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Shopping for your home is always an exciting venture, whether you’re starting completely from scratch or simply filling in a few blanks. That said, finding pieces—a new sofa, wall art, accent vase, coffee table, etc.—that not only fit with your personal style but also (literally) fit in your space, is often easier said than done. Seeing that we’re firm believers that you should never embark on a shopping spree without feeling unquestionably prepared, we asked a handful of interior designers and bloggers what must-haves they bring along with them when they’re on the hunt for exciting home finds. Below, you’ll find their comprehensive list of the tried-and-true essentials.

1. A shopping strategy

The minute you walk into a store—be it your local HomeGoods or favorite far-away antique destination—it’s easy to feel like you’re drowning in a sea of choices. First things first: Have “a solid game plan,” says Lark & Linen’s Jacquelyn Clark. When you know your space, are familiar with your budget, and have a concrete idea of what you’re willing (and not willing) to compromise on, you’ll have a much easier time answering questions like: Is this fixture too big? Is this the correct shade of red? Can I actually afford that coffee table?

2. Dimensions

If there’s one thing the experts don’t shop without, it’s this. Consider your room and furniture dimensions like a roadmap: Without it, you’re more than likely to take a wrong turn or two—or three, or four…you get it. Before you head out the door, sketch out a brief floor plan of your space and note any and all measurements you’ll need.

NYC-based designers Starrett Ringbom and Joshua Greene, one part behind the design duo of Hernandez Greene, are just two of many who consider this an absolute must-have.

3. A tape measure

“I never leave the house without my measuring tape,” Shavonda Gardner, the blogger behind SG Style, tells Domino. “I have one for pretty much every purse I own, plus one in the center console of my car.”

When it comes to finding a piece that’s the perfect fit, guesstimating will get you nowhere. With your floor plan, pre-determined dimensions, and measuring tape in hand, you’ll never have to return anything for being too small or too large ever again.

4. Your smartphone

Seeing that you probably never leave your home without your cell phone anyway, consider using it to your advantage. “I make a list on my phone with details of what I’m hunting for (I use the Clear app). If I have an inspiration board for the room [on Pinterest], I’ll save it to my phone so I can reference back to it while shopping,” says Cali-based artist and designer Lindsay Hollinger.

Husband-wife design duo Susan and Ben Work, tiny cottage-dweller Whitney Leigh Morris, and Domino’s 2017 Best New Design Blog award winner, Anita Yokota, are all self-professed proponents of snapping and saving photos on the spot.

“I take several pictures of my existing space with the furniture and decor that I plan on keeping, pictures of layout drawings, etc. I make sure they are on my iPhone and ready to reference when I’m out and about,” explains Yokota. “Pro tip: Make sure the grid function is on your camera setting so that all your photos are level.”

5. Paint and fabric swatches

Modern technology praise aside, you can’t (and shouldn’t) solely rely on your phone camera where color is concerned. With so many different hues and variations available, matching the exact shade of what you’re seeing in the store to the items or wall colors that already exist in your home can be a challenge. Instead, bring the hues of your home with you as you browse.

“I love to grab swatches or samples if I’m trying to coordinate items in a room (or look for that final piece to finish it off),” notes Julia Marcum, the designer behind the renovation blog Chris Loves Julia.

Yokota and small-space living expert Katrina Blair Sullivan also always bring along paint and fabric samples to match and compare.

6. A notebook and calendar

More of a paper and pencil kind of person? Dee Murphy also prefers the real deal. “I still write things down versus input them into my phone,” says the stylist. Along with the essentials listed above, both Murphy and Ashlina Kaposta of The Decorista are sure to bring along loose-leaf. Additionally, Kaposta keeps her agenda handy to jot down any scheduling revisions as she works.

7. Business cards

Whether you’re new to town or new to interior design, use your shopping spree as an opportunity to create new contacts. Katrina Hernandez of the NYC-based firm Hernandez Greene suggests keeping a few spare business cards in your back pocket to pass out to vendors, artists, designers, and potential clients when the time is right.

8. Reusable bags

Wait, you can do your home and the environment a little good at the same time? We’re in. Instead of letting a pile of plastic baggies accumulate in her trunk, Atlanta-based interior designer Stephanie Andrews won’t leave her home without a bundle of reusable totes. Oh, and “Snappy shoes for the inevitable Instagram photo!”

Want more expert advice?

The Only 9 White Paints Worth Considering Where Interior Designers Shop for Affordable Decor When to Splurge or Save on Furniture, According to a Designer


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