Whether you’ve just moved into your first “grown-up” apartment or are trying desperately to furnish a new house, let’s face it: buying furniture is a tricky, not to mention pricey, undertaking.
Magazines would have us believe that $10,000 sofas and $40,000 rugs are the norm, but reality? An entirely different universe. The world most of us live in is somewhere on the road between IKEA and Restoration Hardware — but the trick is to know which way to turn.
For instance: I don’t know about you, but I have yet to successfully move from one house to another without replacing my couch almost immediately. What’s perfect in one space is abhorrent in another —differently sized rooms, new floor colors, the list goes on and on. So until I buy a house (which means a minimum five-year commitment), I’m sticking with my trusty Crate & Barrel outlet finds.
Though I’m loath to splurge on a sofa, there are plenty of other investment-worthy furniture pieces that travel incredibly well. These reinvent themselves every time I move, working their way into new spaces seamlessly. If you ask me (which you have, since you’re reading this), these are the pieces worth draining your savings account.
The bed frame
One of the biggest-ticket items in your home, and the one you spend the most time in — I can’t imagine anything more worthy of investment.
Mattresses are one thing (buy the best you can afford and your back will thank you for it), but consider the bed frame itself. The reality is that you’ll buy a bed and keep it for at least a decade … if not three.
In the great game of “what do we need most?” it’s one of the least likely pieces to be replaced. So before you buy, be sure it’s love — not like.
Choose something well built, and know in advance whether you’re after a modern, upholstered shape, simple wood, or a rustic iron frame. To play it safe, opt for a style that creates a narrow footprint relative to the mattress; you may find that the dramatic wingback style you’re drawn to eats up precious square footage in your next move.
And skip the instinct to save money and get only the headboard. Splurge on a full bed frame and save your bedroom-related regrets for another day.
Call it a credenza, a sideboard, or a bar, this is one of those multipurpose, multilife items you’ll find a home for in any house.
Use it in a living room for its stated purpose or move it to the dining room to store extra plates and silverware. It can live in an entryway as a catchall for keys and mail, or even cap off the end of your kitchen cabinets. In a pinch, I’ve used one to store extra sweaters.
And keep in mind, a bar can be either one designed just for that purpose or something you’ve reimagined — a tiny vintage roll-top desk, for instance, makes a fantastic bar.
When buying, go for something small and relatively unassuming with simple lines. And for my money at least, you want plenty of closed storage.
Please note that while it might seem chic to have all of your bottles out on display, I can tell you from experience that it just translates to an awful lot of dusting.
Just about every design-savvy person I know collects chairs. In fact, their houses are positively littered with them.
Whether it’s a straight-backed dining chair or an upholstered armchair, if it has good bones and great style, you’ll always have a little nook for it.
One of my favorite must-have chairs for any home is a rocking chair. Too often relegated to a nursery, a beautifully designed rocker will be with you for life.
True, it’s perfect for when those wee babes arrive, but it’s also an ideal spot to curl up with a book, or to sit in for your morning tea. Whether you lean toward modern or classic, buy something that has beautiful lines and is made of solid wood, and you’ll always have a home for it.
It may not seem like much, but a great bench is a serious workhorse item. I found one at a tag sale, oh, easily 12 years ago, and bought it on a whim.
I have lived in nearly as many houses since then, and my trusty wooden bench has always made itself right at home. I’ve used it at the foot of my bed, as extra seating at my dining table, as space filler for one of those walls that never seem right for furniture. I’ve stored decorative boxes beneath it, stacked art books on top of it, seated extra guests in my living room on it — this bench has lived a long, useful life.
Again, look for solid wood and avoid anything with a back, which increases its footprint and decreases its utility. And really test out the joints; you want something tough enough that you can use and abuse it with abandon.
The great unknown
That vintage library card cabinet you’ve always dreamed of owning, the antique armoire you spotted at a tag sale, walked past, but couldn’t stop thinking about?
If you really can’t stop thinking about it, and if it’s something you’re not likely to see again, buy it. Real love lasts a lifetime, and any piece that makes you blissfully happy is sure to find a home anywhere you land.