Design Lesson

Cracking the trade-only showrooms

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Design Lesson

Cracking the trade-only showrooms

As you finger the Fortuny floral of your best friend's sumptuous new draperies (murmuring to yourself that you've never seen anything so exquisite), it actually occurs to you that you've never seen anything so exquisite. And why is that? After all, you tromp tirelessly from store to store, searching out the most novel and inspiring fabrics, furnishings, wallpapers and tiles in town. Where could she have found this treasure? What's her secret?

"Shhh," your friend whispers conspiratorially. "I found my Fortuny in a trade-only store."

Aha, that's her secret! Most major Canadian cities contain a smattering of stores stocking exclusive goods and servicing design professionals and tradespeople only. Here's how you, too, can take home the Fortuny fabric of your fantasies.

1 Hire a design consultant. Charging anywhere from $80 to $100 per hour, a consultant (source one through design firms, high-end fabric or furniture shops, as well as online) rings in at only half the cost of an interior decorator or designer. "Many of our clients want to make sure they leave no stone unturned," says Toronto-based design consultant Michele Chan. "I'll take them into a trade-only store and pass along our discount of up to 30 per cent."

Tip: If you have a good idea what you're after, log on to a vendor's website before you hire the consultant; earmark the fabric you want and you won't need as much of the consultant's time.

2 Hitch a ride with your upholsterer (or painter or contractor). Whether it's fabric for a sofa or tiles for the bathroom, a tradesperson receives the same access and discounts that a designer would.

3 Take advantage of sample sales
Most pros-only showrooms open their doors to the public once a year to clear out seasonal stock. Keep an eye out for ads in the local paper and then get ready to bag your very own Barbara Barry.

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Design Lesson

Cracking the trade-only showrooms