Main photo: Photo provided by Lydia Uzzell Interior Design
Advice from interior designers on buying furniture that will stand the test of time.
You’ve just moved into a fabulous new place. There’s a rush of excitement, but before you can really settle in, you’ll need to furnish those empty rooms.
It’s time to invest in key pieces of well-made furniture which will pay off in the long run and will showcase your personality.
“Whether it is a piece of furniture, art, or accessory, if it makes your heart sing, go for it,” encourages Lydia Uzzell of Lydia Uzzell Interior Design. “It’s amazing walking into your home and smiling every time you see something you love.”
These statement pieces can go a long way in personalising your space.
“When you are considering a statement piece, find something that is a direct reflection of you and your style because these items are what make a space distinctly yours,” advises Justin Szigeti, senior designer at IDG Interiors. “What speaks to you? Is it bold colour? The materials it’s made from, or its actual form?”
Take your time
There’s no need to panic when shelling out top dollar, and most importantly you don’t have to blow your budget by scooping up the first sofa, kitchen table or bedroom set you see in one fell swoop.
In fact, you should never be in a rush, says Michelle Butler of Design Studio.
“The biggest piece of advice I can give is that if this is your home, then buy pieces as you find them, as you love them,” she says. “Trust your instincts, just take your time.”
Michelle, who has a background in architecture, advises new homeowners, whether they are single or raising a family, that investing in bigger-ticket furniture and customised pieces will stand the test of time, even if they devour a large portion of your budget.
Start with the bedroom, she says, as this is where people spend at least three-quarters of their time at home.
Michelle says there are three key pieces of bedroom furniture to invest in first.
“Number one: the mattress, as you need to sleep well,” she points out. “Number two: the nightstands, and, following in the footsteps of my own home, good lighting would be number three.”
Although the aim is to keep the budget from ballooning, there are times to just go for broke. Michelle did that when decorating her bedroom.
“I have two gorgeous golden night stands that I completely splurged on,” she says. “But I have a mattress on a metal stand, I’ll get the headboard eventually. You can have a bare room that’s painted white with a mattress on the floor and, as long as it has great linens and great lighting, you’re good to go.”
Lydia agrees that putting money into a mattress is a good idea. “While not really ‘statement’ pieces, sofas and mattresses are so worth the investment,” she says. “You spend a significant part of your home life on these two things, so buy the most expensive versions of them that your budget allows. You won’t regret it.”
Justin echoes this. “Investment pieces are the ones that get used the most, are the focal point of a room, and set the overall design of a space. In living rooms for example, your sofa would be an investment piece and, in bedrooms, it would be the actual bed along with an incredible mattress. A great night sleep is definitely worth the investment.”
When you finally find the must-have, can’t-live-without piece, there’s a whole lot more to consider before plunking down a wad of cash.
“If you have your eye on the perfect mattress but have three kids who love to jump into the family bed, you’ll need something that is practical as well,” says Michelle.
Rethinking your furniture placement may allow for any impractical finds.
“For example, if you fall in love with an expensive silk-covered chair but have three dogs and five children, it’s probably not the best investment for your living room,” says Lydia.
“Consider putting it into your master bedroom instead, where you can enjoy it without worrying that it will be subject to abuse.”
Pay attention to the rest of the room, too.
“Consider where it will go in a room and how it will work with the other elements to complement the overall decor,” says Justin. “Just remember, too many statement pieces will make the room feel like its shouting rather than saying who you are.”
Overall, keep in mind important factors when choosing furniture.
“When investing in furniture you need to consider the purpose for that piece and how it will be used. Take all factors into consideration when making your selections: style, size, quality, and comfort,” says Justin, who also advises being aware of durability and longevity when putting your money behind furniture.
“Durability is how something is constructed and the materials used, and longevity speaks to whether the style is sustainable. Stay away from fad designs.”
Michelle agrees that durability is important.
“We obviously have a lifestyle here where it’s hot and humid so, before anything, I would want to make sure that people take that into consideration,” she says. “Although they might see something on Pinterest like a beautiful upholstered bed in silk, or some other fancy fabric, it may not last; it’s just not the right environment.”
Michelle recommends the sturdy indoor/outdoor acrylic fabric from Sunbrella, which has the look and feel of linen.
Michelle has a good rule of thumb.
“It’s not always obvious, but think about what is the most important room to you so that it gets the bigger slice of the budget,” she says. “I would say that if you have a thousand dollars to spend, you should max out on the high-end pieces and not worry about accessorising.
“Instead, fill in any blank spaces with low-cost items such as plants and photos that will still add a personal touch.”
Lydia has similar advice. “If there is a statement piece you can’t live without, consider compromising on other elements to offset the extra cost, or waiting until you have the funds to purchase it and making do without in the interim. Buy better once instead of cheaply twice.”
It’s also best to avoid the pitfalls of shopping online.
“If it’s an investment piece, it is really important to see it in person,” says Michelle. “If it’s an accessory piece, such as a fun, one-off piece that’s not too expensive, fine, buy online.”