Returning a pair of shoes is easy; returning a sofa is not. When shopping for your home, a little advance preparation can go a very long way in preventing buyer’s remorse. Here are my top tips for a stress-free, fun and successful shopping excursion.
Stay Focused–Have a list of priority items you are seeking for your home, and try to stick to it. When browsing retail furniture stores, antique shops or furniture consignment warehouses, it’s easy to get distracted by the sheer volume of merchandise. Having a list will not only help you stay focused on specific items, but also will be a useful guide for salespeople, who will assist you to zero in on your preferred merchandise. I suggest keeping your priority items list in your smart phone to ensure it will always be with you when you need it (and you never know when a great shopping opportunity will present itself).
Consider Scale—When shopping for specific design elements such as sofas or dining tables, “eye-balling” for scale is a big mistake. You need to have an accurate record of your home’s room dimensions, and the best way to ensure you’ll only have to measure once is to record room-by-room dimensions (room width, length and ceiling height) in your smart phone. Remember to include window measurements if you’re shopping for window coverings such as curtains or blinds. Also, don’t forget about door width and height dimensions. This is particularly important with bulky items such as sofas and certain case goods which can’t be broken down to fit through narrow doors.
Take Specific Measurements—If you’re shopping for a specific item such as a bed, dining table or sofa, you’ll need to have a good idea of the width, length and depth you’re looking for. If you’re replacing an existing furniture piece, then you can measure the old version and make adjustments based on whether or not you’d prefer something bigger or smaller. Don't forget about your outdoor furnishings when taking measurements, particularly seating such as lounge chairs that require cushions. Knowing your cushion dimensions prior to shopping is a huge time saver! Again, record these details in your smart phone. If you’re working from a blank space, you’ll need to do some basic space planning before you start shopping. You may think that your new bedroom can accommodate king-size bed, and after measuring determine that a queen will work much better with your existing furnishings and will allow for a more functional space. If you fall in love with a sectional sofa, you’ll want to know before placing a custom order (which very likely cannot be returned) that the sofa is going to function well in its intended space. Every furniture store will have tape measures on hand to assist you with measuring. I also am a huge fan of the old-fashioned retractable tape measure. You can find small, purse-friendly versions at sewing shops. These come in very handy when you are shopping for furnishings in antique stores, or at consignment shops, estate sales or auctions.
Create a Visual Resource—Have you ever found yourself in a showroom, staring at a particular item which you love, and trying to visualize it in a specific space in your home? We think we know our homes so well, but in fact it can be very hard to visualize a lamp, pillow or rug in your home when you are surrounded by a showroom full of furnishings and accessories. Smart phone to the rescue—again! Take several photos of each room in your home, from multiple angles, including wide shots and close-ups. Save the images to a “home” folder. Remember to include outdoor entertaining spaces if you need items for these areas. I also recommend taking close-up photos of textiles in each room, including sofas, pillows, curtains, floor coverings and bedding. This extra step can be very helpful if you forget, or simply don’t have, fabric swatches to bring with you.
Go Online—In addition to excellent local retailers, today’s consumers also have access to the online marketplace. Many reliable online retailers provide interior furnishings and décor options to suit every budget and design aesthetic. Some, like Wayfair.com, even offer free shipping. No, you won’t get to “sit test” the chair before you buy it, or feel a duvet cover’s fabric before purchase, but most online retailers understand this, and work hard to simplify returns. I particularly like to utilize online retailers for accessories. So, by all means do consider the online offerings at such sites as Wayfair, OneKingsLane, Overstock, BlissHome&Design and Etsy.