My 48th year on planet Earth hit me mildly hard this week. Not with a “quick- call the plastic surgeon” sense of urgency, but as a gentle voice tugging at my sleeve, “take better care of yourself.” So it’s now a glass of green juice at 5 AM and off to the gym I go!
On the elliptical, I always turn on something brainless, like the local news. And on every commercial break this week, there’s someone shouting about their Memorial Day Furniture Sale. It’s a familiar refrain in America, the excitement of a sale. I’m not immune!
As an interior designer, I do a lot of ton of specifying and shopping for furniture in the normal course of projects. And truth be told, many years ago I got my design start as a “designer” in a furniture store picking out people’s furniture. So with my experience comes my advice on making sense out of the frenzies that are holiday sales.
Here’s a little key to decoding all those too-good-to be true sales, from lowest discount to most substantial.
Special Order Furniture:
You see something, you like it and want it. Hold on, they need to special order it- it’s not stocked. All furniture stores (and designers) order this class of furniture the same way: one piece at a time. It’s a bit more specific to what you want, so the store has to arrange for the manufacturer at least to simply send it to a warehouse, and if it’s a customized piece, they’ll have to specify how to make it. It’s the least discounted type of furniture, because it takes the longest amount of time to order. If you need a financing deal though, buying special order furniture makes sense because there’s often an accompanying offer. If you don’t need that, there’s usually no rush. Most all furniture is discounted from retail every day of the week, so don’t succumb to the screams of “this week only!”
In Stock Furniture and “Special Buys”:
What you see is what you get here, no modifying. Usually it’s a generic piece or pieces (bedroom or dining set), and in all likelihood, the pieces are built overseas. These pieces are usually non-polarizing and appeal to the broadest section of people possible. Back in the early 2000’s it was this classic beige microfiber puffy couch
The overseas factories can churn out these puppies out by the thousands, and usually the manufacturing cost doesn’t dictate the retail price as much, oddly, as the shipping cost. The proverbial “slow boat from China. (for an interesting look at how inexpensive stuff can look really luxurious, read my friend Laurel’s awesome post “The Shocking Truth About Restoration Hardware”) If a store can buy a whole ship container of anything, (and as is the trend nowadays, a grey linen-looking Chesterfield like this):
this thing’s like $399 this week.
, they get a huge price break and can pass the savings on. That’s usually the type of merchandise that they shout about on the commercial breaks in the morning. If you’re just starting out, or you have a whole empty house and just need stuff fast, some people go this way (hey no judgments here). The landfills will curse you, but really, no judgement…
The best deals you can get at a furniture store are hands down on floor samples; the holy grail of deals. And the longer it sits there, the cheaper it gets. They’re one of a kind finds, and I have a bunch in my own house.
Awesome deal here because this chartreuse fabric is not everyone’s cup of tea.
You can’t change anything, it comes as is, and it might be there because:
- the store wants to rotate its floor pieces
- someone at the store ordered it incorrectly for someone else in the first place, or,
- no one wanted it in the first place
Hunting floor samples takes cunning and patience. You can save tremendous amounts here and there, but it’s virtually impossible to get a beautiful coordinated room from entirely floor samples. I’ve tried. There’s just too many variables. Trust me on this or you’ll end up with a half-finished space for years. But here and there, yeah, they’re great, and you can be that slightly annoying person at parties who brags to everyone how much money you’ve saved. I’ve been that guy but am now in remission.
A word of warning about floor samples: We have a storage area filled with them in hopes that someday, one of our clients will be a perfect match for something we got a great deal on. But I have to reign in my “hunter-gatherer” instinct and realize the thrill of the hunt is more thrilling then the actual prize.
Which is why I have:
a “Tibetan Swamp Log” for 7 years
An orange carved mirror
An electrified mirror with sconces
and dozens of other pieces admittedly, I didn’t need, but I got whipped up in the sale frenzy. At this point, they might be part of my permanent collection!
The best advice I can give you on these sales is to have a firm plan in mind before you walk in. Don’t buy just to buy. That’s very 1996. Realize the long term goal is a beautiful home, not the bargain here and there. And it’s Memorial Day weekend- go to a barbecue instead!
Dean Malambri is President and Principal Interior Designer for Dean Alan Design Inc, a residential interior design firm primarily serving Chicago and the Chicago suburbs.
It’s right around now that looking at my calendar causes me to break out in a cool sweat. Parties, events, recitals- I’m sure you can relate!
So while I could go on about the fine points of the suspension system of sofas, I doubt that’s on your radar at this moment.
At this time of year, I’m always looking for dishes to bring to events. These two continue to be crowd pleaasers for me, and have now gone into the permanent holiday rotation schedule. They’ve also become a tradition in our family. Time-consuming? Yes, they are. Expensive? Yes to that too. Worth the effort? Again, yes, totally!
Think of making them as cooking therapy for a snowed in day (which are sure to come). And they travel extremely well for parties.
This first one is adapted from an old recipe book my mom adores, Noteworthy, which came from the Ravinia Festival. We oddly serve this in the late morning on Christmas day along with Champagne and a smörgåsbord of other munchies (I’m sure you have weird traditions too, don’t judge).
Marinated Shrimp with Oranges
Makes 4 servings, but we always double, even triple sometimes!
- 1 pound large raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
- 1 orange, peeled and sectioned
- 1 small red onion, sliced very thin
- 1/4 C. vegetable oil
- 1/2 C. unfiltered cider vinegar
- 2 T lemon juice
- 2 T ketchup
- 1 T sugar
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 t salt
- 1/2 t mustard seeds
- 1/2 t cilantro leaves (dangerous for a crowd and therefore optional)
- 1/2 t capers
- 1/4 t celery seeds
- 1/8 t ground black pepper
- Romaine Leaves or crackers
- One day or at least 8 hours ahead, marinate shrimp. In 4-qt saucepan, heat 3 inches’ water to boiling. Add shrimp, return to boil and cook covered, 2 minutes or until shrimp are cooked through. Drain, rinse in cold water and drain well again.
- In large bowl, combine shrimp, orange and red onion. In medium bowl, combine vinegar, oil, lemon juice, ketchup, sugar, garlic, mustard seeds, cilantro, capers, celery seeds, and pepper. Pour over shrimp mixture and stir to coat well. Refrigerate 8 hours, or preferably overnight. Serve on crackers or romaine leaves.
This next one is the holiday recipe one that I hang my hat on year after year. I make gallons of it and swear I’ll never do it again after seeing my grocery bill. But I do, every year without fail. Don’t skimp- the guy behind the deli counter will curse your name, but your guests may well kiss you harder this year. If there was ever a perfect leftover intended for a hangover, please let me know too.
Mixed Antipasto Salad
adapted from Epicurious. I think the secret is actually the fennel flavor. People think it’s celery but when they get a bite of anise flavor from it, it’s a surprise, and not an unwelcome one. I humbly nominate this also to be the perfect leftover holiday hangover nibble too. Near the end of parties, people will fight over tupperware containers with this inside.
For the marinade
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
- 1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 1/2 cup olive oil
For the salad
- 3 large carrots, cut diagonally into 1/4-inch-thick slices
- 2 small fennel bulbs (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut crosswise into 1/inch-thick slices (about 3 cups)
- 2 red bell peppers, roasted and cut into strips (or jarred)
- 2 yellow bell peppers, roasted and cut into strips (or jarred)
- a 12-ounce jar pepperoncini (pickled Tuscan peppers), rinsed and drained well
- 3/4 pound black or green brine-cured olives or a combination ( I use a mixture of green Cerignolas and black Kalamatas)
- 1/4 pound sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and cut into strips (or fresh cherry- either way)
- 3/4 pound marinated or plain bocconcini (small mozzarella balls, available at specialty foods shops and some supermarkets)
- 1/2 pound pepperoni or soppressata (hard Italian sausage, available at Italian markets, some butcher shops, and, some specialty foods shops), cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices and the slices quartered
- two 7-ounce jars marinated artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained well
- 1/3 cup minced fresh parsley leaves plus, if desired, parsley sprigs for garnish
Make the marinade: 1. In a small bowl whisk together the garlic, the vinegars, the rosemary, the basil, the oregano, the red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste, add the oil in a stream, whisking, and whisk the marinade until it is emulsified. 2. In a large saucepan of boiling water blanch the carrots and the fennel for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they are crisp-tender, drain them, and plunge them into a bowl of ice and cold water. Let the vegetables cool and drain them well. In a large bowl toss together the carrots, the fennel, the roasted peppers, the pepperoncini, the olives, the sun-dried tomatoes, the bocconcini, the pepperoni, the artichoke hearts, the marinade, the minced parsley until the antipasto is combined well and chill the antipasto, covered, for at least 4 hours or overnight. Transfer the antipasto to a platter, garnish it with the parsley sprigs, and serve it at room temperature.
So back to shopping and gifting!