You know how little kids are overcome with joy and excitement at the thought of visiting Mickey Mouse and friends at the Magic Kingdom?
I've read that kids feel this urge to visit and joy when they enter due to a tremendous need to be immersed in the things they love that makes them feel creative. I'm sure the massive Disney advertising budget doesn't hurt either.
But truth be told, I've never been, and I've never really had that overwhelming desire to visit Disney World, it was just never my thing. But as an adult this desire to embrace my creativity in immersive ways finds outlet in my life in other ways, not the least of which is at a home decor outlet or design center.
Over the holidays I found what I believe to be a truly magical place, not much unlike that of Disney for kids, but my discovery is far less expensive in every way. And I found this in one of the most unlikely places, West Chester, Ohio.
While visiting family in the Cincinnati area I couldn't help but be excited for a little side trip we had planned with my cousin. You see, West Chester, Ohio is a major distribution location for a little home decor and accessories store I like called Ballard Designs. Maybe you've heard of it?
Just look at the sheer size of this giant nondescript building when compared to the trucks parked out back. I included a nearby football field in the map so you can see just how many football fields could fit in this massive place.
As luck would have it, attached to this massive shipping warehouse is a fairly substantial outlet where they sell damaged, excess, and out of circulation furniture and accessories. Oh, and let's not forget that not only is this home to the Ballard Designs outlet...
...but it's also home to the Frontgate...
...and Grandin Road outlets (all owned by the same company).
I've heard about this outlet several times over the years from friends and family, but until this most recent visit, it was always a leprechaun in my home decor world, with legends often discussed but never seen in person.
They've each recounted stories of wall to wall deals, mirrors spilling from the display cases, furniture stacks upon stacks, bolts of fabric piled to the ceiling, and lighting as far as the eye could see, all at drastically reduced prices, further cut by door buster and deal of the day sales. As the lore grew I surely began to believe this mythical place simply didn't exist.
Feeling much like the explorers of the fifteenth century discovering new lands (but without all the scurvy), I couldn't even come close to containing my excitement when I realized the massive scale of deals I had just rolled up on.
I kid you not, there were so many things that all of the things had things, and they were all on sale with multiple stacked discounts! From solid wood to upholstered to metal...
...and wall sconces to massive chandeliers and hanging lights...
...everywhere I turned there was something else that I saw, some item that needed a place in our home, I just had to figure out a place in our home that needed it, and my brain couldn't work fast enough.
Before I knew it I was overwhelmed by all of the choices. I loved so many greatly discounted things that I quickly found myself completely unable to selectively work though all of the stuff to figure out what we needed versus what I simply wanted to need, so I was picking up nothing at all. Oh the tragedy.
Seeing my panic (I'm serious, I think I actually looked panicked) Alex suggested we focus on just something we needed for our new house.
Light! We need lighting to hang above our dining room table! Focus on lighting!
I turned my focus to this "simple" goal. In selecting a chandelier for our new house, I don't want something traditional and formal as we have in our row house. Instead I'm going for a more casual vibe and feeling throughout. It's a water house so a nautical or more utilitarian look would be appropriate, and I want anyone to stays there to feel more at ease and relaxed.
The first light I came across definitely had the nautical theme going for it with lots of black metal and rustic ropes. However it looked a lot like a more traditional chandelier.
Next I started to look at large glass globe lights and other glass sided lights. I do like the look of these, but I worry the scale and shape might be somewhat to very off above a dining room table. I also worry that the glass will get dirty and cloudy, as it does with most glass lantern style lights, and I'd prefer to spend less time cleaning this house if possible.
Finally, we started to look at lantern style hanging lights when I noticed a somewhat rustic lantern style hanging light that had no glass to get dirty. I showed Alex and he was a fan as well. My laser focus on lighting had paid off. I'm not going to say it was an automatic decision, because I did walk around the store for another 30 minutes obsessing about the decision, but we ultimately bought the open lantern for our house.
I do have to say that looking at lighting in a giant open space is very difficult when thinking about scale. 20' ceilings with no furniture nearby makes it so you really have to use your imagination. Fingers crossed we made the right choice, but I'm feeling good about my selection.
Other than lighting I picked up a few other accessories around the store, like a cool concave sectioned mirror for $19, and a piece of faux coral also for $19.
Alex wandered through the parts and pieces aisles and tried to come up with great custom uses for some of the other lighting elements, like all of the old school house metal enamel shades (just $15), and the glass globe shades ($22).
We also walked through the other two outlet stores where Alex started snapping photos of this ridiculous convertible bar with humidor, wine fridge, poker chips, and glassware. Regular price, $25,000, discounted to $20,000, one day only, 50% off, so take that to $10,000...what a bargain (or not at all). I think Alex just wants to build one of his own.
If you pay a visit to this outlet, the most important thing to pay attention to is the sale board at the entrance. This board will tell you where the deals of the day can be found. You can score extra discounts of 30% or more on specific items or collections, you just need to know where to look for that day.
In the end, our hanging lantern light fixture ended up on the daily door buster additional discount list. The normally priced $200 light fixture was purchased on the day of our visit for a cool $69. If you time it right, the prices really can't be beat.
So, does this seem like a place that can inspire a little creativity? More importantly, does it seem like a place you'd like to visit? Next time you find yourself in or around West Chester, Ohio, just a little north of Cincinnati, be sure to drop by the Ballard Designs Outlet. I'm pretty sure you'll be happy with something you find.
Do you have any go-to places in your decorating arsenal? We'd love to hear where you head when you want to look for great deals.