When we used to live in Kentucky in the suburb of a 500 person town and you had to cross state lines to get to Target…
…I earned a graduate degree in shopping online.
One day, I said. One day self, I’ll live in a place where all the shopping in the world is just five minutes away.
We have IKEA and Target and Hobby Lobby and The Container Store and Home Goods and Nebraska Furniture Mart and Kirkland’s and TJ Maxx and hundreds and hundreds of stores just around the corner.
I still shop online.
I think it’s because I’m always in a hurry and I usually have an exact idea of what I want and all that shopping and driving to stores takes time. Lots and lots of time. I’ll go to a store and look around and they won’t have exactly what I’m looking for or it’s too expensive. So I go home and let my fingers do the shopping and find exactly what I want at the best price. That being said. Shopping online isn’t perfect. Ordering something that you think is going to work and having it arrive at your house and realizing that it’s not going to work is heartbreaking.
And all that returning and reordering takes time, too.
However, I’ve ordered online enough that I’ve learned a few tips that help me figure out if the piece is going to work before it even gets here.
Maybe they might help you if you are planning on ordering furniture or other big pieces online.
Here are my best tips for buying furniture online.
Let’s start our online shopping journey with a case study.
Chairs for the living room.
I shop for everything at thrift stores except upholstered pieces. I’ve had a few bad experiences that steered me away from purchasing chairs and sofas there, so I typically save up my pennies and wait for them to go on sale and purchase them new.
I knew I wanted the loveseats to be neutral, but I thought it might be fun to have a little fun with the chairs.
So I went to a couple of my favorite online shopping sites and found a couple of options. First I found these. I liked them and they were the right size, but that fabric was so dark and I wasn’t sure about the nailheads. Then I found these slipper chairs that were SUPER affordable and there were two of them. But I wasn’t sure about the no chair arms thing and would they look substantial enough.
And then I found this chair over at Wayfair.
Smaller print. Check.
A lighter blue that will complement the rug. Check.
Those legs look expensive. Check.
Nailheads that somehow work so much better on this piece than the other darker chair and blend in with the stripes. Check.
But would they work in my house?
Enter tip number one.
Tip Number One: Check the reviews
And not the good ones.
I mean—look at those if you want to—but mostly they are people telling you how wonderful the piece is. We don’t need that. We already think they are amazing. What we need is truth. And there is a whole lot of truth in negative reviews.
You just have to know how to filter them.
Click on the reviews and click on the negative reviews of the piece of furniture you want to buy.
Here are a few of the challenges of this chair that people stated.
“chair cushion is sold as a rock”
“fabric had something smudged on it”
“very rigid back and seat”
So we know that the chair is a little firm. Probably not as firm as a rock (negative reviews have a tendency to overexaggerate) but maybe not a chair you would sink into. If you know that going in and are okay with a chair that is a little firmer than you won’t be disappointed.
Does that make sense?
The chair is actually really comfortable. The seat has a lot of cushion and give. The back is a little firmer, but I like that because it makes it easier to sit in. But because I read the reviews, I knew it would be a little firmer and set my expectations at that and I was pleasantly surprised.
Tip Number Two: Measure
I cannot overstate this enough.
Whoever said measure twice and then measure again was brilliant.
DO NOT TRUST YOUR BRAIN TO IMAGINE THE MEASUREMENTS.
Your brain is telling you to order the chair.
It is not a reliable source at that moment for measurements.
Take a tape measure and measure another chair in your house to get an idea of what your new chair would look like in your space. Take painter’s tape and tape off the outline of the chair in your space so you can visualize what it looks like BEFORE you order.
Ordering online is all about managing expectations.
Tip Number Three: Order from a retailer you know
Sometimes when you are shopping for furniture you might find an incredible deal.
One that seems too good to be true.
It probably is.
I usually stick to a few retailers that I’ve ordered from for years and that I know the quality and the customer service. That way if anything goes wrong and I have to return it, I don’t worry.
Here are a few of my go-to online retailers:
Wayfair (AWESOME customer service)
Lamps Plus (I’ve ordered TONS of lighting and rugs and lampshades and table lamps and everything you can think of for my home and the quality is AMAZING).
I am so lucky to get to work with them as a brand ambassador and I’ve put together some of my favorite Lamps Plus products that you can check out here.
Home Decorators (I’ve ordered rugs from here with great success)
Overstock.com (The rug in the living room came from here)
Target.com (I haven’t ordered from them in a while because now I live where a Target is around the corner)
You can also see my Shop My House page here with tons of stuff from my house listed.
Tip Number Four: Shipping
Pay attention to shipping when you are ordering a big piece of furniture.
When you price compare, it’s so easy to overlook shipping until you get to the checkout and then WATCH OUT.
I typically won’t order a really big piece from a retailer unless they have free shipping because big pieces have a thing called a “freight charge” that can run up to $150 sometimes.
So be sure and check the shipping before you order.
Tip Number Five: Check out other people’s photos
This is one of the best ways I can tell what the piece really looks like beyond all the styled photos.
Most websites allow readers to post their own photos of the piece in their home.
Those photos are real.
I stalk those photos.
I look for coloring and scale and height and shape and how a piece looks like in relationship to other pieces of furniture in their home.
It’s one of my best tips to see if I want to order a piece for my own home.
That’s how it happens.
That’s how a piece of furniture shows up at my home after I’ve seen it online.
And now? It’s your turn.
Inquiring furniture minds want to know.
Do you order online a lot? What are your favorite stores? Best tips?
But wait a minute for me.
I need to go get coffee. 🙂
disclosure: affiliate links are used in this post.