5 (of 10) Essential Home Furnishings

Ever wake up in the middle of the night and think of all the clever things you should have said?  Me too.  When I began this column, I started with the assumption that everyone already has furniture.  Here’s how I probably should have started it.

5 of the 10 essential pieces of furniture for first-time buyers

  1. A comfy bed.  You’ll probably keep the same bed for 10 years or more, so get a good one, even if you have to sleep on an air mattress while you make up your mind. What’s a good bed? That means it needs to be the right height for you and should be solidly made.  Confused about sizes?  A twin (or single) mattress is 39” wide by 75” long.  The only reason for an adult to buy a single bed is if a bigger bed won’t fit in the room.  Most of us are too long for a regular twin. There’s also an extra-long twin, which is 5” longer.  A double (or full) bed is 15” wider but that means if there’s 2 of you, it is only 27” each, less than a twin bed.  A queen is 60” wide and 80” long. Notice that half a queen is still less than a twin.  A standard King (or Eastern King) is 76” x 80” and a Western (or California) King is 4” narrower and 4” longer.  It is worth noting that queens are probably the most popular and finding either full mattresses or sheets for full beds or for Western Kings may be harder to do.  Pillow top mattresses may require extra deep fitted sheets. Get the best mattress you can afford.
  2. A dining table.  Traditional shape is oval, but there’re rectangles, squares and octagons.  The important thing here is that it fit the room.  Think function first.  How many people will you have for dinner?  Be sure there’s enough room to maneuver around the dining table when folks are sitting down. You don’t want to relegate your guests to eating in the kitchen while you’re in the dining room.  Do you expect to always have a dining room in your home?  If not, get a small table for a kitchen nook (or a dining table that is quite small when all the leaves are out).  Need a cheap alternative?  You can always make do with a sheet of plywood on sawhorses and cover the whole thing with a tablecloth.
  3. Dining chairs.  These are the workhorses of the dining room since they’ll have to hold weight and they’ll be scootched in and out from under the table every day.  Be sure they fit under the table.  Arms make a chair more elegant (sometimes called captains chairs).  Padding on at least the seats will make them more comfortable and most fabrics are easy to change out (with a screwdriver and a staple gun to attach the new fabric) so go for comfort first. The dowel that connects the legs (a rung) will make the chair sturdier but less formal.
  4. A chest of drawers.  Sure, you need it for your socks and underwear, but you can use it in many rooms, even a hallway or as storage in an office, so get something solid and flexible in design (unless you think you’ll always keep it with the bed, then go matchy-matchy).  A short chest of drawers can double as a night stand.  A long chest can even go in the living room behind a sofa.  You can’t have too much storage.
  5.  A fabulous sofa. Skirting is for a traditional or country look, most modern looking sofas let you see the legs.  Try to match the legs (at least the color) to the other pieces in the living room.  Loose pillows on the back of the sofa mean more straightening.  An older used sofa is probably much better made than a new sofa.  A loveseat (usually 2 cushions instead of 3) is easier to move and more flexible to redecorate with but less comfortable as an emergency guest bed.

That’s the first half…we’ll tackle the last 5 items in two weeks.

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