Online shopping is incredibly convenient, but digitally selecting furniture is much harder than buying it in the store. 

By Susan Brickell
Updated February 27, 2018
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Yellow Couch and Chevron Pillow
Credit: Hero Images/Getty Images

Online shopping saves us travel time and we can multi-task while doing it. With easy and free returns for many sites, the question becomes, “Why wouldn’t we?” However, digitally selecting furniture as opposed to buying it in the store becomes more complicated and risky when you think you are ordering a mustard-colored loveseat and receive one that is neon yellow. To save yourself some stress, we’ve rounded up tips you should consider when picking out larger pieces to fill your home.

Yellow Couch and Chevron Pillow
Credit: Hero Images/Getty Images

Hunt for Deals

Don’t give into impulse buys! Search multiple sites for better prices, and keep in mind that some furniture or rugs may be sold under different names on sites like Wayfair and AllModern (try filtering by color to find it). Be sure to check Amazon and Target, which are upping the amount of furniture they sell online.

Do Your Homework

Research the company you are considering by reading customer reviews on sites like Yelp or Houzz. Reach out to their customer service team by phone or email, and ask questions regarding the piece you’re interested in. This will help you gain a better understanding of the level of customer service you can expect to receive.

Take Measurements

Using painter’s tape, create an outline of the furniture’s dimensions on the floor to give you a good idea of how it will fit into your room. Consider how you will get the furniture into your home, as well. Ask for dimensions of the box it’s being shipped in. If living in an apartment, you’ll want to measure the building entrance door, as well as staircases, and your personal apartment door. Take note if the furniture’s legs can be unscrewed and removed, allowing it to be moved more freely through narrow building halls.

Order Fabric Swatches

This will save you a lot of time and money, and is a step in the process you should never skip. Most swatches are free, and if not free, very inexpensive. Having a range of fabric samples will give you a sense of quality, durability, color and texture all lending to the overall aesthetic you’re trying to create within your space. Some hues are not what they seem online- maybe you think you’re getting true orange, but it’s actually a rust color, and some shades will look different in your space, because of lighting, which makes a HUGE difference. It is definitely worth spending $10 on swatches than being saddled with a $3000 couch in the wrong color.

Don’t Forget Comfort

Yes, we all want our homes to be pretty, inviting spaces, but we also want them to be realistic and comfortable. We want them to feel chic, but warm and lived-in. When purchasing an armchair or sofa, think about spill factor (crushed velvet is harder to clean than fabric), color choice (light or dark for stains), and cushion softness and size; keep in mind if you plan to use the sofa to host guests overnight.

Know the Return Policy

Even after all this planning, you may still need to return a piece of furniture, so read the site’s policy carefully before making your purchase. Some vendors may offer free shipping, but charge you return shipping or a restocking fee if you don’t like your item. If you choose to customize your furniture in any way, the site may not let you return it.

Plan for Assembly

Furniture typically ships in pieces, so if you’re less than handy, be prepared to calculate the cost in to hire someone to do the work for you. One option is to use TaskRabbit a site where you can hire an already vetted and feedback rated helper to assemble your furniture. If ordering from Amazon, the website will prompt you, asking if you’d like to pay an additional amount to hire someone through their website to assemble the item once you receive it. Couldn’t be easier.

See It IRL

If the online site has a physical store or showroom in your city, make a point to pop in and sit at that desk or lie on that couch you’ve been eyeing, or even open the drawers of an armoire you’ve been pining over. Checking it out in-person can help you avoid the inconvenient and probably expensive returns later.