Differentiating Between Expensive and Inexpensive Furniture
The obvious difference between expensive and inexpensive furniture is quality. And while we know that’s true; it’s not always easy for shoppers to differentiate between expensive and cheap furniture. When a homeowner has a whole house to decorate and furnish, furniture prices can be confusing at best.
Why Is Furniture So Expensive?
Well-designed, durable, and quality furniture requires quality inputs, and when you add these costs to logistics and labour, it’s not so difficult to understand the high prices. So how can consumers determine which items to spend their money on and which items to save on? What about online furniture? Some of it looks good, and it’s much cheaper than in physical stores. Does expensive furniture necessarily mean that it’s good-quality furniture?
To answer all these questions and to help you understand the differences to look for between expensive and inexpensive furniture items, we’ll share with you our years of expertise on the do and don’ts of furniture shopping.
We’re going to cover everything you need to know for your next furniture shopping expedition, from scouring local vintage haunts to cheap furniture sites, because there are ways to tell the difference between furniture that’s cheap and quality furniture that’s designed to last a lifetime.
(OCEAN ARMCHAIR & OTTOMAN in the image)
Check the Finishes and Detailing
The quality of the finish on furniture items is probably the biggest giveaway when it comes to recognizing cheap furniture. It’s not difficult to differentiate between a good quality polish or varnish and a poor quality finish. Another obvious sign is the depth of colour in the wood.
Check the joins; do they meet perfectly - is everything flush? Most inexpensive furniture simply doesn’t have a top-quality look and feel to it. There’s little quality craftsmanship and, even without any experience, most people can recognise cheap furniture that’s designed to last just a few years.
Once you know what to look for, you’ll easily detect fine furniture by its construction. Check out the entire piece; check the sides and rails and open all drawers. A thoughtful build will have a specific type of joinery, like lap or dovetail joints, but if it’s put together with some dowels, glue and staples, it’s not going to last long before it starts falling apart.
Another sign of solid construction is when the furniture is fully-assembled. A good furniture builder is proud of his work and carefully plans the construction of each piece be builds. You simply can’t compare this type of furniture with items you buy and put together yourself. Cheaper furniture items often fall short when it comes to detailing and good finishing. Rough edges, unconcealed bolts and nails, heavy use of adhesive, and low-quality varnish are just some signs to look for.
(HAITI RATTAN CHAIR LOUNGE in the image)
If you decide to go with cheaper items, just be aware that they won’t last nearly as long as more expensive items. With a higher furniture budget you’ll notice smoother edges, rounded corners, and well-tufted fabric. As the prices increase you’ll also notice the designs become more fluffy and cosy as you move up the quality chain.
Do your own research to determine which materials are used in the manufacture of cheap furniture items; we immediately think of particle board and formica. Just knowing the materials used can help define the quality of the item you are purchasing.
Other materials used in manufacturing inexpensive furniture items include laminates, MDF (medium-density fibreboard), melamine, and softwood. That doesn’t mean these materials don’t serve a purpose because they’re certainly beneficial when used in manufacturing furniture for use in less-used areas, and even in children’s bedrooms; however, knowing what these items are manufactured from can help in understanding that this type of furniture is not high-quality or long-lasting.
(EVE SIDEBOARD in the image)
Check The Weight
If you’re drawn to an attractive piece of furniture, visualise how much the item might weigh. Cheaper furniture items will be lighter or much heavier in weight. Let’s say you love the look of a cast-iron lamp, but when you pick it up you’re taken aback at just how light it is. This is obviously not a high-quality item.
Alternatively, an excessively heavy item may not be top-quality either. You would have a fair idea how heavy a classy-looking side table should be, but then you try to move it and discover it won’t budge. This side table has probably been manufactured from dense low-quality material.
(CAPRI BACKLESS BAR STOOL in the image)
Set a Budget and Create a Plan
Once you have an idea just how much good-quality furnishings cost, set a budget and create a plan. You may need to physically shop around first, or even go-online to get an idea of costings. Now you can set a budget for your purchases.
We suggest factoring in whether you can afford to spend more on specific items or if you’ll need to choose cheaper furniture. Knowing this means you can start searching for great furniture deals.
(BOBBIE BEDSIDE TABLE in the image)
Be Cautious When Online Shopping
Be wary when shopping online for cheap furniture deals; the products might look great but keep in mind that you have no idea of the quality of these pieces, unless of course you know the brand name. We always suggest seeing this type of item in person, especially when it might cost you a lot of money. We realise this is not always possible, so ensure they offer a fair and reasonable returns policy. Again, be cautious about who pays for returns, and how much this is likely to cost you.
Sign up for brand newsletters advising of future discounts, and keep in mind that you can make some incredible deals when purchasing showroom samples.
So you’ve checked out the cost of good-quality furniture items and you don’t quite have the budget for these purchases at the moment. Instead of wasting good money on cheap furniture, consider searching through online marketplaces, like Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree, and Craigslist, where people often give away their cheap furniture for free.
You now know how to differentiate between cheap and expensive furniture, so let’s take a look at how you can save money and where your money should be invested.
Items to SPEND Money On
The rule of thumb for purchasing furniture is that you should spend money where you spend your time. This means you should spend the most money on furniture items you use the most. Purchasing cheap items often means purchasing discomfort, and you may have to replace these items in a years’ time anyway.
The focal point of your living room is typically the sofa, and this is where people spend a lot of time. Purchasing a cheap sofa will inevitably end up costing you money because the fabric will rip or stretch and the sofa will sag and start looking cheap and nasty in no time at all. It’s always a good idea to purchase a high-quality sofa which will last many years, and if you select a flexible and classic style it could probably be re-upholstered at a later date for a quick refresh.
We spend about one-third of every day in our bed, so it stands to reason that it must be super-comfortable and well made. Sleeping in a badly-constructed bed can be torturous on your back and significantly affect your mood. When it comes to your bed, spend wisely and invest in support and comfort. You need a sturdy bed base and a good supportive mattress. You don’t necessarily need a headboard, least of all an expensive headboard, so you could save money on this item.
Dining and Coffee Tables
It’s our suggestion that you invest in good quality dining and coffee tables. Both of these items typically get a lot of use on a daily basis, so cheaper items could well tarnish and scratch easily. If you have a family or love entertaining it’s a good idea to splurge on a good-quality dining room set with comfortable, supportive seats. A hardwood set with a good varnish finish will last for many years and you’ll always be proud of your beautiful setting.
Items to SAVE Money On
Not all your furniture items need to be expensive and top-quality. There are definitely some items you can save on. Check out the following ideas –
Nightstands and Side Tables
You can get some good bargains by searching online for ‘discount furniture near me’ or ‘cheap furniture sets’. Nightstands and side tables don’t have the heavy use as (say) a coffee table might and are often more decorative than practical. We suggest saving money on these and other furniture items that are less frequently used.
Lighting is definitely an area where you can save some money. Most people can’t tell the difference between expensive and inexpensive lighting, so if budget is an issue for you, we suggest looking online and in cheaper furniture stores for your lighting needs. You’ll find some very attractive cheap lighting that looks just as good as more expensive items, and if you’re not 100% happy with an item you could always give it a paint touch-up to match in with your décor.
Other Inexpensive Suggestions For Adding Interest
Let’s now have a look at different ways of adding inexpensive items to your décor to make your home look and feel much more expensive and luxurious.
There’s nothing more classy that a gorgeous piece of artwork to add glamour to a space. Consider adding inexpensive framed artwork and sculptures to finish off your décor style.
The right piece of artwork can make any space look brighter and energetic, and best of all, luxurious and more expensive. And you have a really wide choice of art prints to choose from, at a wide range of prices. Be daring and bold, and add some glam to your home with a few well-chosen framed prints.
Throws and Pillows
A quick and easy way to switch out with changing times and tastes is to add throws and pillows in your own décor colours. They’re also a great way of adding pattern and personality to any room. It may be that you cover your generic Ikea sofa with a gorgeous, bright textile, or that you strategically place throws and poofs around your home; they’ll add comfort and elegance to the simplest of basic furnishings.
Coffee Table Books
Add personality and style to cheaper furniture items by stacking a selection of books on your coffee table. It will highlight your collection and it looks smart because it adds colour and layers to your room in an artful way.
Is there a bare tabletop or mantle in your home that needs a little something extra? Now is the time to introduce catchall trays, vases, vessels, and other decorative items to give a savvy upgrade to your cheaper furniture items. Keep to your colour palette and everything will tie in together beautifully.
Mirrors are always a clever way of adding glamour to any room, regardless how expensive or inexpensive your furniture may be. Mirrors instantly make any room look bigger and brighter and, when placed strategically, can trick the eye into believing your inexpensive furniture is a lot more expensive that it actually is.