By Janice Lieberman
When I finally moved from an apartment and into a house, I had plenty of space to fill but very little money. Luckily, my designer pal, Jeff Wade, knew how to work magic on an austere budget. He dragged me to a million sample sales. At one place, we scored so many insane bargains that I had to ride in the backseat, sprawled on top of fabric bolts. "What are we going to do with this stuff?" I asked. "You'll see," he said. And I did!
The owner of Chic Design on a Dime in Coral Gables, Florida, Jeff says anyone can score the kinds of deals designers get: You just have to ask. "Nothing is nonnegotiable," he says. A few of Jeff's best tips:
Furniture: Most furniture companies have an outlet or a website that sells floor samples, discontinued styles, and returned merchandise at 25 to 40 percent off the designer price (typically 40 percent below retail). Jeff scored a $6,000 armoire for $850 at the Baker Furniture outlet in Kohler, Wisconsin. Find out if your favorite store has an outlet. Describe what you're looking for, and ask for pictures of what's in stock. At boutiques, ask the owner if she works with "the trade." Offer the designer price (usually 20 percent off retail at these smaller shops), Jeff says, and "nine times out of ten, she'll sell it to you."
Wallpaper and fabric: Fabric mills always have discontinued fabrics and wallpaper -- often at 40 percent or more off wholesale. Call the corporate offices and ask if their showroom sales are open to the public. (Just make sure there's enough material in stock for your project.) Rugs Department stores mark up rugs 500 to 600 percent, so stick with wholesalers. Ask for references, a money-back guarantee, and free shipping.
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Flooring: Wholesalers offer "buy direct" prices online to the public for quantities over 1,000 square feet. One manufacturer quoted Jeff $2.95 per square foot for the same bamboo wood flooring he'd just bought at $6.95 (retail is $9.95).
Appliances: Ask your contractor where he gets his appliances. Many stores have a warehouse full of returns and floor models in mint condition, at incredible savings.See also:
- Get Cash for Your Furniture Clunkers
- An Interior Designer's Secrets to Buying Furnishings Cheap
- 10 Tips for Getting Your Credit in Shape
3 Sites for Savings
lifehacker.com. A daily blog on how to do anything better -- haggle, pack a suitcase, make a sports drink.
shopstyle.com. Don't miss the sale "rack" at the "world's most fabulous" online store. Dirt cheap to high-end. Sign up for e-mail alerts.
sitejabber.com. Consumers review online businesses and websites -- most loved, most hated, and most useful. Save money and avoid rip-offs.
Janice Lieberman is the consumer correspondent on NBC's Today show. Read her blog, Here's the Deal, and send her your questions.