A Furniture Shopping Checklist

Do some planning before your purchase to help ensure a smooth shopping experience.

by Trisha Kemerly

There’s a ton of things to think about before making a buying decision on a new piece of furniture for your home. Colors, fabrics, styles, budget and lifestyle all figure into the decision, and the last thing you want to do is make a hasty decision at the store. In order to help your salesperson help you find the perfect piece of furniture, consider checking off this list before you set foot in the store.

  • Evaluate your space:
    Think about how much space you have, and what size and shape of the piece you’re buying (whether it’s a sofa, table, chest or bed) would best fit in your room. If you’re looking for a sofa for a large room, consider a sofa. If it’s a very small area, maybe a loveseat would be more appropriate. If it’s a dining table you’re shopping for, what shape would look best in the room: square, rectangular, round, oval? The size and shape of your room will help dictate the sizes and shapes of the furniture you need.

  • Pay attention to measurements and size:
    Many people actually forget this step, only to discover that the furniture they picked in the showroom doesn’t fit in their home! For example, a standard sofa is 84 inches long, but if you’re considering a sectional or oversized piece, be sure to know what your room (and your doorframe) can handle. Always measure your space and your old furniture beforehand. Also jot down the measurements of the furniture you’re considering buying. To easily plan how furniture will fit into dimensions and scale of your space, while also taking structural elements like doors, windows and fireplaces into account, use the HomeFurnishings.com Room Planner for space planning.

  • Be realistic about your lifestyle:
    Do you have a large family, or is it just you and your faithful, four-legged friend? Is this piece going to be in a room frequented by small children on a regular basis? Is it in a multitasking area? Is it your main entertaining area? Your lifestyle plays as large a role in your selection as space does. “Your furniture should enhance and complement your lifestyle, not be a source of constant worry or maintenance,” says Lael Thompson, chief operations officer of Broyhill Home Collections. “Be upfront with yourself and the salesperson about how the furniture will be used, and he or she can help you find the right style to meet your needs.”

  • Do a little research:
    “Take a quick glance at magazines and see if there are things that jump out at you,” Thompson suggests. “Bring in some of your favorites so your salesperson can get an idea of the styles you like. That way we can save you time by narrowing down the options and not pointing out everything in the store.” In addition to magazines, you might peruse décor advice on sites like this one to help you fine-tune your style preferences. HomeFurnishings.com has a My Ideas folder where you can store the articles you like best and refer to them later for inspiration. Just click the “Add to My Ideas” button at the top of the article.

  • Make a budget:
    Home furnishings can vary tremendously in price, so the first thing you need to do is set a realistic budget. Spend what you can afford, but also keep in mind that you’ll need to pay a little more for higher quality furniture. If you can, consider stretching a little beyond what you think you can afford—in a few years, you don’t want a budget compromise to have become the shabbiest piece in your room because it couldn’t stand up to your lifestyle. Thompson suggests you consider how long you plan to use the furniture. This determines how much you should spend on it, or whether you’d be satisfied making a compromise.

  • Take a picture:
    “We always ask our customers to bring in a photo of their room—even if it’s still on their camera phone or digital camera,” Thompson says. “It really shows me how they live, and I’m going to see some kind of theme going on there—whether the person is especially practical, has kids, works in the space or needs storage solutions. People have a hard time remembering all those things when they come into the store. Bringing in a color sample or a pillow would be great too, but it’s not practical. Pictures help us a lot, so just take a couple before you walk out the door!”

  • Enjoy the process:
    Above all, enjoy yourself. Furniture shopping doesn’t have to be a chore; it can be a fun adventure that brings beautiful new pieces into your home and your life.“Don’t settle. There are so many options out there. There is absolutely no reason to buy something you don’t like,” Thompson says. “So have fun with the process, and a good retailer will want to make sure you are thrilled with your purchase.”

In-Stock or Special Order?

Let your shopping style and deadline guide your next furniture purchase.

by Deanna L. Thompson

Do you hope to find your dream sofa on the showroom floor and have it in your home within a week? Or, do you have a vision of your perfect sofa, the ability to “see” different fabrics, cushion styles and finishes on a piece of furniture—and the patience to wait for your personally designed sofa to be made? Answering these questions will help you decide whether an in-stock item or a special-order piece is right for you.

In-stock = Quick

Buying an in-stock item appeals to shoppers who like to see before they buy, as well as to customers who need their furniture quickly—say, before company arrives next month! The advantages of in-stock buying include:

  • You know exactly what your sofa, dining room set or bedroom set looks like before you bring it home. “You get to touch, feel, sit on and see the actual piece of furniture,” says Amanda Rudd, manager and buyer at Rudd Furniture Company in Dothan, Ala. “That is valuable. For some, that’s the only way they can buy.”
  • You may get a better price than on a special order item, particularly if the store is having a sale. “Special offers and discounts usually pertain only to in-stock merchandise,” notes Rudd.
  • You can have the item in your home quickly.

So what are the disadvantages?  You may not find the exact color or style you want in stock. You can’t customize the furniture to fit your vision. And there’s always the chance that someone you know will love that same sofa—and buy it for HER house.

Special-Order = Unique

When you want to create a one-of-a-kind room, special order may be your best choice—if you’re willing to wait a little longer to have the furniture of your dreams. The advantages of special ordering include:

  • You create a piece of furniture that truly reflects your personal style. “You get something that’s unique to you,” says Jerry Hux, owner of Beverly Hall Interiors, a furniture retailer with two stores in the Atlanta area and another in Hilton Head, S.C.
  • You can customize the furniture, choosing attributes ranging from the pillow style to the color of fabric on a sofa. On a dining room or bedroom set, you can pick from among various styles of chairs, buffets, tables, headboards, chests and other pieces—and often specify the wood finish.

The downside to special orders? You probably won’t see your exact item before it arrives in your home. You must pay a deposit, which typically is not refundable once the order is placed, so you need to be very sure the item is what you want. And you need to be willing to wait—weeks or months—for your furniture to be delivered.

Final Answer?

Both types of buying have advantages, so there is no right or wrong answer. The decision on whether to buy in-stock or special-order comes down to which type of purchase works best for you and your home.

Brain Build Memories By Dreaming!

People who dream about a task they’ve just practiced get a major memory boost on the task when they awake, but those who dream about anything else have no such enhanced recall. Neither do those who stay awake, even if they think about the task. Harvard researchers report in a paper published online in Current Biology.

Dreaming about a demanding undertaking doesn’t cause enhanced memories for that experience, says study co-author Robert Stickgold, a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School, Instead, he suggests, the dreams are caused by the brain’s memory-fortifying processes during sleep.

In the study, 99 college students tried navigating a complex computer maze and were asked to remember the location of a particular tree. Then some took naps and some stayed awake and engaged in quiet activities. When they re-entered the maze at random spots, those who had dreamed of the task-four of 50 nappers-found the tree much faster than they had before.

Sleep Savvy Magazine


According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 70 million Americans are affected by a chronic sleep disorder or intermittent sleep problem.  Women suffer from lack of sleep more often than men and with increasing frequency as they age.

Here are a few tips from the National sleep Foundation on getting a better night’s sleep:

  • Try to have a standard, relaxing bedtime routine and keep regular sleep times.
  • Make sure your bedroom is dark, cool and quiet and that your pillows, sleep surface and coverings provide you with comfort.
  • Exercise regularly, but finish your workout at least three hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid foods and drinks high in caffeine (coffee, colas and tea) for at least eight hours prior to bedtime, and avoid alcohol for a few hours before bedtime. Caffeine and alcohol disturb sleep.
  • Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex to strengthen the association between bed and sleep.  It is best to remove work materials, computers and televisions from the sleep environment.


1. The record for the longest period of time without sleep is 18 days, 21 hours, 40 minutes. The record holder reported hallucinations, paranoia, blurred vision, slurred speech, and lapses in memory and concentration.

2. If it takes you less than five minutes to fall asleep at night, you’re sleep-deprived. The ideal is 10 to 15 minutes, which means you’re tired enough to sleep deeply, but not so exhausted you feel sleepy during the day.

3. A new baby typically results in 400-750 hours of lost sleep for parents in the first year.

4. Elephants sleep standing up during non-REM sleep, but lie down for REM sleep. (Rapid Eye Movement sleep is the stage in which dreams generally occur.)

5. REM sleep may help developing brains mature. Premature babies have 75% REM sleep-10% more than full-term babies.

6. After five nights of partial sleep deprivation, three drinks will have the same effect on your body as six would when you’ve slept enough.

7. Humans sleep an average of about three hours less than other primates such as chimps, rhesus monkeys, squirrel monkeys and baboons, all of which sleep for 10 hours.

8. Feeling tired can feel normal within a relatively short period of time. People deliberately deprived of sleep for research initially noticed the significant effects on their alertness, mood and physical performance, but the awareness dropped off after the first few days.

9. Snoring occurs only in non-REM sleep.

10. Teenagers need as much sleep as small children (about 10 hours). For the average adult aged 25-55, eight hours is generally considered optimal.

Source: The National Sleep Research Project (Australia).


No we’re not kidding. The humble banana may prove to be a lifesaver for sleep apnea sufferes.

Australian researchers have found that downing an unconventional nightcap of a banana smoothie may help keep sufferers’ throats from closing and reduce the risk of blocked breathing.

Preliminary results of a study from Australia’s University of New England show that drinking a banana smoothie at bedtime helps keep the throat open during sleep. The phospholipids. or fatty acids, stay active in the mouth for six hours-long enough to get a reasonable amount of uninterruped sleep.

“Our initial findings suggest that bananas may offer a relatively cheap and tasty alternative as part of the treatment for patients with obstructive sleep apnea,” said researcher Dr. Tom Van der Touw.

But be sure to brush your teeth first, he added, since the smoothie proved most effective when consumed after brushing.

Sleep Savvy Magazine


New scientific research continues to unmask the effects of chronic sleeplessness, and the results are enough to keep you up at night! Here are four of the most devastating effects, courtesy of the American Heart Association:

1. Sleep Loss Can Lead To Diabetes

A recent study shows that “people who sleep less than six hours a night appear to have a higher risk of developing impaired fasting glucose-a condition that can precede type 2 diabetes.”

2. Sleep Loss Can Raise Your Blood Pressure

Another recent study found that a lost hour of sleep-one hour less than the recommended eight-increased the odds of developing high blood pressure an average of 37% over five years; skipping two hours raised the blood pressure risk 86%. This condition can lead to heart attack, stroke or kidney failure.

3. Sleep Loss Can Make You Fat

Several recent studies have confirmed that there is a link between lost sleep and weight gain. In one study, participants who slept six hours per night were 27% more likely to become obese than those sleeping seven to nine hours; people getting five hours of sleep per night were 73% more likely to become obese; and those with only two to four hours of sleep per night were 67% more likely to become obese.

4.Sleep Loss Can Make You Vulnerable To Cancer

Yet another recent study showed that even when people take preventive actions that have been proven to lower cancer risks (such as exercising and eating right), inadequate sleep seems to counteract those benefits.

More research is underway on these and other health risks associated with cheating on sleep. Meanwhile, you might want to alert your family, friends, neighbors…and customers: Don’t shirk on the shut-eye.

SleepSavvy Magazine


In addition to vaccines, proper nutrition and exercise, one of the most effective ways to fight off illness is to make sure you get enough sleep.  In fact, several recent studies point to shut-eye as a way to boost the immune system, including one led by Sheldon Cohen, MD, at Carnegie Mellon University.  In his test, adults agreed to have cold viruses sprayed up their noses and then wait five days in a hotel to see if they got sick.  When the five days were complete, the majority of the participants had become infected with the virus but not all of them developed a cold.  The research revealed that those participants who got at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night were less likely to become sick with the common cold.

Though the exact ways sleep works and how it rejuvenates the body’s immune system are still a mystery, sleep experts agree that adequate rest is necessary to keep a healthy body.  The National Sleep Foundation says getting the right amount of sleep is part of the “staying well” puzzle.  “Research shows that everyone needs sleep, and that it’s a critical factor in you health, weight and energy level”, says Dr. Marc Schlosberg, a neurologist who works with the sleep lab at the National Rehabilitation Hospital, also in Washington D.C. “Plus, it cuts down on stress”.

Simmon Better Sleep News


There are things we want to spend money on but shouldn’t. And then there are things we don’t want to spend money on but have to. These days, the goal is to save money, even when a necessary purchase arises. But the writers at www.DivineCaroline.com say there are some things worth spending a little extra money on. For example? Your Mattress. 

“It’s where you drift off to sleep every night and where you greet every day. It makes sense that you want that night of sleep, or occasional nap, to help you wake up feeling well rested. So go ahead and pay a little more for the high-quality mattress.” 

That’s from a Scripps news service story published in late August, referring to a story written by Allie Firestone for Divine Caroline-a women’s lifestyle website-in October 2008. Here’s the full list of things worth paying extra for: 

  1. A mattress 

  2. A refrigerator 

  3. Running Shoes 

  4. Quality, healthy food 

  5. Medical expenses 

  6. An accountant 

  7. Mental health 

  8. Quality furniture* 

  9. Hybrid car 

  10. Durable pans and knives 

* “Cheap furniture is best avoided whenever possible. Whether you’re talking kitchen table or couch, getting one that lasts and makes you comfortable means spending a little more.” 

Courtesy SleepSavvy Magazine


Here are some tips for sleeping better together – from the bedding industry-supported Better Sleep Council:

Resolve daytime problems before going to bed. 

Don’t wait until you’re nose-to-nose at night to work out problems or disagreements.  If you associate your bed with worrying or quarreling, you’ll have trouble associating it with a good night’s sleep.  And a bad night’s sleep can make a good relationship harder to restore.

Agree on a set of ground rules.

Have an honest talk about your nighttime differences.  Then work out an agreement that you can both live with – “Lights on by 11″, for example.  If she wants to read in the middle of the night, she goes to the living room or uses a high-intensity reading light that lets her see, but leaves him in the dark.

Make sure your mattress is right for the both of you.

Your mattress needs to be spacious enough for two active, adult bodies, supportive enough for the heaviest sleeper and comfortable enough to cradle you both to sleep.  If your bed set has seen more than 5-7 years of nightly service, it probably isn’t giving you and your partner the comfort you need for the best night’s sleep and should be evaluated for replacement.

Arrange your sleeping environment together.

In addition to a joint selection of the right mattress, couples need to consult on such factors as bedroom temperature (mid-60s is optimum for sleeping), fresh air or air conditioning, a little moonlight or total darkness.  And before you purchase blankets or pillows, find out what your partner prefers.

Don’t let a serious sleep problem persist.

If your partner has any symptoms of a sleep disorder-loud snoring, teeth grinding and continuous leg jerks are a few-you may be the only one who knows about it.  Since a sleep disorder can rob you both of a good night’s sleep, make sure it receives medical attention.  Nearly all of these problems are treatable at local sleep disorders clinics.

For more information on buying a new mattress or on getting a good night’s sleep, visit the Better Sleep Council’s website at http://www.bettersleep.org/.

Shopping for a new mattress? Wondering which mattress is right for you? Click here to ask us online – or visit us in our store. We’d be happy to help you and your sleep partner get a good night’s sleep!