The apparent difference between expensive and inexpensive furniture is quality. And while we know that’s true, it can be challenging for shoppers to differentiate between expensive and cheap furniture. Furniture prices can be confusing when a homeowner has a whole house to decorate and furnish.

Why Is Furniture So Expensive?

Well-designed, durable, and quality furniture requires quality inputs, and when you add these costs to logistics and labor, it’s easier 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 is 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 will 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 cheap furniture and quality furniture designed to last a lifetime.

Check the Finishes and Detailing

The quality of the finish on furniture items is the biggest giveaway when recognizing cheap furniture. It’s easy to differentiate between a good-quality polish or varnish and a poor-quality finish. Another obvious sign is the depth of color in the wood.

Check the joins; do they meet ideally – is everything flush? Most inexpensive furniture doesn’t have a top-quality look and feels to it. There needs to be more quality craftsmanship; even with experience, most people can recognize cheap furniture designed to last just a few years.

Once you know what to look for, you’ll quickly detect fine furniture by its construction. Check 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 will only last for a while 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 each piece’s structure. You can’t compare this type of furniture with items you buy and put together yourself. Cheaper furniture items often need more detailing and good finishing. Rough edges, unconcealed bolts, nails, heavy use of adhesive, and low-quality varnish are just signs to look for.

If you choose cheaper items, just be aware that they will only last for a short time 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 see the designs become more fluffy and cozy as you move up the quality chain.

Research Materials

Please research which materials are used to manufacture cheap furniture items; we immediately think of particle board and Formica. Knowing the materials used can help define the quality of the item you purchase.

Other materials used to manufacture inexpensive furniture include laminates, MDF (medium-density fibreboard), melamine, and softwood. That doesn’t mean these materials don’t serve a purpose because they’re undoubtedly 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.

Check The Weight

If you’re drawn to an attractive piece of furniture, visualize 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 shocked at how light it is. This is not a high-quality item.

Alternatively, a bulky item may not be top-quality either. You would have a fair idea of how heavy a classy-looking side table should be, but then you try to move it and discover it will stay the same. This side table has probably been manufactured from dense low-quality material.

Set a Budget and Create a Plan

Once you know how much good-quality furnishings cost, set a budget and 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.

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 yet to learn the quality of these pieces unless you know the brand name. We always suggest seeing this type of item in person, significantly when it might cost you a lot of money. We realize 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 will likely cost you.

Sign up for brand newsletters advising of future discounts, and remember that you can make some incredible deals when purchasing showroom samples.

Be Resourceful

You’ve checked out the cost of good-quality furniture items, and you don’t quite have the budget for these purchases. 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 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 to spend money where you spend your time. This means you should pay the most for the table you use. Purchasing cheap items often means buying discomfort, and you may have to replace these items in a year anyway.

The Sofa

The focal point of your living room is typically the sofa, where people spend a lot of time. Purchasing a cheap sofa will inevitably cost you money because the fabric will rip or stretch, and the couch 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 that will last many years, and if you select a flexible and classic style, it could be re-upholstered later for a quick refresh.

Your Bed

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. Regarding your bed, spend wisely and invest in support and comfort. It would help to have a sturdy bed base and a good supportive mattress. You don’t need a headboard, least of all an expensive headboard so you could save money on this item.

Dining and Coffee Tables

We suggest that you invest in good-quality dining and coffee tables. These items typically get a lot of use daily, 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 suitable varnish finish will last many years, and you’ll always be proud of your beautiful setting.

Items to SAVE Money On

Only some of your furniture items need to be expensive and top-quality. There are 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 (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 an area where you can save some money. Most people need help to tell the difference between expensive and inexpensive lighting, so if budget is an issue, we suggest looking online and in cheaper furniture stores for your lighting needs. You’ll find some beautiful affordable 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 your décor.

Other Inexpensive Suggestions For Adding Interest

Let’s now look at different ways of adding inexpensive items to your décor to make your home look and feel much more expensive and luxurious.

Introduce Art

There’s nothing more classy than 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 suitable artwork can make any space look brighter and more energetic, and best of all, luxurious and more expensive. And you have a wide choice of art prints at various prices. Be daring and bold, and add 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 décor colors. They’re also great for adding pattern and personality to any room. You may cover your generic Ikea sofa with a gorgeous, bright textile or 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 books on your coffee table. It will highlight your collection and look bright because it adds color and layers to your room artfully.

Decorative Objects

Is there a bare tabletop or mantle in your home that needs 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 color palette, and everything will tie in together beautifully.

Use Mirrors

Mirrors are always a clever way of adding glamour to any room, regardless of 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 affordable furniture is much more expensive.

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