Know Your Options
Before you set foot in a store, use the Internet to do some research. You can usually go to a manufacturer's Web site to see some, if not all, of their products. Dimensions of each item are often available, and you can also order catalogs from many sites. If you find a piece you like, search the same site for a store in your area that carries that line of furniture. Go to the store, and evaluate the quality of the line in which you're interested. You'll feel more comfortable about ordering the piece if you've seen it in person first.
Better furniture stores put a lot of effort into creating fully decorated room vignettes. These coordinated settings are designed to show the merchandise at its best, and they help you visualize how a piece could look in your home. As you make your way through the showroom, take note of background colors and how pieces are arranged. Ask yourself: "Are there elements in this grouping that would work in my home?" and "What can I learn from this room setting?" While you might not find the perfect table and chairs, you could discover the ideal shade of apricot for your walls.
You'll often pick up some creative ideas for using furniture and accessories when you visit a showroom. Maybe you see how an oversize mirror can add depth to a space. Or you could gather ideas for items to arrange above a new sofa once you get it home. Armless chairs placed side by side might suggest an interesting alternative to a love seat.
Just be sure to keep the size and scale of your rooms in mind. Furniture showrooms are usually large and spacious, and the sofa that appears to be an appropriate size at the store might be entirely too big for your sunporch.