5 favorite online product sites
18 September 2011
In a recent post about building affordably, I mentioned that one could shop online (instead of going to expensive showrooms) for building products in an effort to save money while still getting good design. When budget is of ultimate importance, we must avoid the popular sites or stores that most architects love to shop. (See point #9 of my earlier list). However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have an affordable, modern house. I thought I’d share a few sites that we shopped at when we built our house. I still refer these to my clients if they are shopping for products on their own. I hope you enjoy and share some of your favorites.
OK, the first one I list does not sell directly to consumers. However, several online retailers carry these fixtures. Fortunately, a local electrical wholesaler in our area also sold these fixtures. What we did was shop online, note the fixtures we liked and gave the fixture count and model numbers to our contractor for pricing. Since we checked at other online retailers, we could select fixtures confidently, knowing the general prices. Once you find the basic fixture you like, there are many choices for globes and finishes. We chose two of the Tondo 18-Cable for our dining room. It was the exact clean, minimal pendant I was looking for, yet they were very reasonable priced. These fixtures still use real glass globes and not polycarbonate. I am not a fan of dome canopy where it meets the ceiling, but this was the only option. I would have opted for something flat and discreet. Regardless, it is a nice fixture and we use CFL bulbs in them.
You’d have to be an architect to appreciate this site that sells tens of thousands of hardware pieces. A friend of mine, who is also an architect, turned me onto this site. We have a masonry wall in our front yard that leads to our front door. We needed only a few stainless steel bolts to anchor an aluminum cap to the wall to protect it from the weather. After coming up empty searching local hardware stores and distributors, I purchased what we needed from this site. Fortunately they sold the bolts in packs of ten as opposed to the packs of 100’s that the local specialty hardware distributor sold theirs. If you are a detail freak and wish to specify the exact hardware for your design, you’ll love this site.
Modern architectural lighting is not the thrust of this company, yet it is very popular in my area for residential fixtures. With a bit of care, one can find a few fixtures that fit a modern aesthetic. This site allows you to shop online where they display prices, but most lighting fixture showrooms and wholesalers carry this line. Besides the simple directional lighting fixtures, we used their track lighting system. They have a line of halogen fixtures with and end feed to the track. This eliminates that awful square junction box cover found on most track lighting systems. All you see is a clean track with no visible wiring connection. This system isn’t as inexpensive as what you’d find at your local home center, but the cost is still reasonable for track lighting. I just wish they offered more choices for track heads.
This is an online distributor of lighting and home furnishings. Lighting fixtures are the primary product they sell. There are several sites like this, but this one has proved to be a reliable source for me. It does sell a range of fixtures and accessories, mostly traditional. Yet with a little patience, we found a few fixtures that were consistent with our design theme. What is nice is the search criteria function for reducing down the options for whatever it is you are looking for in their collection. We purchased lighting fixtures and bath accessories from this site. If you are an architect or designer, you can sign up for the professional division (www.bellacorpro.com) where they extend a discount which shows up immediately in their pricing. We chose the George Kovacs Brushed Nickel One-Light Bath Fixtures to use as sconces in our bathrooms, stair and living room. It had the elongated proportion that is thematic in our house and fixtures. For our bathrooms we went with the Alno, Inc. Contemporary Polished Chrome Toilet Tissue Holders. Yes, architects care about every detail; even the accessory that holds our toilet tissue.
OK, I am breaking my rule again; this company does not sell directly to consumers. However, this was the first company that I found years ago that sold ceiling fans that I could stomach. Seriously, I hated ceiling fans before I saw their products. Ceiling fans are very functional, move air appropriately, but no one made a clean looking fan. Enter the Modern Fan Company and promoters like Dwell Magazine and other sources, and now these guys show up everywhere. Since then a few others have joined them, but I mention them because they first sold me on ceiling fans. I will admit, they are not the most economical solution, so perhaps I am breaking my rule. However, I couldn’t spend the rest of my days staring at a garish ceiling fan. I guess this may fall under my tip #6 splurge strategically. We went with the Cirrus Hugger. My only complaint is the fan blades are made of wood with a sprayed aluminum finish. Perhaps they think this way is safer overall, who knows.
There are five of my favorite sites that we found while designing and building our own house. As I said, I still recommend them occasionally to clients. Largely because they all have something to offer the modern house and you can find out pricing immediately so you don’t have to wonder what their fixtures cost. We spent hours and hours looking for accessories and fixtures that fit within our budget. With technology and the internet, finding what you need is just one click away. I hope you share your list with me.