How To Shop Like a Designer

updated May 4, 2019
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(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

If anyone can teach you to get the most for your money and how to choose the very best pieces for you, it’s someone who shops for a living! So what are the secrets? Here’s what designers know that you should know too!

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Always have your floor plan and measurements on hand

You never know when or where you will stumble across the perfect piece for your project so always be prepared! Keeping your designer-approved kit — a tape measure in your bag and your room’s measurements and photos stored in your cell phone —might just help you score the find of the century.

Don’t agonize

Designers move quickly and trust their guts. Debating for hours is a sign that this is not the right piece for you. If you have to make a long list of pros and cons then you can do better! You should love every piece in your home, not just settle for it. If you don’t have to have it, then you should leave it.

(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

Find some flavor

Any designer can do a beautiful room, but if it doesn’t feel like YOUR beautiful room, you probably won’t love it. Nothing is worse than walking into a room that could be anywhere or owned by anyone. So how do designers get a punch of pizazz for their clients? They shop local sources for unique finds and they display personal pieces or collections.

Don’t skip thrift

Designers know that thrift stores and estate sales are a gold mine of vintage, one-of-a-kind treasures at a fraction of the price of the antique store. Be prepared to look through a lot of duds and get ready to reupholster, recover or refinish your finds to make them worthy of your room (and pay a professional to do it right). But as long as the shape, materials and style is great, don’t pass it up!

(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

Add a surprise

Purely beautiful is boring! Designers know that each room needs a little something to spice it up and surprise you. Whether it’s off-center art, a pink sofa (designer Clara knows what’s up) or a totally out-of-context period piece in a mostly modern room. Surprises wake you up and make you pay attention to all the other details you may otherwise have glossed over.