An overflowing inventory, including into her house, moved one Houston interior designer to find a solution to the increasingly crowded situation — with loving insistence from her husband.
"I have lived this way for 10 years, and I've had enough," William Lee writes lightheartedly in the "About Us" section of a new furniture and accessories consignment website. "Well, that's why Buy Design Exchange was created."
Masterminded by William and his wife, Angela, Buy Design Exchange Inc. is an online marketplace for qualified American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) and home furniture vendors to sell high-end pre-owned furniture to everyone — items once available only to the trade and not to the general public. Through Buy Design Exchange, anyone can purchase the highlighted pieces at largely discounted prices. From massive dining room tables to light fixtures to custom floral arrangements, Buy Design Exchange has decor for the entire house.
"This has created that opportunity to find happy homes for all our pieces and provides a great opportunity for someone to own that couch or that bed that they've always wanted."
"We put the concept together last year, and I introduced it to several other designers," Angela says. "They loved it. All of them had inventory, so instead of collecting dust, our furniture pieces are now being sold to the general public at a fraction of the cost."
Furniture and home furnishings end up back with designers for several reasons.
"For years, and I've being doing this for almost 14 years, when my clients would downsize, they'd ask me to take pieces off their hands," says Angela, owner of Sugar Land-based full-service interior architecture firm, Evolution by Design Inc.. "If they're moving from an 8,000-square-foot home to a 3,000-square-foot place, they discover some of the furniture won't even fit.
"Other times, I'd go to market and end up with extra items. Also, people's tastes change, as do mine. So Buy Design Exchange is a great resource for the trade and the public."
Angela stresses not only does the special merchandise make the site different from other cyber boutiques, but an important privacy feature for sellers and buyers completely puts Buy Design Exchange in its own category: Anonymity throughout the entire transaction.
"Buy Design Exchange provides a very secure environment for selling and buying," Angela says. "We check credentials of our sellers, inspect merchandise upon arrival, have everything set up safely from placing an order to picking up a piece at our warehouse. Even then, we re-inspect the pieces so buyers are totally satisfied."
Launched in October, the site is easily navigated, with furnishings grouped into divisions of seating, lighting, tables, cabinetry, decor and beds. Enlargeable photographs of all items are included, as well as product descriptions, condition details, dimensions and weight stats and information on colors, finishes and textures. Original prices are shown to compare with the sales prices, often with a calculated percentage of savings.
A "Wish List' component allows shoppers to save their favorites, and customers can email special requests for specific merchandise when it becomes available. The site is constantly updated as products arrive for sale.
Buyers arrange for pick-up by appointment only at the warehouse. The business also has the capacity to ship anything and anywhere through a specialty furniture delivery service.
About 15 ASID members are participating in Buy Design Exchange so far, as well as a handful of vendors. And there's more to come.
Original prices are shown to compare with the sales prices, often with a calculated percentage of savings.
"We will be adding a 'make me an offer' feature so that if someone is trying to move a piece quickly, a buyer can make an offer," Angela says. "It won't be an auction, just an option to move things off the floor. Of course, it will be up to our discretion on what to accept.
"So far, we are really pleased with how everything has come together. This has created that opportunity to find happy homes for all our pieces and provides a great opportunity for someone to own that couch or that bed that they've always wanted."
Angela says Buy Design Exchange is open to all certified ASID members across the country, so the opportunity for growth — and an expansive inventory — is very likely.
"The only danger is this," she says with a laugh, "is that we as designers are going to be buying from each other. Then it's back to the inventory problem again."