10 Tips for How to Buy Furniture Online

Sarah from The Yellow Capecod and Sarah Macklem Interiors is an incredibly talented designer and blogger. I’ve been honored to feature her projects on my blog many times over the past year. If you think you’re unfamilar with Sarah, chances are good that you have seen her Pinterest-viral DIY drapes!
Today Sarah is going to share with us 10 tips for buying furniture online! Take it away Sarah!

I am so excited and honored to be here today.  Thank you Beth, for having me! 
There’s a ton of information in this post so, I’ll get right to business.
As a home stylist that provides online design consultations, I have helped clients place 100’s of internet orders for home decor products.  These orders include furnishings, area rugs, art and accessories.  
Today, I would like to share a few tips for placing on-line orders with confidence…

1.  Check, recheck and triple check measurements before ordering. 
The product description most likely includes dimensions that are abbreviated as 
“W” x “H” x  “D”.   Width, height and depth.   

Width is a horizontal measurement (how wide the piece is)…

The height of the piece is a vertical measurement (how tall the item is)…

Depth, a horizontal measurement tells you how deep the piece is…

Painters Tape is great for marking dimensions of a new piece on the floor of your space prior to ordering.  It will help you decide if the piece will fit comfortably.  It’s also a great tool to help you determine the proper size for a new area rug.

2.  Online shopping is convenient.  Most of the time it works out well.  However, When purchasing items online, the actual item doesn’t always appear exactly as it does on the computer monitor.  As long as you are prepared for that possibility, you won’t be crushed if it doesn’t work out.  It’s always best to view products in person (at a retail store location) before ordering whenever possible. If the product isn’t available at a retail location, consider the shipping charges your risk.  
3.  Swatches can be ordered not only for fabrics but also painted finishes and wood grains.If a swatch is not available for a specific piece, check with the retailer to see if there is another piece in the same collection that offers a swatch.  For instance, a swatch may not be available for a wood dining table that you are interested in but, it is available for the matching buffet.  Since the two products are from the same line, the wood tones should be the same.  If a swatch is still not available, check the collection for a small piece (like a shelf, dining chair, toss pillow) and order it.  It costs a lot less to ship one small piece than a whole dining set or sofa if you are unsure about the finish/fabric matching your decor.  

4.  Never hesitate to call the retailer and ask questions about the piece you are considering. Most of the time, they are very helpful and offer additional details about their inventory.  For instance, I was ordering a piece of art for a client and I was nervous about the colors being accurately portrayed on the computer. The operator was able to describe the piece to me and it was perfect (thank you, nice Ballard Designs operator).

(Source-she looks helpful)

5.  Read product reviews.  Reviews are a great way to learn from others that have purchased the product.  People are usually very honest in their reviews.  Sometimes they are conflicting, one person loved the product and another hated it.  Most of the time there is a rating system based on 5 stars that will help you determine the average opinion. Sometimes you can click on the reviewer and see how they reviewed other products.  If they’ve complained about every product they’ve ever ordered or their comments are really lengthy, the person may be overly analytical.  
6.  If you are still unsure about your purchase, do a quick google images search of the product.  With the popularity of home design blogs you are bound to find an image of a real life space with the product in it.  This will help you to decide if it’s looks as good in a real space as it did on the website.  It also helps you to gauge the actual scale of the piece (does it look big or small in the space?)

(Ballard Designs Online Catalog Image)

(Google images search results: Theyellowcapecod.com blog image)

7.  Be aware of who you are buying from.  Internet shopping is a great way to compare prices.  If you find a product for half the price as a trusted retailer, do a little research before ordering.  Unfortunately, if a deal seems to good to be true,  it usually is.  There are companies out there that offer knock off products that are a wonderful cost saving option.  Overstock and Amazon are good resources for price comparison shopping.  Most of the time, overstock is selling discounted products directly from the retailer.  However, if someone is claiming to sell an authentic piece from a big name company at a deeply discounted price, stop and research before going any further. 

8.  When your product is delivered, it is best to give it a quick inspection before the delivery person leaves to check for damages.  If he/she won’t wait, inspect the product as soon as possible and contact the retailer immediately if there are any problems.  Usually, if you contact them right away, they are more than willing to resolve the issue.  Timing is important, don’t wait.   I always try to remember that damaged items are usually the result of the shipping/handling process or the storage facility, not the retailer.  They are just as unhappy about the damage as you are.  Incorrect size, color or appearance of a product is not treated the same as a damaged item.  Damaged items are usually replaced without additional shipping charges or re-stocking fees, unlike an item that just doesn’t fit or match.

9.  Clearance items, custom pieces and backordered items should be treated carefully.  Many custom pieces cannot be returned or include a hefty re-stocking fee.  If you are ordering a custom piece, be aware of the individual retailers return policy before ordering.  Clearance items may also be considered “final sale” transactions which cannot be returned.  If you place an order and discover it’s on backorder, be aware that the estimated delivery date is just that…an estimate.  Sometimes it will arrive early and sometimes later than expected.  A backordered item may still be available at the retail store location so check before placing an online order.  If you discover the item is completely sold out, try looking it up on Ebay.  
10. Use your credit card as opposed to your debit card/old fashioned check for online purchases. Problems with your account number being compromised are rare.  Most of the time, there will never be an issue.  However, if a full moon causes your card number or personal information to be exposed, you will be happy it was a credit card and not a debit card that is attached to your checking account.  Sometimes it can take time for the bank to clear up fraudulent charges.  This could temporarily tie up your personal funds if you have used your debit card or a check.  Also, It’s much easier to shut down a credit card than a checking account.  Check with your bank/credit card company to see if your credit card offers rewards points and additional insurance on purchases. Most of the time, it does :)

More times than not, my clients and I are very happy with online purchases from big name companies.

Hopefully these tips will help you place online orders with confidence.  



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  1. Katie Jones says

    I would love to know where you found the basket unit in this tip blog. I’ve been searching for something like this for quite some time. Thank you, your blog has given me so many ideas to incorporate into my own home. I love it!

  2. says

    The painter’s tape trick is an invaluable one! I have used it before and recommended it for others…..perfect for pieces that would be hard to send back.


    PS I love the hand demonstration in tip #1! She is so cute :)

  3. says

    Great tips and I especially like the painters tape idea. Yes, those drapes are goooooooorgeous :) Beth, I tried to comment on PB&J’s post but it won’t come up from my reader, I get a 4o4 something or other. Maybe it’s just me. I love her pull out printer! I’m going to do that :)

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