If high quality furniture is important to you, there are some things you should know before you shop!
Quality furniture might not on the top of your priority list if you are in you’re early twenties or thirties, but as you get older and start building a home you really treasure, finding quality furniture is an important step. Sleeping on hand-me-down mattresses and buying the cheapest furniture you can find, whether it be on Craigslist or at a yard sale or at a discount furniture store, at some point becomes unthinkable. And the hunt for real, high quality furniture becomes an important challenge.
So if you’re in the market for a new bed and maybe a new dresser or chest, or some new pieces for your dining room, how can you find pieces that are not only fairly priced, but built with quality as well? Well, with some research and years of experience in the furniture industry, we’ve come up with 3 steps to ensuring you are getting good quality furniture!
1. Know your wood types
If you are on the market for good quality wood furniture, it’s essential to know the difference between the different types of wood. Wood furniture typically falls into three different categories: solid wood, veneers, and particle board.
Quality solid wood furniture is usually more expensive than the other types, and for good reason. It’s sturdy, beautiful, and more natural in look and feel. It’s important to take care of your solid wood furniture, however, because they can sometimes be susceptible to wear and tear like scratches and water rings. Cherry, Oak, and Maple are always good choices for wood furniture as they all look lovely and are strong, solid woods.
Veneers have an inexpensive wood base covered by thin layers of better quality wood. The cheaper core means it’s less costly than a true solid wood piece. While veneers are less high quality than true solid wood, that doesn’t mean it is “bad” for furniture, though it is important to find a real veneer. Cheap, low quality furniture usually features a MDF (Medium-density fibreboard) with laminate coating on the sides that have the wood grain printed on it.
Particle Board is made from a combination of compressed woodchips and resin, often coated or veneered for furniture. It’s basically the scraps of the furniture world, making it the cheapest type of wood furniture. While it can look decent, it will not hold up for long and is not a great choice for anyone looking for true, long lasting quality.
2. Check the Joinery
Drawers and Doors provide perhaps the quickest and easiest quality check on craftsmanship. Make sure they are well fitted and adjusted properly. Drawers and doors should close easily and be flush with the cabinet front. The hardware should be substantial and adjustable in case of jostling during shipping and moving processes be sure to have your delivery crew make any necessary adjustments before they leave your home).
Dovetails: Dovetails are strong, attractive, joints that slide into one another and are noted for resistance to being pulled apart. Dovetail joints are commonly used to join the sides of a drawer to the front. Once glued, a wooden dovetail joint requires no mechanical fasteners. Dovetails are harder to cut than most joints, so they are usually seen on top quality furniture pieces. This type of joinery is so strong because of it’s unique shape, making it extremely difficult to pull them apart. It’s this incredible strength that makes them a staple of many top quality solid wood furniture pieces.
Mortise & Tenon: Simple and strong, mortise and tenon joinery has been used for millenia by woodworkers around the world to join pieces of wood, usually when the pieces are at a 90° angle. The joint may be glued, pinned, or wedged to lock it in place. By inserting one element of wood into another, a mortise-and-tenon joint provides unshakable strength.
3. Make sure it’s made in the USA
Besides the fact that American made furniture has a centuries old heritage & reputation for incredible craftsmanship, furniture that’s hand made in America gets an immediate gold star for integrity, just for the fact that the wood is legally and sustainably harvested (this is often not the case with imported furniture). You can also feel good that USA made furniture is creating American jobs and sustainable economies. Another benefit: no worries about toxic finishes and glues (common in imported furniture) that might offgas in your home or be ingested by small children.
This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.