5 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Shopping Online for Office Furniture

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Never before in the history of the home office has this space been so much in the spotlight.

It’s no longer just a random area where you file your bills, dump off your mail, and display all the books you swear you’ll read one day.

The home office has become, for many in this era of pandemic shutdowns, the main office. Which means a lot of people these days are buying office furniture—and more likely than not (thanks to COVID-19) they’re buying it online.

Don’t get us wrong, buying office furniture online has its perks. You can shop all of the best stores without ever leaving your couch, and you don’t even have to worry about how you’re going to get it all home, since it ships right to your door.

But shopping online has its share of pitfalls too, some of which you might not see coming.

We went to the experts and asked some of our favorite interior designers about the mistakes people make when shopping for office furniture online. Here are the most common blunders to avoid.

1. Overlooking dimensions

Photo by Laura Roberts Design

You may think you know what size office furniture you need for your space, but unless you’ve pulled out the measuring tape, you probably don’t.

“One major mistake consumers make in selecting home office furniture online is overlooking dimensions,” says Lisa Davenport, founder and CEO of LDD Interiors.

“Take a moment to actually measure the space you will be using the furniture in. More often than not, consumers assume they understand scale and space, but even seasoned designers measure twice and order once.”

She adds that one often overlooked measurement is space behind the desk, which is important to “allow a desk chair to freely and comfortably move in and out of the desk.”

2. Incompatible pieces

Photo by Stephanie Brown Inc.

It’s not only important to choose pieces that fit in your space, but also pieces that fit with each other. 

“A desk chair with arms is a comfortable, popular option when people are shopping for a home office. However, they do not always fit under the desk space due to confines of either the desk height or a pencil drawer,” explains Shawn Kronen, founder of Kronen Design Co in Atlanta.

“Be sure you check all of the dimensions of the chair and the desk you are selecting, to make sure they are compatible.”

Interior designer Heather Higgins of Higgins Design Studio agrees.

“One of the unfortunate mistakes made when shopping online for home office furniture is the size of the desk chair,” she says.

It may be too large “for the size of the desk and the overall office space,” she says.

“The scale of the space and its furniture need to work together to prevent it from looking awkward.”

3. Prioritizing style over function

Of course, you want an Instagram-worthy office space, but that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice having a home office you can actually work in.

“Forgoing performance for pretty may be the biggest mistake we can make,” warns Erin Baird, senior interior designer at Hoefer Wysocki.

She gives the example of an office chair, which she says is the most important investment you’ll make in this space.

“An ill-fitting chair can cause neck and back problems, discomfort, and fatigue, which can reduce productivity. It may take a few tries to find the right chair with an online consumer vendor,” she says.

“As an alternative, I suggest going direct to a reputable commercial office furniture manufacturer. While these task chairs may be more expensive, leaders in the that industry offer chairs that are durable, ergonomic, and have longer warranties.”

4. Looking for the best deal

Photo by Victoria Kirk Interiors

Everyone wants to find a great deal when shopping for office furniture online. But according to Baird, this may be a trap.

“There is a balance between budget and quality, and if you’re after the best deal, the quality of the product will probably suffer,” she explains.

“Keep in mind that furnishing a home office is an investment. Functionality, productivity, and physical comfort are as important as aesthetics. Take your time, do your research, and read reviews.”

Remember that if you buy the cheapest pieces and they have to be replaced in a year or two, you’re not really saving any money in the long run.

5. Lacking overall cohesiveness

Photo by Jennifer Radakovic Design

You see a gorgeous desk on one website, and a beautiful bookshelf on another. They look as if they might go together—but do they really? What exact color was that desk again?

Julie Arnold, an interior designer at J. Raine Design, says one of the biggest issues she sees when homeowners buy office furniture online is that the finished room lacks cohesiveness.

“If you’re shopping online, I suggest making some sort of document showing pictures of all the furniture you’re buying with dimensions,” she suggests.

“I can always tell when a piece was an afterthought or a quick buy that was not accounted for in the beginning planning stages.”

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Pandemic Purge! 8 Things To Declutter From Your Apocalypse Stockpile

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It’s been a crazy year, and if recent events have put your hoarding habits into overdrive, well, you’d be forgiven. After a weird spring and even weirder summer, you’re not the only one who’s been compiling random stacks of stuff “just in case.”

Takeout containers, Amazon boxes, used paper masks, and even wooden chopsticks are among the offenders that have taken up seemingly permanent residency in our homes.

That’s why we spoke with home organization and tiny-living experts from all over the country to bring you this list of things that it’s time to ditch. If you’re ready to say buh-bye to your apocalypse stockpile, here are eight things to toss, for the ultimate pandemic purge.

1. Office clothing

Summer is always a good time to go through old clothing, and that’s especially true this season. With so many of us working from home, you may find your closet overflowing with things you can’t imagine ever wearing again—even when (or if) the office does open up.

“Going through clothing before each season creates awareness of the items you already own, but may have forgotten,” says home organizer Katie Barton, of Cabin Lane. “Trash any clothing that has holes or stains and sell or donate the rest.”

If you have a lot to get rid of, Barton says she’s had great success selling clothing in “bundles” through Facebook Marketplace or in local consignment shops.

Sell or donate: Sell your unwanted clothes online, or find the nearest drop box to donate them.

2. Excess canned goods

Photo by Abundance Organizing

Remember when it felt as if we might never be able to shop for fresh veggies again?

With grocery stores mostly back to full stock, it’s time to get rid of some of those extra canned goods you’ve been storing these past few months—especially the expired or unappetizing ones (we see you, store-brand SpaghettiOs).

“Your pantry is probably looking a bit in need of help right now,” says Jen Breitegan, owner of Organizenvy.

“How many cans of crushed pineapple or kidney beans do you have left? I’m betting quite a few. Be honest about the canned and boxed items you bought in a panic but your family didn’t eat, and then donate them to local food banks.”

Donate: Find your closest food bank with Feeding America.

3. All the takeout freebies

When restaurants went to takeout and delivery only, it wasn’t just the excess food that filled our kitchens. Free utensils, plastic bags, condiment packets, and the takeout containers they all came in—and we’re betting you still have quite a few of those things lying around.

“I’ve heard of people hoarding paper napkins and plastic eating utensils they receive with takeout orders,” says Breitegan. “Again, be honest about how many sets of chopsticks your family really needs, and see if you can cut your stash by at least half.”

Recycle: Free up some of your cabinet space by recycling any takeout extras you (realistically) won’t ever need.

4. Pandemic reads

We all had high ambitions when the stay-at-home orders started—like finally reading Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time” or learning how to expertly debone quail, thanks to a library of recent cookbooks. But if all those hefty volumes have been sitting gathering dust for months, it may be time to store, sell, or donate them.

“Books take up lots of space, and can start to smell and leave a musty scent in a room if left for too long,” says Christine Wilcox of LettingGoLivingMore.

“I love the feel of a real book in my hand, but I only keep those that are really important to me. Everything else goes to the thrift shop for someone else to enjoy.”

Donate: Go through your book collection and put together a box for donation to your local library or favorite (used) bookseller.

5. Items from unfulfilled hobbies

Much like the books, you also probably had high hopes for the many ambitious new hobbies you’d take on during lockdown. Knitting?  Guitar? Competitive Quidditch?  Snow-globe making? If you’re more of a Netflix all-star, like us, it might be time to own up to it and free up the space for more useful things.

“If you’ve been able to leave the house to play a sport and still haven’t done so, maybe it’s time to accept that the dusty tennis racket is never going to get used,” says Wilcox. “Sell old sporting equipment or donate to a local school, and use the space for the new hobbies in your life.”

Sell or donate: Post your stuff on Facebook Marketplace to sell, or consider making a donation to your local youth center or school.

6. Busted art and office supplies

Photo by NEAT Method 

“It’s not uncommon for parents to end up with baskets full of broken crayons, eraserless pens, and markers missing the caps,” says Barton.

“Throw out the things that don’t work, so that you know what needs to be replaced. This is also a good rainy-day activity for kids.”

Trash: Do yourself (and little ones) a favor by purging any busted office and art supplies, and free up some of that at-home office space in time for the school year ahead.

7. Old cosmetics

If your former beauty regimen has gone the au naturel route in the past few months, it’s probably a good time to reassess which cosmetics you actually need in your bathroom, and which ones are ready to be tossed.

“Go through old makeup, especially anything that’s expired,” says Lindsey Maxwell, co-founder at Where You Make It. “You might not want to waste it, but using expired makeup could cause breakouts and other skin issues.”

Recycle: Pull out your old makeup and cosmetics, and then send those little plastic tubs straight to the recycling bin.

8. Delivery packaging

Since Amazon and other online stores have been getting so much of our business this past few months, it’s worth taking a minute to assess how much packaging you may still have lying around. Bubble Wrap and cardboard boxes won’t really help in any emergency situation we can think of, so it’s best to just toss them now.

“It may seem wasteful to throw away perfectly good boxes, but as they collect, infestation can occur,” says Leanne Stapf, chief operating officer for The Cleaning Authority. “Mice, bed bugs, and even raccoons can find their way to any appealing pile of trash, turning your garage into their home.”

Recycle: Take all those empty boxes and throw them into the recycling bin ASAP!

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Prepping for a Hurricane During a Pandemic: How to Get Your Home Ready and Gather the Necessary Supplies

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If contending with a global pandemic, murder hornets, and a slew of other disasters that 2020 decided to throw at us wasn’t enough, hurricane season is now in full swing.

The Atlantic hurricane season typically lasts from June to November, and peaks from late August through September. This year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is anticipating above-normal activity. Its Climate Prediction Center has forecasted 13 to 19 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which six to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including three to six major hurricanes (Category 3, 4, or 5, with winds of 111 mph or higher).

As we’ve learned from years past, preparation is key. But this can feel like a daunting task, especially in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many resources and supplies are limited.

However, there are some key things you can do to ensure your home is protected.

Prep your home early

Shopping in the days before a storm can be worse than braving Black Friday crowds. Items are in high demand, and time is short. So prepare your home early, especially when it comes to big-ticket items.

Lowe’s Carolina Coast district manager, Sean Reilly, says certain items are the first to go when a storm is announced.

“Generators are obviously a big one, and knowing how to use them properly is important,” Reilly says.

While Reilly says Lowe’s has plans in place to expedite orders of safety supplies in the event of a hurricane, it’s always best to stock up as early as you can.

There are some items you can even buy in advance of storm season, such as plywood for your windows or hurricane shutters.

“We can actually cut plywood to your specifications and have it delivered to your home,” Reilly says.

If you’re anticipating a major cleanup in your yard or home, it’s wise to stock up on lawn equipment, trash bags, mold spray, and cleaning supplies.

Keep in mind that the pandemic has had an impact on home improvement stores, many of which have stayed open throughout quarantine. Many folks are using their time at home to work on indoor and outdoor projects, and standard items are in high demand.

“I’ve certainly spoken to more homeowners who are doing projects around their house right now,” Reilly says.

Do your projects now

If you’ve been putting off home repairs, now might be the time to do them. Of course, landscaping your flower bed should wait if heavy rains are expected, so think of the things you can do to protect your home.

“Your roof is your first line of defense from a rain standpoint,” Reilly says. “Maybe you’ve ignored some warning signs—discoloration on your walls or ceilings inside—that you could fix up. Doing so can make sure your roof can withstand not only the rains but also the winds that can be damaging.”

Make sure your gutters are clean and correctly positioned to direct storm runoff away from your home and to the right parts of the yard.

And if windows are damaged or not well-insulated, have them looked at.

Finally, take spring cleaning to heart—regardless of the actual season. Reilly says it’s the perfect time to organize places like your garage or basement, which likely house valuable items at risk of storm damage.

“You can take care of family heirlooms, photos from weddings, kids’ pictures, anything you can put in a bin or plastic tote, and store up high in the event that water does get into your home,” he says.

Get a checklist for little items, too.

“This is the worst time in the world to find out that the batteries in your flashlight don’t work, or you don’t have emergency candles, or you don’t have a cooler when your refrigerator stopped working,” Reilly says.

In short, buy these items early.

“It’s about expecting the unexpected and planning for what could happen instead of what you hope happens,” he says.

Consider a major investment

It can be easy to make excuses for why certain home improvement projects aren’t priorities. Many are costly and involve a lot of time and effort.

But prepping for a hurricane season before it begins each year means tackling those bigger projects head-on. A great example is with impact windows.

“Impact windows are designed, engineered, and manufactured to withstand severe coastal weather conditions, offering the greatest protection for your coastal home,” says Melissa Meyers, product Manager for Andersen Windows & Doors in Bayport, MN.

Even if your home never sees another storm, impact windows are good insulators, which means saving money on your power bill throughout the year.

Prices vary based on your home and the scope of the work, but expect to spend several thousand dollars to replace your windows. The good news? You won’t need to buy hurricane shutters, and the windows bring added value to your home—and bring you peace of mind.

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6 Mistakes Everyone Makes Shopping Online for Area Rugs

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Buying furniture and home decor online is a massive advance in convenience. You can see a vast selection without wearing out your legs walking down endless aisles, and the items you choose show up right to your door without the hassle of transporting them there yourself.

But when you’re shopping online for area rugs, one of the easiest decor pieces you can use to refresh your look, remember that there are pitfalls. It’s not as easy as finding something pretty on sale and clicking “add to cart.”

We talked to interior designers about the biggest mistakes people make when shopping for area rugs online, and they had some whoppers to share. Make sure you skip these missteps the next time you’re trying to fancy up your floors.

1. Not measuring your area

Photo by Von Fitz Design

It may sound like common sense, but not everyone reaches for the measuring tape when buying an area rug online. You know your space, you know what size will fit best, right? Wrong.

“One of the main things we see is when people do not properly measure out the space. They end up just going off the room size and estimating in their head, and it usually doesn’t work out well,” says Bre Hance, CEO and founder of InHance Interiors. “We suggest using painter’s tape to map it out on the floor to be absolutely sure the rug fits.”

2. Going too small

Photo by HOME Stagers, Inc.

Even if you’ve measured your space, you’re still at risk of buying a rug that’s too small if you haven’t planned out your space just right.“The general rule of thumb is you want at least the front legs of all your furniture to sit on the rug. You don’t want to see the floor in between the rug and your sofa,” says Rachel Alcorn, owner and principal of Two Hands Interiors in Chicago. “If you fall in love with a rug that is technically too small, you can always layer it over a larger natural-fiber rug made of sea grass or jute.”

If you can’t find the exact size you want, Devin Shaffer, Decorilla’s lead interior designer, says it’s better to go too big than too small.

“Yes, there may be some sticker shock with going a size up, but as long as it fits and exposes at least 8 inches of the flooring below, it’s going to transform your space and make the room feel more complete,” he says. “Undersized rugs have a shrinking effect on a space and instantly compete with the scale of surrounding furnishings.”

3. Not paying attention to the materials

Photo by BARRETT STUDIO architects

When selecting a rug for your space, your first focus, of course, is on the design. If you were at a brick-and-mortar store, the next thing you would probably do is reach out and feel the rug—and maybe reach for the label—to see exactly what it’s made of.

Interior designer Jenny Dina Kirschner, principal of JDK Interiors, says this is a step that often gets missed online.

“With the abundance of rug design options online, I find the focus to typically be on the aesthetic qualities of the rug and not on the actual content of the rug,” she says.

The content of the rug can affect not only how it wears, but also whether it will stain easily, how easy it is to clean, and how it will feel under your feet, she explains.

“I often tell friends to first filter their rug searches by material when possible. You might need to do a bit of online research to know which rug material is right for your needs.”

4. Not checking the pile height

Photo by Best & Company

If you’re buying an area rug to add a soft surface to wood or tile floors, you’ll really want to pay attention to the pile height—the thickness of a rug from the surface to the backing.

“The biggest mix-up we see is people thinking the rug is going to be supersoft. This is not always the case,” says Nick Bond of Renovation 320. “If you want a rug that you can [lie] on with your kids, try looking for an area rug with a high pile height. This gives the rug a more plushy feel and is way more comfortable.”

You’ll also want to note this for high-traffic areas like hallways, where high-pile heights can lead to tripping hazards or even prevent doors from opening properly.

5. Not ordering a swatch

Photo by Mary Hannah Interiors

If you’re ordering an area rug from Target or Amazon, you’ll likely be unable to procure a swatch before you commit to a purchase. If you’re buying from a higher-end store (and likely spending a lot more money), getting a swatch is definitely something you should consider, according to Jill Valeri, owner of the Welcome Home: Interior Design Solutions.

“Whenever possible, order a swatch,” she advises. “There are two things that are extremely difficult to determine from your computer screen: the true colors of the rug and the texture of the pile.”

Even if you have to pay for the swatch, it’s worth it to make sure you’re not wasting a lot more of your hard-earned cash on the whole rug.

If a swatch isn’t available, there may still be a way to get a sneak peek.

“If you cannot find a brick-and-mortar store nearby that sells the rug you’re considering, then it may be wise to order the smallest version of the rug first,” says Ariel Richardson, founder of ASR Design Studio in San Diego, CA. That way, “you can see how the colors and texture look in person before you commit to a bigger size and have to deal with the hassle of a large return by mail.”

6. Not making sure it’s returnable

Photo by nuLOOM

No matter how diligent you are about making sure the rug you’re choosing is just right, you’re never going to know what it looks like in your room until it’s actually in your room. If you’ve chosen a rug that’s not easily returnable, that may be a big issue.

“Ideally, you can order a few returnable options online to view in your home with your particular combination of natural lighting and furniture,” says Alcorn.

Interior designer Sara Chwatt of SBC Interiors agrees.

“Always shop somewhere that you can return for free,” she says. “Rugs are large, heavy items. Returning one can be costly.”

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Rain Barrels: The Money-Saving, Eco-Friendly DIY Project Your Garden Needs

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There’s never been a better time to stay at home and work on your summer garden. And what if we told you there was a DIY addition you could tackle right now that would save you money and make your outdoor space more eco-friendly?

It’s true—and this amazing solution is called a rain barrel. We spoke with gardening experts from all over the country to learn more about rain barrels, and why every gardening enthusiast should have one. Here’s what we found out.

What is a rain barrel?

A rain barrel is exactly what it sounds like: a large drum barrel that catches rain. That water can be reused in outdoor projects, such as irrigating the lawn or garden, washing home exteriors, and even rinsing off your car. Some people make their own, but more often they’ll just purchase a plastic container such as a garbage can and modify it.

And while catching rain may sound slow and tedious, most people don’t just put a barrel in their yard and hope for the best. Instead, they’ll position their rain barrels to catch the most water possible—say, under a roof or gutter drain.

“A rain barrel is a great solution for collecting rainwater directly from the gutters that would otherwise be wasted or lost into the ground,” says Holly Maguire of Simple Lawn Solutions.

Many gardeners prefer using rainwater to irrigate their plants.

“Some plants actually prefer rainwater [to] groundwater due to the fact that groundwater can be harder and contain more minerals,” Maguire says.

But, she warns that collected rainwater shouldn’t be used for drinking, and gardeners should be cautious when using it on edible plants and veggies.

“A drawback of the rainwater is that it flows off your roof, so it’s possible for it to pick up anything from your roof on the way down,” Maguire says.

But for all your flowers, lawn, and other outdoor water needs, rain barrels are a great solution—and they come with a few other perks as well.

Rain barrels protect the environment

These nifty barrels don’t just allow you to conserve water and reuse what might otherwise be wasted. They also help protect nearby lakes and reservoirs from contamination, since rain runoff absorbs chemicals used in gardening and then goes into the storm drains, which lead to bodies of water.

“Rain barrels have become a common sight around Lake Champlain in Vermont,” says David Parsons, president and owner of Re/Max North Professionals. “Stormwater runoff has a significant negative impact on our treasured lake and other watersheds, so catching it can help mitigate this problem.”

Rain barrels save you money

In addition to helping with water conservation and preserving natural resources, rain barrels will also save you quite a bit of money.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American family uses 320 gallons of water per day, roughly 30% of which goes toward outdoor uses. Of that, more than half is used for watering lawns and gardens. By capturing some of that unused rainwater, you can both lower your monthly bills and minimize your water consumption, so that’s a win-win.

How to build your own rain barrel

Before getting started designing your perfect rain barrel, you’ll want to check with your local municipality or HOA to make sure it’s allowed. While many places do allow rain barrels (and some even encourage it), it’s a good idea to check before committing yourself.

With that out of the way, you’ll be ready to start designing the best rain barrel for your needs.

“Any design will work,” says Seth Samuelson, co-owner of the SeCa Hose Holder.

Most rain barrel systems involve the same elements, he observes: a storage tank, a valve system (at the bottom), an overflow pipe (at the top), and some sort of hatch on top with a screened grate to filter any large particles.

The biggest differentiator will be your budget, although most barrels can be built for less than $100, and some can even be done for just $15. That being said, we like this easy and affordable midrange model from ManMade DIY.

When it comes to tips for your build, Samuelson recommends using a table or other sturdy surface below your barrel.

“My best tip is to also build a sturdy table to elevate the tank,” he says. “This is important because you’ll be able to have ample room below to access the faucet more easily.”

The bottom line

Whether you’re an avid gardener or even just a fanatic about keeping your car clean, there are plenty of ways to put your captured rainwater to good use.

“Anybody that has a garden, lawn, or uses water for cleaning and household chores can benefit from a rain barrel,” says Maguire. “Because of the potential of conservation and positive impact on the environment, it’s really a no-brainer. Everyone should have one.”

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