Big ticket furniture items like dining tables, sofas, chairs, coffee tables and credenzas are often pieces that remain with you for years, and are then handed down to other family members as heirlooms with sentimental value. Being able to identify the hallmarks of high-quality furniture is integral to ensuring your furniture can withstand the test of time, while retaining its style.
Spending big once on a classic and well-crafted piece of furniture can save you money in the long run, and give you a lifetime of enjoyment. Furniture doesn’t have to be designer to be long-lasting, it just has to be well made from good materials. This is what to look for when buying furniture that will last a lifetime.
You get what you pay for
Unfortunately, in the world of furniture, price is usually a good indicator of the quality of the furniture you are looking at. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Look at the craftsmanship
If the piece is made from wood, examine the structure and ensure all seams fit snugly together, check nothing creaks or wobbles. Always open doors, check hinges, open drawers to make sure everything open and closes smoothly. For furniture with steel structures, check there’s no wobbling, squeaking, hard-to-control functions or weak joints.
Identfy the materials
Long-lasting furniture is made from long-lasting materials. Identify what kind of wood the piece is made from; the best timbers for furniture are ash, birch, cherry, mahogany, oak, maple or walnut as these all resist cracking. Avoid furniture made from soft timbers like cedar, pine or redwood. Ensure ‘leather’ furniture uses real, hard-wearing hides with a strong feel that will endure your lifestyle, such as pets or children. Upholstery should be made from thick and tightly-woven fabric, and the fabric should be the same over the entire piece. Look for linen, cotton or wool fabrics.
Check the screws, seams, padding and cushions
Tell-tale signs of low-quality furniture are screws that stick out, seams that aren’t finished and areas that aren’t visible - such as underneath a sofa - are messily done. Make sure the seams in the upholstery are sturdy and aren’t pulling or splitting anywhere. Foam should be dense and padded throughout, and you shouldn’t be able to feel any springs or hardness beneath the padding.
Take it for a test drive
Whatever the piece of furniture is, whether a bed, chair or sofa, sit on it, bounce on it, test out all the uses. You’ll get a good feel for how robust the piece is by using it as you would at home.
Buy Australian-made furniture, or from local stores you can visit
While buying furniture online can be incredibly convenient, it doesn’t give you the opportunity to examine the furniture yourself. Visit local stores to see it in the flesh. Australia is also blessed with a huge array of small businesses and independent crafters who design high-quality or bespoke furniture for cheaper prices than large chain stores or name brand designers. Spend some time researching the carpenters and furniture makers in your area.
Avoid man-made materials
Choose real materials rather than man-made alternatives. Avoid plastic-based materials like bonded leather or melamine, MDF, and laminates. Look for natural materials like timber, marble, metal, stone, hardwoods, natural fibres, high-density foam and hand-tied coils.
This article originally appeared on Better Homes and Gardens.
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