Choosing furniture involves answering a lot of questions. How much? How big? Where does it all go? And does it even look good together?
Chances are, a room you admire combines smart design decisions that account for function, size, shape and finishes.
Want help making the right choices for your home? Experts cite the following as the most common missteps people make when shopping for, buying and arranging furniture. Avoid these mistakes and you have a much better chance of choosing furniture you’ll love.
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Buying Cheap to “Save Money”
Grace Beana, interior designer at Kaiyo, says people too often purchase inexpensive furniture for the sake of saving a few dollars.
“Buying a cheap piece might save you money in the short term,” she says. “But it will rarely hold up to use and you might end up spending more by replacing it within a year or two. Especially when you’re considering high-use furniture like a couch, it makes more financial sense to invest in a high-quality piece of furniture that will last you years.”
Eyeballing Instead of Carefully Measuring
Furniture outlet stores everywhere are full of furnishings that didn’t fit through someone’s front door or around a curve in the stairs. Others were oversized or undersized for the room. Steven Hill, an interior designer and founder of the DIY Gazette, sees it often.
“When measuring for furniture, be sure to take into account not only the size of the piece itself, but also the dimensions of the room it will be placed in,” he says. “Leave enough space around the furniture so that people can move freely, and make sure to measure doorways and hallways to ensure the furniture will fit through them.”
Buying Furniture With No Function
You’ve fallen in love with that Victorian velvet settee or a sculptural table. But have you thought about how it will work in your space? Hill says that oftentimes, people haven’t.
“Furniture should be chosen not only for its aesthetic appeal, but also for its function,” he says.
“Think about how the furniture will be used in the room. If it’s a dining table, will it be used for everyday meals or just for special occasions? How many people will need to be seated at it? Is there enough space for people to move around comfortably?”
If a piece of furniture isn’t functional, it should be considered an art piece and come out of your decor budget, not the furniture one.
The scale of your room and your furnishings need to complement each other.
“Even if you have a small space, consider a few big pieces of stylish and functional furniture,” says Lauren Byington of Warren & Lauren. “This may sound oxymoronic, but when you place and style the large pieces pragmatically, they help make a space look bigger.
“Think of a space with a large, inviting, deep-seated sectional, accented with statement pieces, from a single spacious coffee table to large wall art, versus a small room teeming with petite pieces of furniture that end up clogging the space.”
Also, consider the height of your ceilings and how you flow from room to room. That will help you get the choice and placement exactly right.
Jennifer Burt of Mississippi Maximalism stages and designs client spaces, from sourcing furniture to putting the final touches. She says buying full sets of matching furniture is a no-no, whether it’s a bedroom suite or matching sofa and loveseat.
“This is not very original or exciting to the eye in terms of decorating,” she says. “Instead, you want to acquire furniture that has some kind of continuity that coordinates, but is not matching.”
If you already own sets, try breaking them up around the house. “A dresser can be used as credenza in the family room and can sometimes work for a TV,” she says. “Try a chest of drawers in a mudroom/backdoor area for storage of things like mittens and scarves.”
Clinging to Sentiment
“People are sentimental about pieces of furniture they’ve inherited or were gifted,” Burt says. “I do think it is nice to honor loved ones, but if a piece isn’t working (it doesn’t fit physically or visually) in your space, it is not doing anyone any favors.”
Instead, Burt suggests updating it with new fabric or painting to fit in with your style. “If it just doesn’t work, sell it either on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, if no one in your family or friend group wants it.” Burt says. “You can put any money you make toward a piece of furniture that does work for you.”
Ignoring the Details
The little details matter, says Burt. While the eye may skip over a missing drawer pull or knob, it takes away from the overall polish of a room.
“Buy a new set and replace all the handles,” she says. “There are some amazing options out there, such as faux Lucite handles and crystal knobs. You can also shop at a salvage shop for gorgeous vintage hardware that will add instant character.”
Not Carefully Vetting Used Pieces
If you’re buying used furniture, inspect it well.
“I once bought a gorgeous Restoration Hardware couch — its retail price was five figures — from a luxury house that was being used as a bed and breakfast,” Byington says. “Lo and behold, the tip-top condition luxe couch had a family of spiders in it. Not just any spider, either: brown recluses.
“I discovered the couch as the source after I got bit by one of the venomous spiders! The scar on my leg will forever remind me not to judge a book, or, you know, a pristine-looking secondhand sofa by its cover.”
Forgetting Pets Will Use the Furniture
Pets can scratch and damage furniture, so choose durable pieces that can withstand some wear and tear, Hill says. That may mean passing on chenille upholstery when you have cats with claws, or avoiding velvet with slobbery dogs.
Improperly Protecting Floors
Your furniture can add a lot to a room, but not if it damages your flooring. According to Roland Foss of Bellhop Las Vegas Movers, people often use the wrong materials to protect their floors.
If you have carpeting, avoid felt furniture pads, Foss says. “They’re going to create friction with the carpeting that will make it hard to move and ultimately damage the carpeting,” he says. “Plastic is a much better choice here.” Rubber is ideal to keep pieces from slipping on hardwood or tile.
Felt can work on hard surfaces for pieces that move, like chairs you pull from under a table.
Ignoring Your Allergies
“If you have allergies, be sure to choose furniture that won’t aggravate them,” says Hill. “Some materials, like leather and microfiber, can be great for people with allergies because they don’t harbor dust and pet dander like other materials can.”
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