The big blue sofa I fell in love with is still taunting me from the Anthropologie on Southport. It’s just as well, since Brandon and I hadn’t even thought about moving when I was first considering the sofa. It would be foolish to buy a big piece of furniture now, not knowing for sure if we’ll get the house we’re hoping for. (Maybe that’s a good thing, and the timing will work out? We’ll see.) I have had a lot of luck in furnishing with floor models in the past though. When I mentioned waiting, and hoping for the sofa to go on sale, some of you asked if I had any tips.
I do, indeed! The media stand in our living room was a floor sample that I bought in 2006 from west elm. It had a big scratch across the top, which didn’t bother us because back then we had a big TV (photo below) that covered the whole thing. We’ve had a flat screen on top for a few years now, and even though the scratch is still there (obviously), we don’t notice it.
The orange patterned chair you see above was a floor sample too. I spotted it at Anthropologie, inquired about it, and nicely asked if I could buy the model off the floor. I took it home that evening. Last year, I’d noticed and liked the Blythe chair in the store (clearly I have a thing for seating from Anthro). A few weeks later, I spotted a 2″ tear in the upholstery, so I asked about buying it at a discount. I got it for half-off, but made sure I could return it if I was unable to mend the tear. I patched it up, good as new, and the chair has been a happy addition to my living room. I sold the orange chair on Craigslist and made enough for it to be a nearly even swap.
Sometimes it pays to be patient and wait for that item you’re coveting to come up as a floor sample. This means you have to be OK with it disappearing though, and possibly losing out on getting it at all. Other times, it’s all about spotting a good deal, knowing where it will work in your home, and pouncing on it right away. I think that’s the case more often than not, and you have to be able to make quick decisions while avoiding that terrible buyer’s remorse feeling. Furnishing with floor samples is really a lot like buying through flash sale shopping sites in that way, but with the benefit of being able to see the item in person.
Now, that’s what has worked for me, but I also called around to ask store managers about their standard policies regarding floor models. I stuck mostly to the usual suspects of nationwide stores so that the post would be helpful for more people. Here’s what they had to say…
Tips on Scoring Floor Models, from Store Managers
Design Within Reach (DWR) sells classics, so there isn’t a lot of turnover from season to season, but the best time to start looking is when seasons change. They’re packed with outdoor furniture right now, so they’ll sell it at the end of the season, and that’s when a lot of floor samples will go (regular items too, not just from the summer line). Late fall is another good time to check in with them. They redo their floor layout when they make changes and anything deemed a floor sample will be available at 30-50% off, with further mark downs every two weeks at 10% increments. You can call the studios and ask what they have available. They will take their name and number, but something like an Eames lounger is likely never going to be a floor sample. Don’t be too wishful in your thinking!
Jayson Home & Garden has a big sale twice a year. The next will likely be in July, but the biggest is in the second week of November, when they have a massive warehouse sale. It’s like the notorious Filene’s bridal sale with a mad dash for the dresses, but at Jayson’s you can expect a couple hundred design fans waiting outside for the doors to open. They sell overstock, or things that came in differently from what they were expecting. To be notified, sign up for the newsletter list and wait for the sale announcement. If you can’t make it in person, you can call to ask about what made it to the sale, but remember that most of the really good stuff is going to get scooped up in person right away.
Pottery Barn has seasonal floor sets, with usually two or three floor set changes per year. Major furniture changes happen going into summer, and again going into fall, so late February/March, and again in August is when they’d have the most floor models available. Customers can always inquire about a certain piece, and the stores will sometimes keep an informal list with a customer’s name and information in case they do go on sale.
Anthropologie has two types of floor models. The first are found OOAK objects, and those can always be sold. As for furniture, if it’s available to order online, they aren’t supposed to sell the floor model. When it’s out of stock or damaged, they can then sell theirs, usually at a discount because it’s worn. They do need approval to sell, and their furniture doesn’t go on sale often.
Crate & Barrel has a final sale cart with smaller floor samples (like small appliances or decor) year-round, with items that are damaged but still usable. They change their store floor plan twice a year, and January and July is when there are a lot of samples marked down due to wear and tear or being discontinued. They also clear pieces out when they are the last of their kind. Prices are non-negotiable, but furniture is deliverable or you can take it home with you. Tags will note damage, and the price will reflect it. Mark downs will continue to drop in price each week. Naperville’s outlet sells them year round, based on returns from the warehouse.
The Land of Nod holds on to everything to sell right before the holidays as more of an event, and to clear space for holiday decor and toys. You can also visit the outlet in Naperville, right next to Crate & Barrel, to purchase returns and overstock from the warehouse.
Room & Board has one catalog that comes out every January, and that collection is in the stores through the whole year. Prices are held steady and they do not have sales, but on December 26, they always have a big clearance event. Discontinued furniture is available online and in stores, and floor models in the store are marked down further than the online because they were sat on or walked on (rugs). Each year the percentage changes — sometimes up to 60%, but more often in the 30-50% off range. They don’t keep a list of customers interested in floor samples, so you need to be ready to check in yourself to see what’s available. Scope out the store and know where the things you like are located, so you can make a beeline for the items you’re interested in.
Good luck to those of you on the hunt! Any other tips that have worked for you? I’d love to hear ’em. I’ll be right here, patiently waiting for both the blue sofa and the right house to put it in.