5 Ways to Identify Quality Furniture

Beth Rice 12/08/2021

What goes into furniture that qualifies it as quality furniture? Is it the style? The durability? The functionality?  How can you avoid paying money for furniture that looks good, but won’t last? What should you look for to be sure it’s a quality piece? Read on to find indicators of the good stuff, some things to stay away from and what you came for, five ways to identify quality furniture.

What is quality furniture?

For all intents and purposes, we define quality furniture as strong, durable, beautiful furniture, and that’s what we build here at DutchCrafters. We expect quality furniture to last a long time, perform at high function, be comfortable and supportive, and look incredible. Our standard for quality furniture means it’s made with quality materials, supported by fine craftsmanship, and will be part of your family for generations.

If you’re looking to identify quality furniture by this definition, you’re in the right place.

5 Ways to Identify Quality Furniture

Check the Joints

The construction techniques used to put your furniture together are a telltale indicator of quality. The joints of a piece speak volumes, and if the joint is poor, so will be the performance of your furniture. The top two joints to look for that spell quality construction are dovetail and mortise and tenon.

A dovetail or dovetail joint is used to connect the front, side and back of a drawer. This type of joint is strong and secure, and will not come apart easily. Wood boards for the drawer are cut so that they interlock with one another, and they are glued together for added reinforcement.

Dovetailed Drawer
Dovetail joint-a sign of quality.

You’ll find dovetailed technique on bed slats as well. The bed slats fit into metal holders that keep the slats secure. They support the side rails and help prevent bowing.

Bed slat dovetailed
A dovetailed bed slat.

The mortise and tenon method of joinery has been around for thousands of years and contributes to sturdy and strong furniture. A tenon is a wood piece that is cut to fit perfectly when wedged into a mortise, which is a hole cut in the wood, and the two are put together. Sometimes glue is used for added reinforcement but is rarely needed for this type of joint. Mortise and tenon joinery is considered the strongest type of joint for quality wood furniture.

Good joints, not top quality, but good, are screwed or doweled. Poor quality joints are only nailed or stapled or show glue where they were put together.

Amish Cannon Ball Poster Bed
The Amish Jonah Poster Bed features dovetailed slats.

Look for Solid Wood

Quality materials will perform better, and solid wood construction will win every time when it comes to quality materials. It’s the strongest and will last the longest, and furniture made with lesser materials just can’t go the distance that solid wood can.  

If plywood is used, it should have several layers that are pressed together. And plywood is not an indicator of poor quality furniture, you just have to be careful what it’s made of. High-grade plywood is used in solid wood Amish furniture and in fact, it’s a technique that indicates fine craftsmanship when it is used for the right purposes. The plywood is layered so the grains of the boards are at right angles to each other for added reinforcement.  Why is it used? You’ll find plywood in a high-quality case piece like hutches or dressers in the bottoms of drawers to allow for natural movement of the wood. Authentic wood furniture will respond to its environment, expanding and contracting in response to moisture in the air. The high-grade plywood allows for this movement, and helps prevent a piece from cracking. Plywood used in Amish furniture is often made of the same wood species as the rest of the piece, and it’s stained to match. Another method involves a veneer (a thin piece of lumber about 1/8 inch thick in the same wood species) that’s glued to the outside of the plywood to perfectly match the rest of the piece.

Plywood that indicates poor construction and poor quality is thin. Furniture materials like fiberboard, particle board, press board laminates and mdf (medium density fiberboard) are lesser quality. They’re cheap and they will perform as such, cutting the life of your furniture short.

Good Frames

Whether bed, hutch or bookcase, quality furniture needs a good frame. Quality furniture frames will not wobble or creak, but will stand sturdy and operate smoothly and quietly. Drawers open and close smoothly without coming out of line. For some quality case goods like dressers and chests, you might find an element that speaks to quality and that’s a little piece called a dust panel. What are dust panels? Dust panels are horizontal wood panels or boards that create a barrier between drawers in the frame of a case piece to protect the contents from dust. Dust panels do not come out when you open a drawer, they are kind of like a frame inside the frame that contributes to the structure. A good frame is a sign of quality craftsmanship.

Amish Louis Phillipe 66 Dresser
The Amish Louis Philippe 66″ Dresser comes with option to add dust panels.

Drawers Should Open Easily

You might not think opening and closing drawers could be such a pleasurable experience, but the drawers in quality furniture indeed make it so. Quality case pieces like dressers, hutches and chests, along with desk drawers, kitchen island drawers and basically any drawers, should open and close smooth as butter in a quality piece. This has a lot to do with the drawer itself and the drawer slides it sits on. Quality drawer slides include ¾ drawer slides, (those that leave part of the drawer in the cabinet when opened), full extension drawer slides (those that extend out entirely offering easy access to the entire drawer), and soft-close drawer slides (a fine option that’s quiet, smooth and uses a hydraulic cylinder or other mechanism to assist in closing the drawer prompted by just a gentle tap). If you have to yank a drawer to get it open or shove it awkwardly to close it, you’re not dealing with quality furniture.

Amish Mid Century Modern Bathroom Vanity
The Amish Mid Century Modern Bathroom Vanity comes with luxurious soft close drawers.

Sales Staff Should Be Knowledgeable

Another sign of quality furniture is the knowledge the people selling it have. They should be familiar with the furniture features and ready to answer your questions. If they cannot speak with ease about it, how can they fill you in on the details? Quality furniture stores will know their product.

Quality Furniture Checklist

  • Mortise and tenon or dovetail joints
  • Quality materials like solid wood
  • Good frames that show fine craftsmanship
  • Drawers should open and close easily
  • Knowledgeable salespeople
Amish Brown Maple Oxnard Extension Table Quick Ship
The Amish Brown Maple Oxnard Extension Table available Quick Ship

What does it cost to have quality furniture? There’s no doubt that materials like solid wood and the time it takes for handcrafting the details will cost more. If you’re looking for affordable that you’ll have to replace fairly frequently throughout the years, go for good furniture. If you’re looking for that strength, durability and beauty that can be passed on one day, look for the indicators of quality furniture.

Amish Gateway Sofa
The Amish Mission Calvert Sofa features solid wood and mortise and tenon construction.
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