Shop Like A Pro: Mistakes To Avoid When Shopping For Furniture, Part One

YES! I feel the stirrings of economic recovery! Parking lots are full, sales floors are busy, and more people are buying big-ticket items like cars (me), and furniture. On gorgeous fall days like today, it’s a beautiful thing!!   After on-site Color Consults, Assisted Shopping is the service I am getting the most calls on lately.

Time is money, time is also non-renewable.  Nothing wrong with ‘retail therapy’ to clear the mind, but shopping like a pro is a focused, progressive, and results-driven process: information is obtained, and thoughtful decisions are made, relatively stress-free.  Whether I accompany clients, or coach them through it,  proper mindset comes first.

Channeling Yogi Berra, successful shopping (i.e. making your best decisions) is 90% mental, the other half is physical.  Not fun or sexy. But  going there on the fly, as an empty vessel, with just your checkbook and heart to guide you is asking for trouble. Here are some of the basics I recommend… get these out of the way, and the fun will follow.


Don’t go solo, establish a co-decider

And decide who gets to vote. And bring them in at the beginning.

Friend, brother, co-worker, neighbor, kids?  Big decision, and no wrong answers, just know this first.  Don’t suddenly defer to your six-year old, or realize your sister who lives three states away is the one you need to ask when you lose confidence or need support.  YES,  reticent partners need to invest some quality time up-front, and single persons should enlist a trusted companion.

It’s not a sign of weakness to do this…the feedback of an interested participant early on will reinforce all that comes later.  After this initial go-round, most  couples work it out between themselves who does what next. For what it’s worth, in 30 years of doing this, I have yet to meet a sole decider who didn’t call someone in at the last minute…only sole deciders who wished they did, afterward. 


Know what you are sure of

Have a budget or a deadline? Partner HATES/LOVES_____? Even that you actually WANT to buy furniture! Looking at things for a home can bring up a lot of things..over the years I’ve met  folks who ultimately decided to put in pool, move, even divorce instead of buying furniture. REALLY.  Bottom line: a furniture store is not the place to start exploring these issues.

Updating/adding to what you have? First evaluate how you really feel about what you already own. Consider my given, going, negotiable model: 

  • LOVE IT: It’s a building block of the room
  • HATE IT: Can’t get it out soon enough
  • It’s OK:  Will keep it if it can work well with other things I like, but won’t invest lots of time/money to make it work.


Know what you are looking for

Getting ideas? In pursuit of a brown leather sofa that is 86″ of less? Need new bedroom furniture?  Want cool new lighting, or a rug that is $700.00 or less? Worthwhile goals, all;  point being to not just wander in aimlessly, and be at the mercy of what is on display, or what is on sale.


 An efficient outing will focus on things vital to YOU. If you’re not clear on what you’re looking for, you’ll stop and debate the merits of everything you see, regardless of if it holds any value for you.

Don’t waste time observing “Gee, I really like/don’t like the fringe on the ottoman/that color leather/the salesperson’s hairstyle/shade on the chandelier/MUZAK channel“….UNLESS  you are looking for fringe/an ottoman, like leather furniture,  need a new hairstyle, want to add zip to your lighting fixture, or are a rep for SIRUS-you are likely to get quickly frustrated, without ever really knowing why.

Everything can be defined, and articulated -even NOT knowing what you’re looking for is looking for ideas. I advise clients to just take it to the furthest point possible before walking into a store.

NEXT: How to Prepare… Dealing with Salespeople… and What To Expect Next