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Off the Shelf

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

Three rooms, fully-curated by ASI, that you can buy all the ingredients for right now...


A big part of the job of a designer is to advise clients about wise investments. From a well-reviewed construction team to the sofa material and cabinet color, we are always thinking and talking about longevity, durability, and ROI. More often than not, a strategic investment in furniture leads us to pieces that are higher quality, custom-made for the particular house and client, and expensive. The fact is that these pieces retain their value, and sometimes even appreciate, and big box items do not.

That said, there are some amazing "off the shelf" pieces out there that can create stunning rooms. It's a very select group who is ready to invest hundreds of thousands into furniture, so pieces from large retailers are a great place to start and a really important element to fill in the gaps.

There are a lot of benefits to shopping big box -- lead times can be quicker, prices are definitely lower, you can see and feel pieces in a showroom -- but the major downside (other than general quality and value depreciation) is that these are the pieces that make up 95% of American homes. Everyone shops at Crate and Barrel, West Elm, Article, etc., so how do you make your space look unique without dropping serious cash on custom or vintage pieces?

Using pieces from all of these big brands, I've put together three rooms that totally get the ASI stamp-of-approval (in fact, I'm definitely stealing some of these combos in the future). These are budget-friendly, completely shoppable rooms that feel different and designer, with all the ease of big box shopping. Check out my "off the shelf" rooms and tips for using big box furniture the right way.

Okay, let me start by saying I might have cheated and definitely did not use all big box. But honestly, that's my first tip! You have to mix in some boutique, local, and vintage pieces to make any room feel at all special. Get your sofa at Crate + Barrel and avoid a catalogue feel by filling in with Etsy finds around it. Here's an easy way to break down what you should and definitely should not buy big box.


Whenever possible, avoid buying "sets." Sets of matching tables and chairs are a little one-note. Simply put, the goal is to avoid your new neighbor coming over and saying "OMG, I have that dining set!" But, easier said than done right?

Tip #2, which is repeated in the bedroom design too, is to avoid trying to match wood tones from different retailers. If you're not buying a set, the risk of clashing wood tones is very real. Instead, combine different materials and shades all together. The table here is stone and paired with the woven, wood chairs not only do we get an awesome textural palette, but there's no concern that your pieces will clash when they're all delivered.


There are some super easy and inexpensive ways that you can elevate your big box pieces and they're some of my favorite hacks. First, buy vintage or boutique knobs for your West Elm dresser! There is no reason you shouldn't be doing this. It's an order. ;) Here are some of my favorites.

Similarly, you can swap the legs on couches, tables, etc. Look for something vintage, or check out these cool ones I recently found!

Finally, I think we could all benefit from this little mindset shift. When we buy vintage furniture theres no hesitation to refinish, reimagine, and make something your own and that is definitely not present when we buy new. But if you're careful and a little gutsy, you can really make something cool out of these big box pieces. Don't be afraid to "revamp" your brand new stuff.

You could add fringe to the bottom of a bed or chair or get your sofa's seat cushion covered in a different fabric. Paint your brand new dresser, take the tops off your nightstands and replace them with marble, etc. If you're not jazzed up about your new big box purchase, just try something to make it your own.

Big box furniture serves a really important role. It is so important that people can access more affordable, fast furniture and truthfully, the catalogue nature of these pieces can be really helpful to someone who doesn't love design and isn't working with a designer! But if you're purchasing big box and want a little more personality in your space, try some of these tips ... and send me pics ;)

Xoxo. As always, thanks for being here.


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