Do's & Don'ts of Online Furniture Shopping

When I’m shopping for furniture, I love to compare and contrast as many items as possible, so that I can get the best product that’s out there and make thoughtful, well-researched purchases. And the best, most efficient way to do this? Online shopping! Of course, there are a few challenges to online furniture shopping, namely, that I can’t see or feel the item before purchasing. But fear not! There are ways to get around that and still end up a satisfied customer, so long as you follow some key Do’s and Don’ts of furniture purchasing online.



One of the best things about buying furniture online is the ability to really read and research as much about the items and the company as possible. I always make sure to read reviews about specific pieces before I buy them, which helps me be prepared for anything I might not expect -- slightly different colors from images, quality of construction, and even firmness of cushions! 



Many furniture manufacturers offer to send you swatches of fabric or samples of materials before you approve your final order. I’ve had the opportunity to do this, and it can really make or break a purchase! If the manufacturer you’re looking at doesn’t offer this, try and find as much information about the materials, for example the exact wood and stain used, so that you know what you’re getting. 



When you’re shopping for furniture in person, it’s much easier to get a sense of proportions and dimensions than it is when you’re looking online. Make sure you lay out the length and width of a piece, especially if it’s something large or something that needs to fit in a tight space. I like to lay items out on my floor with painter’s tape, so that I don’t damage the floor and leave any residue or anything on the floor. 



Every retailer has a different return policy, and you should make sure you have fully read and understand the policy before completing your purchase. Depending on the website, unexpected costs can arise from restocking fees or return fees, and the window for returns can range from just a few weeks to several months. You can always do a quick “return” search on the page you’re looking at to get a quick idea of what the policy is. 



A beautiful image may be worth a thousand words, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the time to carefully read the description of each chair, table, rug, or cabinet before you buy it. Often, the text that accompanies the various images for an article of online furniture will provide information that is otherwise unable to be communicated through a photo -- the firmness of a cushion, the way a fabric shimmers in sunlight, even suggestions on how to pair the item with other pieces. For example, I know that the lighting in the online retailer’s photography studio isn’t the same as my own home, so I always make sure to specifically read the names of the colors of fabric before buying anything.



One of the biggest surprises to me when I was buying my new couch was the unexpected lead time between the purchase order and the delivery -- estimated at six to eight weeks! Longer lead times are common when you buy large items like sofas and couches, whether in person or online, but you’ll really need to read the fine print before ordering if you’re purchasing online. Lead times can stretch to several months if the item is customized for fabric or shape, so make sure you factor this in when planning a big move or getting rid of old pieces.


Shopping for furniture online is a great way to find and purchase high-quality furniture, often at lower prices than brick-and-mortar stores -- but it’s certainly not risk-free. The key to ensuring that your expectations and the results match up is to really do your research -- read reviews, mock-up measurements, examine color descriptions and return policies, and plan out timing.

 At Furniture Maison, we provide exact measurements to make for easy lay-outs at home, encourage customer reviews, and write thoughtful and clear descriptions for all of our pieces. If you read those reviews and descriptions, we’re confident you’ll end up happy with your purchases!


Kate R.

Kate is a New York-based architect and preservationist, with a love for all things design! 


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