Q: I love looking for furniture and things for my house online, though I never purchase anything because I never know if it's going to be just right. I am ready to buy a new couch. Do you have any tips for me?
A: A lot of people think that because of all the furniture-buying options out there, it's easier than ever to shop online, especially if you have a tight budget. But these same conditions actually make it much harder to make a decision, especially for a furniture piece as important as your sofa. What might look amazing in a photo might look awful in your living room, or worse, might not be very comfortable. Or, there might be dozens of examples in a similar style and color with a huge range of prices. There is no way you can tell just by looking at a screen how something feels.
Many furniture retailers try to make up for this by offering generous guarantees, trial periods and other online tools to make your decision-making process easier. Order samples so you can feel the texture and see the color in your own home. Compare measurements to your existing furniture, and try to actually sit on a similar sofa either at a friend's house or at a nearby showroom. Some people even plan a mini vacation or weekend around visiting a showroom in another city. How fun would that be?
When you're shopping for a sofa or sectional, armchairs, coffee table, dining table, armoires, dressers, or your bed, the size is critical. As you shop and find images of furniture you like, note the measurements. Measure your own furniture and decide if the differences will still work for you. Mock up the new furniture by taping pieces of cardboard or building up cushions to your own sofa or table to create the size of something you saw online. Consider your ceiling heights as well as any doors, staircases, or tight hallways.
For seating, measure the seat height and depth of the cushions. But the only way to know how the cushions feel will be to find the actual model, or, at least, a similar one from the same manufacturer.
In my new book Love Coming Home, coming out later this year, there is a lot more information about how to buy furniture in general. Keep me posted with what you end up with!