How long did it take you to find the last piece of furniture you bought? What if you could cut that time in half (at least)?
This post will show you how.
Before I started interior decorating professionally, it felt like I was on always on an endless search for whatever I envisioned in my mind. To the point that I am pretty sure I reached the end of the internet several times.
I wasted a lot of time searching for the perfect piece, because what I failed to do was define the perfect piece.
For any search to end, you have to know what you’re looking for. Otherwise how do you know when you’ve found it?
“I’m looking for a new table” isn’t good enough.
Without ground rules there’s always one more place to check, one more site to search. An endless belief that their might be something better out there.
When I started taking on decorating clients, I knew I couldn’t enter into all those endless searches. In the last two years, I’ve created over 200 client mood boards with an average of 15 items per board. That means I’ve sourced over 3,000 items online. Imagine if I spent hours and hours searching for every single item.
To succeed in a business that relied on online sourcing, I had to be more resourceful.
Being resourceful isn’t about looking everywhere, it’s about knowing exactly what you’re looking for and where you’re most likely to find it. Tweet that!
Four Requirements You Must Know Before Shopping
When searching for that perfect piece of decor or furniture, start by defining what you’re looking for. Make a list of requirements. I do this for every item I source.
Requirements is a big scary word. What you are really doing is describing the perfect piece.
Before I open the browser window or set foot in a store, I decide on these four requirements:
- Color or finish
- Size (height, width, depth) and shape
- Price range or limit
Pssst. If you can’t define these four things, you aren’t ready to shop.
Example for a dining table:
- Rich, warm wood
- Seats six to eight people, rectangular
- Less than $1000
- Modern (simple, clean lines)
Where to Start Looking
I also decide where to start looking. That is a HUGE TIMESAVER in and of itself. Before searching, identify where you’re most likely to find a piece that meets the four requirements. I rely on my favorite sources.
Brainstorm a list of 3-5 sources likely to carry that style in your price range. For a modern dining table, Pier 1 and Pottery Barn aren’t good sources. Instead I would start with CB2, West Elm, and Crate & Barrel.
It’s also important to only include sources on this list that you would actually buy from. You can browse random sites on the internet all day long, but if you would never give them your credit card information, you’re wasting your time. If you’ve had a bad experience with a store before and vowed never to shop there again, then don’t. What other sources are likely to carry what you are looking for?
Why Specific Searches are Better
If you don’t start with a plan in mind, you’re not shopping, you’re browsing. Tweet that! Browsing doesn’t have an end point.
Most people start searching very broadly. You may type something like “modern dining table” into the search bar. Or you may just wander through your local furniture stores hoping to stumble on the right piece.
You end up wasting a lot of time looking at a bunch of things you don’t want.
I do it the other way around. I start as specific as possible and only broaden my search when I have to.
It’s a waste of time to look at dining tables over $1000, if your budget is less than that.
It’s a waste of time to look at a bunch of beige sofas, if you really want a blue one.
Learning this lesson to helped me streamline my sourcing process for clients. In turn, it completely changed the way I shop for myself.
3 Options in Under 10 Minutes
With requirements in hand and a list of places to start looking, I turned up 3 great options online in less than 10 minutes: a teak table with natural steel base at Crate and Barrel, a mid-century modern table with a walnut finish at West Elm, and an eco wood slab table at CB2. All three are rich, warm wood, seat 6-8, are under a $1000, and modern.
For this example, I didn’t use any other special search tricks. I went to each source, looked for the dining table category, sorted or filtered on price, and visually scanned for wood tables. If you want an even faster search, you can try my favorite online search trick to search all three sources at the same time.
I also could have walked into all three stores and told a sales associate what I was looking of – a modern wood dining table that seats 6-8 for under $1000. If they have what you’re looking for, they’ll take you right to it.
By having clear requirements, I didn’t waste time looking at every dining table available at each source.
Start specific. End the search faster.
P.S. Everything you dream up hasn’t been manifested into the world yet. You may not find the piece you’ve created in your mind. If you start with a really specific search at reliable sources and nothing comes back, it might not exist. Use your requirements as a guide to know when you’ve found the best piece available.
Great tips! I think about sourcing items for my home and I get sick to my stomach. As much as I love interior design- the process can be daunting. I’ll have to use these tips and tricks next time.
I have been there. It almost seems silly at first to describe what you are shopping for, but it really, really works. I hope it helps!
Robin @ The Designest says
I just wanted to drop you a note to say that I absolutely love what you are doing here with your classes and blog. I used to offer decorating services in a similar fashion (I would create design plans for local clients and then they could implement them as the money and time allowed). I don’t do this anymore as I’m going in a different direction, but all of the things you talk about here resonate with me.
From the amazing post you did a while ago on no longer doing DIY, to this one about sourcing online products. You always give such great advice and put it into words in a way that people can relate to!
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for that comment. I am so glad it resonates with you and it means so much to me to get that feedback.
Jackie, I know this isn’t the best place to ask this, but I think I might have given a conflicting email address to join School of Decorating. I use email addresses with both erin_carpentier and erindammen in them. If you could look and see if that’s holding up my approval I would appreciate it! I am a complicated person. ;-)
I just want to tell you I love your site and as a home stager I would love to know how you create those images of your favorite sources. I’d love to do something similar for my home staging blog but have struggled trying to figure out the best way to make those pictograms that you make. would love your thoughts!
Jackie-ever since I’ve been following you, you’ve helped me to be much more organized and thoughtful with searching for products and narrowing down my choices. Thanks for all the great advice you give! P.S. I still haven’t tried your search trick, but I intend to!
I have been pouring over your site for the last two days and am in such awe of you! The way you break things down is amazing. I loved the tip on the internet search and am wondering if there is a way to find the seller of a piece you saw in a picture. Does that make sense? I found this great console table on Pinterest but it was from Joss and Main two years ago. Do you know if there is a way to search using a picture to find out where you can buy it? Thanks again!
Nicole, Thank you. Such a sweet comment. You may be able to find a product by the picture only. Many shops and sites like Joss & Main use a manufacturer’s image. If you have the image you can use Google to do a reverse image search and find other places that sell the item. Just Google how to do a reverse image search.