proper seat height and depth, arm shape etc.

Elements of a Mid-priced Chair

You will get more for your money with a mid-priced chair. This price range will allow you to purchase chairs constructed of hardwood such as oak, maple, cherry and walnut. These woods can hold screws and nails, especially those that have been counter sunk, keeping the furniture sturdy for many years. The legs should be screwed and glued for additional stability. A sinuous spring system or eight way, hand tied spring system is commonly found in furniture in this price range. This spring system provides support for your cushions as well as comfort and support for the person sitting in the chair.

Durable fabrics that have been treated to withstand abrasion, fading etc. are used as upholstery for mid priced furniture. There will be no defects such as color changes, mismatched patterns or sloppy stitching. Cushions may be a combination of high quality foam and feathers, wrapped in muslin to prevent feathers from poking through the fabric. Muslin also prevents your upholstery fabric from slipping or bunching over time.

Elements of a High priced Chair

The most expensive furniture available is made of responsibly harvested, solid hardwoods such as walnut, maple, oak, ash, birch and mahogany. These woods feature beautiful color and grain and are durable enough to withstand everyday wear and tear. Exotic woods such as ebony, koa and burl may also be found in expensive furniture.

A high quality chair will feature exquisite fabrics that have been hand woven, embroidered, custom dyed or imported from faraway lands. The upholstery will be perfectly matched and incorporate small details such as double welting, nail head trim and tufting, just to name a few.

The spring system will feature eight way, hand tied springs for the ultimate in comfort and support. The highest quality foam is used in combination with feathers and down. For those who prefer the relaxed look and feel, 100% down filled cushions are available.

High quality furniture can be refinished and reupholstered time and again and will last for many years.

Keep in mind that price does not always equate to value. You may be lucky enough to find a great bargain on a very well made piece of furniture. On the other hand, you may pay a great deal of money for a piece of mid-quality furniture simply because it bears the name of a celebrity or well known designer.

Making the decision to purchase low, mid or high quality furniture is determined first by your budget and secondly by function. If your chair is just an accent chair that will sit in the foyer and collect guests’ coats and bags then the lower priced furniture may be acceptable. However, a chair that is going to receive years of use by rambunctious kids, sloppy pets and messy husbands will require a higher quality piece of furniture in order for you to get the most for your money.



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