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Your trusted decorating and home furnishings shopping advisor. Free expert design advice, tools and inspiration galleries; plus how and where to buy furniture.

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    Take advantage of the in-store design services offered by local furniture retailers.

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    Bringing family members with you when furniture shopping can make it more fun, and ensure everyone's happy with your purchase.

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Bringing family members with you when furniture shopping can make it more fun, and ensure everyone's happy with your purchase.


Avoid Furniture-Buying Mistake No. 1: Remember the Scale of Your Room!

Bring measurements with you on your shopping trip--and keep the size of your room in mind as you browse. Pieces that look small in a gigantic showroom can easily dominate your den. “People overbuy furniture--that‘s probably the biggest mistake they make,” says Tacoma, Wash., furniture sales consultant Doug Moss.

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  • 5 Steps to Furniture Shopping Success

    How to work with a Retail Sales Associate during your furniture store visit.

    by Deanna L. Thompson

    So you’ve made the decision to buy a new sofa, a bedroom set or perhaps a whole houseful of furniture? It’s time to visit the furniture store and meet your new “best friend” – a sales associate or designer who will listen to you, offer advice and guide you through your purchasing decisions.

    Here are five ‘L’s” of furniture buying to help you get the most from your shopping experience:


    Leave Your Stereotypes at Home

    You may fear the salesperson will be more foe than friend--a sales hawk who swoops in when you arrive and won’t leave. Bury that stereotype in the recesses of the furniture you’re replacing. Today’s sales associates are trained to give you both the space you want and the help you need to create the home of your dreams.

    If you prefer to browse on your own during your first shopping trip, just say so. Most stores encourage this. But be open to help. Don’t hesitate to say why you are there, so the salesperson can direct you to furniture that fits your space and your budget.


    Link with a Sales Associate

    When you’re ready, connect for help. Sales associates know what’s in stock, what’s available via catalogue and what trends are hot.

    Wendy McCloskey, who recently purchased a bedroom set for her Altoona, Pa., home, says her salesperson listened to her wood preference and budget – and directed her to several manufacturers who were a perfect fit.

    “I told her what I needed, and she knew exactly what I meant,” McCloskey says.

    What if you don’t click with the first salesperson that approaches you? Ask for another, recommends Marc Oleskowitz, a furniture sales associate in Lancaster, Pa. “Just say, ‘I don’t think we’re quite connecting.’”

    If that makes you uncomfortable, call later and ask the store owner or manager to handle the request, says Jerry Hux, who owns furniture stores in Georgia and South Carolina. “Nobody’s going to gel with a customer 100 percent of the time,” he says.


    Locate Information to Help

    The more the sales associate understands about you, your style and your home, the better. So do your homework--and bring it with you to the store.

    “We want to find out what’s in your head, your vision of what you want,” says Rick Howard, owner of a Florida store specializing in contemporary furnishings.

    Here’s what to bring along to the store:

    • Pictures of rooms and furniture that reflect your style. Browse the image galleries on this site, as well as magazines and catalogs for ideas. Clip pictures from magazines and save your favorites from in the My Ideas section of this site. You or your sales associate should be able to pull the site up from the store.
    • Samples of your paint, carpet and drapesIf you want to incorporate the colors, this will help you create a finished look.
    • Room diagrams and rough measurementsThis will help you map out room size and locations of doors, windows and built-in pieces. And bring measurements so you know your space limitations.
    • Your goals for the room. For example, are you furnishing a formal setting for entertaining or a family room where comfort is king? Your salesperson needs to know if household members include a 6-foot-5 football player – or other high-wear users such as kids and pets, says Larry Klaben, president of an Ohio furniture company with 13 stores.
    • Your budgetDon’t be reticent about sharing your spending plan. Your salesperson can guide you to choices that fit your budget. Beautiful home furnishings come in all price levels.


    Latch onto the Design Assistance You Need

    Sales associates have varying levels of design training, ranging from on-the-job education to specialized coursework to degrees in interior design.

    If you’re buying one or two items, most sales associates will meet your needs. They typically have decorating experience and an eye for color, fabric and current styles. But don’t hesitate to ask for a consultant with more design expertise.

    “If you’re looking for more than one or two pieces and want to create a special feel in a room, a designer or decorator is going to be able to help you create that dream,” says Klaben.

    Many stores offer a free in-home consultation.

    “It gives us a feel for the space and a more accurate feel for who the person is, the colors and accents they like,” says Oleskowitz.

    Redoing an entire room? Ask a credentialed or degreed design consultant to create a complete room plan.

    “Then the customer can purchase the pieces one at a time or as a whole,” says Hux.

    If you’re not having an in-home consultation, ask if you can take a sample home – and keep it overnight. Fabric and wood look different as light changes, notes Oleskowitz. 


    Launch Your New look!           

    If you need help finding a store to start your shopping experience, just click on the icon in the top right corner of the screen to find a Certified Retailer in your area. These furniture stores have met stringent requirements for business practices and customer service. At one of these stores, you’ll meet the new “best friend” who will listen to your home furnishing ideas and help make your vision a reality.