09/19/2014 05:51 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 01:01 EDT

Seven Trade Secrets to Buying Furniture Online

It doesn't matter whether you are an empty nester always on the go, at home with young kids, or logging crazy hours at the office, there are never enough hours in a normal day!

Despite your lack of time, you just can not deal with the state of your room anymore and are determined to find a new dining table, a chair, and a fixture for the bathroom. You head to the nearest store with the best of intentions and after they don't have what you want, go to the next one, but its closed, so you will go back tomorrow, but oh wait, you have a dinner, so you can't. By the time you do; it's next weekend. You do find bedroom furniture you really like, but the salesperson tells you that yes they have it in white, but you have to wait six weeks for it to come in (and you know it will be late, because it always is).

Funny, you are not the only person with this issue -- furnishing anything quickly becomes a total nuisance and you wonder why it takes so long?! The good news is that there is the alternative - called the internet -which has completely changed the way we shop for furniture. The downfall of buying furniture online is that after one or two google searches we are completely inundated with product and broken links and have suddenly spent even more time trying to solve our bathroom furniture idea problem then we could have ever possibly imagined! You end up overwhelmed, frustrated and beyond annoyed.

7 things you can do immediately to have online furniture shopping success.

1. Start Taking Pictures -- Now.

Everyone walks around with a phone. You also go in and out of buildings, homes and stores all the time. Start snapping pictures of things you like in other people's spaces. How often have you used the loo in a friends house and looked around the room while taking a pee? Inevitably, you'll find something you like. Finish up and snap a photo of it. The minute you start thinking about adding or replacing a piece of furniture in your life, refer back to your folder of decor photos. Only then will your find patterns and trends and know exactly what you want.

2. Start the Search the Minute You Think of It

As the old saying goes you always find it when you aren't looking! The minute the idea crosses your mind start a passive hunt. Head online and pin, favorite or save links to rooms that have similar items that you like. Furthermore, you have already likely subscribed to for several decor newsletters. The next time one arrives go into their site and adjust your preferences so that if you are about to renovate your bathroom, you get bathroom ideas instead of dining ones. You can always go back and tweak them post completion.

3. Room Shots -- Find Them

It's one thing to see a picture of an item in a stand-alone format online. It's a totally different experience to see how others, let alone a talented designer, has used it in a room. The largest online collection of 'room shots' is on sites like Houzz. It's free to register and be forewarned; it will quickly become your new time waster! Type in the item you are looking for (For example, white couch) and you will immediately see thousands of pictures of professional designers rooms with white couches in them. Start saving photos you love to idea books and share them with those involved in your decor initiatives.

4. When You Find The Product You Love

Follow links and read comments to find references to where to buy the pieces you like 20 per cent of the time you are lucky enough to get a product or manufacturer name, start the search. Lets say you like a light fixture in a photo and in the comments it says it is made by a company called Elk Lighting. Google the manufacturer name i.e. 'Elk Lighting' and then filter through their site to find the product. If you see it, then look for a dealer locator button and find out who sells it either online or in a store near you. If it's no longer on their site, they likely discontinued it and you are out of luck sadly.

5. When You Can Not Find the Product You Want

If you saw it on Houzz, ask the person who posted the photo where they got it. If it was an architect or photographer they will not likely know because it wasn't part of the scope of their job. If it was a designer, decorator or stager however, your odds are looking up. That is, until they say it was custom, can't find their files or just don't respond. You can always ask around, or start the google search on your own but if you're like any other time-starved individual who just wants answers your best bet is to seek out a design related site where they help you source product. We suggest using the search word Stylist to improve your odds.

6. Do You Need a Designer, Decorator or a Stylist?

If you're searching for product a Stylist is your best bet and here's why.

Designers are insanely talented and you absolutely need them when you are banging down walls, reconfiguring spaces or doing a whole house at once, but the reality is unless you are their most favorite or long-standing client they probably don't want your little sourcing job anyhow so ask but don't get upset when you turn up at a dead end. Decorators, also talented, but can't bang down walls so are particularly useful when it comes to redoing an entire room. In either instance the aforementioned likely charge by the hour and gone are the days where it makes sense to pay, for instance a $250+ hourly fee, to find out where to buy the $200 blanket! The economics just don't add up. Stylists may also charge a fee, but more often than not are free to use because they are compensated by the companies for selling their products, like a salesperson would be. It's hands down a win-win.

7. What is a stylist?

They are product experts, what goes together and are on a mission to help you get there. Think about it:

  • Hair Stylist: a person who cuts & styles hair.
  • Wardrobe Stylist: a person who helps you choose outfits & accessories

The best ones allow you to ask an unlimited number of questions and communicate in the manner you want (phone, email, live chat). To get started send them a bullet point list of items you are after, and links to rooms you like the look of and simply ask them where you get those products.

There is nothing more frustrating then falling in love with a product in a picture and not being able to find it, yet but this is a recurring theme no matter whether you're shopping for cars, clothes or furniture! The role of a Stylist when it comes to furniture is twofold: to help you locate the desired item and ensure you're making a good design decision. Even if they the manufacturer has discontinued that product or they can not find the exact piece, they will have ideas on where to get a similar alternative. The upside is that they get to know your style and preferences, and as companies launch new product can tailor and expedite your furniture shopping journey for years to come!