Woodworking is my other passion. For quality furniture you're going to want to use a good hardwood. There are many choices, and the decision is largely going to be about what you like, and what is available in your area.
There are plenty of places on the Internet where you can get basic information about hardwoods and look at samples - here is one: Hardwood Info. Google around and you can find others.
My personal favorite wood is cherry, which is undergoing a resurgence in popularity. It's a beautiful wood, especially if left natural. It's much lighter than most people realize. Two things to be aware of with cherry are that it will naturally darken with age, eventually turning to a deep reddish brown, and that you need to be aware of sapwood. Sapwood comes from the outer layers of the tree, and in cherry it is much much lighter in color than the heartwood. Sapwood will not darken over time, so most woodworkers make sure we cut that out. It can make for more waste than with other wood species.
In the big box stores (Lowes, HD, etc.), your choices are going to be pretty limited. You will find red oak there, and you may find some maple. Prices will be pretty high as well. If you can find a local lumber yard that specializes in hardwoods you will find a lot more choices and better prices. The hardwood lumber yard may only have rough lumber - wood that has not been surfaced to standard dimensional lumber. If so, and if you don't have the tools to mill rough lumber (a jointer and planer are what most of us use), the lumber yard will usually do that for you for a nominal fee. Some hardwood yards will also sell hardwood that is S2S1E, which means surfaced on 2 sides and 1 edge. You can easily break that down with ordinary tools.
Good luck, and post up a pic of the project when it's done.