We're off to buy furniture! Tips on how not to get had?

So…we would like a new living room and dining set. We just sold our old, badly beat up, cheapo, and dirty old sets yesterday at a garage sale.

We’ve been over to Wickes and liked a few things we saw, then went over to a couple other stores and liked nothing at one and a dining set at another. As we’re about to drop several grand into this, we’d like to be educated shoppers.

Consumer Reports, alas, does not have tips on furniture buying. I’ve done some searches via Google and gotten a couple of good ideas, but there’s not a lot out there on furniture per se–just tons on buying a mattress.

We know what style and color we want for both, we know how much we want to spend, and we know how much room/space we have. We also know all that extended warranty BS is typically a waste of money. (The guy at Wickes yesterday tried to slip in “extras” that added over $800 to the living room set! I about died…) We plan on picking it up ourselves with our full-size truck and not rely on their delivery service.

We’re looking for ideas on how to handle salespeople (Oh man…this one guy with a super-thick accent yesterday literally followed us ALL AROUND the store yesterday, even when we said to give us time, pushing pushing pushing this dinette set that we would have bought had he not been the salesperson! We joked if we started running through the store, he would have run after us…) as well as get a good deal.
Any tips on how to make sure we’re not getting hustled and know we’re getting decent stuff?

Make sure it is not held together with staples. I do not know what brainiac decided staples would be a good way to hold furniture together, but it was not a good idea.

I once mentioned buying furniture to a lawyer friend of mine and he made me promise to purchase furniture using only a credit card. Appears he had just had several folks come to him because furniture stores were suffering in the economic downturn ( this was about a year or 18 months ago ) and they were taking cash orders right up until the hour they declared bankruptcy… no furniture and no refund.

I manufactured items that went into upholstered furniture for 28 years and sold other items to them before that. I sold out partly because of the recession and partly because imports were replacing our customers. From what I understand, China not only has had a major effect, but they do manufacture furniture that is compariable to the best made here and it is cheaper. Just be careful and buy from a dealer that has been around for awhile. I’m not sure about Wickes, since they are out to move quanity and not quality.

As to the remark about staples, I hope that was concerning “case goods”, which includes dining room sets, bedroom sets, tables (anything not upholstered). Upholstered furniture has been put together with staples every since they stopped spitting tacks. :wink:

Don’t know how much you are looking to spend, but if you can find a store that sells furniture made by the Quakers, check it out. Well made, solid wood, screwed and glued and dovetailed.

Or look for an unfinished furniture outlet that sells solid oak sets.

If the dining room/living room set is $599, you’re going to be very disappointed down the road. This stuff is crap, with thinly veneered finishes, stuffing that will sag after a few months, and lots of particle board in the construction.

Whatever you do, don’t say mattress.


  1. Tell the salesman to back off. You’ll call on him if you need him. Ask him to wait until you summon him to answer a question.

  2. Do not, repeat DO NOT, go to Rooms to Go or Wickes or any of the other crappy stores. You’ll end up with what everyone else on the street has and you’ll hate yourself later.

  3. Buy quality and wait. That means, you might WANT a dining-room suite and a living-room suite right now. But, unless you have lots of money, it’s probably better to choose one or the other and get quality.

  4. Don’t buy furniture for your guests. Buy it for you. You’re the ones who’ll be sitting in it most. Let guests sit on the floor or on folding chairs until you can afford to seat them properly.

  5. DO NOT go for anything trendy. If you get a living/dining-room suite that’s any good, you’ll still have it twenty-five years from now. The green polka dots can get very old by then.

  • PW

Well, I found a couple of good research sites after varying my search words. Main points were to make sure frame is kiln-dried hardwood, leather is top grain, cushion is S-coil springs (not webbing, which was described as patio furniture with padding over it) and that there is a manufacturer’s warranty over the construction.

The Wickes set had top grain leather and supposedly hardwood frame, but absolutely nothing else. (We were also bugged by all the leather sofas with the nonremoveable cushions–what is up with that?) When we saw how badly it struck out, we were stunned at how overpriced it was (sofa alone is $1469). Wickes was completely inflexible about the price when we pointed out all of these things (politely, the salesperson was very kind about it), so we’re about 90% sure we’ve found our sofa and loveseat. It has all of the above recommended features, except the feet are just bolted on…not fans of that. But it has a lifetime warranty on the frame and springs, and the store owners are willing to do stuff like deduct the sales tax if we pay cash and offer a good combo deal on the leather repair package (which, considering we have two cats, is a very good idea). And BTW, kniz is absolutely correct–ALL furniture we looked at today had staples on it somewhere.

So…after 5 hours of shopping around, we’ve learned it pays to shop around–and have a little knowledge to go with it! (That, and Wickes leather furniture is cuh-rap, but nice looking crap…)

In any city of any decent size there is The Store that sells any kind of furniture you want for a lot less than the chains. Order finishes, fabrics, whatever. From good stuff to top-of-the-line. Our city was large enough that it had two, but now it’s down to one. The place is huge. You need a salesperson just because otherwise you’d get lost.

Ask around, find out the local version of this in your area. Go there.

Try the Salvation Army first. Sounds kinda cheesy, but if you save a couple grand, who cares about the cheese?

As a Swede I feel I just have to mention IKEA. :slight_smile:

I don’t know how they are quality- and pricewise compared to other brands in the States, but I think they have fairly good furniture and at reasonable prices.

Don’t buy anything in a print. It will cost more to re-decorate when the time comes. Go with a solid and you’ll get much more mileage out of it.

I went with semi-custom. It was more expensive, but it is guaranteed for life. All seams, wood construction, and stuffing…yes, stuffing…guaranteed for life. That means I’ll never have sagging cushions, torn seams, or a broken frame.

It is well worth the extra money. Also, go for the scotch-guarding. It makes a big difference, if you’re a slob like me.

This may not be your thing but have you considered antiques for the dining set? For the most part you know they’re of quality workmanship because they’ve already stood the test of time and often times their design follows a “classic” form that isn’t likely to go out of style.

Again, some people don’t care for them but they’re usually my very first consideration and once you develop a relationship with a dealer that carries things you like, they can help by keeping and eye out for you whenever they’re on a buying trip.

About twenty years ago, my parents had a wall unit custom-made at this wooden-furniture place in Whitby… they got to specify the dimensions, the wood, the hardware, the glass, everything. It was horribly expensive–over 2000 dollars, I think in the early eighties–but my stepfather had a good job at GM and they saved for it.

That furniture’s life is just beginning.

When buying bookshelves avoid the assemble-it-yourself stuff! Nothing that comes unassembled in a box is good.

Go to the unfinished furniture store of your choice, ideally a non-chain one, and stain/sand/varnish it yourself. Real wood, & usually quite solid.

I’d disagree with that Bosda. Some assemble-it-yourself stuff is good, but you have to avoid the stuff with Cheap Plastic Brackets and the like.

Ikea’s prices are great, but the quality is only middling to fair, IMO. I’ve got a few Ikea bookshelves and dressers that I’ve been using for a few years, and minor flaws are starting to show up, such as the bottom dropping out of the dresser drawers.

I’ll still consider Ikea in the future (I just assembled a child’s bookcase this weekend, and am considering one of their office desks), but potential Ikea customers should realize that the adage “you get what you paid for” still applies.

What’s wrong with mattress? :confused:

I had a reasonably good experience at Levitz last year. We bought a leather sofa, two armchairs with ottomans, a cloth couch and a cloth loveseat. They knocked $50 off the whole package since we bought so much at the same time. One of the ottomans was missing a rubber foot, and they gave us a whole new ottoman fairly promptly. The furniture has held up well against a toddler and four cats, and has been easy to clean.

Its a reference to a monty python sketch

buying a bed sketch