Imagine, if you can, 8 million square feet of furniture -- enough to fill all the square footage in Chicago's famed Sears Tower twice. That's what designers and furniture purveyors face at the twice-yearly High Point furniture market. While consumers may not have quite that many choices, buying furniture can be an anxiety- inducing experience.
Will it last? Will you get tired of it? Will it fit? Will it work with the rest of the furniture and fit the decor? Here are some tips from the American Furniture Manufacturers Association, based in High Point, N.C., on finding your style and making purchases.
* There's nothing wrong with mixing and matching styles. But it helps you shop if you have a general idea of the style you prefer. Broadly speaking, there are five major styles: casual (overstuffed sofas, earthy colors, oak, pine, ash and maple woods); contemporary (bold colors, sharp lines, metal and glass); country (soft cushions, floral prints, distressed and painted wood); traditional (antiques and antique styles, wingback chairs, damask and chintz, cherry and mahogany woods); and eclectic (ethnic or artisan pieces, a mix of compatible styles and periods, highly individual).
* Make a list of the colors, textures and patterns you prefer, and keep a scrapbook of ideas. Do you like solids or stripes? Floral or geometric designs? Pine or mahogany furniture? Study TV programs on home decor, magazines, books, catalogs, Web sites and furniture showrooms for inspiration.
* Take into account your lifestyle. If you have kids and pets, you probably don't want a white silk sofa.
* Set priorities. You don't have to furnish the whole house at once. Maybe something needs to be replaced (that chair with the ripped upholstery) or maybe you've seen something you love and want to find a place for it (a comfy leather chair).
* Decide how much you want to spend and look for the best values in your price range.
* Take advantage of free services: interior-design consulting, product brochures, room-planning guides.
* Trust your own judgment and buy what you like, not what someone else recommends.
The historic and contemporary uses of aromatic plants in cosmetics and the art of growing herbs at home are the topics of a talk sponsored by Johns Hopkins Homewood House from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday in the Garrett Room of the Eisenhower Library. Herbal tea will be provided; visitors should bring a bag lunch. There will also be a tour of Homewood House, which has been decorated for spring with herbs. The talk and tour are free to Homewood members and Hopkins faculty, staff and students; $6 per person for guests. For reservations or more information, call 410-516-5589.
St. Mary's Square Museum of St. Michaels is presenting a tour of five historic homes and five gardens from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Visitors also can meet and talk with local landscape designer Cathy Hower in the garden area of Church Cove Park. Tickets are $20 and may be purchased in advance or on the day of the tour at St. Mary's Square Museum, East Chestnut Street and St. Mary's Square. For tickets or more information, call 410-745-3984.
Home Front welcomes interesting home and garden news. Please send suggestions to Karol V. Menzie, Home Front, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278, or fax to 410-783-2519.