Category: Reviews

My Pottery Barn Botched Order Saga

Pottery Barn Daily System
Pottery Barn Daily System

I have been drooling over the Pottery Barn Daily System as soon as I saw it at a friend’s home last October.  I asked them where they got it and they told me it was Pottery Barn, but warned me that it was not cheap.

Over the holidays I kept stalking the PB website to see if it would go on sale or not, but it never did.  However, I did see that a few times a year, they would send out 15-20% off coupons by email.  I waited and waited and eventually one came around and coincided with a free shipping coupon!  Score!  However, when I tried to add the coupons to the cart, it said only 1 coupon per transaction.  Bummer since the coupons were shown to me on the SAME HOME PAGE right next to each other.  Really poor customer experience in my opinion.  The shipping costs being so high eliminated my entire savings.  If anyone from PB is reading this, I think its ridiculous you are still charging a percentage of the cost of the item for shipping!

Eventually the stars aligned and they sent out a 15% off coupon which coincided with a free shipping promotion on the Daily System components.  Woohoo!  I ordered on Dec 29th.  Unfortunately, I had a lot of issues with the order.

1. One of the packages went missing.  I mentioned that I ordered on December 29th.  On January 1st, I had received shipping notices for all of the packages (the various components came in different packages).  However, on January 7th, I had noticed that one of the package tracking #s still had not had a status update.  The status was still “tracking label created” and the package did not seem like it had left Memphis.  I called PB customer service and they said they would look into it for me.  At the same time, I asked the PB customer service to try to cancel 1 of the components because I realized I had ordered 2 of the letter bins by mistake.  They said they would attempt to cancel it.

3. I called customer service again on January 13th and asked if my package had been found yet, but customer service had no idea.  I was pretty upset and I told them I wanted a replacement to get sent out.  Funny enough, when I got home that day a package was actually waiting for me.  I guess they had sent out the missing pieces after I called them the first time.

4. We got to work trying to install everything but realized that a few of the items had arrived damaged.  This wasn’t due to insufficient packaging — they were damaged before they were even put in the box.  The linen pinboard was completely warped–it did not lay flat on the wall.  Also, one of the mounting rods was really scuffed up.  Since the mounting rods are part of the display, I wanted a replacement.  So I called again on January 20th.  This agent was able to reorder the damaged items for me.  I also inquired about the canceled letter bin and she said she could see the cancellation but not the corresponding refund, so she did the refund for me.

Finally everything arrived last week, the week of January 26th!  A full month after my initial order!  Whew!  What a saga, huh?  While all of the customer service agents were pretty friendly, (the last one even apologized for all the drama), it really shouldn’t have required me to make 3 calls and spend 60 min on the phone with them to make everything right.

Next post I’ll go into a review of the actual daily system.  Funny enough, Pottery Barn is actually doing 20% off all daily systems right now with free shipping!

Nordstrom Anniversary Haul & Reviews

By now most of my Anniversary items have all arrived and I have had time to try them on and decide which ones are the keepers and which ones will go back.

I did my Anniversary shopping both in store and online, though mostly online since my daytime hours are rather busy trying to balance work and being a mom!

I wanted to show off a few of my sale highlights.

Pleione Mixed Media Tunic Nordstrom Anniversary Sale
Pleione Mixed Media Tunic

I loved the Pleione Mixed Media tunic.  It is pretty generously sized but I love the relaxed look.  It comes in a ton of colors and in both regular and petite sizing.  I have it in this purple color as well as the pink and I think the pink is a little too bright.  I am going to exchange it for a grey which I think will be more my style.

Ted Baker London Belted Flare Cashmere Blend Coat
Ted Baker London Belted Flare Cashmere Blend Coat

I love this Ted Baker London coat, but it is rather pricey so I’m debating with myself on whether or not I need another wool coat when I already have 2.  Hmmm… This one is dressier than any my other coats.  I love that it isn’t too heavy and is super soft.  The coat runs a bit small.  I typically wear a size 0 but I found the 0 to be quite snug and I had a little bit of trouble doing up the buttons at the waist.

Chloe K Lace Inset Top Nordstrom Anniversary Sale
Chloe K Lace Inset Top

I tried this top in store and it ran super duper small, but once I sized up I thought it was very cute.  Be careful not to go too large though, as the lace cutouts on the side might be too revealing!

What did you get at the sale?  Did you find a ton of great stuff like me, or was it a bust?  

I’ve got the West Elm Blues

Gosh, aren’t there some retailers that are a pleasure to shop at, while some just annoy you? For instance, my two favorite stores are Nordstrom and Costco. Both are super customer service oriented and it truly makes it a pleasure to shop at each store.

Now, let me tell you about my troubles with West Elm. Hopefully someone out there at the company reads this and takes some positive action because I’m really annoyed at some of their policies.

We made a big purchase at West Elm in October and they promised me 10% of my purchase back in West Elm Design Dollars if I opened a West Elm card (as well as 10% off the purchase price).

Well I ended up waiting weeks and weeks for the Design Dollars to arrive. They finally arrived in late December and they have a printed expiration date of March 15, 2014.  Three months isn’t an unreasonable time frame to use my dollars, but why print an expiration date at all?  In contrast, Nordstrom prints a 1 year expiration date on Nordstrom Notes, but you can purchase a gift card with your note and gift cards carry no expiration dates.

Second, the Design Dollars were denominated as a single $75 voucher and printed on the back, it said that they had to be used in 1 transaction and were not valid towards a few things like tax, shipping or gift cards.  Furthermore, it stated that any customer returns from that transaction would forfeit the value of the discount.  So basically this thing is more like a coupon and not a gift card.  Except that usually with a coupon, you’re not paying tax on the value of the discounted item.  With the way the Design Dollars work, you are paying tax on the full value and you can’t use it on your shipping costs the way a gift card would be allowed.  Kind of the worst of both worlds.

So I finally had a chance to pick out something to use my Design Dollars on tonight.  I picked up some throw pillows for the couch.  The order confirmation screen states that you actually have to pay for the entire value of your order and the value of the Design Dollars gets rebated to you on your West Elm Statement.  Why doesn’t it just take off the value immediately!?

To add insult to injury, as I was inputting my West Elm card #, the site crashed my browser.  No big deal right?  I would just have to input my information again.  Well when I went to input the Design Dollar information, it now stated that my voucher was already used… Wow the technical incompetence astounds me.  I work in software and I don’t understand how their site could mark my voucher being used when I had just put the information on the screen but not actually submitted an order.

This is in addition to all the other customer unfriendly practices I have already observed about shopping with West Elm like a 30 day return policy (most stores provide much longer return policies because they want to make sure their customers are completely satisfied), no returns on clearance items (do they not stand behind their product?) and no waived shipping costs.

All of this has really soured me on shopping at West Elm.  Their customer service line was able to fix my order for me and reinstate my Design Dollars but I never should have had to deal with that.  Pottery Barn and West Elm (PB is the parent company), please consider making your policies more customer friendly! Rant over! 🙂

Modern Furniture Shopping in Seattle

As I mentioned previously, after purchasing a dining table from Kasala and not being entirely happy with the sideboard we also purchased, I decided that we needed to find a new sideboard.  I fell in love with the Pearse sideboard at Crate and Barrel.  The price was right and I loved the design.  After ordering online, I got a call about 2 weeks later saying that my order couldn’t be fulfilled.  I was devastated!  I called the two stores in my area to see if I could buy the floor sample but alas, it had sold just the day before.  I even talked with the Crate and Barrel furniture rep if I could keep my name on a waitlist to see if I could get any orders that were cancelled by other customers.  Unfortunately the rep said that I was 2nd to last on a lengthy list of unfulfilled orders.  After nursing my broken heart for a few weeks, I’m back on the quest to find a sideboard for our living room.

Crate and Barrel Pearse large sideboard
Crate and Barrel Pearse large sideboard – So sad this was discontinued!

We ended up going to visit a few of stores over the weekend and I wanted to write down my thoughts on the stores, selection and service.  It turns out several of the stores are near each other on Western avenue near Madison so it was actually very easy to visit a few of them together.  Street parking was also easy to find on a Saturday afternoon.

Camerich by Alchemy

909 Western Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104 206.682.7575

I found 2 sideboards that I liked online that I wanted to see in person.  I really liked the Max and Solo sideboards.  They seemed sturdy but the cabinet doors were uneven.  The salesperson said that could be adjusted.  I just did a bit of research and Camerich is a Chinese company.  I am not 100% sure but I think all of the furniture is designed and made in China.  That being said, it was still quite high quality and better than anything other furniture I’ve seen from China.

While the sideboards are really nice, they seem a tad overpriced since each piece is sold individually and the Solo cabinet’s drawers are an add-in.

Camerich - Solo Cabinet
Camerich – Solo Cabinet – Notice the visible hinges
Camerich - Interior of Solo Cabinet
Camerich – Interior of Solo Cabinet
Camerich Max Cabinet
Camerich Max Cabinet – 2 door and drawer configuration

I think everything in the store is Camerich furniture.  I saw that they had a floor sample for sale from another brand but that was it.  Since it is all Camerich, the nice thing is that the entire catalog is available online on their website.

Modern Design Sofas

915 Western Ave, Seattle, WA 98104 206.652.8374

This store mostly sells modern sofas (hence the name!) but they do sell Huppe furniture, though they only had 1 sideboard in the store to view. They had the Moment tall sideboard in the store.  It wasn’t my favorite but it did seem well made like the other Huppe sideboard we saw previously.  I didn’t pay too much attention to the sofas as we were in a hurry but I did like the design and the pricing seemed on par with Kasala.  I believe all of the furniture is made to order by the manufacturers and the store doesn’t sell its own private label designs.  The salesperson seemed knowledgeable about the furniture and was very friendly.


901 Western Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104 206.464.9999

While we had already visited BoConcept in Bellevue on our last shopping trip, we wanted to take a look at the Occa sideboard again since it had been awhile. I found that the salesman here was a little bit pushy, though perhaps he was just trying to be extra helpful.  He didn’t really give me a chance to take a look around before diving in to look at finishes and pricing.  I got a little flustered and didn’t even get a chance to check out the construction of the drawers.  Oops!  I did still like the Occa but I don’t think its my top pick.  Everything in the store is BoConcept design so it should be on the website.


1015 Western Ave, Seattle, WA 98104 206.332.9744

I saw that there was one more furniture store just a few steps away so I thought we’d go take a look.  The store smells like new leather as you walk in and the furniture was super fancy and expensive.  So much so, that my husband remarked that people who can afford to shop here would probably be using a designer to shop for them!  The sideboards were nice, but in my opinion not worth the $8500 price tag.  Like Camerich and BoConcept, everything in the store is Roche-Bobois design.  The salesman said that much of their furniture is made in Italy.  The store had the Colors sideboard and Mangrove sideboard on display.

Roche Bobois Mangrove Sideboard designed by Marco Fumagalli
Roche Bobois Mangrove Sideboard designed by Marco Fumagalli

Seva Home

900 Lenora Street, Seattle, WA 98121 206.323.9925

Seva was the one store we visited that wasn’t on Western Avenue with the other stores. However, the nice thing is they have 2 hr validated parking in the South Lake Union Whole Foods garage!

It turns out they also carry the Huppe line and had the Huppe Cubic dresser in store.  I love it and I am thinking I will love the Huppe Illusion sideboard that is on their website.  Both of these are made in Canada and seemed to be good quality though I forget if I looked at the cabinet joinery technique.

Huppe Cubic Dresser
Huppe Cubic Dresser
Huppe Illusion Sideboard
Huppe Illusion Sideboard

They didn’t have too many options of sideboards to look at but they did say they represent over 350 manufacturers.  While I was there, another couple was pouring through design books, presumably picking out options.  The salesperson I spoke to said she would email me options that she would pick out since my little one was starting to have a meltdown after a few hours of shopping!


There were a few other stores I found online that we didn’t get a chance to visit today:

Alchemy Collection stocks Calligaris Furniture which looks beautiful online.  They also stock Jesse Furniture who makes the gorgeous “Frame” sideboard that I saw at Kasala (for some reason it didn’t really appeal to me in the Mustard laquer that Kasala had in store, but this photo with the walnut veneer looks amazing!).  I’ll have to find time to go back to Seattle to visit that store sometime soon.

Frame Sideboard by Jesse
Frame Sideboard by Jesse

Ligne Roset seems like a French BoConcept to me.  Their website seems to show many options for the different designs and the prices for each.

Avetex is a San Francisco company but had a page on Seattle deliveries which I found via Google.  While I am usually not opposed to ordering things online, furniture seems like it would be a little risky.  What if there was an issue when the item arrived?  I will have to do a bit more research into what Avetex does in that case.

Inform and Diva Furniture represent plenty of high end designers.  A good place to start looking at designers if you like modern furniture.

As you can see, I really like geometric lines!   I didn’t expect it, but I seem to have a bit of a “type”.  Did you like any of the sideboards I’m considering?  Let me know what you think!

Shutterfly Photo Book Reviews and Tips

I wanted to shift gears a little bit and do a post on photo books, even though they are only tangentially related to shopping.

In the past few years, my husband and I have been fortunate enough to be able to take 1 big vacation each year… and sometimes more than 1.  Among other places, we have been to England, Italy, France, Peru and India together!  We love traveling together and we always take lots of pictures to remember the amazing things we’ve seen and experienced.

Once I come home, I try to assemble a photo book in order to tell the story of our trip.

Over the years, I’ve created 15+ photo books for vacations, our wedding and for our baby’s birth.  I still have to do one of her first year!  That is a big project that I haven’t had a chance to tackle yet 🙂

My Photobook Library
My Photobook Library – All but 2 are Shutterfly books

The company that I used for most of my photo books, is Shutterfly.  I love the finished product and their software is top notch.  There are several choices of sizes and cover materials but I usually stick with either the 8×8 size or 8×11 and hardcover.  I’ve also ordered a softcover book before, and recently got a 12×12 book as well.

Cover Choices and Quality

Shutterfly offers several choices for hard covers: glossy, matte, padded, cloth, leather and premium.  I’ve only ever ordered the glossy hard cover and the cloth hard cover.  They also offer a softcover matte book which I’ve also ordered in the past.  Hardcover glossy is their standard finish–hardcover matte is an additional $5.00.

Shutterfly Hardcover Photobook Glossy Cover
Shutterfly Hardcover Photobook Glossy Cover

The glossy cover has a full bleed (meaning, the photo reaches the edges and wraps around so that there is no border).  You can also choose to write something on the spine of the book and place photos on the back.  There are many design choices for the covers and you can choose any number of photos in the various templates.

Shutterfly Cloth Hard Cover Photobook
Shutterfly Cloth Hard Cover Photobook

The cloth hardcover book has a die cut window where a photo is displayed.  Keep in mind this is not a die cut into the first page of your book.  The photo is actually mounted between the cover and the endsheet.  You can see in the below photo.

Cloth Hardcover Window Photobook Interior
Cloth Hardcover Window Photobook Interior

Both styles of covers have a nice textured endsheet pasted between the cover and the first page of your book which is a bit glossier than this endsheet.  The backcover also features the same endsheet material.

Softcover books do not have any endsheet as they are bound a little differently.

Page and Photo Quality

Shutterfly only has 1 weight for pages, but they are nice and thick.  The pages are glossy and colors look vibrant on the page.  Photos have always printed out nice and clear in the book as long as the original image uploaded was of high enough quality.

Shutterfly Hardcover and Page weights
Photobook pages
Photobook Pages
Photobook Pages

A new offering is layflat pages.  I haven’t had the chance to order this type of book yet.  The photos above show the standard pages which do not layflat.  Layflat pages is available as a premium upsell when you order your book.  The additional cost for my book was $25.00.

Software and Design Choices

The design software is Shutterfly’s strongest suit.  There are 2 modes you can choose from: Custom Path and Simple Path.  I always choose custom since I want to be able to decide where my photos go and what the pages look like.  To be honest, I’ve never done Simple path — this is where Shutterfly lays out all your photos in the book for you.

In Custom Path, first choose a theme for your book such as “travel” or “baby” or “family fun”.  This will establish the look and feel for the design elements.  You can then storyboard your book, meaning decide how many & which photos you want on each page and the software will auto-layout the page.  There are many templates for each page, grouped by the # of photos each template supports.  For instance, if you wanted 2 photos on a page, there are templates for showing 1 dominant photo and 1 smaller one, or 2 square photos, or 1 horizontal and 1 vertical, etc.

At this point, I usually make sure I’m happy with the layout, background and any embellishments that Shutterfly has added for me such as borders, stickers and other design elements.

The software allows you complete control over the # of photos per page, where they are located, how big each photo is, where each text box is, how big the text is, etc.  It’s extremely flexible.

Shutterfly automatically inserts a logo on the last page of your book.  You don’t have any choice in the matter.  (It’s the same with all the Shutterfly cards as well).  It would be nice if you could opt out of the logo, but I think almost all photobook companies insert their logo somewhere in the book.

Shutterfly logo page
Shutterfly logo page

Shipping & Customer Service

The book comes packaged in a clear bag within a bright orange cardboard mailer which protects the book well.  I’ve never had any issues with dinged corners so far.  They typically include a coupon for your next order as well.

Shipping and customer service are probably where I’d like to see Shutterfly improve.  Shipping seems to be done through “UPS Mail Innovations” which is a UPS + USPS program.  UPS delivers to my local post office and USPS delivers “the last mile” to my house.  It is extremely, extremely slow.  Add to this that production of the book takes 2-3 days.  From time of order until time to receipt of the last book I made, it was 8 business days.  I’ve experienced up to 11 days in the past!  Yikes!

I sent mail to customer service a few years ago letting them know how I was dissatisfied with how slow the delivery was (and that it missed their promise date) and all I got was a form letter telling me where to find their shipping guidelines.  Nothing annoys me more than receiving a canned response that doesn’t even address my problem.  I hope that they have improved in this regard since that time, but I haven’t had any complaints since then.

Promotions and Pricing

Shutterfly always has a sale.  This both makes me very happy and infuriates me!  It seems like there are always promotions so you never should pay retail.  You can enter in all of the special codes to your heart’s content and it will apply the deals that work for the items in your cart.  You are generally able to stack 1 “dollar off code” (e.g. $10 off your purchase) with 1 “percent off” code (e.g. 30% off photo books).  The shipping coupon (usually free shipping with purchase of $30 or more) is calculated after all discounts have been taken.  There are often free items being offered, with just shipping being charged so when you’re making an order, it is worth checking to see what you can get for a nominal increase in shipping costs.


I’ve been a happy customer of Shutterfly for 5+ years now.  They have outlasted several competitors which they’ve acquired.  After trying other photobook companies, I think Shutterfly’s software makes it easy to create a book to your specifications while still keeping it easy to use.