Penny Lewis is the former editor of Living magazine.

Home interiors just one click away

Even wall paint can be sorted online at the touch of a mouse on Resene's website, but colour accuracy cannot be guaranteed.
Even wall paint can be sorted online at the touch of a mouse on Resene's website, but colour accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

Too much choice can be a bad thing. There are 77.6 million Google results for interior design ideas. Even "Shaker style with bleached wood" comes up with 19.3 million options. If you're keen to revamp your home's interior design, make a start by researching looks you like on Instagram and sites like houzz.co.nz and pinterest.com. Most architecture and design magazines have an online presence, such as homestolove.co.nz, so check them regularly. Subscribe to their email newsletters and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Online browsing is one thing, but online shopping is another matter. There's no doubt online shopping is convenient. Good e-commerce websites provide more product information than what you'll learn from a half-hearted sales assistant in-store. But buying online or browsing websites and then committing to a purchase without seeing real-life samples comes with risks - and they can be expensive mistakes.

Suffering from decision-fatigue, my husband and I spent $3000 on a house-lot of skirting boards after only viewing a sample online. The tradie was already installing it when I noticed its hideous 90s-style bullnose edging and said it had to go. Unfortunately, the supplier wouldn't take it back. We sold it on Trade Me for $20 and had to fork out for replacement skirting.

Seeing something on your laptop or phone will never show colours, textures, dimensions or quality the way seeing and touching something in person will. Buying online from overseas businesses may give you more choice, but there's less protection for you if something goes wrong and you need to return your purchase. Buying from New Zealand online retailers offers protection under the Consumer Guarantees Act, reduces the cost of freight and means you're supporting local business. Here's a selection of local interior design online retailers.

Furniture, accessories

Katrina Glenday, Citta general manager marketing and online, says online homeware buying is an area of growth for the company.

"Customers are confident shopping online for duvet covers, cushions, blankets and throws. With photography and video available to view online, it's very easy to get a good idea of colour and texture," she says.

Another growing category for Citta is furniture and lighting, but Glenday says the company has chosen to limit online buying.

"It's common to browse these larger purchases online, but it's better to go in-store to see and touch," she says.


Father Rabbit began life as an online store in 2010 before opening its first bricks-and-mortar shop in the front of owners Claudia Zinzan and Nick Hutchinson's Grey Lynn villa in 2012.

"The online space is so saturated with little homewares stores," Zinzan says. "Opening a retail concept allowed us to showcase our brand in a tangible environment, have a new way to connect with our customers and progress naturally as the brand 'grew up', to show we were a serious retailer."

There are now three Auckland stores, in Mt Eden, Herne Bay and Orakei. Father Rabbit's entire range of kitchen, home, furniture, baby and wardrobe products are available online.

The website shows products' dimensions, fabrications and other information and a chat-to-buy service was recently added, where customers can live-chat with staff for extra information. Huge investment is put into imagery to best portray products online and how Father Rabbit would see it used in the home. You can also shop from the Instagram feed.

A post shared by Father Rabbit | Claudia Zinzan (@fatherrabbit) on

Outdoor furniture

Jardin has recently opened a small showroom off Constellation Drive on the North Shore. Co-owner Joanna Rogers has imported quality outdoor furniture heritage brand Fermob from France into New Zealand since September 2013 and before that, in Australia. Online buying is available at jardin.co.nz.

A post shared by Jardin (@jardin.nz) on


Beds

To prepare for in-store lie-downs, manufacturer Sealy has an online bed selector that asks questions about your sleeping preferences and then makes recommendations.

Retailer Bedpost offers online purchasing. In its terms and conditions the retailer says it is not obliged to offer a refund, so choose wisely.

Paint

Resene marketing manager Karen Warman says paint is tricky when it comes to buying online. "You can definitely do it, but it tends to be a two to three-step process," she says.

If you're buying a primer, sealer or a white paint, buying online is reasonably easy. "But of course, most decorators want to use coloured topcoats and this is where it gets trickier."

Warman says computer and phone screens don't show paint colours true to colour. The subtle differences in whites and neutral colours are very difficult to see online and each time you change to a new screen, the colours can look very different.

A post shared by Resene (@resenecolour) on


Even moving a laptop screen forwards and backwards or taking a phone screen in and out of direct sunlight will change the way the colour looks. Computer and phone screens show all colours using RGB values (a colour's RGB value indicates its red, green and blue intensity).

"Some paint colours fall outside of the RGB colour range, so the computer or phone simply shows the closest colour it can make from the colours it has available," Warman says.

She says the only way to gauge paint colour accurately is to see an actual sample of it - either using a colour chart, which are made using real paint, using a larger drawdown A4 sample, also made with paint or by using a test pot. These items can be ordered from the Resene website.

Warman says buying paint online can be easy if you know the colour you want, if it's a repaint or you have already chosen the colour using samples and you know the product you need.

"If you're new to decorating or need advice on colours, products or accessories, it's best to get advice," she says.

Expert tips

Shelley Ferguson is co-host of The Block NZ and managing editor of Your Home & Garden magazine. Besides her years of professional expertise on how to imbue a home with style, she has personal experience too - she's in the middle of renovating for the second time. These are her tips for online interior design.

Buy from reputed brands you're familiar with and check the site is secure. You don't want a call from the bank about suspicious overseas credit card activity.

If you're unsure, Google the item or company and see if you can find any consumer reviews relating to the product or the site.

Know your materials, especially when it comes to furniture. To assess the texture, colour and quality read the description carefully. Is it leather, or leather-look? Wood or "timber" veneer? Velvet or velvetine? Questionable vendors can get very creative with words to make the quality sound better than it is.

Sometimes there's nothing like the rush of stumbling across something you utterly love, hitting "add to cart" and having it turn up on your doorstep. But in general, try to make considered choices. What do you really need, or really love?

Sure, we all love the odd impulse buy, but try not to get too sucked in by trends. Fad-finds may not work with your interior, and will likely date (hello, pineapple-print cushion).

Always check the measurements and mock up the size in your actual room. Scale and proportion are important in an interior. Homeware, furniture and accessories can look all wrong if they're not the right size or shape.


Unless it's a small lamp, I don't buy lighting online as I like to see it, touch it, check the compatibility of fittings and plugs, and talk to the instore experts about the technicalities, logistics and installation of it. Lighting is crucial to a great interior, so I like to put time and effort into the search. The experience of shopping is half the fun!

Despite doing your homework, the item might look and feel all wrong, so check the return policy before making the purchase. Do you get a refund if you're not happy with the product? Within what timeframe? Do you have to pay the courier or shipping rate to return it? Factor all this in before you buy.

Support local, find unique pieces and avoid big overseas shipping costs by purchasing from New Zealand brands and sites.

Shelley's favourite sites

alexandcorban.co.nz
cittadesign.com
cravehome.co.nz
endemicworld.com
greenwithenvy.co.nz
indiehomecollective.com
letliv.co.nz
superette.co.nz
themarketnz.com

- Canvas

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