If you can’t hire an interior designer, at least you can shop like one. And it turns out that’s easier than you think. While the public doesn’t have access to trade-only wholesalers, you might be surprised to learn that many interior designers are finding some of their best items at places where the rest of us shop every day.
I interviewed interior designers from cities including New York, Chicago and Nashville to find out where they source some of their best items from. They gladly spilled, revealing their not-so-secret sauce.
Big Box Stores
The biggest secret of the Speakeasy at 63 Wall Street is where the furnishings are from.THE DESIGN HIGH
Next time you’re picking up laundry detergent, don’t skip the furniture and decor aisle at Target. So many designers recommend Target for everything from kitchenware to decor and down inserts. While the store is known for great prices, you’d be surprised to learn that many designers buy items for high-end projects there too. Highlyann Krasnow, founder of The Design High, has decorated luxury buildings in New York City, including 63 Wall Street and 195 Sullivan Street. She revealed, “For small furniture items and decor, we often source from Target. They have a great selection of small tables, sconces, stools, poufs, room and wall decor.”
Deidre Doherty of Deirdre Doherty Interiors says Ikea can be a great place to shop if you don’t want to overspend. “As much as Ikea has a bad wrap, there are some good staple pieces like wall mirrors, bath accessories and you can also upgrade their standard sofas with custom legs for a designer look. This works great for kids areas when you don’t want to break the bank.”
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HomeGoods is another go-to. However, the selection can vary on any given day from store to store. So, if you want first dibs, Kate Marengo of Interior Chicago suggests finding out what days stores gets their deliveries and shop that morning. “The best inventory is snatched up quickly,” she explained.
Perhaps the most unique store a designer suggested was likely the last place on earth anyone would ever think of. Gregory Augustine of Lucas Alexanderrevealed, “The best decor I’ve gotten from an unexpected source was Petco. It was a metal clip light for a snake tank, which became the perfect picture light when clipped on shelves. No wiring needed, plug and play!”
So, if you’ve ever thought about using a pet bed as a giant pillow, don’t hesitate.
While most of us know that high-end retailers like Bloomingdales and Neiman Marcus have beautiful home departments, designers don’t overlook their less expensive counterparts. Kate Clarke of Homes Reimagined loves to shop Macy’s for bedding. As does Doherty, who suggests their Home Hotel Collection for “fabulous sheeting with lots of thread count and budget options.”
Maggie Natarelli of Raised By Design likes Kohl’s especially for mixing high and low. She told me, “I’m just wrapping up a bedroom for two little girls in Bedford, New York with beautiful hand printed wallpaper by an independent artist in Charleston, South Carolina, but we used bedding from Kohl’s. They have a huge selection of nice quality cotton bedding and some really cute poppy prints if you are looking for something playful but not alarming.”
Tiffany Brooks, who you may know from HGTV’s Smart Home, is a big fan of scouring her local thrift shop. “Thrift stores are my go-to places for one-off items. An example would be a chair that would be $200-$300. Depending on the condition of the furniture, I would replace the upholstery with a really nice fabric. Or I’ll find a period piece and place it next to something brand new.”
If you like unique things or are trying to find items that are not mass produced, Gina Gutierrez, founder and lead designer of Gina Rachelle Design thinks what you are looking for is probably right in front of you. “Get to know local makers in your area. I like going custom or purchasing pieces that tell a story—ethical housewares or an individual’s life story. I have been working with Brian Enright of 12 Sticks since 2013 and he is my go-to for millwork.”
On the Road
Items for sale on display during the monthly flea market held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. (Photo by Paul Mounce/Corbis via Getty Images)
Next time you’re in Nashville or just looking for southern style online, Zoë Cullen of Stay Domio says to check out 1767 Designs. “The owner, Patrick Hayes, and I have collaborated on a couple of really cool projects together. He always seems to read my mind and knows exactly what I’m looking for. His art pieces are made from wood rescued from century-old homes in Nashville and each one has so much character. It’s rare that I decorate anything without including something from his shop.”
Art curator and advisor Kipton Cronkite loves the Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena, California. “[It’s] where I find vintage pieces (furniture, art and misc items) from vendors all over California. I’m into 1950s and 1960s decor and these flea markets always have interesting pieces.”
You can also repurpose items you find when traveling to create something custom that has a deeper meaning to you. For example, Diana Weinstein of Diana Weinstein Designs told me, “I once had a client who brought back sari silks from India which I used to make a custom upholstered bed out of”.
Caitlin Rutkay of C.R. Interior Designs likes to decorate bedrooms with items she discovers on the road. “Hotels often sell their luxury mattresses, down products, and bedding which give your project a complete luxury feel.”
Lulu and Georgia is a decorator’s dream.LULU AND GEORGIA
There are endless places to purchase furniture and decor online. But instead of staring at a screen for hours, Cullen highly recommends just shopping at Lulu and Georgia. “It’s like a curated showroom for everything I’m into right now, and almost always lands in budget.”
Another retailer in that realm is Serena & Lilly, which is Natarelli’s pick. “I recently discovered their collection of original oil paintings, which is beautifully curated— surprising for a major retailer. I’m seeing a lot of big vendors coming out with collections of original art that’s in line with their style.”
Etsy is another great resource, but you have to know where to go. Gutierrez likes ModCreation Studio for lighting, art from Urban Epiphany Printsand ceramics from Vitrifried Studio.
It might surprise you to learn that designers are also shopping at many of the same places we go to already—H&M, Zara Home, Amazon, Michaels and even Walmart. Ultimately, you can find anything anywhere as long as you keep your eyes open. Doherty has a practical philosophy when it comes to finding decor, “In the era of online shopping designers have to be open to sourcing from unusual places. Just like shopping for clothes, you can find nice things anywhere if you pay attention to quality and design. Nothing is off limits.”