Vexed in the city
HERE ARE SOME things to consider
when purchasing furniture.
Test-drive a floor plan. Create a
room’s furniture layout by making a
poor man’s floor plan, says West
Hollywood designer Kevin Kolanowski.
Cut newspaper in the shapes of the furniture you’re considering, lay the pieces
on the floor and walk around to see if
the furniture fits and the room flows.
You might want to warn your family,
though. The first time I tried this, my
husband thought he’d stumbled onto
a crime scene.
Vary the heights. A room where
all the furniture is one height lacks
interest, according to Tom Allardyce,
of Hendrix, Allardyce in Los Angeles.
He likes to vary furniture heights to fit
the architecture and especially likes
Do the scoot test. When buying
a chair or sofa, sit in it and scoot your
behind forward, back and side to side.
The legs shouldn’t wiggle. Look for
frames of hardwood (e.g., oak), not
softwood (e.g., pine).
Push your thumb into the seat
cushion. Watch how fast the seat
bounces back. Quick rebound means
good foam quality.—MJ
Why does shopping for furniture seem so difficult?
By Marni Jameson
I’M HAVING LUNCH with several women
from the neighborhood. As often happens
among women, the conversation turns to
“Do you have your dining room set yet?”
one neighbor asks Lisa.
Lisa hangs her head and stops eating her
“No,” she says to her plate. “I couldn’t
We all share a moment of respectful
silence. Who hasn’t been there? Paralyzed into
a state of indecision while a room lies bare.
“We may never have dining room furniture,” she continues, as if exposing a deep
character flaw. “It’s just such a big decision.”
Like the rest of us, Lisa has swallowed
society’s dictum that a home is a mirror of the
woman within, a sword we live and die by.
What’s more, thanks to years of indoctrination by Hallmark specials and Better Homes &
Gardens, we all have a vision of the ideal dining room.
This is the room where memories will be
made. The table will serve as a centerpiece
during celebrations of holidays and family
milestones: graduations, engagements, releases
from jail. If the table isn’t right, the occasion
and all those potentially warm memories will
be marred by bad taste.
In other words, this is not just a table, it’s
“I finally found a table I like,” Lisa continues, “but I don’t like the chairs. Or the
table doesn’t have leaves and I want leaves
for my grandchildren.” No one points out
that, since her kids are only 4 and 7, grand-kids might be awhile.
“I know what you’re going through,” one
neighbor says. “Legs stained, curved, carved
or tapered? Table round, rectangular or
square? Glass, wood or iron?”
“And the style?” chimes another. “
Contemporary, traditional, French or Italian? The
chairs? Ladder-back, Windsor, Parsons,
Chippendale or Queen Anne? It’s enough to
make a woman eat standing up for the rest of
“My husband doesn’t know what’s wrong
with me,” Lisa continues. “Every day he asks,
‘Why don’t you buy some furniture?’ I feel so
I nod sympathetically, though I can’t
recall a moment in my marriage when my
husband ever said, “Why don’t you buy some
furniture?” That would be rather like letting a
bear loose in a butcher shop. Instead, I flash
on the two long years our living room
remained unfurnished, unless you count the
Barbie Jeep and the fake ficus.
“It’s so embarrassing,” I said back then
to my husband. “People think we have no
“They’re right,” he said. Sometimes his
realism really bugs me.
True in some homes, rooms lie bare
because the couple has the money but not
the inspiration, as in Lisa’s case. Others have
the vision but not the dough. We often lack
Costco member Marni Jameson ( www.marni
jameson.com) is a nationally syndicated columnist. This excerpt is adapted from her book
The House Always Wins (De Capo Press
2008), reprinted with permission. The book
is available at costco.com.