A Luxury Kitchen Designer Shares Her Online Shopping Secrets
Part of being an interior designer is always being on the lookout for great furniture, art, and collectibles. But typically when she’s sourcing counter stools or accessories for a client, kitchen designer Sarah Robertson of Studio Dearborn isn’t shopping at big retailers like West Elm or Pottery Barn. She used to haunt tag sales and flea markets to find distinctive pieces. But now that she’s so much busier than in the early days, Robertson says online marketplaces are her best sources for pieces that help her create custom looks.
Of course, before you start hitting the buy button, it’s wise to be wary, especially when you’re buying from a stranger. It’s important to know some background on the designer and the piece you’re buying. Look for any hallmarks to verify that it’s an authentic piece, and ask for additional pictures if they’re not shown. And beware of the word “style” in the listing. That’s a big tip-off that the item isn’t authentic. And if the price is too good to be true, it probably is.
Once she’s done her due diligence, Robertson always checks out seller feedback for similar items. And be sure to look at the location of the seller, and what kind of shopping options they offer. A deal isn’t a steal if the shipping doubles the price.
That being said, here are some of Robertson’s favorite online interior design shopping destinations.
Chairish is one of the premier sources for high-end antique furniture, art, decorative objects, and rugs. You can easily find fiberglass Eames Eiffel chairs, an Eileen Gray side table, or a set of Spode blue transferware plates. Their fine art is a strong category, so it’s a perfect place to snag a green and gold little landscape or hot fudge sundae still life to perch on your open shelving. Just register, then make an offer to get the negotiation going. Chairish offers an authenticity guarantee.
There’s more to eBay than computer accessories, cheap sunglasses, and lightly used clothing. There’s also a surprising selection of designer lighting, furniture and collectibles. We recently spotted a trio of curvy Anton Lorenz for Thonet chrome bar stools, a pair of Marcel Breuer for Knoll ebonized Cesca chairs, and a Roll + Hill Modo by Jason Miller 5-globe pendant light. It’s $1,950 directly from Roll & Hill. A seller with 100% positive feedback is selling this one for $895, plus eBay is running a 20% off sale on all lighting. And, eBay offers a money-back guarantee if you end up with an item that’s not authentic or in the expected condition.
This is probably Robertson’s favorite online auction site, and she likes the fact that it’s national. Just go to Live Auctioneers, register and get ready to start bidding. Each auction house has its own fees, but there’s usually a buyer’s premium of 25% or so. That means on a $1,000 sale, you could owe another $250 to cover what the seller owes the auction site. Just the other day we spotted an antique French oak trestle dining table, a trio of red and grey Umanoff bar stools with cool cutout backs, and a French copper daubiere pot. It’s also a great place to research prices of items you may want to sell.
This consignment site built its business around lightly used designer clothing, but I’m writing this article sitting in an Eames shell chair with the Eiffel base that I snagged on The RealReal. And a pair of Philippe Starck Louis Ghost arm chairs flank my living room window. When we checked recently, we spotted a pair of Ghost counter stools for about 35% off retail, a couple Tom Dixon Pipe Pendants and a few of his Etch Mini Pendants for about half off. And the nice thing about the RealReal is that they share context on each piece, who made it and and what it might cost retail. Shipping can be high, but they often have flash sales to offset the cost.
When pandemic quarantines hit a couple years ago, many small boutique owners pivoted to online stores on Etsy. Some of the strongest categories are antiques, kitchenware, decorative collectibles and even vintage furniture. Recent finds include a rustic farmhouse trestle table, a super affordable collection of vintage copper vessels and a copper rail to hang them on and these vintage French-inspired bread boards. Etsy is also a treasure trove for anyone who collects tableware by Heath Ceramics, vintage French Provençal ceramic jelly jars or pitchers, and hand painted Moroccan Safi pottery.
For larger items like dining tables and sets of chairs, the shipping can get astronomical. And some sellers only work with local buyers. So Robertson also checks out auctions close to home. One of her go-tos is Auction Ninja. Many of the auctions are local sales based on the East Coast, but you’ll also see local-only sales in other states. And there are national sales too where sellers are willing to ship purchases across the country. You’ll find striped kilims and hand-knotted Hamadan rugs, Empire style brass cygnet sconces and a marble-top island with cute bun feet.