3 Things to Consider When Designing a Piece of Furniture Online

Tips for Designing Furniture Online

Browsing home decor websites is one of my favourite pastimes. And I especially love the custom design functions, which allow you to mock-up pieces of furniture in your choice of fabrics and finishings.

I ordered a large proportion of my furniture from online brands, when I moved into my apartment last year. And, if I’m completely honest, it took me a while to perfect the shopping process.

Here I’m sharing my 3 top tips for designing furniture online, so hopefully you’ll get it right the first time around…

Tips for Designing Furniture Online

1. Swatches, Swatches and more Swatches

Let’s start with the most important thing I’ve learnt… Don’t trust how something looks on a computer screen and always order fabric samples.

It’s so much fun to scroll through different colour options online, and see your chosen piece of furniture digitally upholstered in your favourite textile. But loving how something appears on the screen doesn’t guarantee you’ll feel that way when you see your design in real life.

A prime example: I ordered my Loaf bed in “old rose vintage velvet” purely based on how the mock-up looked on their website. It didn’t even occur to me to order fabric samples! And although I do still love the bed, had I looked at swatches beforehand I probably would have made a different choice (depending on the light, the rose velvet can look more orange than pink).

So before committing to a design you’ve created online, first order a bunch of fabric swatches. Look at the fabrics in daylight and during the evening to check how it holds up as the light changes. And also check that the colour works well with your existing furniture.

Initially I thought I’d order the Darcy chair from sofa.com [pictured throughout this post] in a cerulean polka dot. But once I had that fabric sample in hand I quickly vetoed the choice and went for a more minimalist grey.

Home Office Inspiration West Elm Desk

Desk chair by Sofa.com (gift) | Desk by West Elm | Fabric swatches by Sofa.com | Plant from IKEA | Vase by Sainsbury’s Home (past season) | Signet ring by Astley Clarke (gift)

2. Mock up your floor plan

This is a trick that I picked up from LivingEtc magazine, and it really helped me when I was furnishing my apartment, last year.

Use masking tape to map out the full dimensions of potential purchases before ordering. Having the shape and size mapped out accurately on the floor will allow you to see exactly how the design will sit in the room. You can then walk around your imaginary console table or day bed and see how it will feel in that space.

Dimensions that seemed realistic when you first measured them out might actually be too large once you place them into the room. And no one likes a cramped space!

3. Think outside the box

E-commerce sites are designed to make the customer shopping experience as simple as possible. So furniture will be placed into clear categories (usually organised by room). But don’t be afraid to think outside of the box and stray into a different design tab.

For example, if you’re searching for a set of dining chairs but can’t find a style you like perhaps you could look at a storage bench and mis-matched cushions instead? And if you can’t find the perfect sofa bed a pull-out bed in a footstool might be a better option for you.

Branch outside the designated shopping categories, and you might find the perfect piece of furniture for your home!

After all, the Darcy chair from sofa.com was filed away in their dining range, but ended up being the perfect proportions for my desk…

Do you have any top tips for designing furniture online? Comment below with any hacks you’ve picked up over the years…

Photos by Kylie Eyra


  1. Michelle says:

    These are such useful tips Ella! Especially the one about using masking tape to map out where furniture might sit. We’ve been considering getting ahead of the game and ordering large pieces of furniture in advance, but actually it *might* be worth me waiting until the keys are in my hands before I go all out!

    Michelle / Daisybutter

    • Ella Gregory says:

      Hi Michelle.

      Yes, I would definitely suggest waiting until you’re in (or asking to do an hour’s visit where you can measure everything out first?), as you might find once you’re in the space you actually want to use the space in a different way than you first imagined.


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