Yes…and no. When you say “browse” do you really mean “buy?”  Is this the question you’re truly asking?  If so, you’re not alone.

New York City has several design buildings dedicated to finely crafted and custom-produced furniture, lighting, carpets and textiles that are TO THE TRADE.  This means you need a decorator, designer or architect to place your order.  One of these same professionals is also your key to accessing NET pricing (the Trade or discounted price).  In addition, there are also a plethora of workrooms, retail shops and furniture galleries liberally scattered across the City that cater to the buying public at large.

In the old days (and by that I mean as little as 20 years ago) Trade showrooms were anywhere from cool to outwardly hostile to the casual shopper.  You needed a card-carrying industry professional, or a letter of introduction from that person to be admitted to the hushed hallways full of Henredon and Hinson that comprise the Design and Decoration Building and The New York Design Center.  Rather quaint by today’s “Checking in on Four Square” standard.

In a more modern world, one affected by changing trends as well as a down economy, many showrooms now allow a broader spectrum of buyers to peruse their wares.  In a few cases, the rules are bent and deals are struck for “partial” discounts, up to 20%.

Don’t be fooled however.  While this may sound like a good deal, your interior practitioner is likely to be entitled to something more like 40%.  And on a large order, perhaps more.  You may also want to consider the value of having someone standing behind the order, protecting YOUR interests (not the manufacturers) and making sure that you get exactly what you’ve paid for, or even troubleshooting on your behalf in case of damage.  Not knowing the rules can cost you.

Another pitfall of going-it-alone is the sheer volume of choice.  One fabric showroom may have 30,000 samples on offer (not kidding).  Where do you start?  How do you choose?  Like being turned loose in a candy store after closing, one too many oompah-loompahs may give you a stomach ache!  Eye fatigue is also a factor.  At some point it all begins to run together because you’re not shopping from a preconceived plan…you’re just “browsing.”

So while you can roam free through the trinkets and treasures of greater designdom, do your homework in advance, make a plan, and limit your experience to 4-6 showrooms, tempting as it may be.

You may also want to consider that the larger design buildings provide a purchase-only service that you may want to look into, usually at no cost or a nominal fee.  You work with a “in house” designer or decorator for that purchase, combining the best of both worlds.  Further, designer referrals can be obtained for larger projects.

Have fun…and caveat emptor!

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