With furniture purchases just a click away these days, it’s easy to get inexpensive, modern, stylish pieces delivered right to your home. But how much do you know about the quality of the furniture you’re buying? How can you tell what materials it’s been constructed with? How do you know you won’t have to replace it in a few years?
Furniture is an investment that, when made wisely, will only have to be made once. High-quality furniture is designed to last generations. Many antiques built around the turn of the 20th century have held their quality and retained or increased their value. The reason why many high-quality antique pieces are still worth a lot today is a combination of the materials used and the artisanship employed.
But you can still find new, high-quality furniture made from long-lasting materials. And you can find them at reasonable prices. You just need to know the right questions to ask a furniture sales consultant. If you’re wondering how to buy high-end furniture, you can start by asking these 11 questions:
Can This Piece Be Customized?
Many high-end furniture manufacturers offer customers a variety of options to suit their tastes. Wood furniture often comes in different tones and finishes. Upholstered furniture is available in a variety of colors, textures and patterns. Be sure to ask if you see a piece you love but want a different look.
Even if the piece isn’t available in-stock in the color or texture you want, some brands will offer customizations so you get exactly what you want. This includes mixing and matching colors and finishes. Furniture manufacturers offer these value-added services to stay competitive and make sure they satisfy their customers.
Many manufacturers will do customizations on items like furniture legs and arms, as well as chair backs and seat cores. After all, you’re making a lifelong investment, so you want to design your furniture to meet your style and needs.
Depending on the manufacturer and the retailer, certain customizations may cost extra. Be sure to ask the retailer about the cost of customization so you know upfront how much you’ll end up paying.
How Was the Furniture Made?
There are many reasons why shoppers should ask retailers how their furniture is made. How the furniture was made says a lot about the overall quality of the piece and whether you’re making a smart investment. When it comes to furniture, you get what you pay for. If you don’t shop the right locations or know what to look for, you can end up with poorly-constructed furniture made from low-end materials.
Here are some things to look for when determining how the furniture was made:
- Handmade vs. Mass-Produced: This is the first consideration many people look at when purchasing high-end furniture. Both methods can produce high-quality pieces that will last a long time. Handmade furniture is typically considered one-of-a-kind and something you can pass down as a family heirloom. While many people consider handmade furniture to be more durable and long-lasting, there are some very reputable furniture manufacturers who mass-produce their pieces to meet high quality standards. If quality is equal on both sides, then the choice comes down to whether you deeply care about having a unique piece, or if you’re fine with owning one of possibly hundreds of identical pieces.
- Sustainable or Reclaimed Materials: For the eco-conscious shopper, this is a vital consideration. Many furniture manufacturers pride themselves on using reclaimed wood, recycled fabrics and repurposed hardware. These brands are committed to sustainable furniture production because they know there are shoppers out there looking to invest in pieces that align with their values. By choosing sustainably-made furniture, you can be sure you’re helping lower resource-intensive manufacturing processes and consumption levels.
- Non-Toxic and Healthy Materials: In addition to eco-friendly furniture that cuts back on waste, shoppers also consider the impact products have on their health. Non-toxic, healthy furniture is typically constructed using glues, paints and finishes that are all low-VOC (volatile organic compounds). This means that the products used to treat and adhere the piece won’t off-gas chemicals and compromise indoor air quality. This helps protect the health of everyone in your household.
Will the Moving Parts Still Work in a Few Years?
If you’re looking to purchase a high-end bedroom or dining set, you want to make sure that all components will continue to function for years to come — even after repeated, daily use. The construction quality of these moving parts will determine how long the furniture will work. Here are a few things to consider when it comes to the moving parts of your new furniture:
- Drawers: High-quality furniture pieces like solid-wood buffets, side tables and cabinets will also have high-quality drawers. This means the drawers hang properly. Drawers should be straight, and open and close easily. If drawers are tilted, have gaps when closed or are stiff upon movement, then it says a lot about how long the piece will last.
- Handles: Hardware like drawer pulls and handles also indicate the level of quality. Grab onto the pulls and handles and notice any loosening or movement. If they aren’t firmly secured, you know the piece was likely thrown together in a rush job. You don’t want to be constantly tightening the handles for years to come.
- Hinges: Today, high-quality, modern furniture pieces use soft-close hinges. When you close a cabinet door, instead of it slamming against the wood, it should slow down softly and close itself gently. On furniture cabinets, hinges should be concealed and flush with the wood frame. You should also inspect the hinges to make sure they’re secured to the wood properly.
What Type of Warranty Does It Come With?
A true test of quality furniture is in the manufacturer’s warranty. If a piece is truly made to last, the manufacturer will support that with a long warranty. On solid wood furniture, a warranty should cover any cracking and splitting for at least one year. If you’re purchasing upholstered items like sofas and chairs, the manufacturer’s warranty should cover the cushions and spring systems inside.
Be sure to ask the retailer whether the manufacturer or the retailer covers the warranty. Ask about any fine-print details that are involved in the warranty. In some cases, a warranty may only cover furniture at the original address. This means if you move, your warranty will be void.
How Long Can I Expect This Piece to Last?
How long a piece of furniture lasts depends on many factors. But if your goal is to invest in high-quality furniture, then the answer should always be "a lifetime." High-quality furniture constructed from solid wood is meant to last for decades. That’s why so many families can hand down their staple pieces like armoires and bedrooms and dining sets. Many young adults today are still using furniture from their grandparents.
If you’re making a large investment, you want to make sure these pieces will long outlive you. Just remember to care for and properly maintain your furniture to preserve its quality and extend its lifespan.
What Kind of Maintenance Is Required?
All things worth investing in require maintenance to some degree: your home, your car and even your high-end furniture. Part of knowing how to buy high-end furniture is knowing what you’re getting into maintenance-wise. It’s important to ask the retailer about the ongoing care that’s needed to keep your furniture in top shape.
Be sure to ask for detailed information on the best cleaning practices, including what types of products to use and how often to clean the furniture. If you’re purchasing wood furniture, ask how often it will need polishing and how to do this properly.
Fabric and leather both have different cleaning requirements that you need to follow to prevent ruining the material. Many people avoid purchasing certain fabrics and upholsteries because of the cleaning requirements. It is important to select a fabric or leather that suits your lifestyle not only in terms of taste, but also maintenance. These are particularly important questions to ask when buying a sofa.
Are There Matching Items Available?
If you’re picking out a substantial furniture piece like a sofa or dining table, then you want to make sure the rest of your furniture works with your new piece. If you’re unsure of whether your current pieces match your new one, then take photos to the store. You can ask for advice about whether your new pieces work with your existing pieces.
They don’t always have to match exactly, but they should all flow together. If you’re uncertain about how to match your furniture, it’s best to speak to a professional. High-end furniture retailers often have in-house interior designers to help you select the right matching pieces.
Is This Piece Kid- or Pet-Friendly?
It’s important to know that whichever piece you buy will match your lifestyle needs. If you have kids and pets, then you know all too well the risk of spills and stains. Many high-end furniture manufacturers offer fabric options that are stain-resistant. This means they’re more suitable for a household with kids and pets than other types of fabric-covered furniture pieces.
Durability is also a key factor when choosing kid- and pet-friendly furniture. Be sure to ask about the piece in question and whether it has a frame strong enough to withstand jumping and climbing.
If the Piece Is Leather, Then What Kind Is It?
Not all leathers are created equal. It’s not enough to just know that a piece is “real leather.” There are different kinds of leather and each have their own level of durability and overall quality. Here are the leather grades and what they mean:
- Full and Top Grain: These are the highest-quality leathers, and both are taken from the top layer of the hide, just below the hair. Full grain has the tightest pattern and is the most durable and moisture-resistant. Top grain leather has been sanded to remove blemishes and has a more consistent look than full grain. Full grain leather also feels the most comfortable because it adjusts to your body temperature quickly.
- Split Leather: Split leather comes from the middle section of the animal hide. It gets processed to remove fuzz and flatten it out. Then, they imprint split leather with a simulated leather pattern. Split leather is not as durable as top and full grain leathers because it has been processed.
- Bonded Leather: The lowest-quality leather grade is bonded leather. Bonded leather is made from a combination of scrap leather pieces and synthetic materials. It only contains up to 17% real leather, which doesn’t allow for the same level of breathability as full and top grain leather.
Is This Really High-Quality Furniture?
If you’re looking for really high-quality furniture, then you need to know what differentiates these exquisite pieces from the lower-quality ones. When shopping for furniture that will last a lifetime, there are some basics to look for. Part of knowing how to buy high-end furniture is to look for the following signs:
- Heaviness: If you can’t lift it, that’s a sign of a high-quality piece of furniture. Lightweight pieces are made with low-quality synthetic materials like particleboard. These materials aren’t designed for durability and are not worth the investment in many cases.
- Wood Quality: Wood furniture is made from one of three types of wood: hardwood, softwood or engineered. Hardwoods are the highest-quality and come from trees like birch, mahogany, maple and oak. They’ve been properly dried and sealed and are exceptionally durable and long-lasting.
Softwood furniture comes from tree sources like cedar, pine and fir. These are more prone to dents and scratches, although you may still find good-quality softwood furniture.
The final and most common category is engineered wood furniture. Though not authentic wood, many pieces can still be durable and long-lasting.
Frame Construction: In upholstered items, it’s important to look at the quality of the frame. Finding out what kind of frame a piece has is one of the most important questions to ask when buying a sofa. Strong and solid wood frames are what keep a sofa or chair in shape over its multi-decade life.
Sofas will have a fifth leg to keep the unit sturdy and prevent dropping. The wood frames on a sofa should be at least 1¼” thick to keep the piece strong and sturdy.
Fabric Durability and Stitching: High-end sofas and chairs have high-quality upholstering and tailoring. Not only should the fabric itself be durable, but it should also be stiched with high quality thread to prevent popping. Examine the stitching to make sure it’s even and that the piping is properly aligned. The fabric should also go all the way down to meet the legs, where it should properly adhere so it doesn’t come loose over time.
Will I Still Like This Piece in Five Years?
Before making your final decision, there’s one last question you need to ask yourself. Will you still like this piece in the next 5, 10 or even 20 years? If you’re purchasing a piece based on its unique or modern style or because you feel it’s trendy, then you may need to reconsider your investment.
Investing in high-end furniture means you’re looking for something that will last for generations. It may be best to go with a more traditional look in classic colors that won’t go out of style next season. The answer to this question really comes down to your tastes. Looking at several pieces and envisioning them in your home is the only way to get a better sense of what you’ll like now and into the future.
For high-end furniture, shop Davids Furniture and Interiors. We’re proud to offer the finest-quality furniture from the most recognizable brands. Our team of interior design consults can help you make the most of your investment by carefully selecting timeless pieces that will match your current style.