I also follow up with an anecdote a friend told me: He knew that his family would be moving around frequently over several years. He said he couldn’t invest in a house yet, so he was building up his household by investing in long-lasting furniture.
When you start planning your next furniture purchase, consider these questions: How long will you be able to keep this chair/table before it breaks or goes out of style? What materials are used, and how are they connected? Also consider how maintainable the product will be: Can it be taken apart for repair, will you be able to order replacement parts from the manufacturer, and how accessible is the furniture manufacturer's service department?
Let’s start with the questions about furniture construction. Is it bench made (as in handmade)? Or built in a factory? Either way, I recommend selecting furniture that comes fully-assembled rather than built with flat-pack construction. Flat-pack furniture is designed solely for reducing the price of shipping. In contrast to flat-pack furniture, fully-assembled furniture generally has rigid connections rather than brackets for structural joints. I also recommend furniture made from solid hardwoods, full-thickness plywood, steel or aluminum. Avoid plastics, fiberboards, and hardened cardboards.
If you want your furniture to be long-lasting, it needs to be easily cleaned. Consider furniture with high-quality materials that will develop natural patinas and can be wiped with a damp cloth. The most cleanable materials are metals, glass, hardwoods, and full-grain leathers. Even “cleanable fabrics” can eventually stain and require complicated cleaning techniques.
It is also important to consider timelessness over trendy designs. If you still like the look of your furniture in ten, twenty years, you will want to keep it around. The best approach for finding timelessness is to err on simple designs with clean lines. I also suggest selecting furniture that compliments multiple styles - something that will look good in a modern home remodel, or in a hundred year old house. Furniture built with materials that have a range of dark and light colors will give you flexibility for placing your furniture among various materials and colors of your changing home.
Sometimes people tell me that they want to start with “cheap” furniture which they plan to replace once their kids are out of the house. Consider investing in furniture that you will love to use for the entire time the kids are around -- furniture that can stand up to a child’s roughness, but furniture which may someday become their heirloom.
Remember that the expense of investing in fine furniture can be amortized over decades which may ultimately cost less per year of ownership. Additionally it will hold its value and can be re-sold easily.