|Buying furniture for your log home should be fun and exciting, not a task you consider one step above a visit to the dentist. But for too many homeowners, that's exactly what happens as they face the prospect of buying sofas, chairs, tables and accent pieces.
I'm here to tell you what you want to hear: It doesn't have to be that way. With a little planning and forethought ? plus some research and soul-searching ? you can enjoy the furniture buying process as much as you enjoy snuggling up on that new sofa. Follow these 8 easy steps and your search for furniture will have a happy, stress-free ending.
What you can afford is the bottom line for any decorating project, and buying furniture is no exception. Budgeting becomes even more important during the furniture buying experience since large pieces--sofas, couches, chairs and tables--are often the most expensive part of any decorating project.
Obviously, setting a budget early in the process will help you focus on what you can afford. But once you learn how to judge quality (see #6 on page 59), it will also help you find the best values within your price range.
According to Gefen Productions, which monitors the action in High Point, North Carolina, home to the world's largest annual home furnishings market, the factors that affect cost include:
--Design: Original, reproduction or adaptation?
--Materials: Real wood, veneer or simulation?
--Manufacturing: Handcrafted or mass produced?
-- Detailing: Hand-carved or plastic-molded?
--Shipping & Storage: Pre-assembled or ready to be assembled at home?
After you have a budget, determine what you want to spend your money on. Odds are, your "wants" list will be pretty long. Pare it down by comparing it to a "needs" list. Replacing a broken chair is probably a need; buying that beautiful dining room set you saw in the sales flyer is probably a want.
The key to prioritizing is realizing you don't have to have it all at once. Think long and hard while making your list of priorities. Can you live with your old kitchen furniture while you give your great room a facelift? Would you rather turn your bedroom into an oasis before concentrating on public areas like the kitchen and dining room? Or are the rec room and other highly-used spaces more important?
Whatever you decide, just remember that furniture with classic lines and simple fabrics will never go out of style, and that means you'll be able to piece together your new room over the course of many months or even several years.
How you use your furniture is one of the most important considerations. If you have children or pets, you need sturdy construction and easy-to-clean fabrics. If you're furnishing a room used sparingly, such as a library or den, you can focus more on aesthetics.
Your lifestyle will also affect the colors you choose. The guidelines are pretty common sense: White is a no-no for kids and pets; mid- to dark-toned prints will hide a multitude of sins. Remember, however, that even the most durable furniture will wear out if it's abused.
You can only have so much furniture in a room before it starts to feel cramped and awkward. On the other hand, you want to be sure you have sufficient seating and table surfaces.
To ensure your new furniture fits your space, needs and personality, take the time to carefully plan (if you're still in that stage) or measure (if you're already building or living in your log home) each room in your house. Then sketch your room to scale on graph paper. Include doorways, windows, heating and cooling vents and other permanent features your furniture will have to "live" with.
This exercise may sound archaic in the days of computers and scanners, but it can really be helpful. Even more helpful is measuring your existing furniture, sizing it on graph paper at the same scale as your room drawing, and placing it on the sketch. This will allow you to envision furniture placement and see how all your space is being used.
With the current trend toward big, overstuffed furniture, this sketching exercise will also help you choose pieces that fit the scale of your room. The soaring ceilings, open lofts and spacious floor plans found in many log homes require special attention in this area.
Before you can buy anything, you have to figure out what you like. Just keep one thing in mind: A room full of carefully-combined furniture styles is much more interesting than a room full of matching, same-scale pieces. Don't be afraid to mix n' match styles to achieve the look you want. The five major furniture styles include:
Traditional. Features antiques and reproductions of antique styles, damask upholstery, cherry and mahogany.
Contemporary. Features bold colors, sharp lines, metal and/or glass accents.
Casual. Features earthy colors, overstuffed sofas/couches, wood accents in oak, pine, maple.
Country. Features soft cushions, floral prints, painted wood.
Eclectic. Features a mix of styles and periods.
The hard thing about choosing a style is that what we like is often out of our price range or isn't practical. When that's the case, you have to make a personal choice ? Which is more important: style or practicality--and then live with your decision.
If money is the issue, you have to be a little more patient about how quickly you can buy your new furniture. If durability is the issue, be realistic; you may love that white silk sofa, but if you have young children or pets, it doesn't make sense to buy it.
Whether you spend $100 or $1,000 on a piece of furniture, you want to know it will last. To make sure you don't get a lemon, educate yourself on quality standards before you head to the stores. There are plenty of books, Web sites and organizations that offer advice on furniture construction.
Once you're in the store, don't be bashful; open those dresser drawers, pull the dining table apart, tip over the reclining chair. No one will do it for you, and you may be surprised at what you see.
If you're shopping online, check with the manufacturer to find out if they have a retailer in your area that carries the piece or line you're interested in.
No matter how you're shopping, here's what you need to consider:
Materials. Is it solid wood, veneer or a simulated product? Does hardware match the piece and is it rust-proof and concealed?
Construction. Is the frame solid, the support adequate? Does it feature solid joinery (mortise and tenon, double dowel or tongue and groove) and dovetailed corners? Are screws tight, springs concealed and covered?
Finish: Should be even, rich and deep (unless it's purposefully aged or weathered, in which case it will exhibit the intended inconsistencies). Watch for bubbling, brush strokes and
Cushions: Are the corners and curves well-defined? Are details (welt, buttons, etc.) attached securely? Check the plumpness; sagging probably indicates insufficient stuffing.
When buying wood furniture, you have to make some special considerations. Check the following:
--Doors and drawers are carefully aligned and fit tight
--Drawers have glides and stops, plus dust panels (dust-proofing) between them
--Joinery at the drawer corners is secure
--Drawer interiors are smooth to prevent clothing snags
--The use of center supports for long shelves
--Doors do not squeak or rub
?--Hinges and other hardware are sturdy and sufficient for the size and weight of the door or drawer
--Table leaves match the finish and grain of the table and fit properly
Don't be afraid to try out the furniture samples you see on the showroom floor. Nothing is worse than investing a lot of money in a piece of furniture, only to discover it's hard as a rock, sags like a wet blanket or sits too high or low.
In the end, your opinion is what matters most. Don't let a salesperson or even a friend talk you into buying something you don't like.
We are all driven by aesthetics. We don't just want a comfortable chair; we want it to be attractive as well. Still, there's no denying the durability factor.
When choosing fabric for upholstered furniture, remember that you will get the best wear from tightly-woven fabrics. A common misconception is that the thickness of the yarn used determines durability; in truth, the number of threads per square inch will have a greater affect on the longevity of your upholstered furniture.
The most common types of natural-fiber upholstery fabrics include:
Cotton. Takes color well, is soft and pliable, blends with other fibers, is durable. May disintegrate in continuous exposure to sunlight. May mildew in damp climates.
Flax/Linen. Strong, cool, crisp. One of the most durable fibers, though it has a tendency to resist color. Reflects heat better than cotton, but is still subject to disintegration in intense sunlight.
Wool. Springy, resilient and extremely durable. Takes color softly. Offers good resistance to wear. Must be moth-proofed before using.
Silk. Beautiful but fragile. Soft and lustrous, but strong light tends to discolor and disintegrate the fabric. Difficult to clean. Tends to mildew in damp climates.
Rayon/Acetate. Made of processed cellulose. Can be woven to emulate silk or linen. Blends well with more expensive fibers. Reasonably colorfast and resistant to wear, but tends to rot under long exposure to sunlight.
The most common types of synthetic-fiber upholstery fabrics include:
Polyester. Takes colors well. Strong and durable; stands up under direct sunlight. Flame and wear resistant. Often blended with natural fibers.
Olefin. Strong, with natural stain resistance. Bulky, coarse, does not hold up well in direct sunlight. Often used to create heavily-textured casual fabrics.
Nylon. The strongest and most dirt resistant fiber. Often used in commercial applications. Typically high-
luster; now available with a wool look and feel. Sensitive to sunlight.
Adapted from homefurnish.com and OakPlus Furniture.com
Story by Teresa Hilgenberg