The Great Furniture Debate: Buy It Assembled or Put It Together Yourself?

Now that almost everything you want or need is available to order online and have delivered directly to your home, you’ve probably been faced at least once with the challenge of assembling a piece of furniture that has arrived in a huge flat box with a bag of bolts and screws and a confusing set of instructions.

You don’t even have to order online to find that you’ve got to put something together yourself. IKEA is the store that started it all, and now you often go into a store and buy a piece of furniture you see on display only to find out that you’re going to take your home in a flat-pack box.

furniture ideas
furniture ideas

So do you hold out and only buy furniture that comes as the gods intended it, with everything already attached where it should be? And if you do, is it always worth the price you pay for the convenience?

On one side of the debate is the notion that assembling a piece of furniture gives you a sense of satisfaction and pride of ownership. There’s even a term for it: The IKEA Effect. A paper from the Harvard School of Business first described it, concluding that putting something together yourself makes you appreciate it more.

On the other side is the feeling that something put together by a craftsman or even by experienced workers at a factory is always going to be better than something you wrangle together yourself. It’s true that high-end furniture always comes completely assembled and ready to use, but it’s also true that you pay a premium for it. And even at that, depending upon where you live, the shrinking number of brick and mortar furniture stores may have left you without that option at all.

So given that at one point or another you’re going to find yourself ordering furniture that comes to you in pieces, here’s the drill:

Do Your Research

Learn everything you can about the product before you order it, including how heavy and what size it is. Then measure the space where you intend to put it, so you’re sure it will fit; pictures can be deceiving. If it’s a substantial piece of upholstered furniture, order a fabric swatch if you can. Instant gratification can be tempting, but not worth it if what looked blue online is really green. While returning something is always an option, it’s an enormous hassle to put everything back in the box and pack it up again for shipping.

Before you commit to buying something, read the customer reviews. While a lot of people don’t bother submitting a review if they’re satisfied with the product, you’ll learn plenty from the people who had problems with it. If enough folks say the furniture wasn’t made of good quality materials or that there were missing parts and customer service wasn’t responsive, move on.

Get Help if You Need It

You can probably figure out how to screw three legs onto a stool, but if you see that the project is going to be complicated, enlist a friend to assist or hire someone to do the whole thing for you. You’ll find that whether you live in Topeka or Tampa, furniture assembly services have popped up everywhere because so many people are in the same spot you are. There’s no shame in admitting you’re looking at something beyond your skill set.

Once the Box(es) Arrive

The first thing to do is make sure you open boxes carefully and keep them intact in case you have to send them back. Tearing into a carton recklessly can also damage the contents or turn an instruction sheet into shreds.

best furniture ideas
best furniture ideas

Unless it’s easily portable, prepare to assemble the furniture in the room where it will live. For large furniture, it might be easier to open the box wherever it’s easiest to drag and then carry the parts separately to where the furniture will go. Before you start separating things, though, count all the parts and compare them to the instructions. Check the condition of the pieces as well, because you don’t want to start putting something together and then find out you’ve got to order a replacement part.


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