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Working with an In-house Designer at West Elm

Let’s be clear, I am a design enthusiast, not an interior designer. Yes, I’ve taken a class or two and decorated a handful of houses, but I’m not a professional (I just blog like one - ha!). Hey, that’s ok! I work in institutional investment management and I love it! In addition to building and decorating a new vacation home and rental for my family in Wintergreen, VA, I have a number of finishing touches to make to our current home – a 100 year old rowhouse in the heart of Washington, DC.

The project d’jour is finding a rug for the living room. My 5 month old will be crawling soon and we don’t have a stich of carpet in the entire house. Our rugs are all small accent rugs…What can we say? We are hardwood floor people. But, practicality reigns so it’s on to finding a rug. First stop was online. I visited all of the major sites Wayfair, Overstock, Amazon, Joss and Main, One Kings Lane, Houzz…your name it, I wasted at least 2 hours on the website trying to sift through and filter 24,3864 options. It was exhausting. Due to the size of the rug that we need (9 x 12 or 10 x 14), the sizable cost (upwards of $1,200), and the high cost of shipping if we needed to make a return, I decided that buying the rug online wasn’t an option.

I needed help. I accessorized the living room using a combination of West Elm staples and our personal, collected pieces. Naturally, West Elm at Tyson’s Corner in Virginia was my first stop. We wanted a plush rug in neutral tones with a symmetrical pattern that isn’t too bold. We wanted a style that would look good with or without a coffee table. I liked several of their online options and decided to go to the store. Because I am short on both time and patience with my 5 month old in tow, I decided that it was best to book a 1 hour meeting with an interior decorator. Here’s how it went!


Excellent - I booked my appointment online. It was fast, easy and free. I received an email confirmation and several (!) reminders.


Needs Improvement – First, I was running late. I called the store about 4 times starting an hour before my appointment. I finally got an answer on the 4th try. The hurried associate reassured me that being 15 minutes late was ok (later learned that he was the manager). When I arrived, the person at the cash register looked truly puzzled as to 1) the fact that I actually had an appointment and 2) who the appointment was with. I started to feel like this was not a regular occurrence. She ended up being the person who the appointment was assigned too – ironic.


Good – Once we got past the hiccup of getting started, I found the Home Stylist, Gail, knowledgeable, patient and resourceful. She was personable and kind to my baby boy. The rug that my husband and I preferred, she quickly steered us away from due to the uneven jute texture, high maintenance, and poor fit for a crawling baby. She also steered us away from my second choice which was a shag style rug – too much loose material for a baby. Her recommendation was that we focus on West Elm’s Shine rug series. The problem with this series is that it is mostly solid in color without the symmetrical patterns that we like. The other issue was that the Shine rugs in the store looked incredibly worn out (matted and maybe even a little…dirty?). Gail did her best to identify a few of the Shine rugs that were as close as possible to what we were looking for…Ultimately, my husband vetoed them. I don’t disagree. They were ok, not great.


Excellent - I’m glad that my 1 hour consultation was free. The meeting was helpful but not nearly as definitive as I needed it to be. The limitation, of course, was the inventory not the advice.

Design Advice Options

Excellent - While this was a consultation for a single item, West Elm does offer a 3 hour consultation ($129) and an unlimited consultation with a Senior Designer ($499 which is credited to purchase of $5,000 or more). If you were planning to spend $5,000, the service would be well worth it.


West Elm’s website has an AWESOME room layout feature that could keep me busy ALL day!!! It’s a web based tool that lets you use their furniture to design your own room layout. It’s free!

While I don’t think that West Elm has the rug for us, I did enjoy meeting Gail, window shopping the store and refining my criteria for our new rug. And, I have 3,400 square feet of space to furnish in a few months so I will be back!

NEXT UP: My 2nd In-house designer appointment review!

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