Sunday, April 12, 2009

TIPS to being a successful Catalog shopper.

Below are some helpful tips on what to look for as you catalog shop for your next furniture piece. After years of selling online and most of my customers relying solely on a picture on some of their most important purchases, I know what will help the average consumer make their shopping experience less shocking. Even I go by some of these same guidelines when shopping for anything via catalog.

Furniture pictures used in catalogs are meant to project style and quality. Sometimes the color seen may be slightly lighter or darker in reality.

1. The first and most important tricky factor in catalog shopping is the color of the item.
If you are looking for an exact shade when buying your furniture, catalog shopping may not be for you. Below are a couple of reasons why.
a. The color pictured on your monitor may not be the actual color of the item you will receive. There are many factors that feed into this. Your monitor color settings may not be the same as your next door neighbor’s. For instance, if I go to my mom’s house, the color of the items listed on my website are much darker on her screen than on mine at home. So, if I go by my screen, I will be getting a light cherry and if I go by my mom’s screen, I will be getting a darker cherry.
b. The pictures are taken by professionals with professional lighting and professional cameras that distorts the actual color of the item. If I took the same exact picture of an item seen online with my 5.0 mega pixel camera, my picture quality will be much different and will make the color appear lighter or darker than what the professionals take.

When you are furniture shopping through an online or in-store catalog, it is a good idea to keep these color factors in mind.

2. WOODEN or METAL Rails?
How do you know if you are getting wooden rails or metal rails on your bed in case it is not listed in the item description? When an item has wooden rails, the distributors proudly show them off and you will see wooden rails in the picture. When an item has metal rails, there will be a bed skirt (material around the bottom of the bed) hiding where the rails are. You can always call the furniture dealer just to check but this is a quick way to scan for the rails you desire.

3. Size of the items in pictures. Occasionally, I have customers come to the warehouse and remark “that looked much bigger or that looked much smaller in the picture.” Most online furniture dealers list the measurements of the items they are offering. The measurements are listed under the picture on my website. Use those for reference so you are sure you are getting what you expect. Pictures can be deceiving on how big or small something is, so if you are looking for a particular size, check the measurements to be sure it will fit your needs.

4. Dining Sets: I often have customers try and order 6 chairs with an item not realizing the table they want to buy will not seat 6 people. Below are the minimum measurements and a good rule of thumb to know if the table you are purchasing will seat 6.

Round or Square tables: You want the table to be at least 54” round or 54” X 54” squared.

Rectangle or Oval tables: You want the second measurement to be at least 60”. The 48” tables will not be accommodate 6 people.

I hope this tidbit of information helps as you catalog shop for your next furniture piece. I know it is hard for some of us to catalog shop but being informed catalog shoppers can help insure we are happy with our purchases. If all else fails, call and ask any questions that may be on your mind especially if they are not covered in the descriptions of the items you are looking at. Happy Catalog Shopping.

By: Melissa Ward
Furniture Queen

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Barlow Bed - Style & Savings All in 1

While I love all the furniture I sell, the Barlow bed is top on my favorites list because it brings a rich “wow” factor if decorated accordingly for a fraction of the cost of other beds. With its rich espresso finish and cushioned backing, it looks like it costs hundreds more than it does. I practice what I preach. Out of all the items featured in my store, I personally own the Barlow bed in King Size which I have pictured. Featured with the London nightstands (which by the way I spent way more on the nightstands than the bed), it looks elegant and modern all at the same time. Sorry, my picture is not a souped up professional picture but you get the picture (hehe). I just keep snapping till I get one I like.

Like I said, my Barlow bed is pictured with the London nightstand but because this bed is a material and not a wood, you will never get an exact match so you can pair it with many of the nightstands in my store. Of personal choice for color and style, the London priced at $149.00, the Claret priced at $140.00, and the Stockton priced at $105.00. It all depends on personal preference, style, and budget.

Reasons I love this bed (No particular order):

1. This bed is definitely uni-sex. If you can’t seem to agree on a bed with your spouse, this bed will go both ways. This is a hot bed that will get 5-star ratings no matter what sex it is for.

2. It does not have a footboard. I have a short room (only about 12 feet) and I like all the space I can get. I would have lost about 6-7 inches if this bed had a footboard which is precious space for me. Also, to all of you that let the dog get in bed, now you are providing an easy access and exit point for them (hehe). On the other hand, if you love the way the bed looks but want the look and feel of a footboard, the bench is available for only $99. It is a perfect match and allows you to have a place to sit or sort and fold your laundry.

3. SAVINGS, SAVINGS, SAVINGS with no SACRIFICE in beauty. You are saving so much because the bed does not have a footboard or wooden side rails as these features cost a lot more in a bed. However, the focus is on the headboard so the bed is still a beautiful piece of furniture that adds height, warmth, and richness to the room. This bed does require a bed skirt to aesthetically look good which is a minimal expense compared to how much you are saving. The frame is metal.

4. Big bonus for those of you that plan to downgrade or updrade with a full or queen size bed. For $180 you can have both. The full/queen Barlow bed is convertible and can be both a full or queen size bed so whenever you are ready, you don’t have to run out and buy a new bed.

5. Lets not forget the cushioned backing. This was one of the reasons I picked it, so I could have less pillows behind me while I work in bed. It is not too firm and not too soft. Also, if you are a rowdy sleeper and tend to hit your hand or head on a typical wooden headboard, this bed is perfect for you. I’m one of those that sticks my hands through cracks and wake up thinking ‘how did I do this.’ It also brings an element of depth and texture which softens the harsh look of the walls.

Other items in picture in case you are interested:

I coordinated my accessories and decorations around the brown but it is so versatile you can go with many colors depending on your style and personal preference. I got the comforter set at Wal-Mart (it’s there one minute and gone the next so keep checking back when they stock their shelves) for only $90.00. That’s the comforter (really hot; it’s just for looks when company comes over), bed skirt, 2 king shams, 2 king pillowcase shams, 3 decorative pillows, and 1 neck roll. Awesome deal and it looks better than you’d think for the price spent. I got the lamps at Garden Ridge for $15.00 each. Candles and stand I got at Hobby Lobby and I am drawing a blank on what I spent. Anyways, you can achieve this look for about $650.00. You can change the price drastically if you get the Stockton nightstand which is much cheaper or if you get the full/queen size Barlow bed.

So, if you are on a budget and do not want to sacrifice making your room look good, the Barlow bed is the way to go. I back my convictions 100% as this is a solid inexpensive bed that will stay in style and save you money. Thanks for reading and I hope you find the bed of your dreams for a price you can afford.

By: Melissa Ward

Furniture Queen

Friday, January 16, 2009

Tips on Buying Furniture

There are allot of factors that feed into your final decision on what furniture pieces you will purchase. Cost, style, color, durability, and overall look and feel that you are going for. My first apartment, I was really into the queen anne victorian look on a very small budget. My apartment warming present from my mom was a beautiful, victorian style couch from big lots. Lucky me, that was the most expensive purchase besides the dining set. My first coffee set was an inexpensive cherry coffee set. I got a beautiful swivel tv stand from Clay Road Furniture. It was on clearance and an awesome deal. My dining set matched the coffee set to a tee so I was happy that the colors and style flowed in my living quarters of the apartment and I worked hard at finding the best deals. It was the search for my first apartment's furniture that made me want to sell furniture. I was selling jewelry back then at Trader's Village and was looking for another business to get into. It was so fun furniture shopping and price matching that I knew selling furniture and bringing awesome deals to people would suit me just fine.

My style has changed since my first apartment as I have moved into my first home. While I still like the traditional dark colors, it is no longer victorian. It is more of a tuscany italian feel. Well, at least that is what I call it. My personal pieces in the living part of my home are the hawthorne coffee set , lamont formal dining set (discontinued in 2007), lamont bar set (used in my breakfast room; counter heights weren't in then or I would have went for a counter height), a couch set from, and the Neo-Renaissance bench in my entry way. Even though, by this time I was selling furniture, it was still a welcomed challenge and fun searching for the perfect pieces to match my homes look and feel.

After you narrow down what you are looking for, cost is the second if not most important thing. Have a budget set for each individual piece you are looking for and try to stay within reason of it. Price check and be sure you are getting the best deal. Furniture prices can range drastically. It is a free enterprise and businesses can price an item for whatever they want. It is up to you, the consumer, to do the legwork and be sure you are getting a good deal. The dining set I bought for my first apartment was over $400 at one furniture store but after looking at a few stores, I found the same exact dining set for $250. A $150 savings was definitely worth the search. I was on a budget and that was money I had for other furniture and my accessories which were equally as important to me. Don't blow your budget on the very first piece because you may have to sacrifice on other pieces. Buy alittle at a time. If it is not something you plan on buying right away, ask the sales person if they think the item may be discontinued in "x" amount of time. If so, or they are not sure (we don't always know; hehe), make a point to put that item at the top of your list and get pieces that are not going anywhere later. Of course, you may have your priorities. A table to eat dinner with your family may be more important than a coffee set to put your feet on; hehe.

Durability is also at the top of the list. While I have some awesome inexpensive pieces that will be durable and hold up to the average person's use, it is important to understand that not all furniture is made equal and not all people use their furniture equally. My first coffee set in my apartment is the cheapest coffee set I sell. It is light and not solid wood. However, to me it might as well been top of the line, because I loved it. After a while, my coffee table got in the way of me working out (apartments can be so damn small) so it was demoted and I got TV stands that replaced my end tables. The end tables were then sent to my bedroom to be used as nightstands. I used those end tables as nightstands for 5 years even into my home (actually just replaced them in September 08 because I desperately wanted drawers on my nightstand). They worked like a champ and even held up to my rugged use. So, when you are thinking of durability, know what you expect to get out of the furniture piece you are purchasing. Be reasonable and buy what will be best for your needs. If you have a baby that will be walking soon, don't get a light set like what I had. Get something heavier that your child can't pull over on themselves when they are in the stage of using furniture to pull themselves up. It will cost more but that is the durability that you will require. So, always think of how your furniture will be used and buy furniture built for that use.

Whether you are a single parent, bachelor, or buying for a large family, I hope to have something to suit your needs and reflect your personal style. The best way to find your style if you do not already know it, is to go out and browse furniture stores or look at different pieces of furniture online. Another great source for figuring out your style, if you have cable, is to watch HGTV. If you have comcast cable, tune to channel 49. See what colors and styles you are drawn to. In my first apartment, I loved the dark cherry colors and the Queen Anne style legs and knew that right away. Your home is an expression of yourself and what you like. Go crazy and make it your own. I have a customer that likes light on dark furniture. She has a light maple table and deliberately bought my brandy side chairs which are a dark dark espresso to go with it. It actually looked really good and reflected her style and personal taste. Her purchase actually inspired me to have individual prices for my chairs on my website so people could get just the chairs if that is all they need.

There is no right or wrong way to purchase your furniture, but making sure you get the pieces you love at a price you can afford, is important. Furniture is something the average person will have to look at for a while. It is a bigger purchase and cannot be swapped out like your socks or t-shirts can. Good luck with your search and please email with any questions you may have with purchasing your next furniture piece.

By: Melissa Ward