Shocking, isn’t it? Yes, I know, it is a generalization. There are plenty of designers out there that love shopping, especially with their Jackie O sunglasses, cream linen suits, and their little dogs in tow. I’m just not one of them. Strange as it may seem, since sourcing out product is an integral part of what designers do (and I love finding new products), the actual act of shopping is my least favorite part of the interior designer’s job (unless it includes lunch, then it’s not so bad. Especially if it’s sushi. If I get to have sushi while out on a shopping trip, then it’s all worthwhile. Or Thai food. Yeah! If it’s Thai food, I’ll be skipping through the rest of the day.). For me, shopping is Work, not a leisure activity.
When it comes to selecting and purchasing furniture, tile, stone, paint, wallpaper, flooring, carpet, etc. etc., most people start to sweat a little and get pale. Why? Because the choices are endless and overwhelming, and unlike shopping for clothes or food, most people have a hard time figuring out what they want. Purchasing big-ticket items like furniture, fixtures, and finishes for your home or office should never be done on “impulse.” These things cost a lot of money and you will be living with your choices for a long time, so good planning is key.
As a designer, even I get overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices available, which is why aimless shopping, without knowing exactly what I’m looking for, is something I avoid.
There are some things you can do to make a shopping trip tolerable (besides lunch, of course) and also productive (because you want to come home with choices made, not more confusion):
Plan ahead. Do your homework. Research what you want to find and make a list of a few places to go and a list of the items you need to find. Group the items by type, like “tile” or “light fixtures” and focus only on those things. Small specific lists are manageable. Humongous lists with 50 things on them will do nothing but freak you out and set you up for failure. Measure your room(s) and sketch out your floor plan. Estimate your quantities.
On the day of your shopping excursion,
1) Wear comfortable shoes and bring snacks. I’m not kidding about this; your own physical comfort is critical to successful shopping.
2) Bring a tape measure! And a camera. Measure everything to ensure items will fit in your room, and that you can get them into your room (Are there any narrow hallways, elevators, small doorways, low ceilings, or stairs?).
3) Bring your floor plan (and room measurements) and a photo of your room for easy reference. Bring pictures from your idea file of the types and styles you are specifically looking for. Stay focused! It’s very easy to be dazzled by fantastic showrooms that have been professionally styled and either end up with something that you regret purchasing later on, or become so indecisive that you can’t make a choice. Research and define your likes and dislikes ahead of time. That way you can put your blinders on and not waste time.
4) Bring samples of anything that has already been decided or used, like paint color swatches, wood finishes, fabric swatches, tile chips, and stone samples for matching purposes. (Anything too big and cumbersome can be left in your car, but at least you’ll have it with you if you need it.) We’d like to think our memories are awesome and accurate for remembering colors and details, but they’re not.
5) Get price quotes in writing along with the name of the salesperson that helped you, and ask if the price quote has an expiration date or reflects a sale price that is set to expire by a certain date. Ask questions, for instance, how long is the production time, what are the shipping and delivery costs?
These are some of the steps I take as a designer to make selecting furniture, fixtures, and finishes a more productive and streamlined process, and to save my clients (and myself) from Shopping Overwhelm. Let’s review: plan ahead, small lists, focused attention, and Thai food (Mmmm). Now that’s a shopping trip.