In the age of instant gratification—bottomless TV binges on demand, dinners delivered to your doorstep 40 minutes after you place the order—Covid-related delays and prolonged lead times have been especially trying for designers and their eager clients. “We are having such a hard time getting stock!” says Hermosa Beach, California, designer Kate Lester. On one hand, the supply chain disruptions are very real hurdles for retailers and vendors—read all about why that’s the case, here—but on the other hand, nobody wants to wait for their promised pieces.
Decorators are, by nature, inventive. After all, this is a career where unexpected visual wizardry is not just encouraged but celebrated). So naturally, they’ve figured out workarounds. Here, designers reveal how they’re sourcing and supplying pieces in the face of unimaginable delays.
Give Existing Pieces an Upgrade
“If the client has an existing sofa and is open to it, we suggest reimagining that sofa in a new (in stock) fabric and have our custom furniture workroom not only recover the sofa, but also refashion it by converting the arm from a rolled arm to a track arm, modifying the base to a hover base, or changing the leg style. A talented workroom can transform the sofa into a totally new style, using the same frame but altering it. And it is done locally, where we can have more control over the logistics.” —Marlaina Teich, Marlaina Teich Designs, Merrick, New York
“We have always sourced vintage, but we are definitely leaning into more of that these days—including sourcing vintage upholstered pieces and reupholstering them. We steer clear of most big-box stores and traditional wholesale vendors, as those seem to be the most heavily impacted by delays. [For example,] we purchased dining chairs from West Elm and were going to reupholster them, but they keep getting pushed back. It’s been 6 months and counting. RH medicine cabinets are also delayed—we’ve been waiting 7 months so far.” —Heidi Caillier, Heidi Caillier Design, Seattle, Washington
“Many times, an item may show ‘in stock’ and still not arrive for several months and occasionally, not at all. For clients on a timeline, we shop local sources that sell from their floor or have stock of certain items or even clearance on slightly damaged items that can be repaired. In addition, we are shopping more than ever from sources like Facebook marketplace, Goodwill, and Habitat for Humanity, or suggesting ‘up-cycling’ existing pieces. Just the other day, I suggested that a client paint their dresser and nightstand and change its hardware, rather than replace it all together.” —Jessica Davis, JL Design, Nashville, Tennessee
Source from Unexpected Places
“We look for sofas and chairs that showrooms have on the floor that are for sale, [because] many showrooms are purchasing a lot of things in advance in anticipation of designers looking for things for clients. Also, we are looking for items that are Quick Ship, which usually have an 8 or so week timeline.” —Sarah Stacey, Sarah Stacey Interior Design, Austin, Texas
“We decided to contact high-end hotels that we know use top-brand custom furniture, and have been able to buy entire loads of good-quality antiques from them, including 30-40 antique dining chairs, about 25 armchairs, and 20 benches. They are all adorned with dated fabrics, and one of the only things we can get right now is good quality new fabrics, so we are bringing new life to all of the pieces by upholstering them with new, beautiful fabrics.” —Cara Fox, The Fox Group, Holladay, Utah
“I have bought floor models to avoid long lead times, which I normally wouldn’t do. For a recent project, the black bed I wanted was only in stock in unfinished wood. Rather than waiting for the bed I wanted, I ordered what was available and had someone stain it on site. I actually love it even more now!” —Amalia Graziani, Noor Property Group, New York, New York
Be Strategic About Long-Lead Purchases
“One of the biggest delays right now for our procurement department is foam shortages. So any product that requires foam will be delayed—period. Our strategy is to get those upholstery pieces nailed down in the design ASAP and get those quickly into production. We started having all of our upholstery pieces custom made locally, as those lead times were much better than other vendors we have custom ordered through in the past.” —Kim Armstrong, Kim Armstrong Design, Rockwall, Texas
“With the huge uptick in design projects, one of the biggest challenges I have as an independent designer is finding the time to source products, figure out lead times, find a competitive price for my client, and then track orders, which are usually delayed these days. I seek out online sites, like Design Trade Service, that provide me with one point of contact for all the above and ultimately save me days, not hours, of time.” —Shannon Adamson, Shannon Adamson Interior Design, Lynnwood, Washington
“We are very loyal to our vendors and that has paid off. We were able to negotiate with our upholstery vendor to get an 18 week lead time vs their new 36 week lead time due to the amount of business we send to them. Same with our plumbing and appliance vendor. They are prioritizing our orders and also providing us with temporary items should things not be in on time.” —Lauren Lerner, Living With Lolo, Scottsdale, Arizona
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