Household Furniture

Household furniture, much of it ready-to-assemble (RTA) for easy transporting, fills a need for attractive, lightweight, conveniently stored tables, chairs and stools for informal living and entertaining.

With plated steel legs, padded seats, colored or woodgrain vinyl tops and styles to go with any home decorating plan, these pieces can become a permanent household item or, if space demands, can be stored and used only when needed.

Generally, household furniture frames are made of tubular steel with one of three finishes (in order of durability)-chrome plated, brass plated or painted. Legs should be capped with rubber or plastic tips or plastic glides. Tabletops or shelves many have woodgrain metal finishes or colorful, washable, stain-resistant coverings. Chair seats and backrests can be padded with foam rubber or wood fiber and covered with washable vinyl or an easy-care fabric.


Some chairs have Y-fold structure, like that of card-table chairs. Quality chairs, however, look like living room or family-room chairs when set up. Seats are about 16″ square and 17″ to 18″ from the floor. With either construction, chairs nest for storage.

Tables formerly were braced, but now many are made of painted tubular steel with leg locks and vinyl tips or glides and stain-resistant vinyl tops. Better tables are 40″ in diameter or 35″ square, 27-1/2″ or 28″ high.


Tray tables have tubular steel legs that are usually chrome or brass finish with rubber or vinyl tips if legs are straight; tips are not necessary if legs are formed in a “U” shape from a single continuous piece of tubing.

Tops vary in size and shape, but most are made of painted steel or fiberglass. Better models have fabric-in-fiberglass and woodgrain patterns.

All units fold for storage, and more expensive sets come in wheeled storage racks. Some high-end table sets are made of wood, with natural wood finishes.


The difference between utility tables and serving carts is that tables are multi-shelved for storage and have small casters. The carts have a more decorative finish, handles and large casters or rubber-tired wheels.

Shelf surfaces of utility tables are normally steel painted in kitchen colors. Better models have larger, stronger shelves, stronger chrome-plated tubular steel legs and frequently have built-in electrical outlets.

Shelves of serving carts can be removed to be used as trays. Some carts have drop leaves or other adjustments to convert them to buffet carts. Better carts have woodgrain shelves and brass-finished frames or enameled finish.

Serving carts are versatile and may double as bookshelves or plant stands. Many utility and serving carts will fold down neatly for compact storage.


No matter what particular use the stool has, tubular steel legs will have chrome, brass or painted finish, be spread at the base for stability and capped with plastic tips or glides to protect floors. Occasionally, frames are made of lightweight wrought iron. Seats and backs are padded and vinyl covered in decorator colors. Some lines are made of fiberglass, wood or rattan and better models have leather seat pads.


Step stools are a combination of a two-step ladder and a kitchen stool. The two steps provide enough lift to reach high cabinets, shelves or curtain rods, and chair seat is right height for sit-down ironing or working at kitchen bar or sink.

With some stools, seat lifts up for access to the steps, while on other models steps swing out. Those with swing-out steps must be designed so that steps stay in place under seat when stool is moved.

Most step stools have a backrest, which serves a dual purpose-support and comfort when used as a chair and as a steadying device when used as a small ladder.

Most models fold up for compact storing.


Bar and counter stools are generally used at breakfast or basement bars. Normal seat height is 17″ or 24″ for breakfast bars and 30″ for basement bars. Better pedestal stools adjust to various heights to suit specific needs.

Most models have backrests and footrests (usually chrome plated) for comfort, with adjustable footrests on better stools. Almost all have swivel seats, better ones with nylon or ball bearings. Promotional lines frequently have unstable rotation devices.


The most important feature of a bath stool is strength and a widespread base to reduce danger of tipping. Legs have chrome, brass or painted surfaces and should be capped with rubber or plastic tips. Frame construction may be wire or steel tubing, but tubing is stronger.

Upholstery must be durable and water resistant, preferably washable vinyl. Styling varies from modern round stools to stools with backs and vanity types.


Some of the most popular juvenile furniture resembles adult furniture, just down-sized. But unlike its adult counterpart, special quality features are a must in juvenile furniture. Durability, for instance, is of major concern. Safety is another. Highchairs, tables, baby furniture, dressers and desks must be able to take the abuse a young child can dish out. Check for doweled joints on baby furniture made of hardwood.

When buying highchairs, cribs and security gates, make sure bars are spaced so that the child cannot get his/her head wedged between them.

Easy cleanup is another consideration with juvenile furniture. Food, paint, crayons and other materials should not stain the furniture’s finish.

Car seats are becoming hot items, partly through growing public concern over traffic safety and partly because most states have made them mandatory for children under a certain age or size.

Quality features in baby and toddler car seats include heavy padding, water and stain-proof covering, easy belt attachment and detachment and sturdy construction that will withstand severe impact. Higher-end seats will usually be adjustable to fit a growing child, so the parent does not have to buy several car seats as the child gets bigger.

Booster chairs or seats are legal in some states for toddlers. The booster seat allows the child to use the regular seat belt by boosting his height so the belt fits in the correct position. Check your state’s regulations pertaining to car seats.

Seats should not have decorations or accessories protruding from them that might injure a child in an accident.

Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

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