How to Shop for Furniture Like an Interior Designer
Have you ever shopped for furniture online? It seems overwhelming at first — but after visiting a few sites, I bet you’ve noticed the same pieces popping up time after time. Here’s a secret interior designers know well: there are a handful of manufacturers that produce furniture and decor overseas, and most brands import and source them from the exact same place. A simple name change and price markup, and boom: it’s listed in the inventory of various brands.
To be clear, seeing brands use similar (or the exact same) furniture vendor isn’t a problem, necessarily — but it is helpful information. As it turns out, a higher price doesn’t always indicate better quality.
This is actually a great reason to hire an interior designer for your next home project! We attend the same markets as those popular stores you love, and we love giving you the inside scoop about what’s worth the investment. Plus, we can often score an even better price for you!
And yes, you should absolutely borrow this tip! When you learn how to value where furniture is sourced rather than where it’s sold, you’ll be shopping like an interior designer in no time.
How to Design Any Space
Want a foolproof four-step process to incorporate high end design into your space without busting the budget? This is how I approach my projects, no matter how big or small.
1. Gather inspiration.
The design process never starts in a furniture store. Instead, spend time browsing Pinterest or Instagram, taking notice of what draws you in. When you see some themes emerge, make a mood board with Canva, InDesign, or even a good old-fashioned poster board! Include inspiration photos for furniture pieces, potential decor, colors, and even textures or fabrics.
Feeling stuck? Focus on a statement piece you adore and design the rest of the room around that item. As you’re browsing, don’t be afraid to mix styles, price points, and new and old pieces.
The magic is in the mix. And remember, not everything needs to be a star — in fact, when you highlight just a few key pieces, they’re more likely to truly shine.
2. Measure your space.
Don’t even think about hitting that “add to cart” button until you know the dimensions of your space and map out a furniture plan. This is the most important step in the interior design process, because it truly doesn’t matter how beautiful your furniture is if the shapes and sizes don’t fit well in the room.
Too large, and things will feel cramped and crowded. Too small, and the room will feel empty and uninviting. To avoid this, you can map out the space on graph paper — or, even better, if the room is empty, use blue painter’s tape on the floor to truly see how the space will flow.
3. Create your plan.
The first step in any great plan: a budget. Once you’ve established your total spend, you can write out a list of exactly what you need and select pieces that fit within your total! I typically take time to refine my design board until it includes the exact furniture pieces I’ll need — seeing them together gives me a better picture of how things will flow and complement one another. Next, I’ll price shop, tracking expenses on Excel as I purchase.
Remember: not every item purchased needs to be high end home decor. A splurge on a statement piece can be matched with more affordable items without detracting from the look and feel of the space. If you’re not sure where to start, I recommend choosing large furniture as investment items — particularly upholstered pieces and rugs. It can be costly to replace pieces like sofas, chairs, beds and rugs.
Save yourself the hassle and invest in high quality pieces that will stand the test of time. I often recommend that my clients choose neutral, durable upholstery for these statement pieces. With a neutral canvas, it’s easy to change the look or style of a room with accents without replacing expensive items.
4. Don’t forget to accessorize!
I’ve seen it happen countless times: someone has worked out their room budget to the very last penny, but none of those small decor details are listed, the ones that bring a space together and make it feel like home. As you make your budget, remember to include lamps, throws and pillows, coffee table decor, and vases, sculptures, or other interesting pieces that will add character to the room.
Shop Like an Interior Designer When You Buy from These Stores
If you’ve always wondered where interior designers buy furniture, you’re in luck! Here’s a list of my favorite spots at every price point.
This is always my first “stop” online, because every item you find in a designer’s store has their stamp of approval, so I know it’s most likely going to be a high quality piece. Lots of designers even offer custom, exclusive pieces that will give my rooms a unique flair. My most-frequented shops:
- The PD Collection, curated by yours truly
- McGee & Co.
- Lindye Galloway Shop
- Shoppe Amber Interiors, which always has a great vintage and antique collection
Brands That Offer Customized Pieces
These online stores offer customizations for many of their pieces, which allows me to select finishes and styles that will work best for the space! I also trust their quality.
- Rejuvenation offers great lighting and hardware options
- Lulu & Georgia always has a fantastic selection of area rugs and high-quality furniture
- Serena & Lily has the perfect laid-back coastal style
- Annie Selke’s rugs in classic graphic patterns are durable and will last for years
“Big Box” Stores
Designers shy away from too many “big box” purchases, because rooms entirely outfitted in furniture from the same store can come across as generic. With that said, there are plenty of “big box” stores I love to shop for select items!
- Pottery Barn is a big box classic, but sometimes they have the perfect piece
- Restoration Hardware has beautiful lighting and mirrors
Yep, that’s right — even designers shop at these stores! I love finding diamonds in the rough at an incredible price.
- Target is great for home accessories, including affordable wall decor, side tables, and kitchenware
- Ikea offers wonderful closet systems and affordable streamlined furniture
Sometimes, there’s just no substitute for a good vintage piece. I have a few go-to spots when I’m looking to bring in some old charm! Another good spot to look for antiques is local estate sales.
Stores That List Manufacturers
These sites can be incredibly helpful when you’re evaluating the quality of a piece or price shopping for the best source.
And there you have it — a complete list of stores if you want to shop like an interior designer! Most of us love to mix and match from a variety of vendors to create a space that feels totally unique.
As you shop, don’t be afraid to get creative! You might stumble across a color or texture combination as you put together your mood board that immediately feels right, or you might be drawn to a furniture piece in a style you never knew you liked. That’s the beauty of shopping, planning, and mapping things out — you might even surprise yourself with a gorgeous new idea. Happy shopping!