Are You An "Onliner" or "Designer"?

Expert Author Bill PhilbyIt seems in this digital age, everyone is trying to reap the rewards of shopping online instead of enlisting the advice of a designer or a local showroom. Apparently it's just as easy to get a sofa online as it is a date. But just how much are we willing to sacrifice to save money? And who really looks like their online picture.
In the past, hiring a designer was a luxury only a few could afford or so they thought. Many people found it intimidating as their designers suggested items that were priced well outside their comfort zone. It was a time when it was more about the cost than the style and that usually meant a hefty commission to go along with it. High priced designers were making a killing...and it was our profession they had just about buried.

Hiring a designer is no longer just for the lucky few, it's now for the savvy. Over the years, scores of well-established design schools and universities have churned out a sufficient number of talented individuals to make access to a designer more reasonable and in a more consumer-friendly environment than ever before. This, in turn, has changed the way many people approach furnishing a new home. Designers have the ability to negotiate wholesale pricing and even with their fees added, the price is usually still less than retail. Plus, you have a designer on your side to help avoid mistakes.

But still there are those who feel compelled to shop online, forfeiting any type of personal guidance or service in hopes of saving a few dollars. For smaller, disposable items, it can make good sense but buying an item of value online can be a little like Russian roulette. Who cares if the sofa you ordered online doesn't fit? Just put it in your next garage sale. What if the fabric looks terrible in person? If there's a defect or damage in
shipping, or if the item breaks after only a few months, you will probably wish you had someone local to call to make the problem go away. And the only person with a vested interest in your happiness, other than yourself, is your local designer or showroom. I have a feeling when you call them that your call isn't going to get rerouted to a customer service department in a third-world country. (Peggy, can you hear me?)

Many better quality retail stores and design firms are eager to work with clients on smaller projects. And this isn't just because of the economy. It's because we have all gotten a little smarter over time. We realize that helping a young couple with their first home and developing a relationship with them often results in future homes down the road. It's become the building block for smaller firms and for designers who are in the business for the long haul. It's residual business. I have personally had clients start out with just a small living room and, over time, grow into several jobs for their relatives and also larger homes for themselves as their careers have blossomed. When it comes to clients, a good investment always grows.

Onliners pride themselves on savings but in many cases, item for item, the prices end up about the same. And if you have a problem once you get it home, they can usually resolve it easily and quickly. Online companies often had hidden charges such as crating, in-home delivery, etc. that add to the price. And it's funny how they make you pay for it in full before you even take delivery. Hmmm.

We all use online services for something. Electronics, games, reviews, news and yes, even dates. But a sofa or dining room set? What if I answered the door and the sofa didn't look anything like it did in the picture? Ah, the date from hell.

William Philby, ASID is the co-founder of Retro Interiors and Island City Traders in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He is a Florida licensed interior designer and professional member of ASID. A graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Mr. Philby has been practicing interior design for 30 years in South Florida for a variety of high profile clients.

You can visit his company website at or his personal blog at
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10 Easy, Low Cost Home Decorating Tips

Decorating your house can be a lot of fun. Whether you have been in your house for years or just moved in, decorating your house can be a challenge. Finding ways to accentuate the positive areas of your home and hide the negatives is an essential part of home decorating. Try beginning with these 10 Easy Home Decorating tips, and see how they can transform the look of your home.

1. Some of the most easy decorating ideas revolve around rugs. A different colored rug can completely reinvigorate a smaller room, and there are many different colors and variations to pick from in a variety of budgets.

2. Many people find art to be a great addition to their home. Putting up paintings or drawings is a great way to add visual style and culture to your home.

3. Furniture is a necessary part of every home, but you do not have to shell out big bucks to replace yours. You can freshen your furniture using varnish or getting new cushions with a different color for your sofa.

4. Paint should probably be in your DIY budget. It is really amazing how much a simple paint job can really change the atmosphere of a single area.

5. Consider adding pillows on your furniture. A couple brightly colored ones will work wonders on a sofa or a recliner.

6. Any easy room to update is the bathroom. You do not have to remodel the whole room to get a new look. Get a new shower curtain, and pick out towels to match.

7. In the kitchen, some new paint on your cabinets will freshen up the entire room.

8. Lighting can do a lot for a room. Adding in decorative lamps that look good are a fine conversation starter, and the lighting can provide a soothing aura.

9. Plants can present a more natural and welcoming environment. Just adding a few potted plants on a windowsill can provide a great touch of color. Plants work indoors or out, and are also an excellent choice for your patio. If you have less floor space to work with, try hanging plants.

10. If you want advice from design experts, it can be helpful to look for pictures either from a magazine or online. This can let you know what something will look like before you try it, or may even give you more great ideas.

Barrett Lowery supports shopping home goods online at His blog aims to share important information about home goods and home decorating.

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