Amanda Burdge on Shopping Smart

So often when a consumer decides to take the plunge, and buy furniture, they do it in haste. On a whim, they decide it is time to redo the family room and they go out to the stores like a ticking time bomb in a Macgruber movie. The reasons for this decision, Sally next door just did her new room, HGTV told me to do it, or you finally received the tax return, and these excursions are never well thought out without a PLAN.
Take your time when exploring all your options. There are a dizzying array of retailers, catalogs, discount stores, online stores, and boutiques. All have something fabulous to offer, however, without a plan, you might as well walk up to the salesman hand him your money and walk out. 
Look through books and magazines, and determine who you are and what your style is. Study the various brands and construction of pieces. And most importantly research price points. There are different price ranges for everything, but without a plan you will end up making huge sacrifices, costly mistakes, or worse end up having your eyes pop out when you realize its impossible to redo your entire room for a thousand dollars, despite HGTV telling you it could be done.
Always make sure you have an idea of what will fit, and not fit. Don't go into a furniture store and buy a sofa that is 96" long if the space will only allow 72".  Determine the layout that will work in your room, along with measurements, and take it with you into the store. This will eliminate half the available selection on the floor, and make decision making much simpler.
Learn the terminology. For example, do you know the difference between a nightstand and a bachelors chest? A hassock and a foot stool? Well students, these items are one in the same. How about a casegood or occasional chair? Many items on the floor will look similar but be entirely different in terminology. Learn the general vernacular so you can easily speak with your sales assistant and find what you need quickly. Also, knowing the language will give you an inside edge. Those of us in the industry never use certain words. We never say couch, we say sofa. Another example, we never say curtains, we say drapes.
Know your woods. When shopping for casegoods look for info that labels which woods or veneers are used. Woods have different properties, durability, and behave differently in certain climates. Look for strong construction. Where does the piece bear the most weight- the legs, shelves, braces, drawers? Look at the doors and drawers. Do they open and shut easily? Are there any visual imperfections? 
Bone up on the manufacturer that you are purchasing investment pieces from. For instance, I sell LEE Industries upholstery. I favor them over many of my manufacturers for several reasons. They are made in the USA, (very important) their pieces are kiln dried, eight-way hand tied, hardwood joined with dowels, tempered steel springs that are sagless, and their quality is unsurpassed for the money. Not to mention the fact that they have hundreds of styles to choose from, for any kind of interior. 
This is where hiring an interior designer can really help you. Developing a plan can be the hardest thing for a consumer to set in motion. They do not always know where to start. A designer can help you decipher what works and doesn't, and build your space plan that gives you direction. Once a design concept is mature, you can easily be let loose into a furniture store with confidence, and build the room of your dreams.

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