Buying Furniture: Retail is Not Your Only Option

A few years ago I was hired by a retail furniture store to help them “rebrand” themselves for the Marin and Sonoma markets. Subsequently working privately with clients I was surprised to learn that in their eyes, the best (and usually only) options for buying furniture were retail stores or online sources.

San Francisco Design Center

Stacey Lapuk, ASID

I also learned of the huge markups these stores include on everything from window treatments to fabrics and furniture. It’s quite pricey to rent and run a store in high-end shopping centers, and the costs are passed on to you, the consumer.

Ethan Allen, Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn and others offer wonderful products. But there is so much more available to everyday people, without the monstrous profit margins these stores have to produce.

The other issue of course, is whether you’d like your home to reflect who you are – your family’s values, personality and experiences – or do you want your living room to look like a catalog page. Working with an independent interior designer is similar to working with a financial advisor, for example. Someone who has access to everyone’s products as opposed to working with a financial institution’s representative whose job it is, to sell their own product.

In addition to multitudes of retail stores, catalog and online products in a range of price points, in the bay area there is the San Francisco Design Center. Visiting the showrooms there is a delight and an education. You’ll learn what’s truly available to you, and what your many options are for each sofa, table, chair, console etc. so your furniture is just the way you’d really like it to be. The right size, shape, depth, cushions, fabrics, materials, finishes – everything.

Custom pieces become completely yours. They fit you, your family and your home like a perfectly tailored suit. And like a beautiful outfit, they show off the best of who you are, become authentic representations of how you like to live, and help your environment feel great to everyone lucky enough to experience it.

Familiarizing themselves with these resources professionals use, most clients are seeing possibilities they hadn’t even considered in the past. They are surprised to discover what piece – shapes, styles, colors – attracts them (and what doesn’t). And the Design Center is just the beginning.

Pieces can be quite expensive. Fine furnishings are functional sculpture. If you fall in love with a gorgeous high-priced coffee table, perhaps that’s where your budget should go and you can hit Ikea for the rest until your budget is replenished. But there’s also a wonderful secret. Many pieces – sofas, chairs, tables etc. – can be “reimagined”, and produced by local furniture makers and upholsterers, most times at a fraction of the original cost. It’s knowing who does what, and how well they do it.

For example, I’ve discovered an amazing custom area carpet resource. 100-knot, wool and silk carpets in any color, size or design. And I’m able to sell that carpet to you, for less than a designer’s cost would be through other trade sources, such as a Design Center showroom. Their commission would then necessarily need to be added, so the price to you is substantially more.

There are also a myriad of fabrics from which to choose, in a huge price range, so you can be in control of your investment. Maybe an amazing fabric catches your breath, but you’re not comfortable investing in using it for the upholstery of an entire sofa. A more cost-effective complimentary fabric can be found for the sofa, and the fabric of your dreams can be used for a couple of pillows, or an ottoman.

The way your home is designed and furnished will have an enormous impact on you and your family – physically, emotionally, functionally and physiologically. Customizing your environment will make all the difference in the world. To achieve that design, there are many options from which you can take advantage.

Try not to lock yourself into one type of resource. An experienced designer will guide you. Both the process, and the result will be so much more rewarding than walking into Restoration Hardware, pointing at a catalog page and saying “I want that”. After all, how often do you think you’ll be furnishing your home? Why not do it right from the start?

Every home tells a story. We’d love to help you tell yours!

Stacey Lapuk, ASID

Stacey Lapuk, ASID is celebrating her 30th year with her firm. Named “One of America’s Ten Designers To Watch” by Design Times Magazine, one of the “Top 100 Interior Designer in North America” by Blink Art Resources, and the winner of multiple national design awards.  Her goal is simple: To co-create with her clients the home of their dreams with responsive and comprehensive solutions, and timeless, beautiful results.

Her full service firm attracts clients desiring the finest workmanship, materials and custom design. Facets of work include partnering with architects on new construction, remodels, kitchen design and bath design, color consultation, custom furniture, flooring, area carpets, wall and window treatments, lighting design, art procurement and antique acquisition.  Service areas include but are not limited to Marin County, San Francisco, Napa, Sonoma, Ross, Kentfield, Belvedere, Tiburon, San Rafael, and Pacific Heights.