Monday, July 20, 2015

Furniture 101

Things to know when buying furniture. 

Furniture shopping should be fun. What's more exciting than putting together a new look for the place you call home? Many people find it overwhelming. Here are a few bits of information to help keep the stress out of shopping. With a bit of knowledge, you'll be happier with your purchase.

One of the most important things when looking at furniture or mattresses to really get involved. You can't try a mattress by pushing your hand on it. You can't get a feel for a sofa just by looking at it. Much of what makes a quality sofa better than others is hidden from view unless you know what to look for.

Check the Cushions: The corners should be well defined. Seams should be hidden when not a part of the design. Whether firm or soft, they should look full. With the exception of leather and reclining, you should ALWAYS look for double sided cushions. They will be much more durable and it is a sign of better craftsmanship.

Look Under the Cushions: This can tell you a lot. Springs should be protected so they won't rub cushions. Look for loose screws, insufficient padding and support. This is a less finished part of the furniture so it shouldn't be as well tailored as the outside but quality manufacturers will spend a lot more time here than cheaper companies.

Check the Details: Look closely for quality. Nail head trip should be straight. Check to see if the nails are actually metal or plastic. If details continue to the back of the furniture, you can be sure the company doesn't skimp where it counts.
When a manufacturer makes the backs of their furniture as beautiful as the front, you can be sure they are putting in the time, effort, and money on the parts you don't see. Made by Bernhardt
Consider the Furniture Placement: The eventual home of the furniture is an important consideration. A sofa in front of a large picture window can fade over time. A kitchen table that doubles as a desk for homework needs a strong and durable finish.

Consider Leather: Leather can be a good choice for many people. It's durable, versatile, and is easy to care for. There are a few things you need to know before shopping.

  • Top Grain: This part of the hide is, as the name suggests, the top most layer. It is the most durable. Other layers are called splits and are not as comfortable or durable. Since they are still 100% leather, you need to check to make sure you are looking at top grain not just genuine leather.
  • Aniline: These leathers are soaked in aniline dye but no other colorings are used. These types will have a much richer grain.
  • Semi-Aniline: Aniline dyed with a slight coating to help prevent fading or staining. These are still very nice but won't have as luxurious of a feel as full aniline. It is a trade off between durability and comfort. 
  • Pigmented Leathers: These are fully coated and typically made from lesser quality hides. These are very durable but tend to be much stiffer. 
  • Finish: Leather is natural product so there will be "imperfections". Many people consider these to be a part of the natural beauty of leather. Aniline leather will develop a patina with age and use. 
  • Placement: Leather should not be placed too close to heat sources as it can dry the leather out. 
  • Companies with beautiful leather: Leathercraft, Norwalk, Bernhardt, Lexington. 

This sofa has developed a wonderful patina after years of use. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

6 Mattress Myths You Need to Get Over

6 Mattress Myths You Need to Get Over

Shopping for a mattress can be a time consuming and exhausting task. But it is one of the most important purchases you make. You spend a lot of your time in bed and the sleep you get while there can have a huge impact on your life. Here are some of the misconceptions you should know before shopping.

Myth #1. Pillow top mattresses are the most comfortable.

Pillow tops were originally created because people think more is better. That can be true but it isn't a guarantee. A lot of people visit stores and ask for a pillow top simply because they've been conditioned to expect the best from it. The same feel can be achieved in other mattress designs so don't discount a mattress just because of it's name.

The Savant Everfeel has a luxurious feel with great support. Plus, it won for best memory foam in a Consumer magazine.

Myth #2. You should judge a bed by the warranty. 

Many people look at warranties to judge what bed to buy. This is a terrible thing to do for two reasons. Firstly, if a bed has a long warranty but you never get good sleep on it, what did you really gain? Fifteen years of bad sleep. Doesn't sound like a good deal to me. Secondly, your body changes over time and so should your mattress. The recommended timeframe to change out mattresses is 7-10 years. As you age, what feels good today may not feel great tomorrow. Just because you need a new bed doesn't mean it can't go into a spare room and serve many more years, especially if it is only used sparingly.

Comfortaire mattresses are a great choice because the firmness is adjustable as your tastes change. Because they are component beds, you can swap out parts as it ages. If the foam starts to break down but everything else is fine, just order a new layer of foam, put it in your existing bed and it's like new. You don't throw away your car when the brakes wear down do you?
Comfortaire beds have adjustable firmness and parts can be replaced when they wear out. 

Myth #3. You need a boxspring for proper support.

The purpose of the boxspring and decreased as better materials have been developed. It is really only necessary to act as a barrier if your bed uses slats. Otherwise, if you sleep on a platform or storage bed, the mattress will work just fine without one. An even better option is to use an adjustable base and get a truly customized sleeping experience.

Serta is one of the few companies that doesn't require a boxspring for a valid warranty so long as there is proper support.

Myth #4. Buy a firm bed if you have a bad back. 

This is even more common than favoring a pillow top. Most people think firm is better. It isn't true. Our spines curve and a bed must allow for that. Otherwise, you end up tossing and turning. You'll wake up exhausted. A bed must be both supporting and comfortable to be effective.

The Vantage Firm from Serta's Iseries collection has been one of the most popular firm mattresses in recent years because it provides the support of springs with the comfort and cradling support of memory foam.

Myth #5. There is a BEST mattress.

Our bodies and preferences are all different and our mattresses need to reflect this. Some of the newer mattress companies are trying to cater to the idea of one size fits all. Don't believe it. It may work at first but it will soon change. You need to account for any sleeping disorders, sleeping position, age, weight etc.

Myth #6. A quick test at the store is enough.

Many people walk around a mattress department pushing on each model with their hand expecting to pick a bed this way. Not a chance. You really need to give it a test. Models that have a comfort trial can be the difference between a terrible and great nights sleep. Serta offers one of the longest trial periods at 120 days and Comfortaire comes in close behind with 100. You need at least 30 days to know if you've picked the right bed.

Don't rely on an in store test. Sleeping on a new bed is a must to know if it was the right choice. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

5 Things to Know About When Shopping for Leather

There is a lot of information surrounding leather products that can confuse consumers. Not all leathers are created equally. Going a step further, not all "leathers" are even leathers. Unfortunately for many consumers, many stores rely on misinformation to close a sale. The following information can help you make a purchase you can be proud of and will love for years to come.

1. Bonded Leather
This product is one of the most common "leather" products out there. Typically, this is what you find at larger, assembly line manufacturers such as Ashley Home Stores or Value City. A good comparison between bonded leather and top grain leather is plywood and solid cherry. They are two completely different animals. It is essentially ground up leather with few of the benefits of real leather or fabric but with added problems. Many stores rely on customers being fooled when they hear leather in the name and not asking more questions. Don't be that person.

Bonded leather will never acclimate to body temperature the way top grain leather does. It does not age well like real leather. It does not hold up very well. It is very prone to cracking and peeling. The backing is fabric and can be very ugly when exposed. The color can fade more readily. And most importantly, it isn't nearly as comfortable. Because of the price, it is easy for some people to justify the purchase but if aren't willing to spend the money on real leather, go with a fabric. You'll be much happier.
This type of damage is typical of bonded leather. Many associates that only offer bonded will try lead consumers to believe bonded is as good as or better than real leather. Bonded leather has it's places but is not for everyone. 

2. Bi Cast and Split Leather
These are the next steps up from bonded leather. Bi cast and split leathers both involve 100% real leather. A split leather is a lower layer of the hid than top grain. With bi cast, it is completely sealed on top and you are not in contact with any real leather. This eliminated the benefits of leather similarly to bonded.

A split leather is simply a lower layer of the hide that is processed but nearly as much as in bi cast. It maintains some of the characteristics but not all.
This diagram shows the different layers of a hide. Because the lower layers are left "fuzzy" from cutting, they require more processing that leaves the leather with a less luxurious feel.  

3 Leather Match
The leather furniture that most people encounter, when it is real leather, would be a leather match. What this means is that everywhere a person touches(ie. arms, seat, back, etc) is top grain leather. The very back and sides are going to be something like vinyl or bonded leather. Companies do this because it keeps the cost down but still gives customers the comfort and durability of top grain leather. This a great way, economical way to get real leather. That being said, if a company chooses to cut corners on the leather they may be cutting corners elsewhere. Companies that use top grain leather on all sides will likely use top quality components throughout the entire piece and will result in many more years of use. You do get what you pay for.

A few companies that do leather match are Southern Motion,  Klaussner, or Best Home Furnishings. 

4. Top Grain Leather
This is by far the best product in terms of feel and durability. Top grain leather comes, naturally, from the top layer of a hide. This means there is less processing than any of the other "leather" products listed above. This results in a much better "hand". Leather comes in two varieties, aniline and semi-aniline.

Analine is the most natural with no protective coatings. This leaves the leather extremely soft and supple. It will be more susceptible to staining and aging but many people find this to be one leathers best characteristics. Aged leather looks fabulous. Semi-aniline leather is more protected so it will not age the same way. It loses some of it's softness but is still far nicer than splits or bonded leathers.

Top grain leather is also breathable. Many people are naturally opposed to leather because they think it is hot. In most cases, this is because they are only familiar with bonded leathers or cheap leathers like car seats, which are in situations that have greatly varied temperatures and conditions. A true leather will adjust to your body temperature.

Norwalk, Lexington Home Brands, and Bernhardt use top grain leather all over.
Many people feel that top grain leather only gets better with age. This is a unique characteristic that isn't true of faux leathers.  

5. What to do while Shopping
It never hurts to ask your sales person exactly what you're looking at. If they use phrases that sound fishy, ask if something is 100% top grain leather. They can't beat around the bush on a yes or no question.

Look at the back of the "leather". If it has a fabric backing it is probably bonded leather. If the color doesn't look like the front it may be a vinyl or a painted leather. The color can wear on these very quickly.

Compare the feel. If it feels like plastic it probably is. If so, it won't breathe. The temperature will always remain too hot or too cold.

Don't always trust your sales person. I've personally shopped a store and asked pointed questions to determine how people handle misinformation. The sofa in question was upholstered in a polyester fabric. The sales associate said it was a polished leather made to look that way. That couldn't have been further from the truth. Whether this was an uninformed associate or a straight up lie, I don't know.

Do your homework and happy shopping.

Friday, June 12, 2015

5 Pieces of Furniture Every First Time Home Buyer Needs

Buying your first home involves a lot of trial and error. From knowing what to look for in a home to what you need to put in it, there can be a lot of costly mistakes. Here are 5 pieces of furniture to think about when decorating and what you need to look for so you don't regret it later. 

1. A Bed to Last a Lifetime
First off, this title is a little misleading. A bed should never last someone a lifetime.  And not just because they wear out. As we age, our bodies change and our mattress needs change with it. One day we need soft and little bit of support and down the road we may need something firm with all of the support in the world. You should still buy a nice bed. We spend up to 1/3 of our life sleeping. For first time home buyers, a good bed will make you feel great but it will also hold up well so it can turn into a guest bed when you upgrade. Adjustable air beds from Comfortaire can grow with you though. With adjustable firmness and the ability to open the bed up to switch out foams that have aged, it can be a great investment. Think of it like a car, when something goes wrong you replace the part not the whole car. 
The Ultimate Series from Comfortaire features option split top for adjustable bases and can be opened to clean and replace parts.
Memory Foams, Latex and innerspring beds are also worth investigating at Chuck's Furniture. 

2. A Quality Table
For many people starting out, a dining table doubles as a desk, a kids craft table and more. There are two routes a person can take. The first is to just look at price and buy something to get you through a couple years. Some great tables from Standard and Liberty are available at Pac 5 Furniture.

If you can afford it, or take advantage of interest free financing, a better option is to buy quality that will last. Furniture from the Amish or Gat Creek feature solid wood with extra durable finishes. These hold up extremely well against spills and stains and solid wood can be repaired and refinished. It's a great choice if children are or will be around it. You also want to consider a leaf table. You may not need the seating now but odds are you will down the road. A leaf gives you space with the option of seating when you need it. 
Catalyzed finishes can repel some pretty tough stains. Even fingernail polish removal can be wiped up without harm if caught within a few minutes. 

3. A Comfortable Sofa That Will Last. 
A good sofa does not have to be expensive. Serta upholstery by Hughes is a great value. It features solid oak framing for longevity and nearly all of the seat cushions feature flippable casings. With the exception of leather, always look for this. Not only can you flip the cushions if you ever get an unsightly stain but the fabric and cushions last so much longer with regular rotation. 

4. Chest of Drawers
There isn't much to say about this. A chest gives you storage without taking up a lot of floor space. Just like with the dining table, solid wood is a good option that will last for years. The parts that have the most issues are drawers so look for English dovetails and good drawer glides. Metal, ball bearing side glides and undermount soft closing are rated for the most use and will last as long as the wood.
English dovetails have the benefit of being the strongest joint for drawers and aesthetically pleasing. 

5. Ottoman or Foot Stool
Ottomans are very versatile. They can be used to prop your feet up, put a tray on to set drinks, or extra seating in a pinch. Because they tend to get a lot of use select the fabric carefully. Extended fabric warranties can be lifesavers. Ultrashield offers a 10 year warranty that covers most household accidents and many people have been saved when an errant spill ruined their furniture. 
The Carson Ottoman from Norwalk even features a pull out tray for eating or using a laptop or tablet.