Friday, February 11, 2011

Furniture Buying Guide

"Buy less, choose less, and mix it all." -- Vivienne Westwood

With spring comes the urge to clean and replace old with new. However, in a 'recessionista' and eco-imperiled world, we can no longer afford to replace things simply on a whim. Throwaway impulse buys are so 2005!

So, if you're planning to redecorate a room in your house, or just want to update with a few new pieces, it helps to go about it with a defined list and a strategy. This helps you end up with a room you really want and will be able to appreciate for a much longer stretch of time.
Illustration by Ruben Toledo

Before you make a shopping list, there are some important questions that needs to be answered. This helps you select the furniture that is appropriate for how the space is going to be used.

1.  In the case of a living room or dining room: How many people do you need to seat in the room?
2. Will the room be used for entertaining, just for family use or both?
3. Do you have pets?
4. Do you want to be able to put your feet up on the coffee table?
5. What kind of activities will take place in the room?

Reuse and Repurpose
Once you know what kinds of furniture you need for the room, assess what you already own. Decide which pieces can still be used and which ones need to be replaced. Search other rooms in your house for some pieces that can be used in a different way. This is called, 'repurposing,' forget about what something is called and think about how it can be used. For example, a dresser can be used beside a bed as a nightstand.
Park Mirrored Dresser,

Remove clutter
Before you add any more new things, take stock of what you have and remove unused items and general clutter. This helps you see the room in better light. Clutter reduces focus  and energy, and creates stress. After you've cleaned out the clutter, resist the urge to replace them with new ones! Keep in mind how great a room looks when you have just what you need, well-organized and displayed to their best advantage.

Think Quality
Avoid buying poorly made pieces that will most likely fall apart after a few years or a couple of moves. If you're short on budget, there are a lot of well-made second-hand pieces available in home consignment centers, Craigslist, Salvation Army and even Goodwill! Also remember that sometimes, you just have to pay good money for furniture that will get a lot of use and will last you a long time. A good rule of thumb is this: If you're going to splurge, ask yourself whether you want to have that piece for a long time. If the answer is yes, go for it!

Don't forget size and scale
Remember, furniture always looks different not only on the internet or on the catalog, but most importantly in the showroom. Most showrooms have cavernous ceilings and the lighting is very different as well. A sofa that looks terrific in the store can look horribly overscaled in your own living room. Tips:
       -Take photos of your room and take it shopping.
       -Lay painter's tape on the floor to represent the size of the piece you want. This gives you a realistic
        idea of just how much room you have and what sizes of furniture will really fit in your room.
Don't get stuck with something like this!

Buying furniture is a lot like buying clothes. Ninety percent of the time when buying new, you get what you pay for. However, with some research and patience, you can land yourself some pretty outstanding pieces without going over budget. Always the goal is to have a room that looks more expensive than it really is. Cost is not an indicator of a room's timelessness and elegance.

Nina's book: Great to have or to browse.

Project Runway's Nina Garcia has this to say on her book: "The Style Strategy." I think it bears noting and remembering. Note: The book is worth checking out.
CHEAP: Even expensive can look cheap. Cheap makes people wonder how little you spent on it. Cheap is tacky and poorly-made. Example: Polyester-blend percale bedsheets that pill, turn really scratchy and fade horribly after two washes.

INEXPENSIVE: Inexpensive does not make people wonder how much you spent. These are well-made, yet low-cost items. Inexpensive is a good thing. Example: All-cotton,  400-thread count bedsheets from the Target clearance aisles. These can be had for as little as $30. They are silky, smooth and will last you a long, long, time.

BARGAIN: Bargain items are well-made, expensive items that you snatched at a great discount. Before people even start to wonder, you already want to tell everybody. Bargains are great. Example: Cotton-sateen 500-thread count, hotel quality bedsheets from TJ Maxx. Typical price point? $45 -$50. Go out there and see for yourself.

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