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Furniture Shopping Checklist

by Trisha Kemerly

There's a ton of things to think about before making a buying decision on a new piece of furniture for your home. Colors, fabrics, styles, budget and lifestyle all figure into the decision, and the last thing you want to do is make a hasty decision at the store.

In order to help your interior designer help you find the perfect piece of furniture, consider checking off this list before you set foot in the store.

Evaluate your space:
Think about how much space you have, and what size and shape of the piece you're buying (whether it's a sofa, table, chest or bed) would best fit in your room. If you're looking for a sofa for a large room, consider a sofa. If it's a very small area, maybe a loveseat would be more appropriate. If it's a dining table you're shopping for, what shape would look best in the room: square, rectangular, round, oval? The size and shape of your room will help dictate the sizes and shapes of the furniture you need.

Pay attention to measurements and size:
Many people actually forget this step, only to discover that the furniture they picked in the showroom doesn't fit in their home! For example, a standard sofa is 84 inches long, but if you're considering a sectional or oversized piece, be sure to know what your room (and your doorframe) can handle. Always measure your space and your old furniture beforehand. Also jot down the measurements of the furniture you're considering buying. To easily plan how furniture will fit into dimensions and scale of your space, while also taking structural elements like doors, windows and fireplaces into account, use the our Room Planner for space planning.

Be realistic about your lifestyle:
Do you have a large family, or is it just you and your faithful, four-legged friend? Is this piece going to be in a room frequented by small children on a regular basis? Is it in a multitasking area? Is it your main entertaining area? Your lifestyle plays as large a role in your selection as space does. "Your furniture should enhance and complement your lifestyle, not be a source of constant worry or maintenance," says Lael Thompson, chief operations officer of Broyhill Home Collections. "Be upfront with yourself and the designer about how the furniture will be used, and he or she can help you find the right style to meet your needs."

Do a little research:
"Take a quick glance at magazines and see if there are things that jump out at you," Thompson suggests. "Bring in some of your favorites so your interior designer can get an idea of the styles you like. That way we can save you time by narrowing down the options and not pointing out everything in the store." In addition to magazines, you might peruse decor advice on sites like this one to help you fine-tune your style preferences.

Make a budget:
Home furnishings can vary tremendously in price, so the first thing you need to do is set a realistic budget. Spend what you can afford, but also keep in mind that you'll need to pay a little more for higher quality furniture. If you can, consider stretching a little beyond what you think you can afford in a few years, you don't want a budget compromise to have become the shabbiest piece in your room because it couldn't stand up to your lifestyle. Thompson suggests you consider how long you plan to use the furniture. This determines how much you should spend on it, or whether you'd be satisfied making a compromise.

Take a picture:
"We always ask our customers to bring in a photo of their room - even if it's still on their camera phone or digital camera," Thompson says. "It really shows me how they live, and I'm going to see some kind of theme going on there - whether the person is especially practical, has kids, works in the space or needs storage solutions. People have a hard time remembering all those things when they come into the store. Bringing in a color sample or a pillow would be great too, but it's not practical. Pictures help us a lot, so just take a couple before you walk out the door!"

Enjoy the process:
Above all, enjoy yourself. Furniture shopping doesn't have to be a chore; it can be a fun adventure that brings beautiful new pieces into your home and your life. "Don't settle. There are so many options out there. There is absolutely no reason to buy something you don't like," Thompson says. "So have fun with the process, and a good retailer will want to make sure you are thrilled with your purchase."