THE "NEST" GENERATION: furniture shop online like a boss

Chances are, sheltering at home has made that design project (you know... the one you've been meaning to tackle) a more pressing matter. If your "corona-decorating" efforts involve web surfing - and you don't want to wipe out - read on.

Words by: Mike Dion

If someone mentions "the new normal" one more time, you're gonna hurl. Trust me, I get it.

Allow me to rephrase: In light of covid-19, online shopping is "the new preferred method" of home improvement and beautification. By and large, the present state of affairs has led to nothing but net. For millions of pandemic-decorators needing to prep a spare bedroom to care for a relative, set up a home office, or simply spruce up the joint to make quarantine look a little nicer, the internet has become their sole resource.

Buying everyday items online - everything from groceries to gadgets - is for the most part a no-brainer. Ordering furniture and home accents online, not so much. But the widespread reluctance towards going shopping combined with countless brick-and-mortars closing their doors leaves anxious nesters with little more to rely on than a good ol' Google search.

In the absence of the "in-person, touchy-feely, let me check it out first and see if I vibe with it before I commit" experience that a store or showroom visit provides, purchasing furniture off the internet could be something of a crap shoot. Look at it this way: Until the object of your desire arrives, your relationship is solely based on a photo and brief description. And anyone who's tried online dating knows how fast that can go South.

Now, this isn't to say if you buy something from a website and it doesn't meet your expectations, you're unable to return it. In most cases, you can, but do make sure you familiarize yourself with the return policy. You might be SOL as far as getting the shipping and delivery costs refunded, and also you could potentially be charged a restocking fee. Still, that shouldn't hinder your quest for a better nest.

Even so, with all the life challenges we're currently facing, I assume you want to avoid unnecessary hassles and headaches. Wouldn't it be such a huge relief to just get it right the first time?

Hence, here are a few pointers:

Before making a purchase, decide whether it's a short-term gig or if you're in it for the long haul; this enables you to sort through the multitude of options out there and decide how much you're willing to invest. 

Define your style aesthetic, and use appropriate filters - like color, style, shape, and fabric type - when searching. That'll save you from scrolling through endless irrelevant pages to pinpoint the exact piece you're looking for.

Read user reviews. Look for (mostly) positive customer feedback. We all know you can't please everyone, but if most customers are satisfied then you're probably good to go.

What are other consumers saying? Was the quality as expected, better than expected, or a horror show? When the item arrived, did it look exactly like the picture, better than the picture, or nothing even remotely like the picture? If a piece requires assembly, pay attention to what others' experiences were. Was it fairly easy to put together, or do you have to be a rocket scientist? Were the instructions in plain language or hieroglyphics? Were there any missing parts or was everything intact?

Measure, measure, measure; I cannot emphasize this enough. Get out a roll of painter's tape and tape off according to the dimensions of the intended item. Walk through the space holding your measuring tape at the same height of the piece you're considering and make sure it feels in proper scale with the rest of the space.

Take full advantage of your online retailer's support team. Most sites include a phone number (some even offer a live chat feature) to connect you to customer service or a product specialist who can answer your questions and guide you in making the best selection for your particular interior situation.

Oh and hey, while you've got that tape measure handy, double-check your entry and any other passageway through which you plan to move the furniture. The last thing you want on delivery day is to realize that your new sleeper sofa has a snowball's chance in hell of making it past the front door.

Now I know you're all excited that you've found just the thing but I beg you... stop, step away from the screen, and take a few minutes to imagine the piece in your home before clicking the almighty "place my order" button.

Yes, shopping for furniture sight unseen via the internet can be nerve-racking, but it doesn't have to be a guessing game. Proper planning can make all the difference between an all-out catastrophe and a full-blown decorating triumph.

Don't stress. I'm totally here for you.