Compare Shopping Items Accurately When Buying Furniture

 By: Dana Arrata
There's an old but still much used saying that whenever you make a comparison, you should always "compare apples with apples". What this means is that when you compare things, you should always be sure they are the same, or at least very similar.

For example, to develop an ability to compare shopping items accurately, you need to first assess what it is you are looking at, and what you want to buy.

If you want a wardrobe, decide whether it should be made of solid wood or simply engineered wood that is finished with a veneer. Then decide on size and whether you want just hanging space or a combination of hanging with shelves or even fitted drawers. Both material and fittings, as well as the method of manufacture, will have a supreme influence on price. Put slightly differently, if you are buying a bed, you can't compare an antique brass bedstead with a bed set. So first decide what you want.

Compare Apples with Apples

To understand the concept of accurate comparisons, the "apples with apples" saying is an excellent start, even though you will find that this doesn't go far enough. When it comes to pricing, you can't compare apples with oranges or grapes or bananas, because they simply aren't comparable. It's a bit easier to compare different types of apples, Granny Smith with Golden Delicious for example, but even then there will be disparity in terms of where they are grown and how they are distributed.

When it comes to both price and quality, the most accurate comparisons will be when one specific type of apple is compared with another.

Compare Chairs with Chairs

Using the comparative apple idea illustrates how difficult it can be to accurately compare the price, value and the quality of items of furniture. As an example, wooden Windsor chairs which originated in England in the second half of the eighteenth century are manufactured and hand-crafted all over the world today - most popularly in the United States, and what were originally British colonies, including Canada, Australia and South Africa.

Interestingly, these chairs were amongst the first items of furniture to be "mass-produced". While made by specialist craftsmen, each specialized in a different sphere. So whilst some were busy turning legs, spindles and stretchers, others would be carving and bending the chair rails, and others shaping and crafting the seat. Today some of these chairs are still hand crafted, while others are mass produced in factories.

Frequently referred to as English rustic furniture or folk furniture, Windsor chairs were (and still are) made in different variations, one of which has a bow back with straight spindles or back-sticks, simple wooden arms, turned legs that are slightly splayed and braced horizontally, and a saddle-shaped seat, scraped and sanded to shape. More often than not the back is high, although there are also designs where the back rest is only as high as ones shoulder blades. One of the low-backed types features turned spindles, and is sometimes referred to as a captain's chair.

The wood used to make typical Windsor-type chairs varies. Today Amish craftsmen often use oak, a widely available hardwood that is kiln-dried and ideal for making furniture. Originally, though, craftsmen often used different types of wood for one chair. Beech and ash were particularly common, usually combined with a seat made from a solid chunk of elm. Hooped back rails might have been cut from yew because they steam-bent well.

Windsor chairs are still common today - even though they may be called by other names - but how do you differentiate between one chair and another?

Having narrowed the chair down to type or style (in this case a quintessential type of folk furniture), you'll need to look at the type of wood that has been used to make the chair. You will also have to consider the specific design more carefully, and just how much of the wood is turned, as well as exactly how the chair has been made. Generally the better the quality, the more you will pay, although this theory isn't always completely true. Some companies offer lower prices, simply because their markup is less, and they offer better value for money.

Of course another factor to take into account will be the age of the chair. If you find a genuine antique chair, it might be exactly the same (in terms of design) as a chair that was made just last month. But if it is in prime condition, the patina of the wood will be different, and so will its value - and therefore its cost.

Compare Tables with Tables

There are so many different types of tables, ranging from grand dining tables to plain kitchen tables, decorative gate-leg tables, drop-leaf tables. Like chairs, when it comes to buying tables, and comparing prices, you need to first narrow down your choice. This will relate to size, style, materials used to make the chair, and the techniques used (for joints, finishing and so on).

Another factor that relates specifically to dining tables is that these are often sold with matching chairs. Sometimes you will find that one particular type of table is available with a choice of different types of chairs, which might affect price quite radically. So once again you are back to comparing apples with apples - or tables and chairs with tables and chairs!

Compare Value

At the end of the day, whatever it is you are planning to buy for your home, it really will benefit you if you develop an ability to compare shopping items accurately. Instead of simply settling for a product because of price (which might be high or low, depending on your needs and motivation), it will enable you to compare value and quality, dollar for dollar.

There are many brands out there, some of which offer top quality combined with value-for-money. There are others that offer top quality and top prices. Others profess to offer quality, but in fact their products are inferior and overpriced. It's up to you to fathom the difference in a knowledgeable, educated way.
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