Monday, 29 January 2018 19:56

A Designer's Guide To Buying Furniture

We have all been there.  Whether it was back in grad school, or just last year, you have been in a pinch and on a budget and made a purchase that you later regretted.  How much later is the only variable here.  For most people who have been in this situation (and I am right there with ya), the regret sets in about the time the cushions start sagging, the seams start separating, the button falls off, or the frame starts bowing.

Yes that sofa you bought online was cute, inexpensive, and came with just the right amount of free shipping and no sales tax, but you may be looking to purchase another one within the first year or two of buying it.  I know, I know, I am an interior designer and it is my job to get you to buy furnishings, so this topic may seem a little one sided.  But I want to share with you why it will cost you more money in the long run to buy inexpensive (aka. cheap) furniture. 

Sofa A and Sofa B. 

sofa a

Lets tell a story of two sofas, and I will use the sofa currently sitting in my office as an example, just to show you that I too have been on the receiving side.

Sofa A is from a lovely little retail store that we will call "Schmear One."  It is cute, the perfect size, the color options were decent enough, and I actually got to sit on it (and lay on it too), before I ordered it.  I have had Sofa A from Schmear One for two years.  I paid roughly $1500 for Sofa A.  About 6 months into owning Sofa A, I started to notice that as I sat directly in the middle of the sofa, as I prefer to do, the cushions had started to sag.  No big deal, right?  I will just sit either to the left or the right of the center line and wear out the cushions in a more even fashion.  As the sun hits this sofa in the same place every day, I have slowly noticed that the color is faded where the light has reached.  Needless to say, here we are, two years into Sofa A and I hate it.  I need a new sofa.  Not only are the cushions on permanent "squish," but the frame is bowing on the bottom so visibly that I am afraid if I sit on it with too much force it may well just crack.  Now, I knew I was buying something on the "ultra-affordable" end when I bought it, and I thought it was not going to be a big deal but here I am needing a new piece of furniture.

sofa b

Sofa B is a semi-custom piece, which means that we are able to select from hundreds of fabric options, with custom embellishments like contrasting welts, buttons, leg finish, cushion construction, etc.  We chose a fabric that is known for being able to withstand kids, pets, and sunlight.  We had to pay freight since we ordered this sofa straight from the manufacturer, and the delivery fee was a little more that it would have been if we purchased from a big retailer with lots of local delivery trucks, but here is what I can tell you about Sofa B.  It has been in my clients home for 5 years.  Dogs have been up and on this sofa, it sits in a window, and over the holidays four people sometimes squeeze in to sit together on the same sofa.  Today, the fabric is in great shape, has never had to be cleaned, has not faded, and the texture is still as lustrous as the day it was delivered.  There is no evidence of wear on the frame, and my clients are likely to have this sofa for another 10 years.  The only reason they would purchase a new sofa is if they decided they liked another style, or if they moved into another home where the sofa would not fit in.  Sofa B was around $4,000 after freight and delivery.

Let's do some math. (You know I love to show off my math skills!)

If I have to buy a new sofa every 2 years at $1500 per sofa that leaves me with a total of $11,250 spent on roughly 7 sofas over the course of 15 years.  If I spend $4,000 on one sofa... well I think you can do the math on that one yourself.

Don't get me wrong, we all need to buy furniture for our new homes, or for our temporary homes, whatever.  I get it.  But I would suggest going cheap on things that are less involved as far as manufacturing goes.  Think cocktail tables, end tables, lamps, throws and pillows, etc.  Trust me when I say you are not ever going to regret spending the money on a good quality product that provides you with excellent value over time.

In the meantime, what can you look for if you have to purchase something in a crunch? 

  • I am a huge fan of some of these online apps or sites where you can find used furniture that will fit the bill.  If you are buying on the cheap, you are likely in a temporary situation, so spend even less and go for something used.  Furniture consignment is a great option as well.
  • Can you feel the frame?  You should never be able to actually feel the frame of your sofa or chair through the layers of batting and fabric. If you can make out the corners of the frame underneath...run!
  • Do NOT buy online.  If you can not sit in it, do not buy it! (I tell this to all my clients, even the ones who are looking for $12,000 sofas)  The sad part with online is that many manufactures might be getting copied and you may not know exactly where that beautiful arm chair came from, or how long it has been sitting in a shipping container at the port just waiting for a sucker to come along and put it in their shopping cart.
  • Save!  Play for the long game.  Can you live with your saggy sofa for another year or two, re-align your goals, and spring for the perfect investment?  I bet you can.

The best news yet!

If you are looking for something in the quality, value, and "so stunning it will make all of your friends jealous" department, give me a call!  Quality doesn't have to start high (I just used $4,000 as an example).  Many of my clients are able to slip into something just as fabulous in the $2,000 range as well.