Different types of doll furniture are perfect for different types of display and play. For instance, chairs are a must for displays, while beds are more suitable to play. I'm going to look at each type of furniture individually in the context of fashion dolls, but the principles here can be applied to baby dolls, child dolls and toddler dolls as well.
Chairs are one of the most versatile pieces of doll furniture. Nothing breaks up an army of dolls standing straight like soldiers like a chair (or chaise or small sofa). When you can sit dolls down as well as stand them up, all types of interesting groupings of dolls can be achieved--A doll standing by the side of a sitting doll, as if in conversation, two dolls sitting and interacting on a sofa, two dolls sitting in two chairs by a small table--you get the idea! Chairs also give different eye-levels of interest to the dolls in your display. This year, a beautiful chair, Bordeaux Chaise, was produced for Tyler Wentworth, and Ashton Drake has also made large fashion-doll size chairs. There have also been many chairs produced for Barbie dolls throughout the years.
Tables are a little harder to work into displays than chairs, because of the amount of space that they take up. A small cocktail-size table between two chairs is best (but hard to find) and larger tables, such as dining tables, can eat up quite a bit of horizontal display space. However, tables are fantastic for displaying accessories, and are great fun for play. Since tables are hard to find, it can be easier to make a simple wood table (or even cardboard) and cover it attractively with fabric.
Armoires are one of my favorite display and play pieces of doll furniture. Nothing beats an Armoire for display possibilities--Armoires will often fit behind dolls on a shelf, giving depth to a display. You can also keep the doors of an armoire open and show off a multitude of accessories inside the armoire. Armoires also have great play value--its fun to dress your doll from a well-stocked armoire, whether you are 9 or 99. Generally, I have found antique and vintage wood armoires to display with my dolls, since so few doll manufacturers have made them. You can find old Suzy Goose armoires for Barbie and Ken, and this Fall Tyler Wentworth will be getting an armoire as well.
I find beds are nearly impossible to display, since they don't fit very tidily on most shelves. However, nothing beats the play value of a doll bed! Whether you are putting a baby doll to sleep, or whether you are playing with your fashion dolls, beds are just fun. When I play with my fashion dolls with my 9 year old daughter, we love to change our Tylers and Genes into their nightgowns and pajamas and put them to "bed" until next time we play (we use a bed produced by Ashton Drake for Gene a few years back). This year, Tyler also gets a very luxurious bed, Bordeaux Boudoir.
Ok, this isn't really furniture, but it is one of the most essential pieces for display and play. Although harder to display than an armoire, wardrobes can show off clothing and accessories, and, even better, they can store many, many pieces of clothing, shoes and accessories in an organized way. For play, nothing beats a doll wardrobe--when my 9 year old daughter and I play, our large Tyler wardrobes serve as apartments, clothing stores, you name it! Wardrobe cases have been produced for Barbie (the vintage ones are best, and the modern Silkstone case is beautiful) Gene, Tyler, Alexandra Fairchild Ford, Brenda Starr and many others. Even Matt O'Neill is getting a special "Valet Trunk" this year!
Always be on the lookout for a doll vanity-- you can seat a doll at the vanity, and then have loads of fun dressing up the vanity with appropriate dressing and grooming items. The Silkstone dolls, for instance, got a beautiful vanity this year.
Other: Desks, Wardrobe Screens and More
Doll furniture possibilities are endless. One of my favorite all-time pieces is Tyler's drafting desk, with its working light, tilting table and draw. I also love wardrobe Screens of all types (Ashton Drake made a lovely one for Gene, and there are beautiful antique ones available) as backdrops for dolls on a shelf. If baby dolls are more your thing, don't overlook strollers, carriages, high chairs and cradles. The possibilities are truly endless--if you haven't explored doll furniture, now is the time to make your displays and play come to life.