Shopping for home furnishings and accessories can be a rewarding experience, but it also can drain your wallet. So when it’s time to find just the right items to furnish or brighten up your home, you want to get it right the first time, because most of us don’t have the luxury to toss out all our purchases in a couple of years and start from scratch. So how do you know if that couch or lamp is going to stand the test of time?

“Look for something that is built well, like good-quality tables that are a little bit older and not mass-manufactured,” said Claren Pappo, an interior design instructor at The Illinois Institute of Art-Tinley Park. Depending on your decor, antiques may be your best bet.


You’ve probably looked at a few decorating magazines and seen your share of furniture showrooms. That may give you a starting point. “But you need to figure out what you like,” advised Heather Carter, academic director of Interior Design at The Art Institutes International-Kansas City. “Think about the connection your home has to you, don’t just follow trends.”

Color also is important when thinking about the longevity of your future. “Big furniture pieces like sofas and side chairs need to be in a neutral color scheme,” recommended Daniela Kohl, interior design program coordinator at The Art Institute of Indianapolis. You don’t want bright colors that you tire of quickly or can fall out of fashion.

Accessories, like throw pillows, can be trendier with the latest colors because they are much easier and less expensive to replace. But when it comes to lighting, you may want to splurge on something that is both functional and decorative. “Invest in great lamps; they can stand the test of time,” said Pappo.


Artwork can really make your home fit your personality, and if you buy something you really like, you’ll only grow to appreciate it more over time. “Artwork has great bang for the buck,” said Carter. “Go to your local art district or art walk, find an artist you really like and buy their piece.”

When picking out drapes or pillows, stick with good-quality fabrics like silk or chenille, advised Kohl. Leather furniture also will stand the test of time. But don’t go for artificial leather. “It will look worse, year after year,” she said.

Finally, Pappo recommended considering how often you’ll be moving around. “Think about the flexibility of your furniture and whether the pieces you’ve chosen will work in another home with a different floor plan.”