Starting Over or Starting New:
A Guide to Essential Furniture Shopping

Growing up, I was told that the most stressful time of my life would be planning a wedding. Well, that day has come and gone, and now I am at a loss for what to do. Once my husband and I decided it was time to take the leap and invest in a place of our own, it opened a whole new world of opportunity and, unfortunately, indecision. How was I supposed to know what to buy when my last apartment had mismatched furniture circa 1989 and chipped plates that I bought from a yard sale? How do you know what you need in your first adult home, and how do you know what is and isn’t worth the investment? I learned the hard way, so hopefully you won’t have to!

Getting to Know Your Home

Everyone has their own way of shopping, I’ve always been an impulse buyer, which can sometimes help, but in this scenario can only hurt. Of course, when you get the keys to your adult abode, the first thing you want to do is jump on your furniture in your pajamas while consuming copious amounts of wine – bad idea. The first thing I recommend is you and your home getting to know each other.

This home is going to be yours for the foreseeable future; you liked her enough to invest in her, so treat her well and take your time. Sit in your would-be living room and soak up your surroundings. Where can you imagine cuddling with your significant other? Where do you see your sister venting about her latest exam marks? Take a trot into the kitchen – where do you see yourself having your morning coffee? Baking treats for a charity bake sale at work or setting a beautiful table to celebrate your promotion? This will help you decide where you want to put your furniture essentials and your statement pieces. These are questions that need answering, and that should never be rushed.

Budget and Timeline - Starting Over or Starting New

Set a Budget With a Timeline

Once you’ve had a feel for your space and you have your mind made up, it’s time to check out your local furniture stores. Every city in every state has a ridiculous amount of furniture store options, so how do you pick? First thing you want to do is set a budget; you do not need to furnish your home in a day, a week, or even a month. Start with your essentials – what do you need in order to live in your new home? With that said, most furniture stores (especially budget, surplus, and warehouse stores) have bedroom and living room sets that are just slightly more expensive than the bed or sectional by itself, in the end saving your money for three to seven pieces. A few key things to look for when shopping:

  • Examine the finish
  • Look beneath the surface
  • Scrutinize the details
  • Know the placement
  • Consider the condition

If everything looks great after your examination, the next thing you need to do might hurt: you need to walk away.

Shop Around

So you found your perfect living room set, or at least you think you did. What now? Well, now is the most painful of the steps – don’t buy the first pieces that catch your eye. It’s easy to fall in love with a furniture set when you can find it all in one store close to home; the convenience alone puts a sparkle in your eye and an itch in your palm! You need to remember, however, that there are plenty of other options out there, and you need to make sure that at the end of the day you’ve exhausted all of them.

Americans spend 3,212 hours a year in bed on average, not including TV time (if they have a TV in the bedroom) as well as leisurely reading. Buying the first bed you fall in love with is an impulse you will have to resist, because this bed will hold you for over 16,000 hours in the next five years. Think of each furniture store as a friend with its own personality; you’re looking for different pieces in different rooms that will serve many purposes and last you years to come, so buying everything from one store could potentially be foolhardy. Cover your bases and see what other stores have to offer before you take the plunge.

What to Look For in a New Sofa - Starting Over or Starting New

Cash is Your Best Friend

Don’t learn this the hard way – you should never pay the full sticker price! Yes, you heard it here! Securing a great price at a furniture store doesn’t necessarily mean shopping during a sale, or even in a warehouse. The majority of furniture retailers mark their prices up by 80 percent, if not more, which is why I suggest always bringing cash. Furniture salespeople do not get paid until you do your spending. If you come with cash in hand ready to make a deal, followed by a purchase, they are more likely to accommodate you.

Come prepared, and come with your budget. Also, it doesn’t hurt to do your research beforehand. When you are ready to make your deal, remember, you get more flies with honey than with vinegar! Negotiate with your salesperson and know when to stop. Hopefully you will be walking away with your dream furniture, and some cash still in your pocket!

Something Old or Something New - Starting Over or Starting New

Don’t Discount Something Old

Chances are, if someone is selling a secondhand piece of furniture, it is because the quality is just too good to discard! With that said, there are a few aspects you will need to look out for.

Look for Tags: When checking out your piece, flip it around and find the tags. It may be slightly more difficult to find in old pieces, but check for brand names you recognize. You don’t want to be duped into thinking that something is a name-brand piece when it isn’t. However, if brand names aren’t what you know or are looking for, check for the quality!

See It in Person: I cannot stress this enough! Check out your piece in person. See it, feel it, touch it, sit on it, and – more than anything – smell it! Does it feel comfortable to you? Is it clean? Does it smell musty, or something worse?

Strong Odors: Strong odors are one of the most difficult fixes for furniture. If a piece hasn’t been kept in good condition and there is a stench, run away and fast! It’s really not worth your time or effort trying to get a bad odor out of an old piece of furniture.

Simple Fixes: These fixes are exactly that – simple. If there is a little bit of scuffing or a leg missing, don’t fret! These are probably the two easiest fixes when buying new furniture! These take very little effort to repair, and the payoff will be worth it.

Pay Attention to the Body: The body of the furniture is the most expensive part and the most difficult to replace. If you’re looking at a couch, for instance, the fabric is very easy to reupholster – especially in this DIY age. Check the lines of the couch – is it sturdy or is it falling apart? How are the seams? Is this something that – with a little TLC – you could see yourself loving?

At the end of the day, furniture shopping is not something to dread – it’s something to look forward to! This is a situation where you’re either standing on your own two feet or starting a new chapter with your significant other. Whether it’s something old, something new, or something blue, as long as you love it, that is all that matters!

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