Guide to Furniture Shopping Online – Do’s and Don’ts

Hi, my name is Nat and I recently signed a lease for my first solo apartment. A planner by nature, I’ve been in the process of picking out furniture and décor for my apartment for longer than I was actually looking for a physical place to live.

And what better place to find all my necessary living essentials than, you guessed… the big beautiful world wide web. Unfortunately, I’m the type of person who gets nervous jitters before buying a pair of pants online. Worse yet, due to the circumstances of my move, I had to buy all my furniture online, so, needless to say, I was toeing the line with a full blown furniture-induced panic attack.

As a planner, nervous shopper, but now successfully furnished first time renter – I am here to tell you I survived and to share what I learned about the do’s and don’ts of furniture shopping online.


Read reviews

Would you buy a car without doing a little bit of research? No. It’s the same thing with furniture, no matter how big or small the purchase. During my buying journey, I’m pretty certain I read every review on every product I bought. From can openers to mattresses. And for the products I didn’t read reviews on? Let’s just say I now have a large blue stain on a white coffee table from faulty dye on some not-so-great coasters. Product reviews are potentially the most valuable way to decide if a product may be right for you. People have already experienced the successes, and sometimes disasters, associated with the product. Utilize this to your advantage!

Pay attention to size

Dimensions, dimensions, dimensions. Also… dimensions. Nothing will feel worse than buying beautiful, and more importantly, reasonably priced bar stools and then having them not be high enough for a counter. When buying any type of furniture online, make sure to check both the furniture dimensions as well as your apartment dimensions before purchasing!

Pro Tip: Use masking tape to outline the dimension of each furniture item in the space where you plan to place it. Or use an app that will let you see how everything will fit in. Also, measure all stairwells and doors each piece has to pass through on the way to your apartment.

Compare prices

Furniture sold online is often sold by more than a handful of different companies. If a bed frame you love is retailing at $150 from one retailer, check out a few others to compare price points. Sometimes sites offer deals at different times, meaning you could score big on some of your favorite items! That $150 bed frame you want, you might actually get for $90.

Some of the best sites to compare prices at include Amazon, Overstock, and Walmart.


Trust the colors

Do not judge a book (or furniture) by its cover! Furniture sales listings often use professional photographers to get the best shots of the furniture possible. And then, those pictures are edited again by crafty marketing teams.

A good rule of thumb to use it to assume any furniture may be 1-2 shades lighter OR darker than the advertised color.

Does it still fit with your design and color scheme? Yes? Great! No? Maybe keep looking.

Buy immediately

I can’t emphasize this enough! To prevent buyer’s remorse, wait. Don’t immediately buy any furniture online, no matter how perfect you think it might be. Let it sit in your shopping cart overnight, or at least for an hour or two, and then go back and look at it to decide if it’s something you actually like.


It’s easy to overpay online. You’re not handing cash or a credit card to an actual cashier. So you don’t see the outcomes of your actions until you pull up your checking account and then have to calculate how many nights you’ll have to eat PB&J in order to even out the purchase of an expensive bistro set. Shopping around is frugal, and you can often find look-a-like pieces of expensive items at half the cost.

Be afraid to ask for help

Happy young couple putting together self assembly furniture as they move into their new house.

Putting together a couch all by yourself is not fun. Don’t be afraid to ask family or friends for help when moving and assembling furniture you buy online. Especially if you are not mechanically inclined. You may not be able to pay them in cash, but you can repay them with lunch and sarcastic banter the entire time they help you set up.

At the end of the day, your first apartment can be full of furniture and décor that expresses your personal taste, without having to break the bank in the process. When it comes down to it, only you can know what works best for you- so trust your instincts! And as always, MFA is here to help.

What lessons have you learned about furniture shopping online? Please share below in comments!

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Author My First Apartment

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Digital marketing specialist from Milwaukee, WI. I semi-hibernate through Wisconsin winters and eventually make it to spring. My hobbies include reading, piano, the gym (gains?), and spoiling my puppy. I've never met a hobby I didn't like. Follow along on my journey of apartment triumphs and defeats, served with a hearty side of sarcasm.

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Comments (3)

  1. Avatar M R

    nice guide to buy furniture and I totally agree with don’t trust the colors I have faces this in quality they make images more attractive through editing to capture visitors attention. Well I like to compare products before I buy online many websites available to do so like , comparing products can help to get idea about it and it help to buy product at minimum price.

  2. Avatar Raychel H.

    I used the site Furnishr and provided my dimensions on their chart and got the exact look I wanted. After they delivered it I almost forget they also set it up for free. I was prepared to pay hundreds for movers and got blown out of the water with my new living room set. Online over In-person any day!

  3. Avatar Amanda

    Great guide! I am planning to buying furniture online and I like the valuable info provided by you. Thanks and keep sharing.