The Pros and Cons of Online Furniture Shopping


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The landscape of the interior design business has been altered over the last few years. The days of buying home furnishings through a designer that were considered “trade only”, meaning items could only be purchased from a designer, have changed.

Manufacturers almost exclusively sold to designers and brick and mortar furniture stores. There was generally a set retail price and designers either sold “at retail” or offered a discount. Furniture stores generally could purchase the items at a better price due to volume but didn’t normally sell things as “customized” as a designer would.

Fast forward a few years and here are some changes and/or misconceptions:

A. Interior Design has gone digital

a) The “in-person” designer/client relationship is not necessary.

b) E-Design: A client can send photos/measurements and a designer can create a space plan and links to purchase furniture on their own.

c) Space planning software – you can upload a photo of a room and a user can see different room arrangements.

d) Social media advertising – Furniture can be received quickly at a great price and free shipping.

B. The Pros:

a) A time saver

b) A wide Range of product

a) You may see a style you weren’t aware of b) You may see things mixed together that you would have never thought of

c) Easy Comparison

a) You can look at multiple vendors b) Having a manufacturer and product number can help with the search

d) Ease of Accessibility

a) You can access your computer from your living room, while waiting to get your oil changed or while lying in bed.

e) Sales/Discounts

a) Competition is fierce – you can find great deals

f) Reviews

a) You will hear the good and the bad and this can help you with your decision

C. The Cons:

a) Seeing something on a screen is not necessarily how it will look in person

a) It’s hard to tell the quality

  1. Is the seat comfortable?
  2. Do the drawers open smoothly?

b) It’s hard to judge the color

a) All computer screens are different b) If it’s described as “navy blue” that can mean royal blue, indigo blue, etc.

c) You’re not dealing with a real person

a) A designer will know the manufacturers and what their strengths and weaknesses are and will ask you specific questions to help you get exactly what you want and help you avoid mistakes.

d) Delivery issues

a) Many of the “free shipping” options are curbside delivery b) Drivers are not able to assist you c) The item may come in pieces and need to be assembled – this can cause hours of time and frustration d) You have large amounts of packaging and cardboard to dispose of e) It can arrive late f) It can go to the wrong address

e) Less freedom of customization

a) You have to pick the furniture that is on the site

f) Sizes/Measurements

a) Most people don’t have the skill required to design a space

  1. Scale
  2. Proportion
  3. Types of quality – 8 way hand tied
  4. Performance Fabrics
  5. Making it Personal

g) Reviews

a) You can’t always trust these – someone may not have the same standards that you do

D. Popular Online Sites:

a) Wayfair b) Birch Lane c) All Modern d) Joss & Main e) Perigold f) Houzz g) Amazon h) World Market i) Modsy j) One Kings Lane k) Lulu & Georgia l) Lex Mod

Designers understand how spaces flow together, how to combine fabrics and how furniture placement affects conversation. Impulse buys on furniture and accessories that you think may work in a room can add up and cost you more in the long run. To combine ideas in a cohesive way that is collected and pulled together takes experience talent and insight. That’s what designers do well.

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