There are a few things you can do to spot a piece of furniture that not only looks good, but is built well and will stand the test of time.
With wooden furniture, you need to make sure that the wood used is solid and scratch-resistant. You can test this by trying to make a small scratch, and, if it makes a mark, then the wood is too soft to resist heavy use.
Also, a veneer is often used in many types of furniture. A veneer is where a thin piece of high-quality wood is placed over a lower-quality wood, and, if you buy a piece of furniture with a veneer, it will limit how many times you can refinish the item you have the veneer on.
Then there is the construction of the item of wooden furniture. Furniture held together by nails and staples are a sign of shoddy workmanship—and the same can be said if you can see the glue that holds the joints together.
Dowels are a good sign of good workmanship, and so are screws. Dovetail joints are also a very good sign of workmanship, and so are mortise and tenon joints. Wooden blocks should be used to reinforce the corners of the joints.
Drawers should run smoothly on their glides, and they should not pull all the way out, at least not without having to be lifted out on an angle.
Now try to lift the item that you are looking at buying from one corner—the item should not twist or squeak. After you’ve done this, try pressing on a corner or two of the item to see if it rocks or wobbles. And finally, make sure that all the legs are sufficiently stable.