A guide to furniture buying
Buying furniture is an expensive and considered purchase. Not only is it important that your ultimate choice is stylish and helps create a beautiful space but, it needs to be fit for purpose and functional for your home. Marrying practical requirements with style is tricky; incorrect decisions can prove both disappointing and often costly.
To help you navigate the minefield of purchasing your next piece of furniture, we have put together a useful guide to help you make sure you avoid some of the common pitfalls.
Take a look…
Buying the right size
Many people make the mistake of measuring a gap in a room and buying a piece of furniture to fill the empty space.
Blank space in a room is as important as the space taken up with furniture. Without some blank space, a room will feel too cluttered and cramped. A common example of this is when a piece of furniture is measured to fit an alcove exactly, instead of allowing room at either side.
In addition, it’s important to leave ample space to move around the room and for any essential activities in the room to take place. Furniture should never obstruct a natural walkway or prevent movement from one space in the room to another. A good rule of thumb is to allow between 600mm and 900mm of available walkway space to ensure mobility.
Finally, what you see when you walk into the space is key to achieving the right layout and this can include how the furniture is arranged. The side of a dresser or back of a piece shouldn’t be the first thing you see when you walk through the doorway of a room.
TOP TIP – Take the time to plan the layout of your room before investing in any new pieces
Do this by using newspaper to mark out the dimensions of furniture on the floor so you can map out the walkways and any obstructions.
Alternatively, you can draw a to-scale plan of the room and cut out to-scale shapes for each piece of furniture in the space. This allows you to see any obstructions to walkways.
Scale and proportion
Your home is a three-dimensional space, so if you’re thinking of adding furniture to a room it is not just about the measurements of the room itself. Both the shape of the room and height of the ceiling can alter your perception of the space and are important to consider.
Understanding scale and proportion will make sure your room isn’t just a collection of competing elements – it helps all the pieces of the room fit together to create an inviting space. It’s therefore vital to identify what the key features and pieces of furniture in your room are and choose other pieces that will complement and show them to their best advantage.
In general terms, large pieces of furniture are suited to larger rooms with high ceilings making the space feel proportional. In contrast smaller pieces will help a smaller room with low ceilings feel more spacious.
TOP TIP – Don’t try to mask or hide larger pieces of furniture with other items of furniture
This won’t help them disappear into the background! The largest piece of furniture in the room will always draw your eye, whether you want it to or not. So, choosing larger pieces of furniture should be done carefully.
Striking the right balance
A room with too much furniture squeezed into one area will feel unbalanced. In the same way that adding or changing an item in the room can throw the balance and harmony of the space. People often confuse symmetry with balance. You don’t have to have a symmetrical layout in your room for it to be balanced; you can also layout your furniture in a radial or asymmetric pattern.
TOP TIP – Find the centre of the room and use this as your starting point
A balanced room will have a similar amount of furniture placed in each half of the space.
Choice of colour and tone
The difficulty of choosing colour is often where to start. Colour is a very personal thing, and with an infinite number of shade and colour combinations available, we have put some ideas together to help guide you:
- Neutral schemes – If you’re someone who likes to be right on trend, or change their décor on a regular basis, a neutral colour is a good idea for your furniture. This way you can mix up your décor by simply re-painting or changing the accessories in a room.
- Experiment with tone – Pick just one colour but use varying tones of it throughout a room. This way it is easy to make items look different or stand out without using bold colours that become dated quickly or are hard to integrate into a new scheme, should you move the furniture.
- Harmony – Take a colour wheel and pick colours next to each other or near each other on the wheel. These schemes generally give a look that’s easy to live with and are tranquil and restful.
- Bold colours – These colours generally inject some life into your scheme and are more daring. They can look great on statement pieces that you want to stand out in a room but are more difficult to absorb into other schemes should you wish to move the piece of furniture to another room.
TOP TIP – Always take home material and colour samples
This allows you to check colours in the room where your furniture will live. Different lighting conditions and existing carpets or furnishings can greatly affect your ultimate colour choice.
Move the samples around the room, looking at them in different lights because they will change in different conditions. What the eye may see as complementary in a showroom or online can appear very different against a direct comparison.
Once you’ve picked out all your furniture and planned your layout; checked for scale, balance and proportion, it’s time to be practical. Run through in your mind exactly what you are going to use the furniture for and where it is going to stand, making sure it practically fits the purpose.
- Have you taken into consideration window ledges, coving, cornice and skirting board depth when measuring your room?
- Is there enough room to walk around furniture?
- Can you open the door to the room without banging into the furniture?
- Is there enough space to open drawers easily or access shelves?
- Is the cupboard deep enough to fit in the item you intend to store?
- Are the shelves on your bookshelf adjustable or at the right pitching to fit in your books or binders?
- Is there enough leg room under the desk for your favourite chair?
TOP TIP – Don’t forget furniture delivery
One of the most common things that is overlooked is that although an item will fit the desired space, it cannot be physically delivered into the room because the doorway isn’t wide enough or there is an obstruction in the room that the piece cannot be manoeuvred around.
So whilst buying a new piece of furniture is very exciting, there are still many things to consider before choosing your new piece. Follow our tips above and you’ll get the desired look for your room without any hassle.
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