By Marni Jameson
The house guests came. They ate. They slept. They laughed. They cried. They used dozens of towels. They created laundry blizzards. They ate some more. They made our two dogs very tired and happy. They played board games and watched movies. They went out and came back. And all that week, not one of them said, “Do you know that you don’t have any outdoor furniture on your terrace?”
I had been gearing up for weeks to outfit the upstairs covered terrace with outdoor cabinetry, a small refrigerator, and inviting outdoor furniture. All the pieces were to fall into place before our nine guests – an infant, a toddler, a 5-year-old, an 8-year-old and five adults in their 20s and 30s – came to town. They were all staying upstairs, where I wanted to create an outdoor decompression chamber, which they would surely need.
And I might have pulled it off if I hadn’t been so picky.
After scouring my options and learning what to look for when buying outdoor furniture, (See part three of this series.) I set my sites on a pair of deep-seated, coffee-brown wicker lounge chairs with tan cushions, two matching ottomans, and a side table from Blue Oak Outdoors’ Bahama Collection. The product line checked all my boxes: looks, function, quality, price, and size.
However, in the days between deciding and ordering, the ottomans became “temporarily unavailable,” according to the website, which I ignored. Surely, they can find two ottomans. They just had them yesterday. I ordered the furniture.
The confirming email contained two little words I loathe: “back order.” Ugg. The ottomans would not be in for a few weeks. I called the company tell them they were mistaken. “But I have guests coming,” I pled.
“Would you be interested in outdoor furniture from one of our other two lines?” the customer service person asked. I tried to want them, but you know how when your mind is as set as a brick in cement, your heart is pinned, and you’ve already pictured yourself sitting in this exact chair, nothing else will do? “I’ll wait,” I said.
He would do what he could, but much would depend on the shipping schedule from the independent trucking company. Sigh. So much of my fate lies in other people’s hands.
The cabinets went in. The guests arrived. The furniture was still at large. The company expedited the order. Then hope came in the form of an email from the trucking company announcing a Friday delivery. The guests would have one weekend to enjoy the furnished space. And, even more important, and this is where you come in, I could finish my outfitting-the-outdoor column series without interruption. See the pressure I am under?
All was coming together in a photo-finish ending, until …… a woman from the trucking company called Thursday. “The truck scheduled for Friday wasn’t coming,” she said matter-of-factly.
“But I have an email confirmation,” I said, as if that mattered.
“We thought we’d have enough merchandise going your way to fill a truck, but we don’t. The next delivery date is Monday.”
“Monday’s too late,” I said, pathetically. “See, my houseguests will be leaving, and I need to write this outdoor furniture column, which is due Sunday.” She is not caring, but I continued, “It’s part of a five-part series, so, you see, Monday won’t work.” I could hear her filing her nails.
“We could do Tuesday,” she said.
“You want Tuesday?”
“No, I want Friday.”
“We have Monday or Tuesday.”
On Monday, right after DC and I waved the last of our family off to the airport, the truck driver called to say he’d be to the house within the hour. We looked at each other and rolled our eyes. Then we looked around at the suddenly still upended house displaying all the fun we’d had. The furniture didn’t matter.
That night after work we got the house back in order, then we unpacked the new furniture and put it upstairs where it fell beautifully into place.
As I sank into one of the supremely comfortable, cushioned chairs, and put my feet up for the first time in days, DC arrived with two glasses of wine and collapsed in the matching chair beside mine. There on the quiet, finally finished terrace, we shared a moment of perfect peace, and raised our glasses to the successful family gathering and to the new furniture that had arrived a week late — and just in time.
And here’s what I learned.
- Do not settle. Though it’s tempting to sacrifice getting what you want for getting something when you want, don’t. Right is worth waiting for.
- Expect things to go wrong. Be delighted when they don’t. Whenever you are trying to have a furniture plan come together for a special occasion, you are set up for disappointment.
- Plan. Realize. These steps to achieving your dream space are failsafe: Picture what you want. Sketch it out to scale. Find the best furnishings for the job. Order and be patient.
- Measure twice, buy once. When ordering furniture online, check your facts. Size, scale and weight are among the most difficult factors to assess, yet that’s were companies cut, making smaller, skimpier products for less. Look closely at specifications, product details and reviews when shopping and compare. Be sure products will fit well in your space.
- Looks are everything. In Florida, where everything ages five years for every five minutes outside, getting a product that was rustproof and weatherproof was high on my list. So the resort-grade aluminum frame, hand-woven-all-weather wicker, and Sunbrella fabric on the cushions scored a lot of points with me.
- If an item says it’s on back order, believe it.
Syndicated columnist Marni Jameson is the author of three home and lifestyle books, including Downsizing the Family Home – What to Save, What to Let Go (Sterling Publishing 2016). You may reach her at www.marnijameson.com.