Today's ready-to-assemble furnishings are true masters of disguise.
Gone are the days of confusing pages of instructions resulting in wobbly lopsided pieces. In their place are simple directions that result in furnishings that look as good -- if not better -- as the pictures on the box. And, more importantly, unless you actually put them together, you would be hard-pressed to guess they came in pieces.
Ranging in style from traditional to contemporary, the major difference between ready-to-assemble furniture and traditional furnishings is how they arrived at your home.
Once designed primarily for the home office or entertainment segments and featuring shelves with woodlike surfaces, ready-to-assemble furniture has expanded into the living room, dining room and occasional categories and now includes upholstered pieces.
Eurostyle, for example, offers leather chairs, sofas and lounges.
"We have assembly instructions with each piece. They're easy to follow and pictures are included," said Judith Ets-Hokin, vice president of marketing for Eurostyle.
In most cases, the pieces just screw together and can be fully assembled in 15 minutes or less, she added. And, sometimes the needed tools are included with the packaging materials.
Other times, assembly is a simple as tapping pins into a hole, said Marsha Grigsby, manager of The Home Depot in Henderson. And if you're still confused, the store offers do-it-yourself classes that make assembling pieces a snap.
Ets-Hokin said it is much easier and cost effective to ship a sofa in five smaller boxes rather than in one large box. This is especially important when shipping pieces from the factory, which is in Asia.
And that means the savings are passed on to the consumer. Generally, ready-to-assemble pieces cost less than traditional furnishings.
But don't let the prices fool you. Lower prices don't mean style or quality have been sacrificed. Many well-known designers and celebrities, such as Martha Stewart, Angelo Surmelis, Christopher Lowell and Kathy Ireland, are now offering ready-to-assemble furnishings.
As its name implies, Eurostyle's furniture has a definite European flair. The company specializes in creating furnishings with a modern or contemporary look for small spaces. Its products include furniture for the living room, dining room, kitchen and office.
The furnishings are designed by a team in Italy and an Italian heads the quality control department, Ets-Hokin said. The company was founded in 1985 by Trygve Liljestrand of Sweden.
Avenue Six keeps quality in the forefront with its upholstery offerings, which lean toward the modern side. Pieces are constructed out of kiln-dried hardwood and have resilient foam cushions or box spring seats. It offers a choice of fabrics, including durable microfibers, and leathers.
Once assembled, the furniture is both stylish and sturdy.
"The technology around the material has improved. Most people can't tell the difference between a laminate and a wood veneer," said Marcie Backer, vice president of product management, living division, for Bush Furniture, which specializes in pieces for home entertainment areas and the office.
In the ready-to-assemble business for more than 50 years, Bush Furniture has seen its product line evolve. The company now offers four brands, each with a distinct flavor and purpose, and closely following a person's life cycle, Backer said.
My Space is especially geared for smaller spaces, has an eclectic mix of styles and appeals most often to the younger generations.
Bush Signature is the company's longest standing brand. It is based on providing solutions for the entertainment/video furniture segment. Popular, modern finishes and mixed materials highlight the collection.
Office Connect debuted earlier this year and features office furniture for small businesses and professionals. It offers the flexibility to add, subtract or reconfigure elements as needed. Additionally, it can be adapted for home offices.
Workplace Solutions is designed for commercial businesses with anywhere from five to 20 employees. Also offering flexible configurations, the finishes are extremely durable.
"Our diamond coat is proprietary and is five times more durable than standard melamine," she said.
In all brands, the company has kept up to date with technological advances, adapting its designs for laptops and small portable electronics. Built-in features now include USB ports, wire management and charging stations, Backer said.
Additionally, pieces are ergonomically correct and factor in users' size, shape and height, and have no-tip construction designed for stability. Before it is released, each design is thoroughly tested to ensure it meets Underwriters Laboratories' stringent guidelines.
"The main value comes with our quality, safety and durability," she said.
The company also offers the ability to customize its pieces, with choices in finish, door style, hardware and size.