Home Sweet Home: Things to do before clicking ‘buy’ at online furnishing sites


So you’ve searched and you’ve finally found it: gleaming at you from a browser window  is your perfect (sofa , lamp, rug).  It’s exactly what you have been looking for and you’re ready to purchase and bring it home. But wait! Before you buy do some research and think twice.

Home items tend to be a bit more dangerous on the impulse by side. The question “does it fit?” becomes a much bigger issue than simply taking it to the tailor or passing it on to a lucky niece.  Matching color can also be tricky as items that appear one way on screen may be a shade – or several – off from the item depicted.  Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Read the reviews
Product reviews are the best way to get a sense for the quality of an item before you buy.  If there are no reviews for your item, Google your piece of furniture and see if you can find reviews on other sites.  If you still can’t find any information, read reviews of a similar type of furniture from the same manufacturer. Most companies use the same type of materials in several different items. If you can’t find any peer review information, don’t purchase.  Reviews can also be found on the online site.  See if peers have had any trouble with reaching the company when a problem arises. Or trouble returning items.  Peers are perfect for reviewing; they will happily tell you if the color is off and they expected something different. Or if the quality isn’t what was represented by the site.

Chair in room

Read the return policy
While some will give you a full refund, others are store credit only, or final sale. Some retailers charge a restocking fee, which can really add up if it’s a percentage of the item purchased. The last thing you want is to be stuck with something that wasn’t what you expected or wanted.

Calculate shipping fees
Most online shops charge a delivery fee, either in addition to or in place of normal shipping fees for oversized items. There are several shops that deliver for free and charge if you need to return.  While shopping, check delivery fees and factor this into the cost of your furniture.

Ask yourself if you would still want the item at full retail- It’s easy to be flexible with our style when it comes to an alluring price tag, but if it’s “modern” and your space is “traditional,” that hot pink Jonathan Adler piece will look just as out of place in your home if it cost $50 as it would at $500.

woodswatchAsk for swatches
Colors (and textures) can look really different on a computer than in person, so its always good to order swatches on a large purchase. Swatches can include fabric, rug, iron or different wood finishes. Search the web for other products shots and reviews of the item.  Try to get the truest sense of the look, feel and color as possible before you commit.

Brand loyalty will serve you well
That is, if you’re familiar with a certain brand’s  sizing, finishes, or fabrics, buying online will usually work out just fine.  If you’re trying something new, it’s more of a gamble.  If you can make the extra effort to see your item in person, it might be worth the hassle, rather than having to mail back the item.

Mock it up
A 75-inch sofa may sound perfect- until you get it in your space and realize that 75 inches is way too big (or way too small). And by then, it’s too late.  To get a true idea of how a piece will feel in your space, create a mock-up.  You can tape out the dimensions of your furniture on the floor, or cut out a piece of paper in the appropriate size and try it out in multiple spots.  Don’t neglect vertical dimensions, too. You can approximate these by taping the outline of the furniture on the wall, or even, if you’re feeling particularly ambitious, making use of some cardboard boxes in the appropriate size.

Measure, measure, measure
Don’t forget the doorway, stairway and hallway while you’re at it. There’s nothing worse than having a piece delivered and realizing you would need to remove sheetrock  to get it inside.

Pause and consider before pressing “buy.” Try to tune out the sense of urgency created by a”limited time“ or “soon to be sold out” offer.

If you still love it, it’s in your budget and you have considered the logistics, enjoy your find and happy shopping!

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