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Home  > Furniture Resources  > Furniture Buying Guide  > How to Buy Bedroom Furniture

How to Buy Bedroom Furniture

Master Bedroom Master bedroom furniture can be broken down into five categories: beds, dressers, chests, night stands and mirrors. The typical suite includes one each of the above pieces with possibly two night stands. Lets examine your options in each case...

Beds have gone from being the focal point of the bedroom as well as a symbol of status and wealth in the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries, to being almost insignificant in recent decades, and back again to play a role of major importance in the bedroom today.

As master bedrooms are becoming larger and more important, beds are trying to keep up through their scale and elaborateness. Whereas not long ago your only choices within a particular collection may have been simple panel headboards, today you can expect to find at least two dramatic beds (the addition of a footboard and connecting side rails differentiates a "bed" from a headboard). In bed designs, other materials such as iron or cane are often utilized to provide an accent or contrast with the wood pieces in the group.

The sizes of beds are the cause of frequent confusion. While mattresses are available in six sizes, the beds offered in master bedroom groups are typically available in only two; Full/Queen and King. See the chart to the right.

Whereas the width of the headboard and footboard determine the overall size of the bed, the length of the bed, obviously, is determined by the length of the side rails. The full/queen bed comes with 80" rails for queen and 75" rails for full. The bed is scaled to be used with a queen mattress, which is the most popular size. The width adjustment for a full size mattress is accomplished with an extra set of rail slots set in about three inches on each side of the headboard and footboard posts. As long as you use a comforter or heavy spread you probably won't notice the width discrepancy.

Mattress Sizes: Twin 39" W 75" L Twin Extra Long 39" W 80" L Full (aka Double) 54" W 75" L Queen 60" W 80" L Eastern King 78" W 80" L Calif. King 72" W 84" L

When it comes to king size beds things get a bit more complicated. This is due to the inexplicable condition of having two different king size mattresses available. Most of the world considers the Eastern King to be the standard king size. To Californians and their neighbors, however, the California king reigns supreme. By virtue of the fact that most furniture manufacturers are based on the east coast, king beds in most collections are designed to fit the Eastern king mattresses. What are your choices if you happen to own a California king mattress set in regards to purchasing a bed?

1. If you can purchase the Eastern king headboard and footboard along with queen side rails you'll end up with a long enough bed for your mattress that is about 6" wider than it needs to be. Be sure to get the center rail that is necessary to support the two box springs of your mattress set.

2. Find a bed from a company based on the west coast - a somewhat limiting option, especially if your tastes run towards the more traditional designs.

3. Buy a new mattress set. In most markets you have a choice of which king size you want, although you may have to wait a little longer if its not the standard size for your area. Alternately, two standard twin mattress sets are the equivalent size of an Eastern king. Keep in mind that if the bed has a canopy of any kind, switching the side rails with those from another size bed is not an option. Fortunately, once you've selected the bed, the balance of your decisions are relatively simple.

Dressers Your choice of dressers in a collection can be viewed in terms of their size. The smallest dresser is called a "Drawer Dresser" as visually you see only drawers. The largest dresser is called a "Door Dresser", named for the door (s) in the center of the piece which typically conceal pull-out trays (not unlike drawers) or shelves. In choosing a dresser think about whether you prefer more/smaller drawers or fewer/larger drawers for your storage needs. You will find the more expensive collections offer more drawers on a comparable size dresser. Less expensive dressers are designed so that they appear to have more drawers than they actually have.

Chests The chest has become the most versatile piece in a bedroom. Choosing a chest involves more than just visual preference. In addition to size considerations, chest usage has evolved into new storage arenas with the advent of electronics in the bedroom. Today, the chest is home to not only socks and T-shirts, but televisions, stereos and computers as well. As a result, your chest choices are more interesting than ever.

The smallest chest in a collection is the "Lingerie Chest". Narrow with many small drawers, it functions as its name implies, as an appropriate storage piece for undergarments and other small items. The "Drawer Chest" is larger overall, and comprised of deeper drawers. The "Door Chest" is larger still, and is designed with deep drawers on the bottom and two doors on the top. Behind the doors you will find a combination of pull-out trays and adjustable shelves. The top portion can usually be modified to accommodate a small (19") TV or stereo system.

Armoires Finally, the ever popular "Armoire" or "Wardrobe" is your largest chest. A grand piece on the outside, designed with either two or four doors, the manner in which the inside is conceived determines its functionality. A simple clothes rod designates the piece as a "Wardrobe" and is typically the least expensive option.

The addition of TV/stereo features including a pull-out swivel tray for the TV, pocket doors that slide back into the piece, interior wiring and adjustable shelves give you the luxury of concealed electronics in your bedroom. An armoire with this configuration is called an "Entertainment Cabinet" and has become a separate category unto itself.

The latest incarnation of the armoire, and still somewhat rare, is the "Computer Armoire". As its name implies, the inside is designed to accommodate the components of a personal computer. Features may include a surge protector, drop-down work table and sliding keyboard tray. Look for this piece in the Home Office rather than Bedroom department.

Night Stands As with the dresser, the night stand selection is usually limited to two; one with drawers and one with doors. Enough said.

Mirrors In selecting a mirror, the scale of your dresser is of primary importance, as typically it is upon that which it will be located. Two mirrors are usually offered in a bedroom collection. The simplest is the "Single Mirror" - scaled to be used over the drawer dresser. The more elaborate is the "Tri-Mirror" - designed in three hinged adjustable sections, this is the largest mirror and works best mounted onto the door dresser. Other mirror options sometimes available are "Dressing Mirrors" that sit on top of the drawer chest and full length "Cheval Mirrors" that stand on the floor, the latter of which is considered an accessory item.

Youth Bedroom Once the domain of thematic designs such as "nautical" or "cowboy", furniture designed for today's kids is more flexible and enduring than ever before. While splashy colors and whimsy can still be found, styles that will grow with them through high school and then do service in the guest room are the hands-down favorites when the baby-boomers outfit the rooms of their kids.

Dressers, Chests and Desks Most youth collections are designed as "wrap" groups, meaning that most of the case pieces (dressers, chests and desks) are exactly the same depth (18") and height (30") so that they may be pushed together to wrap around the room. The top surface of these wrap pieces is typically not wood, but a matching laminate such as Formica, substituted for durability and cleanability.

The smallest chest is a three drawer piece called a "Bachelors Chest". This chest is merchandised by most companies to be an excellent value in relation to the other pieces in the group. The "Six Drawer Dresser" and "Single Pedestal Desk" (with drawers on one side only) are next in size and price and hutches are made in two sizes to fit on top of these pieces. A corner piece is often available to fill the dead space created in most corners. This piece can also function as a desk with the advantage of a large surface area, but with little storage.

In addition to these wrap pieces, a tall drawer chest and night stand round out the group along with a single mirror to hang over the dresser. Look for the construction to be similar to master bedroom pieces in the use of joinery, wood solids and veneers. Drawers should operate smoothly and easily and the hardware should be scaled for small hands. Avoid pieces with sharp corners whenever possible, as kids' heads seem to have an uncanny desire to seek them out.

NOTE: There are bedroom collections available with smaller scaled free-standing pieces not designed to "wrap", which are also appropriate for youth or guest rooms. With wood tops rather than laminates, these can be a good choice in the long run as they tend to look less juvenile. However, they require the care given "grown-up" furniture and you can expect to pay a bit more for them as well.

Beds As in the master bedroom, beds have become the focal point of kids' rooms as well. Today there are numerous configurations available, many of which can be adapted over time to suit your changing needs. For example, the traditional bunkbed in most cases can be broken down into two daybeds. Storage and pull-out trundle units are also frequently available to fit under the bed. The latest youth bed design combines elements of a bunkbed, desk and storage chest in one space saving unit called a "Loft Bed". But beyond cute or even functional, sturdy is the word of the day when selecting a child's bed/trampoline/fort. All bed styles will come in twin size, with a select few also available in full (double).

View West Furnishings Bedroom Sets here: Bedroom Furniture

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