Well, I have done my fair share of furniture shopping and have learned a few things along the way. When we were first married, my husband and I went on a quest to find a bedroom set that we could keep forever. We wanted an heirloom quality and timeless set. Here is what we learned.
1. Look for dovetailing. If you are looking for quality wood furniture, open the drawer and look at the construction of the drawer. A good quality, well made piece of furniture will have this dovetailing detail on the drawers. You will not see staples holding the sides together.
Here is an example of what you should find:
3. Check the back. Cheaper furniture will have a large piece of cardboard or particle board attached to the back instead of wood. It may also be held together with staples. This type of furniture will work for a time, but will not last for many years and can be easily damaged.
Here is a beautiful example of what a quality piece of furniture will look like from the back:
4. Test the drawers. You should be able to close a drawer with one hand by pushing just the right side or the left side. The drawer should close flush and easily without having push both sides of the drawer at once or having to push the middle. This is a sign of true, quality furniture. This applies to drawers that do not have slides and rollers.
5. Be cautious with veneers. Most furniture on the market today will have veneers of some sort, but the quality of the veneer varies greatly with different manufacturers and price points. They can be absolutely beautiful. What you want to avoid is the paper thin veneer. Over time, very thin veneer can buckle. Also, it can't be sanded down and refinished. You will need to be especially careful not to keep this type of furniture in a humid or damp area (like a non-climate controlled storage unit). The glue can weaken and the veneer can come loose.
6. Quality Costs. It's important not to feel burdened to furnish your home completely with top of the line furniture. It's not cheap. You can find great second-hand furniture that is excellent quality for much less than buying new. If you don't want to buy something again, consider buying the best because it will last. If you think your furniture might go out of style or you will get tired of the design relatively soon, don't overpay for something you won't keep. But most of all, don't be suckered into paying top-of-the-line prices for cheap stuff.
In my house we have a mixture of all types of furniture. We have some quality antiques that I love, we bought some new quality pieces, we treasure our handmade pieces (both of our fathers made us furniture as children), and we have some inexpensive, good-for-the-time-being pieces. We have even refinished some furniture. But I will tell you that we found the needle in the haystack: the most wonderful, timeless, solid wood, veneer-free, mahogany sleigh bedroom set that we love and plan to keep forever. :-)