The 10 best tips on buying furniture for your new house…
In the UK we’ll move an average of eight times during our lifetime, and we’ll often indulge in new furniture when we do. As a nation we spend over £10 billion annually on furniture, so what’s the best way to shop wisely, and impress every visitor to your new home? Before you spend anything, spend two minutes reading these top 10 tips…
1) Set a budget…and stick to it
The average cost of furnishing a three-bedroom home in the UK is over £15,000, so you can use this as a starting guide when budgeting for your moving costs. So, then the question is “How much should I spend?”. Try to set a budget for each room, and spend relatively evenly, to ensure a consistent quality throughout.
We’ve all heard the adages “you get what you pay for” and “buy cheap, buy twice” and generally speaking this is true of furniture. Most items are used every day and so quality is important to consider. Flat pack isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and you’ll certainly be able to furnish for less than £15,000. However, for a premium finish, and longer lasting items, ready-assembled products (ideally made from hardwoods and other durable materials) is the way to go.
2) "Dining chairs are for life, not just for Christmas"
Try to make your furniture as versatile as possible. For example, occasionally you’ll want to accommodate a higher number of dinner guests, perhaps around an extendable dining table during festive times of the year. However, usually you won’t need the table extended and the chairs become redundant.
Consider dining chairs that can also double up as occasional chairs, and so can be placed in your living room, hallway or bedroom. In fact, many so called ‘occasional chairs’ are equally suitable as dining room chairs (just make sure the seat height is approximately 45 cm from the floor).
3) Don’t buy too much
Do you really need a coffee table in your living room? Will you actually use a console table in the hallway? For many people the answers will be ‘yes’, but do ask yourself whether you truly think you’ll use a piece of furniture before buying. This is especially true for a flat, where space is usually more limited, but it also applies to a new house. Either way, the need for more space is one of the most popular reasons for moving, and so why unnecessarily clutter?
Try to evaluate your needs and base decisions on functionality rather than decorative merits - it’ll save you space, and money.
4) Live in your living room first…
It’s all too tempting to want everything from day one, but take the time to get a proper feel for your new space. Measuring up will always help, but there’s an even better way to simulate how much space that new living room sideboard that you’ve got your eye on will take up. Place a few boxes (you’ll have plenty after the move) in the area that it will occupy and live with it for a few days – spatially it’ll give you a great sense of whether your prospective purchase is too big.
Additionally, whilst a mood board might sound a bit pretentious for your maisonette in Maidstone, printing out some furnishing ideas and sticking these to your walls for a few days really can help. You can then ponder over dinner, or glance across while watching the TV, which will assist in distilling your thoughts. So, don’t click that ‘add to basket’ button until you’ve given yourself some proper thinking time.
There’s also two very practical reason not to buy too early. Firstly, trying to decorate around new items is cumbersome and, at times, a little scary. Secondly, delays in moving house are all too common and, sadly, nearly one third of purchases in the UK fall through. Moving is stressful enough and so try to avoid having to factor deliveries into the schedule.
5) Think about tones and styles
Good quality furniture will often outlast the rest of the décor, so think twice before using upholstery as a bold accent colour. It’s far easier and cheaper to change a cushion or curtain colour further down the line, and so neutral tones and wood types is often a safe bet.
That’s not to say you should be staid, and there’s certainly no shortage of modern and exciting furniture styles to choose from. Being distinctive and creative will bring out the very best in your new home – for example, an industrial table can give a contemporary edge to a kitchen with stone flooring, or the Scandi look can enhance your living room with mid-century appeal. Just ensure that the styles aren’t wildly different between rooms, especially if those rooms are adjacent to one another.
6) Furniture for a new build home
With a new build house you’ve not only got that sumptuous, brand new feel, but also the benefit of a blank canvas. So, think about your future furnishings before you sign on the line, so that when you’re choosing specifications such as floor types, you already have a rough plan of how everything will coordinate.
Chances are you will have seen a show home before you bought and, if you’re looking for inspiration, remember that they have been carefully coordinated by professional interior designers. Therefore, take another tour and bring your notebook and camera. However, do remember that show homes often use space efficient (i.e. small) furniture, to give the impression of space, and so it’s also worth bringing a tape measure, for future reference.
7) "Pay it forward"
What are you going to do with your old, unwanted furniture? More often than not they will still be suitable for somebody’s needs, and so you can help a worthy cause by donating it. Local charity furniture shops or community projects will often gratefully collect your old items for free (providing they have legally compliant fire safety labels). A quick google search and a phone call or email is usually all it takes.
Not only will you be supporting a good cause, but you’ll also be helping the environment. The UK discards approximately five million tons of wood every year, and this is your chance to ‘do some good and not waste wood’.
8) Family-friendly furniture
In future years, you might welcome new arrivals into your home, and it’s worth thinking about their needs in advance, as good quality furniture is an investment for many years to come. For example, if you’re thinking of starting a family, avoid units with sharp corners, and consider choosing upholstery materials that are either darker in colour (to hide stains) or easier to wipe clean (such as bonded leather). Future pets are another practical point to consider.
9) If you buy online, it’s ok to change your mind
The way we buy furniture is evolving, and traditional ‘retail’ stores are becoming less popular. Online shopping is more convenient, there’s more selection, and you’re not paying a premium to cover the expensive retail space of a shop, or the salaries of the commission-based sales staff. However, remember that your consumer rights still apply when you buy online and, crucially, you’re legally entitled to return items within 14 days, if you change your mind.
When buying online, avoid websites which charge ‘restocking fees’, or excessive delivery or collection costs – these are often tell-tale signs of companies that won’t be great to deal with.
10) New home…old furniture
Finally, upcycling is becoming increasingly popular. Perhaps you have an old, beloved piece of furniture from your previous home that you’re reluctant to lose, but can’t see how it will blend with your new décor? If so, why not give it a makeover? Get creative with it and have fun – you could strip it back, replace handles or other features, or perhaps even paint it. A perfectly good piece can then have a second life – great for the environment, and your pocket.
Hopefully this checklist has given you some helpful advice and ideas. Above all else, remember that although a move can be stressful, buying things for your new abode should be fun. Good luck with your move and, if you’re already in, welcome, and enjoy making your new house a home!