When you don’t really know what you want…but you want it anyway


When I approach new clientele in our showroom to offer some assistance I frequently hear, “Just looking…but I’ll know it when I see it” or “I’m waiting for something to jump out (and/or ‘wink’) at me.”

The problem with this modus operandi is the human eye is inundated with countless choices butted up against one another inside the acreage of showroom possibilities. After a while, everything begins to blend and morph in the mind until it all becomes something quite different upon retiring for reflection at home. Entering any furniture showroom is really an assault on our senses. Too many things appeal to our sense of good taste all at once, until suddenly, nothing at all seems likely to be the best possible fit.

There is no way to isolate this experience of seeing just one piece that stands out when shopping a showroom. It’s all there, hopefully laid out in well thought out designer vignettes that have been given at least remedial thought by the store’s staff, but nevertheless, in far too close proximity to something else – either remotely alike or startlingly quite different – and nevertheless distracting. This draws the eye back and forth. You cannot even remember where you have seen a particular piece, let alone remember how much or how little you liked it!

How can you alleviate the stress and pick out something you absolutely love at the same time?

For starters, plan ahead: Know what you’re looking for before you enter the showroom. Then find a sales staff to lead the proverbial horse to water, but not force the nag into having a sip. Pushy sales staff is a bore. But inquisitive ones can help narrow down your focus, providing a frame of reference that allows you to keep your cool and learn new things at the same time.

Stay focused: If you’re heading in to shop, your heart set on a pair of wingbacks for the study, don’t dilly-dally looking at that cute little sofa and loveseat that immediately caught your eye when you first came in. You’ll cross-contaminate your opinions about the pieces you are actually in search of.

Don’t take on too many projects at once.

Don’t take on too many projects at once. Too often clientele who have just moved into a new place, when I ask, “What do you need?” the stock reply is “Everything!” Not helpful! Pick a room you need to redo. One room. Only one! Let’s tackle this project together. Let’s finish this project to your satisfaction – together. Because when it comes to designing your living space, multitasking is not only a myth but a grave distraction.

When picking out furniture always look for pieces to fulfill the following set of criteria in this particular order:

(1) Comfort

(2) Style

(3) Color

What’s the point of finding a cute lounger in exactly the shade of periwinkle you need if it feels like you’re sitting on a bale of hay at the barn dance? Most people cannot get beyond the color of the piece as it appears in the showroom. If they see a black sofa, it’s black first and a sofa, second. Even if it’s comfortable, the perfect style and size for their space, they may not like it simply because they had their heart set on the color ‘green’. Most styles come in multiple fabrics. But you must first overcome the showroom’s executive decision to market a particular piece in pink polka dots if what you were expressly looking for was navy geometric or autumn grey plaid. Ask if it comes in navy geometric or autumn grey plaid; then, ask to see samples. If you like the sample, chances are you will love the sofa after it is made in the fabric of your choosing just for you.

Get options – not confused. Generally speaking, furniture stores hire staff for their savoir faire flair when picking out colors…okay, also for their sales skills. That doesn’t mean they want to sell you just anything – especially if it doesn’t work for you.

“Every salesperson has your best interests at heart.”

Trust me when I say mostly every salesperson has your best interests at heart. The last thing anyone wants is a client who comes back disgruntled, deflated and depressed with the choices they ‘agreed’ upon. A good sales person should offer advice; as in suggesting colors that go together, and styles of furniture to be blended to create ‘the look’ you are after. Equally, a good salesperson has no ego that supersedes your will. If you tell them you want pumpkin orange, they should be showing you something in that shade, as well as complimentary colors to add and expand the creative possibilities associated with this palette. If they instead push you to consider lemon yellow as an alternative, find another salesperson willing to work with and for, rather than against, you!

Finally, take the time to digest your options. Yes, you want a living room full of furniture before the relatives descend en masse for Thanksgiving. But making a decision under duress is NEVER a good idea. Don’t do it!

Give yourself enough time to figure out what you like and what you can easily do without.

Give yourself enough time to figure out what you like and what you can easily do without. Then pick from the pieces that really ‘spoke’, ‘winked’, ‘blinked’ and ‘nudged’ at your level or artistic sentiment from the pieces you looked at. Need help remembering them after you have gone home. Take a photograph with your camera, cell phone or some other photo or video capturing device. Film yourself delivering a running commentary about the color and texture of the fabric as you are experiencing it for the first time. This will jog your memory later on, while you are sitting around the dinner table trying to decide between your options.

Don’t look back.  Back in the day, when you were limited in choices of color, style and design options to basically four or five; borrowing inspiration from a few home catalogs and fewer still local retailers to frequent in your spare time, you found something that satisfied. Today, the sky is the limit. The internet has made it possible to see hundreds of thousands of options at a glance every minute of every day. Sorry Helen Gurley Brown, but too much of a good thing is still too much! Don’t believe me? Eat six crème brulee in a row and then tell me you don’t want to throw up!

There is always going to be something different on the horizon of interior design.

Bottom line: There is always going to be something different on the horizon of interior design. But will it be better or even more to your taste and needs? Hmmm. Waiting too long to make a decision, hoping something better comes along, you may suddenly realize you missed out on something that was perfect right now. So, once you have made a decision, stick to it and do not doubt your reasons for a moment. It’s the right decision for right now and ‘right now’ is where we are all living.

Yes, design is ever-evolving. So is personal taste. And while you may not know what you like at the beginning of your journey, by the end of it you should realize there is a lot more to life than stressing over the ‘perfect’ chaise.

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