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How To Make Foolproof Plans To Shop For Home Furnishings

Do you feel overwhelmed when you think about shopping for your home furnishings? Smart shoppers know that making plans before actually shopping for home furnishings is the best strategy. Even if you are only hunting for one item, having a clue and a plan for the long term Big Picture Home Design helps ensure your decisions make sense now AND later as you grow your vision of your dream home. Let’s dig into everything you’ll want to know for your great home shopping adventures!

black plan book on yellow background
It’s smart to plan your Home Shopping Adventure in advance

Where do you start to make any kind Shopping plan for home furnishings?

It would seem to be an easy enough proposition to just browse on-line for your next purchase, point and shoot off payment for your order…BUT eventually you’ll notice as you browse around that actually, there are a LOT of questions to get clear on FIRST.

The main thing to keep in mind is that a home that LOOKS “pulled together” AND comfortably and efficiently beautiful, won’t magically happen by random accident.

Even if you are only looking for a new sofa, rug or even just pillows right now, learning how to dream, plan, budget, shop AND execute your purchases will set you up for home design happiness now and in the future too.

white chair for reading
Well appointed reading nook

What Actually makes an area comfortable, efficient aND beautiful?

Start with a logical construction mindset. Your furnishings are supposed do something besides just sit there and look pretty. They are meant to support your comfort and make any aspect of living in a room better. Here’s a example of what I mean below.

For a comfortable reading nook you would need:

  • Comfy upholstered chair
  • Good reading light
  • Small table to set your book/tablet/drink/snack plate down.
  • An ottoman or footstool is a nice addition
  • If you are the “Curl up with a good book” type, you might also enjoy a soft throw or blanket.

Design Logic 101: thinking through what items are needed for utility and extra comfort help you fill in the blanks as you make your plans.

When making a list and checking it twice takes on new meaning

Lists are great for reality checks and impulse purchase prevention

Make Keep/Toss Lists and Want/Need Lists too. Ideally you would create checklists for every area of your home, even if it be ever-so-humbly a studio.

what are the benefits of checklists for all the areas of your home?

  • Lists aid in gaining clarity about what to add for your comfort/utility and what to keep, replace or discard entirely.
  • Lists help you prioritize the most important items while reducing impulse purchases that your budget won’t hold.
  • Bonus: having fended off the odd impulse purchase, a list helps you decide what upgrade you might want on your wish list for the future.

While you need not make detailed description lists for all your rooms if you aren’t “there” yet, there are benefits to even the most casually described notes.

You will start to see

  • How your design choices in one room can be coordinated with your choices in other rooms.
  • How every item in your home counts towards (or not) designing the environment you would most want to live in.
cluttered room green cabinet
A touch too much of everything makes it hard to determine what you have, what you need or what to dispense with entirely.

It pays to be ruthless when assessing your rooms

By taking a close look at how your home functions and where it doesn’t, you’ll get a much better sense of what your priorities might be.

Then too, there are those things that have “reasons” attached as to why you can’t get rid of them. Planning a gracious “work-around” is a good idea.

Bear in mind that everything doesn’t have to be thrown out and/or replaced all at once, but having an honest sense of direction is invaluable.

The not so obvious advantage to at least mentally weeding out your rooms, is that a better furniture lay-out may now become apparent and possible.

You might find these posts helpful.
READ>>>How To Plan The Best Furniture Layouts For Every Room
READ>>>How To Make Your Remarkably Cluttered Home Look Lovelier

people inspecting floor plans
Don’t be shy about making notes and drawing it out. You can’t do this in your head.

take Complete measurements of rooms aND furniture

A real home furnishings shopping trip needs real measurements of the room(s) and all the furniture too, at least in the areas where you want to make additions. Take photos of the rooms you’ll be furnishing too.

don’t forget to measure aLL points of entry

If you are planning to purchase large items like a sofa, you MUST measure your doors, hallways and elevator (if you have) before placing any new furniture orders.

Even a teeny little angle you didn’t take into account could make delivery impossible. There is no substitute for careful measuring. Some furniture companies offer Fit Appointments. If so, by all means take advantage and let the experts measure for you.

It’s an Urban Legend that hoisting the sofa up the side of the building and through the window is an EASY alternate solution.

what about using an app?

There are several good, easy to use, on-line apps that you can plug your room measurements into. Usually, there are furniture templates you can scale to your furniture measurements too. This one from Spoak is a favorite of

Here’s a spiffy tool to use for planning before you visit stores too. Photo Measures is a third party, stand-alone visualization app. It makes is possible for you to write your floor and wall measurements down ON your room photos for easy reference later. You will be able to note the locations by measure for doors, windows, radiators and fireplaces, etc. It’s smart to locate the electrical outlets too. It’s helpful to know how many extension cords you might need and consider how you might hide them or at least make them less noticeable.

If you’d like to know more about creating great furniture layouts…
READ>>>How To Plan The Best Furniture Layouts For Every Room

If you are shopping for upholstered furniture, you might find this helpful….
READ>>>The Ultimate Guide To Selecting High Quality Upholstered Furniture

calculator, lap-top,crunching numbers

How to make a budget for your Home furnishings plan

The checklist and your assessments gave you a concrete path to for smart planning with prioritized decisions. You might also have a good sense of “When’s” for your prospective purchases at this point too.

  • Pick a top end budget number. Now, theoretically, back out about 10-20% for taxes, shipping, delivery, set-up and the unexpected extra bill.
  • Buzz Kill: This is the real amount you potentially have to spend on real items.

Yes, this seems like a lot of “concept padding”. BUT wouldn’t you be delighted to find you budgeted so well that the total shopping bill is not stretched totally out of shape.

blue upholstered chair and blue wall
Whether the wall color or the chair color came first, the point is all the items relate to each other beautifully

Key Points To Remember before you shop for home furnishings


  • Smart choices are the ones you can justify as logical answers asked “why did you choose that?” In other words, smart choices aren’t a random “happy accident”.
  • Use an ANCHOR as a starting point for all of your color choices. Rooms that look “pulled together” and “considered” are grown from a foundational color to which the rest of the color scheme will relate.
neutral paint color and colorful accessories
Even in a primarily neutral color scheme, the accessories were chosen with coordinating color and style

An ANCHOR IDEA as a foundation for the rest of your decorating decisions is invaluable. Otherwise, WHEN you ask yourself, “Where am I going with this theme/style/selection?”, you won’t have a good SUPPORTING answer for WHY.

Think of the design of your home as a new construction project. Every new building begins with laying the foundation before the walls are erected. In the same way that you build from the ground up, before the walls, the starting point for your design plans is the foundation for the decisions that come after.

colorful rug shown where one could pull colors for overall scheme
A great rug with a beautiful mix of colors one could pull from to anchor the overall scheme

Do you know what colors you’re are shopping for?

Creating a beautiful color scheme for any room that also coordinates with your entire home design/color palette is made possible with smart, advance planning.

How Do You Decide What Color To Use As The Anchor?

The “Anchor” in a room is usually the biggest or most dominant piece. Pull a color from patterned drapery, upholstery or a rug, as your primary color, plus one or two secondary colors. It works best if you choose the darker colors available in your selected anchor. Your color scheme will have a more grounded feel as a whole.

In a living room, for example, you could pull your colors from a great rug OR use your sofa as a color baseline. If you use your rug as an anchor, then your sofa will be a color (or similar shade) pulled from the rug to coordinate with it. The one or two secondary colors from the rug can be your guides for chairs that are part of the same seating composition as the sofa. The drapery, pillows and assorted accessories can use these colors or shades/tones of them.

I’ve referenced color selection ideas from an article on how to select paint color. Your might head over here to get the whole story:
READ>>>How To Chose Terrific Home Paint Colors You Will Love

mood board for home design shopping
A concept/mood board can start with anything and lead anywhere…roll with it for real inspiration

creating mood boards: either On paper, on boards or on Pinterest

Mood boards are a great way to see the bigger picture of your dream home in more concrete ways.

Pinterest is terrific for inspiration. You can get great ideas from looking at a variety of styles and concepts about how to mix new items with what you already have.

When I’m doing this for myself or a client, I always pull whatever catches my eye without a filter first. Sometimes you might see something great but don’t know where or how to use it….yet.

Using a board to tack up your selections is very useful because you can also attach your swatches and samples for comparison as you go along.

getting real about mood boards, your budget and your home

Some of us naturally gravitate toward the most beautiful (and expensive) example of home furnishings possible.

desk with furniture sketch for selecting from fabric swatches
Get all the details, lists, plans, swatches and purchase/return details together before you go out to shop

it’s time to add reality to your virtual shopping too

You have worked hard to shape your dream purchases into alignment with your space, style and budget. Good job!

The next essential element is less fun perhaps, but making mistakes that spoil your purchase plans is no fun at all.

details smart shoppers know

  • Get swatches and samples for everything you can’t physically see. All color monitors, anywhere are different. You will not be able to get the true color, texture or of anything by looking only on-line.
  • Don’t assume high-end construction just because you’re buying in a high-end establishment. Check construction quality. Where is it made? How is it made? Is the fabric durable? Is it wood veneer and/or solid wood. It’s a good sign when a company prides themselves on providing the highest quality products and can tell you all the details, since you asked.
  • The more customization details you ask for, the longer your delivery time. Why? Because your item is no longer a “stock item”, which are made in bulk, in advance for immediate shipping.
  • What are the return and refund policies? They vary significantly from company. Ask about the return policy duration, circumstances under which returns are accepted, processes to initiate a return, shipping policies, etc. Also, check if the refund is given as store credit or returned to your original payment method.
designer assessing colors and fabrics for project
Checking every detail, against every detail is smart

Putting Your Home furnishings pieces together

By now you will have narrowed down the winning selections for style, size and price by referring to your floor plan, Keep/Toss and Want/Need lists, and the smart questions you have asked about construction, return policies etc.

Gather your swatches and samples for a last check on how well they work together. Also, take a look at everything in the room where they will live. It’s surprising how much lighting can change through-out the day and how it will affect the color and looks of any items.

Are you ready for your Home Shopping Adventure?

You are ready to Go shopping

If at all possible, visit the store in-person where your purchases will be made. This is especially important when considering upholstered furniture. If your purchases will be made on-line, your prep work is more essential than ever.

collect your “fruits of your labor” efforts for a brilliant shopping adventure

  • Print out your floor plans, mood board, shopping list, current room photos, photos of what you are keeping.
  • Don’t forget to take all your swatches and samples with you for comparisons as needed.
  • Pack a measuring tape. Don’t rely on the store staff to have one handy.

Over To You

I’d love to know what you think...

Was there a tip that was especially helpful? Hopefully, you found a little inspiration and maybe even resolved a long standing quandary brilliantly!

are there other topics you might be interested in?

Setting out to create the best version of beautiful home design, tailored especially for you, has a lot of potential questions built in. Please let me know. I’m here to help.

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about the author

Cindy Bergersen is a professional design consultant turned full time writer about home design: what is it, how it works and how to make it work for anyone. Decades of experience as a design consultant to private clients, retail clients for well known, high end furniture retailers has proved to be invaluable training. She is both passionate and committed to sharing her experience and knowledge to help anyone, to help themselves to a beautiful, comfortable home, without feeling confusion or overwhelm about where to start and how to proceed. She lives in New York with Olivia, the cat. When not writing for the Library, she can be found cycling though city parks, watching a lot of film, or curled up on the sofa with a good book.

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