Wednesday, 27 February 2008

A buyer's guide to leather furniture

Let Furniture123 take the stress out of buying furniture with our series of buyer's guides, produced in association with Real Homes magazine.

Oakmere Dining Set in Red Leather from Furniture 123

Leather furniture looks great in any room, but what type should you go for and how can you look after it? Our buyer’s guide gives you the lowdown on this popular, luxurious material.

Types of leather
The reason all leather looks different is simply because it is. There are two main types of upholstery leather: full-aniline and semi-aniline. The most expensive is full-aniline. It’s the most natural leather and has a soft feel to it. The leather is dyed in a vat to the required colour but isn’t given a top coating, so it breathes more easily. However, this makes it prone to staining as it absorbs liquid easier. Semi-aniline leathers are dyed, then a fine layer of top coating is applied to protect it, making semi-aniline more practical for most homes.

Faux leather
Faux leather furniture is becoming increasingly popular as it’s cheaper than the real thing but achieves the same warm, luxurious look. Unlike real leather, it won’t act the same way in different temperatures and it may damage more easily as it is usually made of a thinner fabric.

Coloured leather
Leather furniture and accessories don’t just have to be brown, black and cream. Suppliers are now offering leather sofas and other furniture in an increasingly wide range of colours – red and white are proving popular options, and look superb in a contemporary scheme. Why not continue the theme with coordinating coloured leather (or faux-leather) storage boxes?

Leather beds are becoming ever more popular, and as such are easier than ever to come by. Leather beds are available in a variety of styles and finishes from the ultra modern to the traditional, and the luxurious nature of the material means it will be cool to the touch in summer and warm in winter.

Dining chairs
While we only used to see leather armchairs, the material is now widely used in dining chairs, too. A major benefit of leather dining chairs is that they wipe clean and complement a wide range of tables. They’re also very robust and, unlike their fabric counterparts, look better with age.

Whether you opt for a classic British Chesterfield or a sleek, ultra-modern Italian design, a leather sofa is a great addition to any style of living room. Leather sofas are hard wearing and, depending on the type of leather you opt for, are less prone to staining than conventionally upholstered sofas. And, if you look after it properly it could last you a lifetime.

Top tips for leather care
Buy specific leather furniture care products, and don’t assume that the polish and waxes you use on shoes or handbags can be used on furniture, too.

Keep leather furniture away from direct sunlight and heat – especially avoid placing a leather sofa against a radiator that is in use.

To keep your leather soft and supple, invest in a softening cream. Simply apply it with a cloth and, after 30 minutes, buff the leather to a soft sheen to prevent cracking.

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Tuesday, 19 February 2008

A buyer's guide to sofas

Let Furniture123 take the stress out of buying furniture with our series of buyer's guides, produced in association with Real Homes magazine.

Eagle Geneva Sofa Bed from Furniture 123

A sofa is an investment that should last for years. You and your family will spend a lot of time using it (second only to your bed). So don’t even think about shopping for this essential piece of living room furniture until you’ve read our handy guide.

A sofa is an important buy, so planning is essential. Make sure as well as measuring the area where you want the sofa to go, you also measure doorways and the width of corridors. If you have small doorframes or not a lot of room to manoeuvre, look for sofas that have removable legs or arms. Also bear in mind that once the sofa is in your room you may not like it in its chosen spot, so have a back up and make sure you measure that space too. A good idea is to make a template out of newspaper to ensure a perfect fit.

How many seats?
The size of sofa you need will depend on how many people are going to sit comfortably on it. It may be that you have a large family or regularly entertain, so think carefully about this when deciding whether to purchase a two seater sofa or a three seater sofa. Three-seaters are invariably more comfortable as sprawling out is always an option!

Corner sofas
Corner sofas are great if you have a small or awkwardly shaped room. They immediately free up more central space – but only if you have carefully measured up, ensuring that doors and windows can be opened comfortably. Corner sofas usually come as modular units, which slot together and give you added flexibility.

Loose covers
If you have small children (or are prone to spilling things yourself!), loose covers will be your saving grace. Most removable sofa covers can be washed at 40 degrees although they should never be tumbled dried as this could cause shrinkage. Many sofa stores stock loose covers in a range of colours – perfect if you want to update your living room on a budget. If you’re happy with your initial choice of style, fixed covers offer a more tailored look, but will need to be cleaned in situ.

Tailor made
It may be the case that you just can’t find the sofa you want. If so it may be worth considering having a bespoke sofa made. More stockists than ever now provide a service in which an expert will come to your home to discuss exactly what you want, and weigh up the options available for you depending on the style of your room.

It may seem obvious, but the colour of your sofa is hugely important, especially if you intend to buy a more expensive sofa. While that lime green sofa fits your living room scheme now, it may not in a few years time when you want something a tad more subdued. Neutral colours will never let you down on this front and, if you’re prone to changing your scheme, they can be easily updated with with cushions and throws.

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Wednesday, 13 February 2008

A buyer's guide to beds

Let Furniture123 take the stress out of buying furniture with our series of buyer's guides, produced in association with Real Homes magazine.

Lyon Oak Bedstead from Furniture 123

It’s the one piece of bedroom furniture we all take for granted, but choosing a new bed that’s good for your health is as important as choosing one for comfort. Use our essential guide as your first step to a perfect night's sleep.

Most modern mattresses fall into four varieties. The first is open sprung mattresses, where the coil springs are wired together to form a single unit. These mattresses are ideal if there isn’t a big weight difference between you and your partner. Pocket sprung mattresses on the other hand are where every spring has its own pocket, making the mattress better for restless sleepers or a couple where the weight difference is significant. Both Visco-elastic mattresses (better known as memory foam mattresses) and Talalay latex mattresses respond to your body’s temperature to get more comfort and are better for people with allergies as they do not harbour dust mites. If you and your partner have great differences in what you need from a mattress, a zip and link mattress (in which two different single mattresses can be attached to form a superking) may be the answer.

Size matters
Your bed should be the biggest your room can allow. Having a large bed means you are less likely to disturb your partner. The common size of a British double bed isn’t really big enough for two people to sleep in comfortably, which explains why people have more restless nights when with someone then when alone. Did you know that a standard 4ft 6" bed allows each adult the same equivalent of space a baby has in a bed? Ideally you should opt for a king-size bed which measures 5ft x 6ft 6". That way you can rest assured you will get a good night’s sleep.

While bedsteads have an aesthetic purpose and help to give your room a definite style, a divan bed base is usually stronger and more supportive but plainer, style-wise. Divans also have the added option of storage drawers, which can be incorporated into the base. The main benefit of divan beds is that they take up less room. If you’re worried about size, it’s worth remembering that a king-size divan will often fit into the space of a double bedstead. Divans are also more versatile, if you’re likely to change the style of your bedroom regularly, as many don’t have the striking appearance of bedsteads.

Bed frames
Bed frames are available in almost limitless styles and colours – metal beds and leather beds are particularly popular at the moment. Many are supplied flat-packed, and so can help with any of the problems associated with getting divans up stairs or through tricky doorways. Remember, if you're buying a bed frame, it's even more important to get the mattress right. The slatted base can reduce the life expectancy of a sprung mattress, so foam mattresses are ideal with this kind of bed. A bed with sprung slats will have a softer feel, and will prolong the life of your mattress.

The price is right
When it comes to cost you should spend as much as you can afford on a bed, including the base and mattress. When you consider that the average bed lasts 10 years, the cost (however much you spend) won’t seem at all bad when you work it our per sleep. A £500 bed used for over 10 years will cost you just 14p a night.

Five top tips for getting a good night’s sleep
Don’t count sheep. If for whatever reason you can’t sleep don’t just lie in the bed watching the alarm clock. Get up and have a milky hot drink and do something relaxing.

Make sure there is enough room for you and your partner. You are less likely to get a good night’s sleep if you are constantly touching each other.

Lavender has long been renowned for helping people to get to sleep. Add some drops of lavender oil to your bath before bedtime or keep a lavender scented pillow close by.

Our bodies love routine. Try and go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. That way your body will get used to when you should be asleep and awake and you will avoid a jet-lagged feeling.

Turn your mattress regularly to avoid severe hollows forming on the surface – these will result in an uncomfortable night’s sleep and will reduce the life of your mattress.

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