Tips and Guides

The 5 Es of Furniture Shopping

Get the best piece for your home with these helpful reminders

Photography: Jun Pinzon (Main Photo)

Buying furniture for the home is fun and challenging. Imagine choosing between two equally pretty sofas or two lovely dining tables. It isn't enough that you base your decision on aesthetics alone. It's important to invest your money in quality pieces that you can use for a long time.

The key is to furnish your home around your lifestyle and not the other way around. Take the time to assess the current situation of your home and figuring out your immediate needs. This will also keep your budget in check. Let these five easy “Es” guide you in making furniture shopping a breeze.

Read the original article  in the June 2005 issue of Real Living Magazine. Download your digital copy of Real Living on the Real Living App. Log on to for more details.


Start by evaluating what needs to be done in your home. This way, you will know if you need a total change in the area or if you have to furnish from scratch. Doing this allows you to determine if you simply need a minor upgrade using additional pieces.

  • Get organized and know exactly what you want to accomplish. Find out what you really need. At this stage, decide if you need a professional designer to help you out.  
  • Determine the areas and scope of work. Talk it over with your design pro and take it from there. If you decide to do it yourself, see what specific areas need to be worked on, assess the scope of work and the considerations with the space, i.e. special needs for children or the elderly.
  • Set a reasonable time frame. Giving yourself a solid deadline to get everything done will keep you from wracking up unnecessary costs. 


Make an inventory, or a simple punch list, of all the items needed in the area. A punch list includes the number of pieces you need to buy, the sizes, and the price of each. This will help you keep track of your budget, too.

Begin by listing per category: Furniture, lighting, accessories, soft furnishings, etc. This will help you prioritize which furnishings are most important and which you should buy first. It can also help you find out if you might already have some of these items on hand. 


Select the style you want to have. You can base this on your current style (Do you like it Asian-modern, traditional or retro?) or you can figure it out by browsing through magazines and books on the home. Cut out pictures of things and rooms that catch your eye and inspire you. Narrow it down to a specific style and color scheme. 


Before you go on your shopping spree, carefully consider your budget. After making your punch list, you should be able to determine how much money you can spend. Do a little research before setting your budget. Ask your friends who have made recent purchases for the home.

Check out the home stores and note down your favorite pieces on your punch list along with their prices, and watch out for seasonal sales—some stores give up to 30% discounts. And as much as possible, visit different stores so you can compare and take note of the prices.

  • Set a fixed budget for each area. Allow yourself to go only 10 to 20% over it. This will keep you from overspending on one room only.
  • Identify the most important item for each area (i.e. the bed for the bedroom, the sofa for the living room). This is what you will purchase first.
  • Prioritize which pieces to add on next. If you reach your budget limit for a particular area, purchase the remaining, less important items another time. 


Furnishing your home may be a task, but it should also be an experience you can enjoy immensely. Take the time to go through the above steps and find out what suits your taste and lifestyle best. Check the store’s background and credibility so you know you’re getting a good deal. Try not to be pressured into buying things you do not need or like—instead, purchase practical, comfortable items with a look that you will really appreciate. 

More on

4 Ways to Shop for Furniture Like a Pro

10 Things to Bring when Furniture and Appliance Shopping

4 Tips on Buying Kitchen Must-Haves


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