Visits to furniture stores can be more than a little overwhelming. Good furniture is an investment, so prices tend to be high. Sales people often work on commission, leaving some visitors feeling pressured. Perhaps most stressful is the incredible variety of style options available. If you don’t go in with an idea of what you’re looking for, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and frustrated and sometimes to leave empty handed. In this guide to buying furniture, we’ll review some of the traditional furniture styles, focusing on upholstery fabrics and building materials.
Furniture Material Types
Upholstered furniture can lend a cozy feel to any room. Choosing the right type of fabric depends on a number of factors including texture, pattern, and cleanability.
- Leather is a supple, strong material that provides a luxurious feel to any piece of furniture. There are a couple of processes that give leather its distinctive softness and shine, though the most popular is called vegetable tanning. Leather is not cleaned very easily and requires special treatment if water or any other liquid spills on it. Many furniture stores offer leather cleaning services and products.
- Suede is also considered a type of leather but is less expensive and less durable. It is soft to the touch and is common for upholstering bar stools, dining chairs, and ottomans.
- Canvas is strong and durable, usually appearing on more casual pieces of furniture. It is usually woven from cotton, flax, hemp, or other fibers and can be printed with virtually any pattern or dyed to any color.
- Vinyl provides a less expensive alternative to leather, but is widely regarded to be less comfortable. It is significantly shinier than leather, but is still very tough and flexible.
- Synthetic fiber is the least expensive option for seat upholstery and has the widest variety of included fabrics because it is all mechanically and chemically constructed. Synthetic fibers are usually very easy to care for because they are water soluble. The most common synthetics are acetate, nylon, and polyester.
Furniture Building Materials
Woods and synthetic woods come in a variety of finishes and prices. Whether you’re shopping on a budget or looking for a luxurious investment piece, it’s important to know what building materials you’re looking at.
- Solid wood furniture is considered the best on the market and often lasts for a very long time. Hardwood solids in particular are cut from the trunks of deciduous hardwood trees. Oak and maple are two of the most commonly used for furniture and cabinetry.
- Asian hardwood is also known as parawood, rubberwood, and tropical hardwood. Grown in Southeast Asia, the trees that produce such materials are strong and sometimes called Malaysian Oak because of their durability.
- Engineered wood, also called MDF or medium density fiberboard is made from multiple wood fibers glued together under heat and pressure. Such materials are usually very affordable and moderately durable. They imitate the look of real wood and can fit into modest budgets.
Furniture stores offer a variety of pieces designed to fit every style and budget. Before venturing in, however, it is important for customers to have an idea of what interests them. Do your research and have a game plan before you buy.
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