It seems that different people are reacting in different ways to the state of the current economy. Those who may have considered moving a few years ago have now decided to stay in their current homes and are pouring money into making those much-talked-about improvements like remodeling a kitchen or redecorating the family room. Others are taking advantage of the buyer’s market and first-time home buyer incentives and therefore have newer or larger homes to furnish. And then there are those who have grown tired of losing money in the stock market and have taken that money out to spend and enjoy it. Some of those consumers are also using that money to remodel and redecorate. Whatever the reason, there are a lot of consumers in the home furnishings market lately. So whether you choose to wear a designer, shop by catalog, or spend your weekends visiting store after store, the question remains:

What should you look for to make sure you get quality furniture for your money?

The following are some guidelines to use when shopping for new furniture:

Materials: Whether you’re in the market for boxed goods (dining tables, entertainment centers, sideboards, cocktail tables, etc.) or upholstered pieces (sofas, loveseats, or occasional chairs), the wood that is the base of the piece must be solid wood. The most commonly used hardwoods for fine furniture frames are ash, rubber, and yellow poplar because of their strength, stability, and shock-absorbing qualities. Laminate hardwoods are also good for frames as they prevent warping. Woods for exterior surfaces, like cabinets, for example, should be those that can be carved, finished, and polished like birch, walnut, cherry, maple, mahogany, walnut, and oak. To ensure that your furniture does not show signs of splitting over time, wood preparation is very important. Because wood contains quite a bit of moisture, it should be air dried for approximately three to six months, depending on its thickness. It should then be dried in the oven for two to eight weeks, which ensures the stability of the finished furniture.

Construction: Floating joint systems are used in the construction of most fine furniture because they allow the wood to expand and contract as it reacts to heat and moisture. Look for gaskets that are glued and nailed down. Mortise and tenon construction is used in both boxes and upholstered part frames. Dovetail construction is most often mentioned when talking about drawer construction. When looking for upholstered pieces, ask about the seat frame. 8-way hand-tied construction is the best. In this process, hardened steel coil springs are hand tied at 8 points to provide comfort and proper seat support. Steel bands under each row of springs ensure long-lasting comfort. Winding spring construction is also acceptable. S-shaped springs are attached with steel wire to ensure a consistent seating platform. With either build, look for pieces that have solid wood legs that can be finished by hand in the color or stain of your choice.

Cushions and Upholstery: Ask about the different levels of cushions in your upholstered furniture. Premium furniture manufacturers offer different levels or upgrades for cushions. Which one you choose depends on the look you are interested in. For example, the standard cushion offered by most fine furniture companies uses a 1.8 density foam core encased in a cotton yarn that has some combination of down, feather, or blend of fibers blown into sewn channels. Upgrades are usually for cushions that have more firmness and support or more feathers and down for the feeling of sinking into your chair or sofa. If you are looking for an upholstered piece in the market, it is best to choose a supplier that offers custom upholstery. This means that they will offer a wide variety of fabrics for you to choose from to customize the look of your piece without having to deal with an exterior upholsterer. Custom pieces are usually more expensive than those offered in some standard colors, but when you invest in a piece of furniture that will be in your home for years to come, it is generally worth the additional expense.

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