Not sure where to begin shopping for furniture and decor? If you want ideas for where else to look besides mass-market retailers, consider the options below.
Most designers mix high priced items and lower prices items to create a complete design & work within budget constraints. Furniture is not a high margin industry - you will get the quality that you pay for. Be sure to compare quality in person (where possible) before purchasing. Upholstery pieces are the easiest to hide poor construction - the structural components are all hidden under the fabric.
ONLINE RETAILERS AND FLASH-SALE DECOR SITES
Online-only stores have great prices, but they do come at a cost. Besides not being able to see the quality firsthand, you will not have the level of customer service that a retail store offers.
Due to the high cost of furniture, and the high cost of shipping/delivery if you need to return something, it’s important to be aware of all the possible scenarios when ordering. If you aren’t happy with the piece, or it arrives damaged, you may be stuck re-selling it yourself locally instead of returning the item for a refund. Do your research and ask questions before pulling out your credit card.
TO THE TRADE
‘Trade’ stores are only for professional decorators to shop. I include a few in our Shopper’s Guide (linked below) because you can still see what the stores have to offer online through their website or social media pages.
These stores will be in the mid-to-high price range because of their quality. Even if you decorate yourself, you can hire a designer just to take you shopping to get access to purchase these products.
It goes without saying, Amazon & Walmart are great low-price options for decor. But other sources to remember are your local consignment or thrift store. Salvation Army & Goodwill can be a treasure trove in the right neighborhood. Sometimes a quality piece can feel like new with a can of paint or re-upholstery.
Craigslist & Facebook Marketplace (or Garage sale Groups) are another thing to consider. To view the best quality quickly, sort the search by ‘high-to-low priced’ items. Many model homes need to sell their inventory, and people who relocate quickly sell off barely-used quality furniture. You could hit the jackpot here.
Secondhand is a great option you can feel good about - many times you are saving perfectly good furniture from the landfill. You can find quality craftsmanship in an old wood dresser that they just don't make anymore. Adding a marble top for a formal room, or an industrial metal top with rivets for a more masculine look, can transform a piece you might otherwise dismiss.
Using your imagination, some new hardware, paint & a little time, you could create something truly unique!
DON’T FORGET LOCAL OUTLET STORES & CUSTOM-MAKERS
When searching for retailers, check and see if they have an outlet center near you! Many have pieces with little to no damage (or damage that won't be seen), and oftentimes it's just furniture that customers returned because they changed their mind.
Lastly, local custom-furniture makers & artists are a GREAT source. You can find them with listings on Craigslist & Facebook marketplace, but you will find better sources from word of mouth (local interior designers, smaller speciality furniture retailers, friends) and Instagram hashtags, like #(your city)customfurniture or #(your city)artist.
HAVE YOUR MEASUREMENTS
Don’t ever buy furniture without knowing the measurements of your room & of the other furniture pieces in the room. DO NOT ASSUME IT WILL FIT just because it looks ‘average’ size. Nothing appears to scale in a big showroom, or worse, online. Before shopping:
1. Have your floorplan & basic furniture list per room.
2. Layout the room to see if room will feel balanced. Remember to consider traffic flow from other rooms/doorways.
3. If you want to visualize more hands-on in your physical space, it helps to use painters tape to mark off furniture placement on the floor to judge the right size, keeping in mind traffic flow (your room will temporarily look like a crime-scene!). Better yet, use empty boxes to stack and simulate the correct height to view your furniture layout in 3D.
4. If you don’t use the ‘box trick’ above, remember to take into account furniture height. You don’t want end tables that look awkward with your sofa due to them being too tall or short. And always consider ceiling height, especially when buying tall bookcases or ordering window treatments.
5. Don’t forget about your light fixtures/chandeliers when creating your furniture layout - you will typically want to group around them, with the chandelier centered.
Hope you found this helpful. If you would like a list of shopping resources to get you started, see our Shopper’s Guide below! It's organized from high-to-low priced shops, with a variety of styles and options.
The Decorating Coach
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