People often ask us how much they should spend on a “quality piece” and how to find something that’s quality made. Our answer depends on the room and the individual item you’re thinking of buying. For example, we would tell you to avoid those fridges with all the bells and whistles and screens. While they are cool, there are so many more things that can break or go wrong, and if it doesn’t make your food any cooler what is the point?
But here are some quick and dirty rules to remember when you’re shopping: think about your lifestyle. If you move a lot, then you might want to avoid big heavy pieces. You might just want to stick with particleboard stuff that goes together with allen wrenches so that if it gets damaged in transit, you’re not crying. But that’s up to you. If you’ve got kids or pets, get washable fabrics in forgiving colors. No white leather, sharp edges, glass, and stainless steel. The amount of cleaning and stain-guarding you will have to do will not be worth it.
If you’re in the market for a piece of real furniture, check out what it is made from. You’re going to want solid materials, not laminate or pressed wood. Check the back – is it one of those nail-on pieces of colored cardboard, or is it the same material as the rest of it? How are pieces connected: did they use nails, screws, or glue? Check the joints if you can. Quality construction will have pieces that interlock like a puzzle. If there are drawers, take them out and look at the shelves and the hardware – does it move smoothly? Is the drawer solid wood? If there are feet or legs, are they hollow? Are they centered and sturdy? Does the piece balance on them well?
When you have found a piece of furniture that checks all of your boxes, the next step is to keep it in top shape. If you’re purchasing an antique or a high quality piece from a furniture or antique store, you should ask the salesperson what they recommend you use to clean it – there are all kinds of cleaning products out there, from the natural to the synthetic, and not everything will respond to a cleaner in the same way. You don’t want to ruin the finish or damage the material because you use the wrong type of cleaner on it. Wood finishes can be very specific, and there’s a reason for that – be careful! If you don’t know what kind of finish it is, you should start with a very mild cleanser that is wood-safe and only work your way up to something stronger if the first one does not work. For glass and metal, we recommend using a natural cleanser without ammonia and a microfiber cloth.
Even if you’re keeping it clean and dust-free, there are other things that can damage a good piece of furniture. Putting fabrics in direct sunlight (and even some wood finishes) will cause them to fade, so keep that in mind as you are arranging your room. If you are displaying items on it, make sure that there are felt feet on anything that could possibly scratch or damage the surface. Keep moisture away from wood by using coasters and avoiding high humidity.
And remember, if you are ever not sure, contact your friendly neighborhood furniture salesperson and they can help!