Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ordering Furniture Online ~ What Happens When A Surprise Arrives

UPDATE: Originally I didn't mention the source of this table because I didn't want to be snarky, but I can't even begin to tell you how many people have written me for more detailed information on how to refinish this same table that also arrived at their homes with a terribly rough surface and a less than flattering green tinge that in no way resembles all the images online. So, dear Restoration Hardware, I think I might have to start charging you for my services!

I'm attempting to figure out how to write this post so I don't leave you completely confused. The pictures don't tell the story. 

I am in the process of turning my dining room into a dining room. Brilliant I know, this space had previously housed a piano. One of the first tasks was to find a very long table to fill the space. Anything too short and it would be out of proportion in an area which is open to both the living room and entry. Wonderfully I found the perfect piece, solid wood featuring a worn finish...which is ideal when you have kids! And extending up to 10 feet long, can't you just imagine the large dinner parties that could be hosted?! Also, the light weathered oak finish fell in line beautifully with the soft color palette I have planned for the space.


When ordering online there are several factors to consider. First is size, and that I nailed. Next is quality, so it is best to order from companies with a proven track record and make sure to research the specific item to see if there have been any complaints. I encountered no red flags. Finally, order swatches if available. In this case that was not an option, so I intently scrutinized all pictures I could find of the item and placed a call to inquire in more detail about both its construction and finish. With all this done to my satisfaction, along with a sale running, I placed an order.


I love it. It is gorgeous. Long, heavy and solid. So what is the problem? The finish. And this is where you are going to get confused: I can't for the life of me take a photo that shows how the finish looks in person! In these photos it looks exactly like it did in the store's photos, how interesting is that? But in real life? The table is a dark deep green the shade of moss, only that actually sounds like it could be nice. So how about moss that is beginning to dry out, turning slightly brown with strong green undertones. Seriously and completely ugly. (When the delivery men carried it through the front door my first thought was, "oh, that is ugly...this should be interesting.")


This is the finish I expected, seen on the underneath portion of the leaf.


And this is what I got. Out on a family walk this past Sunday I spotted this tree, "hey, that is the color of our table!" I came back later to snap a photo. This and a mixture of the colors below.





Yes, I called customer service, and I'd have to pay the shipping charges to have it returned. But you know what? It's all a good thing. The wood is a rougher than I would ideally like, but it is nothing that a good sanding won't fix. Do you think if the table had showed up dressed in a perfect finish I'd be willing to sand away the rough spots, to make it nicer to sit at without fear of getting a splinter? Absolutely not!

So, that is the plan. I'm sanding it down and will then figure out if I like the natural wood tone or if a light stain will be the route to go.

And no, returning it didn't make a lot of sense. Even if I could accurately show the color and it was determined the finish was outside reasonable variances, there would be no guarantee the next table wouldn't be exactly the same. So as Tim Gunn would say, I'm going to "make it work"!

What has been your experience shopping for furniture online?

64 comments :

  1. Oh I know your pain- I ordered a custom organic natural edge coffee table and when I took the 'chrome' legs out of the box, they were obviously spray painted chrome (so dull- not shiny) and half of the paint came off on my fingers, leaving giant finger prints all over the legs- oh and all the sauder joints were totally gross. On the flip side, I've ordered tons of things online that have exceeded my expectations so I think you do like you said, follow all the right steps and then cross your fingers. I'm sure after a good sanding, the table will look much better- that will take the harsh colour off etc. I know you'll definitely make it work and in the end, I'm sure it will be beautiful!

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  2. Good Morning Sweetie...
    Like they always say if it has good bones then work with it. I love the shape of the legs and the structure does look sound. I am right there with you. Give her a good sanding and then decide on a stain of your preference, or not.

    I can't wait to see the outcome. In the end, you will have exactly what you wanted. Yeah....

    Have a great Tuesday sweetie. Many country hugs, Sherry

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  3. I had an incredible experience with a similar table I had custom made. Met and exceeded expectations...but I sure held my breath! It's perfect!
    "Table of Content

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  4. I wish I could blame mine on online shopping! Let's just say six months ago, I went through three couches, eight accent chairs, and at least six rugs. No matter how much you measure, sometimes you just can't tell until you get it home! I love the table and the color it should be!

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  5. When you were describing the table, I was thinking, "Oohh, I must know where she got it from, I have been looking for something similar" but then you compared it to a moss covered tree in winter and that went out the window!

    I can't wait to see what it looks like when you are done!

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  6. I love your "make it work" attitude... I can't wait to see how this all turns out! The shape of the table is really perfect for the space and I LOVE the legs- so I think it's definitely worth sanding that baby a bit!

    My latest "make it work" moment was when I ordered a cowhide rug that was too big for my space... so I cut that sucker until it DID fit... I'm so glad I didn't send it back b/c now it's perfect! I have a feeling you'll feel the same way about your dining table!

    abodelove.blogspot.com

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  7. You are very brave. Your new table is gorgeous Janell and I can't wait to see what you come up with this time.

    -Rene

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  8. Really strange how in the photos it looks brown but in real life it has mossy green undertones. Odd!

    BTW... that tree with all the moss... something about that is totally creepy, yet totally beautiful all at the same time.

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  9. j, you did a good job on the photography. I think we can really see the difference in the grayish tones underneath the leaf and the green of the top...

    I have always been so afraid to order on line - thinking I NEED to sit in a chair to judge comfort before ordering.

    fingers crossed that you get exactly what you want. in your photo, I can see that the table has great legs.

    donna

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  10. I love the table so much, sorry more work is required to get the finish you want? What online shop did you purchase it from, it is giving me some great ideas! I am new to the blogging world at Design Savvy of NJ.blogspot.com. Please stop by and if you like it, could you list me on your blog, it would mean the world to me!

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  11. I'm sure it will turn out beautifully once you've finished with it. The legs are gorgeous. I'm not so happy with my dining room table top. Hey, maybe I'll get the sander out today!

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  12. That is so strange. I know it will turn out great when you're done with it!

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  13. Whoa...I hate when that happens...but I agree about not sending it back. If you got a good price on it then you can justify that you paid for a hand made table. I am sure there are many ways you can change it and luckily you can use the underneath to test...I have full confidence in you abilities to "make it work"....

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  14. Ugh, how frustrating! The table is so beautiful, I love the shape of the turned legs. At least it was solid wood and you can "make it work"

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  15. I'm sure you'll work your magic and it'll be just perfect! But yes, it does make your heart flutter when you order something without putting your hands on it first. I'm not good at giving up control-lol!
    *Amy

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  16. I'll have to trust your description - as you say, the pictures make it look perfectly weathered and more of a grey tone than a green color. I've usually scoured antique marts, Craigslist, family hand-me-downs and thrift stores and refinished my furniture from there. I've only ordered online after seeing a floor sample first. You've got a great eye and talent to make the table as beautiful as you want it though!
    PS - The tree is intriguing, attractive in its own way - it could be a film setting (Sleepy Hollow, a medieval tale, or fun turn-of-the-century farmhouse and woodland setting.)

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  17. I think it's great you're going to "make it work" and do it your way. Every time you sit down for a meal you'll have a semi-custom table that you can be proud of. Can't wait to see it!


    www.thepeachchablis.blogspot.com

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  18. I am in the process of "thinking" about redoing my dining room. I hate it and it needs to be pretty. Love the table. I would love the natural wood tone if it was me. And then use beeswax to make it durable.

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  19. I've always believed I could fix anything with a little paint and sandpaper. Sorry you have to go to the trouble, but at least you can say that you put your own stamp on it!

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  20. I admire your attitude towards your table. But I couldn't justify additional work. I have nevered ordered furniture sight un-seen. I have to touch it, sit on it, get a feel for the size & scale, & inspect it for the quality first.
    You are a brave woman!

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  21. Love the table. And, I can see the green. Like raw wood that's been left out and become mossy. After a light sanding, consider a limeing wax. Can't wait to see what you do with this!

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  22. I got a stomach ache just reading this. That's always my biggest fear when ordering online or from a catalog. Photos sometimes lie. I know you will figure out a way to make it work. I give you so much credit for keeping a good attitude.

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  23. Janet...Liming Wax?! That sounds PERFECT, thanks for the advice...this is one reason I LOVE BLOGLAND!! Has anyone used it, tips?
    Janell

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  24. Ouch, this is grim, but kudos to you for finding a way to make it work.
    I've pretty much given up ordering furniture without seeing it; I've rarely been delighted. Usually, I'm a little disappointed, but not enough to send it back...

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  25. It's encouraging to hear that professionals have these things happen to them too. I love the shape and the anticipated color of the table. Do you mind sharing the source? Really looking forward to seeing what you do in this room...I'm in the market for a new kitchen table myself and could use some inspiration! You're wonderful, by the way.

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  26. oh boy. sorry about your green table.
    for the most part, i have had really great luck ordering furniture online. i LOVE it when the company has reviews on their site...if i am serious about an item, i will read every single review.
    i hope customer service is being nice to you! you need some type of refund in order to pay for all that sandpaper!
    :)

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  27. You must have wanted to cry.We always say live with a new piece for a week and then decide. But really it was that green.Wow we hope you can sand it.Good luck.

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  28. I ordered an "antique white" dresser once and it was YELLOW! Fortunately they had a local store that I could promptly return it to.

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  29. That's so funny. Just last week I got a chair from Wisteria in the mail. I hated the finish!! I ended up painting the whole piece! Glad I'm not the only one crazy enough to refinish new furniture! :)

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  30. I think the shape is gorgeous and the finish too from the photo, but I can picture what you mean by the green tone. I do wonder if the wood needs to cure longer and it will eventually lighten and go grayer. Can you tell me where it was from?

    You also really shouldn't have to sand a new table. You should try and get a discount. You are very agreeable to do all of that but if it was for a client, it could be a problem. It is gorgeous though.

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  31. Yes, I worked something out with the vendor. And Rie, glad to hear I'm not the only one who takes this approach, I do suspect there are a few people in blogland reading this post and shaking their head at me! :)

    Janell

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  32. The table is gorgeous,I'm sure it'll turn out amazing and more than make up for the extra work.

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  33. Janell I applaud your 'make it work' attitude. Perfection is a tough thing to chase and how you transform that table, may just turn out to be all the more better than your initial expectations; plus you'll be so proud of what you accomplished.
    Love the idea of liming wax from Janet. Got to love blogging!!

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  34. Ohhhh. But look at those bones, it looks stunning in that spot. I know you will make it work!

    Briwax makes a liming wax.

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  35. You have such a good attitude. I'd be hopping mad if I had to refinish a brand new table but you seem to see it as a design challenge you are up for. I'll be interested to see how it turns out for you.

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  36. When we renovated our tiny co-op bathroom last summer, we ordered a custom 24 inch vanity. Unfortunately, Home Depot sent us a 36 inch vanity. The worst part was that instead of shipping us out the correct one to fix the erro, they made us order the correct one again, schedule the pickup of the wrong one with their freight company, and wait 2 weeks for them to credit our account. Yep, so we technically had to pay twice for the vanity.

    POOR customer service, but in the end, the correct vanity looks FANTASTIC.

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  37. How disappointing! The photos really don't look green at all so I can see how it was very misleading! But you are definitely "make lemonade out of lemons" kind of gal so I know it will look fantastic when it's done (but having to work on a brand new piece isn't exactly what you had in mind!)
    I don't typically order furniture online because I always want to see the piece in person (I guess I just don't trust photos to show quality and comfort) but I do shop a lot for other things online with no boo boos so far! :)

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  38. I've never actually ordered furniture online, as sad as that is. Just accessories like pillows and art. I really hope the sanding works!

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  39. Oh this brings back memories! You are not the only crazy one to order a dining room table online. I did as well. From a very reputable company. It arrived and I HATED the finish. Not only the appearance, but it didn't hold up well to scratches. Same boat. My husband sanded the entire thing and we refinished it ourselves. So much work, but in the end we love it and I like to think that it is one of a kind! So sorry it wasn't what you had in mind . . . but it will be.

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  40. I agree with others - a discount would be nice! Hope it didn't break the bank to begin with but it looks like it's a potentially beautiful table. Now the possibilities are endless as far as color and finish!

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  41. I did get a concession, and I never buy pieces that break the bank! If I did I'd have three pieces of furniture in the house!

    It was found at a great price, particularly considering it is a well designed, solid wood, ten foot long dining room table. This is probably why I am so "mellow" about refinishing it, I know a good bargain when I see it, even when requiring sanding to met my high expectations!

    Janell

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  42. Wow, the table has gorgeous lines and is solid and was a bargain! I would be upset if the finish didn't look as shown, but I agree it makes sense to work with it. I know you'll work your magic on it as always and get it exactly how you want it!

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  43. I think liming wax would be fantastic on the table. I've used it in the past but on a much smaller piece. It was easy to work with and there are loads of directions available on the web. Can't wait to see the finished product.
    Carol

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  44. Not only liming but some other ideas as well here. http://www.extremehowto.com/xh/article.asp?article_id=60186
    I like the look of liming with a wax finish instead of varnish and you can tint the liming wax other than only white (soft grey, taupe anything)

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  45. Oh, how I know how you feel!! I have ordered many things online and been very very happy. However, I have ordered many things online and had a green table moment. Ah, the beauty of the internet! I now try to always see what the return policy is. Anthropologie's is great for furniture -- and it should be at the cost -- but they will come and pick furniture back up from you. That is if you can part with it! :)

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  46. You can look at this in a positive light....At least it arrived undamaged?!? My husband and I ordered a gorgeous dark espresso platform bed and we were so excited to add it to our new home. Somewhere between California and Nebraska, the headboard was dropped and split down the middle :( Makes me sick to this day!

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  47. Hi Janell,

    I'm sorry to hear that the color was so 'off'. At least you are super talented and are sure to get it looking exactly how you want it in no time!

    Happy sanding!
    Melissa

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  48. I cannot wait to see what you end up doing with it. I know it will be beautiful!

    It is so hard ordering online sometimes. I ordered a duvet cover (or is it just a duvet? ha!) awhile back and when it arrived, the color was way off. My husband insisted that I return it, but I was determined to make it work and did! :)

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  49. It's a fabulous table and I'm absolutely certain it will be more fabulous when you're done! Too bad you have to go through the work, though. That's why I'm always a little chicken to order something major online. You've got the right attitude though - make it work!

    Sherry Hart actually used liming wax on a mirror makeover and I posted about it. She said the brand she used was Briwax. Their site shows you where you can buy it: http://www.briwax.com/findbriwax.htm. She said she's also seen liming wax at Restoration Hardware.

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  50. I had a similar thing happen -- we ordered a dining table online and when it showed up, it was distressed (which wasn't depicted in the description and wasn't the look I was going for). Thankfully, the company brought out another table that looked much better. Can't wait to see how yours turns out! The style is lovely.

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  51. What a bummer! Good luck with a solution; that's so frustrating :-(

    I have to ask; where are your dining room chairs from? I'm looking for parsons chairs and LOVE yours.

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  52. I have never ordered furniture online so I can't share any stories about an experience. I do admire your positive attitude about the whole thing, Janell. I know the end result is going to be fabulous and even better than what you originally thought you were getting. You'll make it a masterpiece!

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  53. I love the design of your table! The finish looks what's carried in RH right now. It reminds me of the color of driftwood, but the store lighting is so dim, it's hard to tell if there's an undertone. Well, that's my experience in the store we visit.

    Your table is still beautiful and I know you're going to work your magic. I can't wait to see!

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  54. Oh, how crummy. I have always worried about that. Us Canadians too can't always order online as a lot of stores don't ship to Canada. I am fortunate that I live near the border and can pick it up down "south" BUT if I had to return something, what a pain.

    Also I am always worried that what I see online won't be what I get. It happened with a giveaway win at a store, they sent me the wrong pillow! It wasn't until I told customer service that I had a blog and that I had promoted that company at one time that the tune changed!

    Knowing you, you will turn that table into something fabulous, I know that isn't what you wanted to do as you bought it new. Ever tried pickling wood?

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  55. Janell that is so sad, but if anyone can make it WORK it is YOU!!Kathysue

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  56. Ooo. Please share where you ordered it from!

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  57. I know you can 'make it work'. The last thing you need in your house here in the NW is anything remotely related to moss! I'm sure sanding will do the trick! The table is beautiful.

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  58. Ordering online is such a gamble! You're right though, all you can do is follow the proper steps and hope for the best! It is such a beautiful piece though! I'd do anything I could to salvage that one too.

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  59. I know this is going to sound crazy, but I am looking for a table with a green tinge - would you mind sharing the source?

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  60. Hey, in a different space this table in its green finish could look great. Send me an email at janell@isabellaandmax.com and I'll share the info...I don't "kiss and tell" in public. :)

    Janell

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  61. I don't blame you for sanding the table...I would do the same. Love the legs!! I would also like to know who it came from...I will send you an email, I appreciate your "no kiss and tell" rule.

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  62. Could you please tell me where you get the table from ?
    munozmarcela1@gmail.com
    thanks so much
    I love your blog, so inspiring !

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  63. I've had some interesting online furniture and art orders lately. I ordered the Holbrook Dining Table from Home Decorators, which has a reclaimed wood top and iron base. The table was delivered and I HATED it. The wood was darker than expected, and totally unfinished, with lots of splinters. I would have sanded and kept it, but the base was crooked also, so it went back.

    Then I ordered two chairs from One Kings Lane that I absolutely fell in love with in the photo, but I didn't pay attention to the dimensions and they are much squatter than I expected. Not exactly conducive to curling up.

    Oh, and I purchased an upholstered headboard without realizing it would not be tall enough, so I had to sell it on Craigslist.

    My online track record is not so great for furniture!

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  64. You can know hwat happens when you order furniture online
    Baby Cots

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