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Things to Consider When Buying Furniture Online

Margot Sofa by Gus Modern

Things to Consider Before
Purchasing Furniture Online

Furniture is a big purchase, and shopping sight-unseen can be intimidating.
Getting the details right can make the difference between a deal and a disaster.

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Online shopping is the new normal. And while getting paper towels and your multivitamins on repeat order is a no-brainer, there are some areas of the home that most people find a little intimidating. Furniture can be a fairly large purchase for a home, and shopping sight-unseen can be, in a word, daunting. While the showroom experience appeals to many, unless you live in design meccas like New York or Los Angeles, you may have to head to the web to get the best options, brands and designs. And like buying anything online, taking your time and getting the details right can make the difference between a deal and a disaster.

Know your store.

As much as you might doubt the designer discount in the dingy warehouse, be leery of unscrupulous websites. Just like a gorgeous showroom in the design district, a well-designed website generally indicates a serious retailer. Illegitimate operations rarely invest in the expensive and time-consuming infrastructure of good, pleasing web design. Also keep an eye open for industry certifications, and don’t hesitate to verify with that agency if you have your doubts.

PRO TIP

A deal looks too good to be true? It probably is. As much as you want to bargain hunt, furniture is an industry that rarely operates on large margins. While semi-annual sales are somewhat common, be wary of deep discounts on designer pieces. The web is flooded with “reproductions” and just straight-up knockoffs.

Get prepared.

Before you start shopping, know what you need!

  • Measure Twice:
    Knowing your details is critical, so get out the measuring tape: Measure, take notes and then measure again. Knowing what you need can help save you from choosing pieces that won’t work for your space.

  • Determine a Budget:
    This shouldn’t need saying, but before you start looking sit down and see what you can comfortably spend. Make sure you hold some back for shipping or assembly charges.

  • Find Finishes:
    Finish materials are what you interact with on the furniture. Know what you like and what you don’t. While a rich wool tweed will look amazing, it might not have the velvet-soft touch that you were looking for.

  • Find Your Style:
    Not sure what you are looking for? Hunt online for spaces that appeal to you and see what styles, looks and finishes make your mind tingle.

Take full advantage of your online retailer’s support team. Product specialists have insider info on what works and what doesn’t, and can help you make the best choices for your space.

Find a partner.

Once you find a website that you enjoy, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Good sites have teams of product specialists who are trained with the brands they carry. Let them help you out, from questions about size and scale to narrowing down finishes, they can guide you through the brands and selections to make sure you’re getting something that will work for you.

Narrow your results.

There are a lot of options on the market, and the variety can be overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to cut down your options. Doing your homework and knowing your parameters is going to save you hunting through endless pages of options.

Get samples.

This is probably the most important thing you can do. No two monitors are guaranteed to display the same exact color, and as our friend Josef Albers has so elegantly summed up, color is relative. Once you find a piece you like, work with your product specialist to get samples sent to you and test them in your space. Color is not the only factor; make sure the touch and feel meet your standards, too.

Plan and visualize.

The internet has a funny way of making furniture look larger or smaller than it is in person. Once you have a piece that you like, the best thing you can do is mock it up. We have found that marking out the footprint on the floor is the best method. It’s a quick and effective way to give you an idea of how the piece will sit in your space.

Pro Tip

Avoid a catastrophe and know the policies for where you are shopping. Often, large and higher-priced items like furniture are non-returnable, or if returnable may require you to pay a return shipping charge which, with freight shipments, can run into the hundreds.

Don’t rush.

This is critical to the timeline of your project. While some brands do have stock sitting in a warehouse ready to ship, back orders can happen and some higher-end lines are exclusively made-to-order. Design brands from across the Atlantic or around the world may have longer lead times, as well. Leave yourself plenty of time, or work with a product specialist to ensure that you are looking for items that can get to you quickly.

Pro Tip

Know your shipping method. In addition to longer lead times, many large pieces ship freight, which takes a few days longer than ground shipping and usually can’t be rushed. While standard freight may be free, it may not include features like white-glove delivery (where delivery agents bring the piece inside for you) or assembly if it’s required. Freight deliveries are also scheduled, so make sure you can take the half-day off to be home to receive the shipment.

Online shopping for a big-ticket item can be nerve wracking, but with the correct preparation and support from the right site you may find your new favorite furniture piece on the worldwide web.