The House That Al Gore Furnished


“We need another chair in the living room — it still looks kind of bare,” my husband says.

“Hand me the laptop.”

He knows better by now than to suggest we go furniture shopping in person, an exercise in futility that I have pretty much abandoned. 

God Bless the Internet, I say.

Not just because I can log on to Facebook and Twitter, buy cute clothes and all of my groceries do research and get up to speed on hard-pressing issues, but because my family now has places to sit and to eat.  Pretty things on the walls to look at.  Storage solutions galore.  Without Al Gore’s modern invention, it’s very likely that we would still be using boxes or milk crates as furniture, and our son’s pre-school craft projects as decor, a year after buying our  house.

It all started innocently enough after we moved in.  Some decorative accents from Pottery Barn or someplace  similar.  A coffee table.  Pretty bedding, some rugs.  You know, normal Internet buying activity. Nothing crazy.

The turning point for me came when I decided to replace every single light fixture in the house — no small undertaking.  But let’s be honest — I didn’t have the time nor the insurance liability policy to drag a one and three year-old into lighting stores.  There’s a special place in Hell for that kind of torture. Can you hear the sound of glass (and my nerves) shattering to pieces?

So, my keyboard and I conspired with my monitor and some URLs to find a light for every room in the house without seeing a single fixture in person.  And I had a great success rate (except for the sconces that haunt me). 

It was fabulous.  So I kept going. 

A new bedroom set for my son:  Check.  Window treatments:  Check.  The outdoor swing set: Done.

The week before Christmas, I realized we had nowhere to store all of our china that had lived in boxes for years.  And so a new hutch arrived on our doorstep.  What to do about that empty space in the living room begging for a sofa table?  Twenty minutes later, ordered and ready to ship.

I was on a roll, so I moved on to things that I had previously reserved exclusively for in-person shopping visits — items I wanted to sit on, touch, see, ensure comfort in, etc.  A couch, a chair — done and done.  My new opinion:  Sitting on furniture before you buy it is so very 1990s.  If 16 out of 18 online reviewers told me the couch was comfortable, their asses are a fine proxy for mine.  Ship it here, please.

It got a little ridiculous. 

Boxes upon boxes on the front porch.  A familiar exchange with the UPS guy.  An arched eyebrow from my husband.  My new neighbors probably thought I was running an upholstery cartel.  But, hey — it was no different than spending the money in person (yeah, I got some great shipping deals, don’t you worry).  

Hi, Frank. Want to spend Thanksgiving with us?

It was better this way.  Because let me give you a brief list of why I can’t shop with my kids effectively:

  • Something will break.
  • Somebody will cry. 
  • Somebody will be hungry or thirsty.
  • The window of opportunity to make a decision is about 17 minutes.
  • No adult can complete a thought or a sentence.

All of this leads to either giving in to a crappy purchase or leaving empty-handed.  Again.

At home, I type away.  Kids are fed, happy, entertained.  I can even have a glass of wine while spending money.  Everyone wins.

I’m considering how to take this to the next level.  With spring here, who has time to visit those pesky nurseries to pick out plants and flowers?  Google, let’s make a date and get me some landscaping.  And that basement renovation staring me down?  I might need a better monitor for that one.

Maybe you are one of those “I must see it in person” shoppers.  I respect that.  If you have small children, I am in awe of you.  I am particularly in awe of you if your house doesn’t look like this.

My fate without my keyboard

But for me, it’s a losing proposition.  So, I’d say, 95% of our new house was furnished and decorated online.  And most of it happened to work out swimmingly. 

I don’t care to discuss the other 5% right now, because my “must return” pile is an ongoing thorn in my side.

That’s for another day, and a small price to pay in the name of progress.  So, thank you, Al Gore, thank you.

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  1. That bullet list of why you can’t shop with kids could all be used to describe me, shopping alone. 🙁 Especially the somebody will cry or be hungry or thirsty.

    I’m with you. There’s nothing like online shopping. And the returns…well, that’s what husbands are for. 😉

  2. Jessica says:

    I love online shopping! I will also say thank you to Al Gore. One of the reasons why it is hard to shop with my kids is that instead of being able to shop we have to look for a bathroom because of course the minute we get into a store it’s time to go potty.

    Where are the pictures of the house with the items purchased online?

  3. Alexandra says:

    It’s that very 5% pile that keeps me going to Pottery Barn and Ethan Allen in person.

    • fordeville says:

      That’s fair. I *really* hate Internet returns, and suffice it to say they’re no picnic when they are home furnishings. But I hate a bare house more. Lesser of two evils…

  4. HeathRobots says:

    We are living in parallel universes. I am always sitting on the milk crates and styrofoam cooler stools in my living room demanding thanks from Al Gore for my dedication to upcycling. His daughter once thanked me for letting her squeeze by me in a crowded room, but I’ve never heard bupkis from him. I think I like your universe better.

  5. I don’t even have children and I still prefer shopping online…so much more variety, no lines, no driving from store to store comparing items and prices! It’s a godsend!

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