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.

And now?

I do.

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.

And truth?

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.

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 suprised.

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.

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.

Guess what?

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 order furniture from here sometimes and the quality is seriously amazing)

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)

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.

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.

Unedited.

Truth-tellers.

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 it.

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?

Let’s discuss.

But wait a minute for me.

I need to go get coffee. 🙂

Comments

  1. Image for Pamela Smith Pamela Smith

    Good morning! Thanks for all the great tips! I have ordered a few smaller pieces online, but nothing too big. These tips will come in handy when I'm ready!! I love how your new/old house is coming along! It is so gorgeous!! It's been fun to watch your journey and can't wait to see what else is happening over there! Have a great day!

  2. Image for Susan Susan

    Great tips, thank you. I have always wanted to order furniture on line, but have never pulled the trigger. Now I think I can with confidence.

  3. Image for Marty Oravetz Marty Oravetz

    Super tips and I agree about reading the reviews. The bad reviews really do tell the story. Love how your home is coming together.

  4. Image for Rose Rose

    Good morning KariAnne I shop quite a bit online. My go to place is Wayfair. Always free shipping. Customer service is 100% always. I also shop Pottery Barn. If I’m not happy with the product (which hardly ever happens) I have a pottery barn real close to me so I’m able to return for free. I’ve ordered also from Houzz. Just purchased a pendent and matching light and also two medallions and they are beautiful. Have a great day Rose

  5. Image for Michelle Michelle

    Oh wow! Who knew I was doing it right all along?! I haven't stalked the customer's photos, though...but I love the wisdom in that. I also look for sites that allow a PayPal option. PayPal is my friend. I love that if I have an issue with what I ordered that they will back me up. 100%. Just a little story because I can't resist a story: Years ago, before I even knew about PayPal, I ordered a couple of white leather and chrome barstools from Overstock. One of them was damaged beyond repair so I called Overstock. They were so professional and accommodating. They gave me 100% credit for BOTH chairs since they didn't have any in stock to send me a replacement. I would have preferred both but one would do and it was FREE! 'Free' is the best. But then the 15lb. cat I had at the time turned the one working chair into a mass of fringe while I was at work. He got declawed. But that's a whole other story...

  6. Image for Sandy Sandy

    We recently purchased 2 new leather club chairs for our family room, I wanted something comfy, a bit smaller scale than the ones we are replacing because in a couple of years we plan on downsizing to a townhouse in a historic village that our daughters lives in, The chairs needed to work now in our large family room, but also work in a smaller spot in our future kitchen. Measuring is key. Well, I found a style on-line by Pottery Barn that I liked, and we went to the store to check them out. Although the chairs were less expensive than we had budgeted, the delivery for 2 chairs was going to be $400!! Our search continued. We got a real education about good leather furniture, and we ended up buying higher quality chairs for more $$, but the local store's delivery charge was only $59! I also liked the better color selection and quality of the leather, plus the chairs were made in the U.S. which was very important to us. Since the chairs are a long-term investment for us, I was hesitant to buy a less expensive chair. We did order a new area rug on-line from Pottery Barn on sale and we are very happy with it, as well as Parson's chairs with slipcovers for our dining room from Ballard Designs which we are also very pleased with. I guess I would suggest to really do their homework on what they are ordering and ask yourself if they are for long term use or something you will replace in a few years.

  7. Image for Michelle Baker Michelle Baker

    Great tips :) I agree, customer reviews are really important and helpful. I always try to go back and leave my own when I order to help the next guy out. Birch Lane is also a great source for upholstered furnitiure. I used them for my white sofa and the packaging, handling and free delivery were top notch! Also, Overstock is the bomb for rugs.

  8. Image for Diane Diane

    All great tips -- as usual for you Karianne! I also always check out the Q&A section that most of your favorites include on each product. Sometimes, a question has been asked that I had not even thought about. And I have learned to post questions, the answers can come surprisingly fast. And often times it gives me the extra confidence to take the dive.

  9. Image for Teresa Gonzales Teresa Gonzales

    I order on line all the time-only upholstered pieces-love Joss & Main (part of Wayfair), One Kings Lane and Overstock. Otherwise am like you and shop flea markets (Brimfield). Your tips are perfect and exactly what I do. Great job explaining it!!!

  10. Image for Carol Lupiani Carol Lupiani

    I've ordered rugs as large as 12' x 18' from Overstock and Ballard Designs. Joss & Main (a Wayfair company) has furniture displayed in real homes. If you are a member of Costco, they have very well-made furniture that you can order online. Karianne, I've been following your blog and your journey for a few years. You make me lol. You really turn a frown upside down. Your new/old home has so much character and history. I can see how happy and excited you are to be back in your childhood home.

  11. Image for Martha Martha

    Thank you for answering my question. This makes a lot of sense and makes me feel better about ordering furniture online.

  12. Image for Katie Heidinger Katie Heidinger

    We almost bought some sofas online but then chickened out. If we had your wonderful tips back then I'm sure we would have done it.. Great tips, Thanks!

  13. Image for Dianne Dianne

    Great ideas. I’ve stayed away from large items because I assume return freight would cost too much? I’d really like to order a rug but want to be able to feel the pile first. Maybe I’ll venture out and give it a try.

  14. Image for Susan Ronnfeldt Susan Ronnfeldt

    "Wayfair you've got just what I need!" Excellent blog! I have ordered from Wayfair and Joss and Main, all the same company, along with Birch Lane! I have had the best results! Never a disappointment! You are right! Read those reviews!!!!! They will tell the tale for sure. Thanks for all of your advice. You write the best blogs! Love Love Love your new childhood home!

  15. Image for Julie Briones Julie Briones

    I assume you are back from getting your coffee. My love seat in MWA is from Living Spaces. The reason I ordered from there is my daughter and son-in-love bought their sofa from there, and it has really held up well! It has been sat on (obviously), slept on, ate on, spit up on, and, yes, even pooped on (it happens with babies... and friends' babies! @.@) So, I ordered my love seat, and I... love it! The only one word of caution with Living Spaces... You have to jump through A LOT (and I mean A LOT) of hoops before they will let you return something. But, for sofas, I think it was worth it!

  16. Image for Connie Connie

    I never thought I’d order an area rug on line but quickly learned that there were not many options otherwise. First, I ordered the smallest size (2x4) it see the quality and color. Knew I could return it without breaking the bank if needed. I kept it. Then I ordered the 11x15 size from Overstock at a great price. In three days it was sitting in my garage! Who knew there was an Overstock warehouse near Savannah, Georgia? I live near Savannah! I would encourage you to give online rug ordering a try. I’d still be looking a year later otherwise.

    1. Image for Katherine Katherine

      Ordering the small size is a great idea! I’ve been looking online for a 10x14 rug and really need to see and feel it in the space. Thank you.

  17. Image for Heather Strohl Heather Strohl

    This is a great post! So helpful. I also like to check on the materials before I order. There's nothing like ordering what I think is solid wood to find out it's laminated pressed board! Thanks for the extra tips!

  18. Image for Terri Terri

    Thank you, Karianne. Great tips that will help take the fear out of ordering furniture online. One thing I might suggest. Open your purchase as soon as you order it and check to be sure everything is good! I learned the hard way just recently and haven't contacted the company because it's my fault, not theirs! I ordered several very large and (very heavy) rugs from Rugs USA during their 50% off and free shipping event. Two of them were on backorder. That was perfect because we were doing some renovations and I wasn't ready for them just yet. As renovations go, ours took a little longer than expected and the idea of opening the rugs, only to have to wrap them back up and re-store, wasn't my idea of fun, so I left them in their nice packaging. Finally, the day came when it was time to put them in their newly updated rooms. We rolled the first one out and (oh no!) it was stained. I was past the 30 return policy. Long story longer, I turned it over and decided to just live with it. If I had opened it immediately, I could have returned it for an exchange. Despite having a stain, all of the rugs are excellent quality and look beautiful.

  19. Image for PJ PJ

    Joss and Main is one of my favorites! If you look in the specifications sometimes it will tell you where the furniture is manufactured. I have never had a problem with the delivery and all my furniture has come well packed. I love your home, Karianne! Who says you can't go home?❤

  20. Image for Charley Charley

    I just can't order furniture on line. I must sit in it. I'm anxious enough when after I have sat in a showroom piece I custom order the fabric and leg type & color. Actually I'm pretty confident about customizing what I have seen/felt. Clothes, etc. are another story. I only order from retailers that have stores near me. That way I can return things to the store. I also order duplicates of shoes in every color when they are super comfortable and cute. I also reallly analyze the reviews like crazy. They are so telling about clothes from retailers that I am very familiar with.

  21. Image for Betty in (soggy) Arlington Betty in (soggy) Arlington

    Love your thoughts and ideas. I have hand me downs and my 35 yo furniture, so...may soon be in the market. Love the while against navy blue. Really stands out!

  22. Image for Debra Matcovich Debra Matcovich

    I like all your tips about buying online, but I still wouldn't buy chairs or a sofa without sitting on them. I was looking for one in my bedroom. I can't tell you how many I sat in to the a comfortable one. The ones you bought are beautiful and it's great that they're comfortable.

  23. Image for Sherry Sanders Sherry Sanders

    This was the most helpful article I have read on this topic. I have never ordered online for furniture because I did not want to make a mistake but you Kari have empowered me to take a chance at the pieces I love in the pictures. Thanks... Blessings to you.

  24. Image for RW RW

    Amazed you had such good luck ordering furniture online! I hadn't thought of this option for rugs and it's going to be necessary, because I don't seem to find rugs locally. I ordered a queen size bed from Overstock some years ago. It came with some flaws - dings in the wood? - can't remember if it was from shipping. It was too much a hassle to return it and they only had two in stock, including the one I bought. And I'd looked and looked for a bed for so long for this purpose! In the end, we just lived with it. Made me wary, though I do follow all the hints you've given. Especially for seating pieces -- I feel I don't want any surprises and have to judge firmness in person. Unless it's something like Ikea's Ektorp, lol, that's been around for years and is predictable. But I've ordered from Target, knowing I could return the items to the local store. ( I always check, though. Some items can't be returned to the store. )

  25. Image for Karen Karen

    KariAnne, If you would be so kind as to let me know where you purchased your loveseats and are they comfortable? Love your home and interior design.

  26. Image for COLLEEN COLLEEN

    Hi KarriAnne; Oh I just noticed Karen was asking the same question that I had for you; where did your sofa and loveseat come from? The are exactly what I have been looking for. Thank You in advance

  27. Image for Sue Sue

    Hi Karianne, I love Wayfair and have great results from them. The biggest thing I ordered was a sofa. Free delivery came in two boxes, the assembly was fairly simple and very comfortable.

  28. Image for Becky Buice Becky Buice

    Wonderful info!! If you ever get tired of your "I Hope You Dance", I would love a chance at it. A sweet girl is expecting and her mom always sang that to her as a child. Now, Steph is expecting a wee one soon and her mom has passed away. I would love to give it to her as a sweet memory of her mom. Thank you

  29. Image for Jan Jan

    I never bought furniture online until about 6 months ago. I was looking for a new buffet/console/sofa table to replace our huge, dark entertainment center. I looked at many Pinterest pictures, looked at Joss & Main, Wayfair and many others and finally narrowed down to what I wanted. I then shopped around and got a really good deal on the piece from Houzz. I did exactly what you suggested--read the negative reviews and measured, measured, measured. With some angst, I put my order in. No worries, piece arrived just as expected, looks great in the room, and my dream came true.

  30. Image for Cherie Cherie

    Every time I scroll past your photos of this room my heart fills with joy. I feel serenity and peace and a great level of comfort. How wonderful it must feel for you living in these surroundings. You've really created such a magical living space. And it is obvious you are grateful for this wonderful room in your fabulous home. Bless you for sharing it with us. Thank you.

  31. Image for Kris Kris

    I ordered the same blue & white rug for my living room after seeing how it looked in your photos and I am thrilled with it in my home. Thank you for the inspiration.

  32. Image for jan g jan g

    i ordered chairs early spring and surprisingly followed some tips you shared. my biggest one was i have a mom with a disability and was very difficult for her to get out of the chairs i had because too low to the floor (was a problem for the rest of us too!); also the seats weren't supported underneath so too soft for her to get momentum in to get out... so not only did i measure a dining room room chair i knew was comfortable for her to rise out of but asked the vendor if the seat was solid (and they respoinded) and my measuring the seat height from floor to where i wanted the top of the seat to be (some give measurements to the bottom) we found a set of very reasonable, made well enough chairs (that will be sat in very infrequently). I had two sets in mind, opinions given in favor of set not purchased; after measuirng the outside back of current chairs i knew i had to go with plan b and really, i love them. Overstock is where i purchased from - had free shipping and a small % off as well

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