Furniture stores offer free in-home design consultations


Clipping magazine pages and book marking sites is good place to start to style your home. But wouldn't it be great if you had a professional designing your home for free? Now, there may be a way.

Shows like Home with Lisa Quinn on The Live Well Network are fueling many people's passion for a well-designed home. But not everyone can afford a high priced interior designer.

Amanda Hippe of San Francisco was shopping at West Elm in Emeryville for a couch when she was enticed to do more when she was offered a free, in-home design.

"It always helps to have an extra, kinda professional eye there," Hippe said. "I feel like I have pretty good aesthetics, but it's great to have the design professional and if you can get it for free too, I mean, why not?"

The good news is that many furniture stores now offer free in-home design, with no minimum or purchase required.

Grace Man works as a designer for West Elm

"We assist our clients," Man said. "Whether they're looking for decorating ideas, simple party planning, even to a whole home project."

Ethan Allen, Lazy Boy, Pottery Barn and EQ3 also are just a few of the stores that offer a free in-home design service.

Not all stores send out trained interior design consultants. West Elm uses trained designers and employees who know the merchandise and have good design sense.

Ethan Allen says they only hire professional trained in-home designers. Meghan Kearney works in their Corte Madera store.

"I am an interior designer," she said. "I did go to college for interior design."

All the stores we talked with include design elements in their plan beyond furniture, like accessories and wall color suggestions.

Many will even suggest items from other stores.

"If there's something that we don't carry, we absolutely would direct them to another store," says La-Z-Boy designer Sherry Crum.

Crum manages La-Z-Boy in Emeryville. She says the store has much more than just recliners and they can design all the rooms in a house.

Most stores have partnerships and sister stores. West Elm's parent company is Williams-Sonoma.

"We can design with West Elm, Pottery Barn, Rejuvenation," Man said.

All the stores send out designers to take room measurements and to get a sense of their customer's style and needs.

"What I like to do first is get in to the home, interview the client, and then setup the floor plan and do some measurements," Kearney said.

At the end of the process, clients end up with a floor plan with furniture and accessory suggestions and where to place them.

All these services are free. Of course, the stores would like you to buy their furniture, but you have no obligation.

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