How to shop for quality pieces of furniture that will fit both your decor scheme and your budget.
Furniture is what makes a house a home. To make your new log home cozy and suitable to your lifestyle, you will need to contemplate your new furniture's form (what materials appeal to you?), function (what do you need to live comfortably?) and fashion (is there a decorating theme?).
Establish a budget of what you can spend immediately on items necessary for the function of your new home, as well as a wish list for coming years. Your purchasing power will depend on the proximity to the producer, type of materials you want and the fabrication techniques used to create it. Other factors that will affect your budget include:
? Design: Is it an original, a reproduction or an adaptation?
? Materials: Synthetic or natural?
? Fabrication: Is the piece handcrafted or mass-produced?
? Detailing: Are they hand carved or machine made?
? Shipping: How far away is the manufacturer and what are the costs?
Construction details can affect the price. A well-constructed wood table or chair, for instance, will have glued mortise-and-tenon, or dowel joints, and extensive corner blocking for strength and durability. Drawers will have dovetail joints. It takes more time to produce these types of joints than simple butt joints, but they'll last a lot longer.
A good piece of furniture should have a solid feel, with the legs, doors and frames firmly attached. Try to rock the piece, and look to see if the corners stay square, and that legs don't wobble. Make sure drawers or doors have a uniform, well-aligned profile. Don't be afraid to inspect a piece thoroughly. After all, you are making an investment that you will have to live with for several years.
The type and grade of wood used also influences cost. For instance, oak is probably the least expensive hardwood. Other popular woods used in furniture, which will vary in cost by region, are aspen, birch, alder, walnut, pine, cedar, mahogany and teak. Even within a particular species there will be different grades and prices. Though oak is the least expensive hardwood overall, Northern or Midwestern oak is more expensive than California oak. Yellow pine is superior to California pine, and so forth.
Handcrafted Versus Mass Produced
The vast majority of furniture sold by retailers today is mass-produced. Although machinery does most of the work, each cut has to be positioned by hand. The more cuts involved, the more labor needed, and the more expensive the piece. The advantage with a mass-produced piece is that it is immediately available off a retailer's showroom floor.
The other option, popular with log home owners, is handcrafted furniture made from many of the same tree species used in log home packages. Prices will vary, depending on region, the wood used and the amount of detailed work involved. With handcrafted furniture, you get a piece created to your exact dimensions. The knots, burls and other natural imperfections in the wood create the character. You can specify the amount of character in the piece?usually light, medium or heavy character. The advantage here is that you'll have one-of-a-kind furniture that will serve as conversation pieces for decades. A disadvantage is that you will have to wait four to eight weeks or more for a piece to be created and shipped to you.
A good finish should consist of several layers of lacquer, polyurethane or paint to protect the surface. Quality furniture should be finished on the tops, sides, undersides and backs.
Although the color, texture and quality of the fabric covering an upholstered piece are the stars of a good sofa, loveseat or chair, the supporting cast of what's underneath creates the comfort. The three basic parts are the frame, the support and the cushioning. Traditionally the best frames have been made of kiln-dried hardwood. Today, quality frames may also be made of steel, plastic or engineered wood. Webbing, sling straps, slats or springs provide support. Springs can be single coil, double-cone coil or zigzag (sinuous S-type) and can be connected with twine, wire ties or clips. Eight-way hand-tied coil springing is considered the standard of excellence for those that can afford the best. (In this method each coil spring is placed in the seat by hand and a skilled craftsman ties the coil into place with twine and interlocks it with other coils using an intricate set of knots.)
The options in cushioning materials include down, cotton or polyester, polyurethane foam and polyester fiberfill. Foam can be used as a solid unit, wrapped with a polyester material or chopped and blown into spaces that would otherwise be difficult to pad.
How do you determine which piece is right for you? Have a seat. Comfort is an individual matter. Be sure the depth of the seat and the height and angle of the back are suited to your body size. Even if you love the look and it's compatible with your budget, if it isn't comfortable?don't buy it.