The Internet has brought the world to our fingertips. Anything we want to find is there for the finding -- if we use the right keywords and do some homework. When it comes to buying home furnishings, we are no longer restricted to only those stores in our geographic regions. See something in a magazine or in a movie that you like? With a little creative research, it's possible to find the item you're searching for and have it delivered directly to your home -- without ever having to leave home to buy it. Here's a list of tips and tricks on how to buy furniture online.
Google (or Yahoo, Bing, etc) is your best friend. Personally, Google Images is my go-to source when I want to buy furniture online. I type in descriptive search words for the item I'm looking for and am rewarded with hundreds, if not thousands, of images that are linked to Web sites that will likely direct me to where the item can be purchased. If you've seen something on a TV show or in a movie that you like, you may find you're not alone. Search for the title and see what you find.
Magazines often provide resource lists for items shown on their pages, so read the fine print and then do a search on that source.
Some items are only sold by one store, and other items are sold in many different stores. If you've found the source for a piece of furniture or accessory that you wish to buy, often the manufacturer will provide links to where you can buy the furniture online.
Do your research (another Google search) about the reputation of the Web site where you want to buy furniture online to make sure others haven't reported negative experiences. Membership in the Better Business Bureau and other commendations are good to take note of, as well.
Virtual Floor Plans
Many online store sites offer virtual floor planners for your use. Take advantage of these services to be sure that the size of the piece you're thinking of buying fits your home. One of the most common mistakes that people make when buying furniture, either in person or online, is getting the scale right. Most often, the furniture is too big for the space. So, measure your room and take note of the size of the piece of furniture that you are considering.
Order a Swatch
Upholstered furniture often comes in a choice of fabrics. It's worth the small expense and time to order a swatch of your fabric choice to be sure you like it. Don't forget, you can't feel the fabric over your screen and color can vary significantly from monitor to monitor. Rug samples are often available to order as well, but if not, I recommend that you purchase the smallest size available (usually a 2'x3' mat size) to be sure the big rug you're considering is the right color and texture.
Make sure you're very clear on the vendor's delivery processes. "White glove" delivery usually means the furniture is delivered by a specialty shipper who will unwrap and set up the furniture in your home. On the other hand, "curbside delivery" means just that: After you buy the furniture online, it will be delivered to the curb and you are responsible for getting it inside, unpacking it and setting it up.
Returns and Refunds
Make sure you're clear about the returns policy. Custom items are often not returnable, and many items will have a restocking fee associated with a return. This fee can be as much as 25% of the purchase price. Clearly, it behooves you to be very sure of the item prior to purchase. Also, take note of the site's policy regarding merchandise that comes damaged and isn't what it appeared to be on screen. A clearly posted returns policy should be studied carefully. It's a great insurance policy.
As with any online transaction, do your homework and be sure you're very familiar with the company you are doing business with. And have fun. There are many wonderful online resources available, and they are just a few clicks away.
If you're shopping for dining room furniture, you may want to think out the whole room before committing to any purchase. Consider your living room layout carefully before buying any new pieces. If you're bedroom furniture shopping, choose something you'll love.