A Roadmap for Buying Furniture / Furniture Buying Guide

by Keith Lobo

How do you shop for furniture? It depends largely on your ultimate goal/ needs. If you’re looking for a couch for your rec room that the kids or pets are going to jump all over, you can probably settle for something “scratch and dent”. But if you’re in search of a statement piece or something stylish with staying power, you need to be more discerning. Where do you start? What do you look for? Hopefully this furniture buying roadmap / furniture buyers guide will help you.


Know Your Destination Before You Begin


When planning a trip, do you just jump in the car and drive? Not likely. You need to know where you are going. The same concept applies to buying furniture. Think long and hard about what you want before you venture out. Beyond the basics like colour and size you need to consider other aesthetics:

  • Do you want something modern or vintage?
  • Do you want a piece that is “of the moment” or more timeless in style?
  • Are you looking for something solid or something open that makes a room look bigger?
  • Do prefer clean lines and minimalism or something more ornate?
  • Do you want a piece that blends seamlessly with your existing décor or something that acts as a focal point with a different but complementary style?
  • Are you planning on keeping this piece for the long-term; that is, making an investment rather than just buying something to fill a space?
  • What materials is it manufactured from?


Just as you research your travel destination before heading out, do a little research on the furniture options available to you. Take a look at room makeovers to see how designers put pieces together. Most home décor magazines have fabulous websites with makeovers featured prominently. Sites like Pinterest are also full of ideas. If you have a particular piece or a general look/style in mind, you can then figure out where to find it at the level of quality you need.

Plan Your Route


Once you have decided on your décor destination, you can plan your route for reaching it. Research various vendors to see who is most likely to meet your needs. You can look in-person or online to answer questions like:


  • Does the vendor carry only mass market furniture or do they offer custom pieces?
  • Can the vendor answer detailed questions about the furniture they sell?
  • What materials are used predominantly—particleboard or solid wood?
  • Where does the vendor source their furniture? Are you comfortable with something shipped from overseas or would you rather have something sourced a little closer to home?
  • What is the price range at the store?
  • Are the pieces that interest you normally in-stock or are they a special order? If it’s the latter, how much lead time do you need?


You also need to have a budget in mind. Remember to consider:


  • Are there extra charges for delivery?
  • If customization is available, how much does it cost?
  • Is there an extra charge for “special” finishes or certain fabrics?


Once you know the answers to these questions, you can narrow your choices to a few vendors then look more carefully at their offerings.


Don’t Be Afraid of the Road Less Travelled


Sometimes going off the beaten path can pay dividends. When furniture shopping, it’s easy to go to big box retailers or department stores, but will they have what you want? Will the quality be there?


  • Ask friends or check Toronto shopping directories for independent retailers who might have just the piece you’re looking for. A lot of the time you can get a Significantly better quality item for less than you would have spent at a chain store.



Dig a Little Deeper


Our travel metaphor is getting a little thin here, but we’ll continue with it in this final section. Think about being in a completely different city. You want to find a place to eat or go out for a nice evening. The places with “buzz” get the most attention, even if it isn’t deserved. If you dig a little deeper and ask some locals, you’ll probably find a place that is a little less trendy and a little bit older with lots of character. The same goes with furniture: just because something looks shiny and trendy doesn’t mean it’s the best choice. Again, you need to ask questions:


  • If the piece is particularly trendy, will you still love it in a few years?
  • How durable is it? Will the bargain you snagged today look as good in a year’s time, or will it start to show its age with loose joints, peeling laminate veneer, or drawers that stick?
  • How is the piece constructed? For example, in a sideboard or dresser, are there dovetail joints in the drawers or are they glued or stapled together?
  • Does the piece have “good bones”? That is, can you refinish it in a few years to better fit your changing style or will you have to scrap it and start over?
  • What about resale value? If you are someone who changes your décor often, will you end up listing this piece on Kijiji for a few dollars or can you make a return on your investment when you decide to sell?


The journey to finding the perfect piece of furniture may not be a short one, but with a little planning and research, you’ll get there.....and sometimes the "getting there" can be more than half the fun.

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