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Sofa Buying Tips From Author of "Best Furniture Buying Tips Ever!"

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Couch potato jokes aside, the sofa is the piece of furniture that takes the most abuse -- and gets the most use -- in a typical American home. And, with most couch prices ranging from $500 to $10,000 it is important that consumers compare apples to apples when couch shopping. "A sofa is the anchor piece and one of the most important furniture purchases because you use it everyday. However, buying one doesn't have to be intimidating or expensive," explains Jennifer Litwin, author of Furniture Hot Spots and Best Furniture Buying Tips Ever! (Random House). Litwin, a Sotheby's-trained furniture aficionado, Consumers Digest reporter and frequent TV contributor, spent a year "undercover” visiting more than 500 furniture stores nationwide, reviewing stores of all kinds and determining the most important questions consumers need answered when making home furnishings purchases. She found that most furniture salespeople know very little about the products they sell, which creates confusion for shoppers. Litwin shares her tips for finding a well-made, affordable sofa: •Hot glue is good. Avoid couches with exposed staples and legs that are screwed on. Screwed-on legs become weaker over time and are more likely to break. Pull out cushions to examine the craftsmanship of a piece. Fabric and wood legs should be secured with hot glue. •Kiln-dried wood. Ask about the frame materials. The frame should be kiln-dried wood which give the sofa strength, durability and allows for some "give”. Look for solid lumber stock such as oak or alder. •Road-tested fabric. Check to see if the fabric has been tested. Fabric that has been "rubbed” 10,000 or more times on a machine will determine the likelihood that the fabric will pill and fade. Tightly-woven fabric is best. Lift up cushions again to see if fabric goes all the way down to the base of the sofa, not part way, which is an indicator of low-quality. •Spring fling. Never buy a couch without sitting on it and bouncing. When you stand up, the sofa should rise with you and not stay depressed. Eight-way, hand-tied springs are the best and can been seen by peeking beneath the piece. Once you have made a sofa choice and it is time to hand over the credit card, Litwin recommends asking the retailer for a written warranty, not just one from the manufacturer. "Much of the furniture sold in the U.S. today is from Asia, so it is often difficult to go after the manufacturer if something happens to your piece,” Litwin explains. She also recommends asking if the couch will still be available in six months or if it is discontinued. Surprisingly, most of the furniture on the showroom floor has already been discontinued, making it difficult to get replacement parts should the piece break. More results of Jennifer Litwin's undercover work can be found in her book, Best Furniture Buying Tips Ever!, in which she concentrated her research on some of the best-known furniture retailers in the country, including: Thomasville, Ethan Allen, Bloomingdale's, Marshall Field's, Crate & Barrel and Furnitureland South. This book simplifies the entire shopping experience and is packed with various successful strategies to use when shopping for your home, including how to begin, where to shop, and what to avoid. This easily portable guidebook reveals how to do homework, ask the right questions and negotiate prices. About the Author: Jennifer Litwin is a leading home furnishings expert. Trained at Sotheby's with an MBA from the University of Chicago, she is a contributing writer for Consumers Digest. In Furniture Hot Spots: The Best Furniture Stores and Websites Coast to Coast, she uses her trademark "chair rating system” to rank furniture stores nationwide according to price, personnel, ambiance and quality. For more information, visit www.jenniferlitwin.com.

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