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New Furniture Based on Need and Function

4 Steps to Finding What Type of Furniture You Want

Why is it that when you decide to purchase new furniture you have trouble finding exactly what you want, and browsing furniture showrooms seems to confuse the situation rather than help it? You may even find it challenging to tell a quality piece of furniture from lesser grades. And what style is really best for you? Even professional, residential designers can end up confused or overwhelmed. The good news is that much like choosing a car or a home, if finding new furniture is a process based on need and function, it can be enjoyable.

Step 1: Know What You Need
How can you prevent yourself from "image overload" after a day of shopping various furniture stores? Simply put, know what you need and any special requirements you have before you go out. Remember outlines from English class? They gave a quick overview of the facts. This same tool can be helpful to establish your needs before you ever step foot in a store. You don't need to actually outline on paper, but at least have a conversation with yourself or others in the household about the use of the furniture piece you require.

If you want a new chair and ottoman, determine who is going to use it most, when and while doing what. Is it for reading by yourself, or do you need a little extra seat width for a child to crawl up with you? When your needs are established first, it is much easier to proceed with the process, because not every chair will suit your needs.

Step 2: Know What You Want
Measure the area you have in order to establish the maximum size your space can handle. Then, think of adjectives that describe the upholstery you desire, like soft and comfortable or firm and oversized. This way you can eliminate chairs that are too big or too small and ones that simply don't look the way you want.

The most helpful thing to do is shop online first, and then go to the stores and sit in the furniture that meets your criteria. Many companies have Web sites where you can view one chair at a time and consider the dimensions and general styling. Usually these upholstered pieces are shown in a plain fabric, often a cream textile. This is for your benefit. It allows you to establish the line or style you like first, determine if the dimensions meet your needs and then find the fabric that is perfect for your space.

Think of the process like an artist that uses oil paints. She wouldn't buy a 10-inch watercolor board to do a 16-inch oil on canvas. She would go to the art store to buy a piece of canvas that is exactly 16 inches, and then create the art via color, texture and style.

Step 3: Know What It's Worth
Quality is the tough part because much of what makes up a piece's quality cannot be seen. No furniture manufacturer promotes their furniture as "lesser grade." In most cases, they promote what is quality about their line. It's kind of like stressing the strong points in hopes that the consumer won't ask too many other questions. Take this hint: The more you hear about the features of the piece, like detail in styling and fabric options, rather than function and benefits, the more your red flag should go up.

Discrepancies in quality are where we all get hooked once in awhile. We fall in love with a sofa because it's on sale for $499 and it has the leg style we want in a perfectly neutral microfiber textile. Oh, and they can deliver tonight by 6 p.m. Sounds good, right? It is possible that this is the deal of a lifetime, but most likely there is a reason for the sale price. That reason is within. The interior components of the average sofa cannot be seen because the final upholstery covers it up.

A quality sofa will preferably have a 100 percent kiln-dried hardwood frame with a spring system of coils or sinuous wire. Ask what system is used in the sofa you are considering, and see how it feels to you when you sit down. Also ask how the wood frame is joined. The answer here will vary from doweled and corner blocks to glued and stapled. These are not the only ways to put frames together, but watch out for the use of plastic or plywood. The objective here is to get a frame that can and will last for generations.

Step 4: Know Your Art
Finally, there is the issue of style and color. If you honor the process from above and address your needs first, this is the easiest and most exciting part of your journey. To begin, have a starting point to work from when picking fabric. Some good starting places are artwork, prints, area rugs or a throw pillow that draws you in with its color and style. You'll probably be placing this new upholstered furniture piece in a room where there is existing style and color, so there may be a few colors that represent your favorites, serving as inspiration for the new piece. Ask if the store has memo samples so you can have the textile you are considering in your own space. And please don't choose textiles in the showroom's light; it is your space's lighting that matters. The fabric or leather you choose is your final artistic statement of your new upholstered furniture. Embrace this final step and create your art.

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