Do you remember the very first time you stepped foot in Costco or Home Depot?  Was it a little overwhelming?  Well visiting your local Design Center can be a similar experience but with up to eight floors of trade and wholesale sources.

With over 1,200 luxury product lines of fabric, furniture, lighting, antiques, fine art, wall and floor coverings, kitchen and bath design and contract services, the Boston Design Center shopping trip can be overwhelming if you're not prepared

Here are some tips for turning your visit to your nearest Design Center into an instant success!

What to Bring

  •  Pen and notepad
  • Camera / camera phone
  • Your game plan / a vendor list
  • Printouts from your HMD Design package specifications (just log into your package and click on the print button in the top right corner)

Dress Code

The Design Center is populated with well-dressed design and sales professionals.  These folks are dressed to impress because that’s part of their job.  But you should not feel any pressure whatsoever to put on your best pearls or to sling a $1,600 designer handbag over your shoulder.

That being said, just refrain from conducting your tour in the old grubby clothes you’ve been painting in all weekend.  Think of the dress code as more Nordstrom and less Home Depot.

Sit, See, Touch and Feel.

Don’t be shy – the products in the Design Center are there to be experienced.   Bring a pad and paper and write down your impressions on cushion density, texture and snap photos of any individual elements you like.

If you see something you like ask the showroom salesperson for a “tear sheet” and/or be sure you have the Manufacturer name,  “style number,” fabric upholstery style and color number (if you like what’s shown on the sofa) and the name of the cushion (whether it’s the standard option available or an upgraded version.) Ask the salesperson what details on the featured sofa are an upgrade ie nailhead trim, welting, and leg style and finish.


Sales showrooms (and the accompanying sales persons) will only be able to quote you retail or MSRP prices.  They aren’t able to share the specific discount available to any given interior design firm.  Don’t worry, HMD interior designer discounts can be up to 70% off of these prices.

Keep In Mind – This Is NOT Retail Quality

When you walk into Crate and Barrel at the mall you will be sitting on sofas manufactured by LEE Industries.  However, when you walk into the LEE Industries showroom at your Design Center you will NOT be sitting on the sofa’s sold at Crate and Barrel.

LEE Sofa’s sold at retail in the Crate and Barrel’s of the world are the “value-engineered” versions which are manufactured en-masse (not custom) in order to sell large volumes at retail price points that are  attractive to less-educated consumers and afford enough margin to support the ginormous retail overhead showcasing the products.  These retail furniture products sacrifice quality for price and floor space.

So when you visit the Design Center showroom for LEE you are going to experience marked differences in things like spring and frame construction and cushioning options.  A much, much larger selection of fabrics will also be available.

Of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with ultimately choosing to purchase the Crate and Barrel version if it meets your needs, tastes and budget – just be aware of the difference so you can make an educated decision.

Fabrics for Upholstered Items

Pay attention to “graded-in” options as these typically offer the quickest lead times and the best value.  Graded-in options are stocked in the manufacturers warehouse and are ready-and-waiting to be upholstered onto their furniture’s frames.

HMD clients will often have multiple suggestions built into your design library based upon your color palette and style preferences however when you’re looking through the miles and miles and fabric options I suggest looking for a mostly synthetic fabric content (so polyester, rayon, olefin) and not a lot of natural fibers (like cotton, wool or linen.) The synthetic fibers are the most stain resistant, and natural fibers really will show the stains much more easily.

The other fabric characteristics to look for are lots of texture and lots of depth.  Picture a nubby wool vs. silk.  More depth and texture in a fabric camouflages every day wear.  For example day-to-day wear from denim jeans on a sofa fabric that lacks texture and depth has the potential to look a little bit dingy in the seat area over time.


If you want to see and experience something in your home we can order samples for you from fabric, upholstery and the material for things like accent pillows and draperies and even the graded upholstery options.

Also tile, stone and flooring samples can most often be shipped to your home.  What’s great about in-home samples is you can live with it, compare them to other elements in your home and see what they look like in the morning dawn, afternoon sun and romantic evening candlelight.

Obviously we can’t ship sofas, chairs, tables, lighting, etc. and so it is smart to focus the time you have at the design center really experiencing and comparing anything that we can’t order samples for.

Getting Access

Of course Design Centers are not open to the public and you’ll need a letter of introduction or business credential from your designer to gain access.

If you need to find the design center closes to you check out comprehensive list of Professional Design Centers.  Good Luck!

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