Insider's Guide to Furniture Shopping

Step-by-step guide to getting shop savvy

Updated on June 09, 2017 9:06 am



Article originally published in SquareRooms June 2013 issue, pages 30 to 33. Visit their website here

Everyone knows renovations can be exhausting. So can furniture shopping if you are not smart enough to dodge the major pitfalls. And by that we mean buying too huge a sofa that won’t budge through your doorway or horror of horrors, the elevator! Unless you have an experienced interior designer or a personal shopper giving you sound advice, you will be overwhelmed by the multitude of choices and decisions to make. If not, you can count on our step-by-step tips to become a well-informed shopper.

Photo courtesy of BoConcept

Step 1: Determine a style/theme
Is that gorgeous wingback chair calling out to you? If this European-style seat is going to look out of place in your modern contemporary home, it will be an eyesore. So, always decide on a style first before you head out to the shops. You don’t want to end up regretting an impulse buy that you can’t hide in the closet.

Step 2: Lifestyle requirements
Homes with pets and children should steer clear of white furnishings since they are more susceptible to dirt. Also, avoid leather or suede materials that can be easily torn, scratched or stained. It’s best to stick to child-friendly pieces which mean those with rounded edges.

Step 3: Colour overkill
Bright colours can certainly add personality and vibrancy to a space, but be careful not to overwhelm with too many. Another important rule to keep in mind is that the lighting conditions in the showroom can be vary very much from your own home; so bring back a colour swatch for a more accurate gauge.

Step 4: Furniture fads
While trend followers would love a space that is current at the moment, that won’t go down well in a year or two when it becomes outdated. So, be practical and get something that won’t lose its appeal after a couple of years.

Photo courtesy of Dream Interiors, featuring Cassina La Mise

Step 5: Precise measurements
This is probably the most important step to take. Apart from measuring the space you have for that particular piece of furniture, take into mind additional leeway needed for the opening of cabinet doors and such. Also, figure if it can fit into the elevator and past your doorway.

Step 6: Too many opinions
Getting the opinions of fellow occupants of the home is necessary, but apart from that, it’s probably wiser to avoid seeking opinions from too many people. When it comes to furniture, taste and preference differs drastically so it’s best to trust your own instinct since you are the one who will be living there.

Step 7: Timing is everything
Instead of making an impulse buy or rushing into purchasing the first thing you see, check if there are any upcoming sale seasons or warehouse sales where you can buy the same or a similar item for a lot less money.

Step 8: Accurate scale
Even with the required measurements taken, just because the furniture piece can fit into your space does not mean it will look appropriately sized. For a more accurate judge, try laying newspapers the size of the furniture you are considering in your room to see how big it looks and whether it matches the scale of your existing furniture.

Photo courtesy of Marquis Interiors, featuring the Minotti 2013 collection

Step 9: Research online
Instead of scouring shops island wide for suitable furnishings, doing some research on the Internet can save you some time (and money). You’ll be able to find out what products the shops carry, and some websites also include retail prices so you can do some comparison shopping.

Step 10: Wood wood
When it comes to wood furniture, pricing can differ depending on whether it’s solid wood, veneer, or particle boards for example. Of the lot, solid wood bears the highest cost while veneer and particle boards are generally cheaper. For the record, veneer is made of thin layers of wood covering a cheaper core, while particle boards are engineered woods made of composite materials like plastics, resin and wood pulp.

Photo courtesy of Journey East, featuring the d-Bodhi Fissure display case

Step 11: Recycled furniture
Restored furniture is experiencing quite a boom in recent years, but they can be costly. Depending on whether you favour it for its eco-friendly aspect or its affordability, there are shops that sell restored or second-hand furniture like ReStore or Salvation Army Thrift Stores. Just make sure to check its condition before purchase!

Step 12: Furniture legs
Most people tend to pay attention only to how comfortable or attractive the piece is and forget to check if its legs are sturdy enough to ensure durability. Wooden legs definitely provide better support and better yet, go for jointed ones that are not glued or nailed in.

Photo courtesy of ReStore

Photo courtesy of Journey East featuring the Fissure collection

Step 13: Drawers and doors
Always test out cabinet doors and drawers before purchasing to check that the drawers pull all the way out smoothly and the doors are able to swing out and shut tightly. Also, don't just run this check on the display piece but the one that you are actually taking home. Each piece may differ!

Step 14: Wood joinery
For wood furniture, pieces that are jointed without nails are usually preferred. Says Terence Teh, marketing manager of Journey East, “While glue is still used as part of d-Bodhi’s construction of furniture, it prefers traditional joinery methods such as finger, dovetail and mortise and tenon joints to hold pieces together instead of nails. This enables wood to expand and contract more freely, meaning a longer lifespan for your wood furniture.”

Step 15: Cushions and support
Check the support a sofa and its cushions offer by sitting on it like how you would in the comfort of your home. You’ll need to try it out to feel for yourself if it offers the firmness you desire.

Step 16: Transportation and warranty
Remember to check if the store offers transportation, and also take into account the cost of transportation when comparing prices between different stores. Also, understand what the warranty covers. For instance, a warranty might only offer coverage of the sofa's frame and not its fabric. Look out for any fine print that may be included and check with the salesperson if some areas are unclear.


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