The Biggest Online Decor Shopping Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

by Kate McKenna (originally appeared on

The internet is a mecca for home-decor lovers. When you’re shopping online, it doesn’t matter where you live because your options are no longer restricted to whatever is in driving distance.

And in addition to having all those furniture and decor varieties available at your fingertips, who doesn’t love being able to decorate their entire apartment without even leaving the couch?

But shopping online isn’t always as straightforward as the real thing, as Orlando Soria knows. Orlando holds the title of premier designer at Homepolish, a full-service interior design website, and we spoke to him to find out what mistakes most people make when online decor shopping and how to avoid them.

Mistake one: Not considering scale

Orlando identifies scale as the No. 1 mistake people make when shopping for home products online. “This is something that happens not only with furniture, but with accessories.” Don’t assume that you can tell an accent table’s proportions or the size of a floor lamp just by looking at the images on a website.

Solution: Measure

It’s impossible to tell how big something is without knowing its measurements, so be sure to check the product information on the website you’re shopping. If you’re really not sure how a piece is going to fit into your space, Orlando recommends making a mock-up out of cardboard with the same dimensions so you know just how much space it will take up and where it might fit in the room.

Mistake two: Judging fabric by the picture

As Orlando notes, colour and texture can be hard to read online. Sometimes items photograph more blue than they are, so keep that in mind when doing any online shopping. Just because a fabric looks perfect in the picture doesn’t mean it will translate well into your space.

Solution: Order swatches

Whether you’re shopping for upholstered furniture, throws, or even fabric itself, see if you can order swatches before you make a big purchase. This is also true for any fabric that has a pattern, as Orlando says: “Seeing the scale in person completely changes the way your eye reads the pattern, so I wouldn’t purchase a fabric without having a swatch of it.”

Mistake three: Forgetting about maintenance

Thinking about purchasing a lacquered piece of furniture for your busy house? You might want to reconsider. “People might make a choice based on style that isn’t necessarily based on the practicality of the item because they’re not there looking at it.” An item like lacquered furniture can scratch and dent easily, Orlando says, so consider whether a piece like that is good for your space.

Solution: Think practically

Before making a purchase, try to think about how it fits into your lifestyle. If you have kids, are they likely to damage your brand-new coffee table or expensive shag rug? Does white furniture usually end up looking beaten and worn in your home? Try to look at these items objectively, like you would in a store.

Mistake four: Assuming quality

Much like colour and pattern, Orlando says that it’s hard to tell the quality of a piece of furniture from an image. A piece of furniture might look sturdy or well made in a professionally styled picture, but the reality may be different. While this is always a bit of a risk when shopping online, it’s not impossible to avoid.

Solution: Read the specs

Never assume that the product you’re ordering is made of high-quality materials, especially if the price seems too good to be true. “You need to check, is that a bonded leather chair or real, genuine leather? Little things like that make a huge difference in terms of how the product reads in real life,” Orlando says. Make sure you read the specifications listed on the website and identify exactly what the piece is made of.

Mistake five: Not thinking of the space as a whole

Quite often when people shop online, they’re wooed by furniture or accessories that aren’t necessarily a great look for their space. Because there are so many options in terms of home decor when shopping online, it’s easy to lose focus and get distracted by pieces you wouldn’t usually consider. As Orlando says, “You really want to think about how all of these objects are going to coalesce in a room together and create a space that feels cohesive.”

Solution: Make a mood board

“Create a mood board for yourself, and that can help you figure out if the purchase you’re about to make makes sense with the design of your home,” Orlando suggests. It could be something as simple as printing off pictures of the furniture you have and putting them next to pictures of the furniture you’re shopping for or even creating a Pinterest board. If they don’t work together, don’t buy them!

Mistake six: Impulse buying

We’ve all been there: it’s late at night and you’re browsing the internet for home decor deals, glass of wine in hand, when you spot something you just have to have. Impulse buying is a huge mistake when shopping for home decor, especially larger pieces. While you may be swayed by free shipping or limited-time deals, these are not necessarily great reasons for buying a new sofa or accent chair.

Solution: Do your research

Orlando cautioned against making impulsive buying decisions. “Never rush your decisions, do your research, and really look around and make sure what you’re buying is really the best option for you and that you’re giving it some time.” He recommended Googling first the product you’re looking at to see if any design bloggers have had success with it. And at the very least, check the return policy before you make any big purchases.

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