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.

Comments 11


Anne Carter
1/14/2015 at 3:45 PM
Oh my gosh... heaven!
Koko Mo
1/14/2015 at 5:55 PM
Thank you for sharing -- I love these catalogs! I never knew they had outlets! What a great find!
Heather Coburn Young
1/14/2015 at 6:45 PM
Ha! I had the same reaction when I got to visit the outlets in Atlanta. Absolutely my favorite store! :) looking forward to seeing more pics of your decorating genius
1/14/2015 at 11:36 PM

What a great tip--nice to hear others get overwhelmed by such places too, so thanks for sharing that. Would not mind more pics. Did they have areas set up like rooms? Anything you regret not buying, now that you've had time to think?


Hi Mia. They loosely had a few rooms set up, but nothing as formal as IKEA. I always regret not buying things after the fact. When I look back on photos later, I tend to see new things that I didn't notice in person. I wish I had bought 2 faux coral pieces, the larger size of the mirror I ended up with, and we even forgot a few Christmas ornaments they had put at the register while we continued to shop. Duh! I was also so overwhelmed I didn't take as many pictures as I should have!

1/15/2015 at 7:37 AM

Wow! What a fun, albeit overwhelming place. I think I may plan a little trip there this summer!

I have not developed any tried-and-true techniques for decor, but I do often try local antique shops and even thrift shops before I buy. I especially like thrift shops for fabric. I repurpose clothing into other things if I like the fabric.

As an aside, I'm with you on Disney. I have four kids, and they aren't Disney fans either which is sort of unheard of these days. When we lived in CA, we went to DL, and they asked to go back to the hotel after just a few hours. LOL


What a good idea to repurpose clothing into other things! And too funny that your kids wanted to go back to the hotel. Maybe they were overwhelmed by Disney the way I was by the outlets. ;)

1/15/2015 at 12:36 PM

DAMN. I need metal lighting shades for my place, and in Canada they are RIDICULOUSLY expensive. I'm talking a couple hundred. Makes me want to take a roadtrip to Ohio!

Franki Parde
1/15/2015 at 1:09 PM

EEEKKK!!! ALL of my fav catalogs and I order from them ALL the time. It must have been dazzling!! Hoping we can make a "side trip"...just to see...honest...when we drive back to the Midwest. franki

1/18/2015 at 7:05 AM

Yes, I'd definitely be overwhelmed at the first visit; your idea to focus on one or a few items you knew you needed was a good one!

My favorite "adult Disneyland" is Greenfront Furniture. The original is in Farmville but there is a satellite closer to you, in Manassas (haven't been to that one). The original location developed organically over the years and has swallowed up most of a couple blocks of old downtown Farmville. It's somewhat haphazardly laid out so if you want to scope out all of the bargains you have to visit almost every building, something I've never managed to do in a single trip. A few weeks ago when I went, I focused on two specific items I'd seen on their website and that helped keep me on track. It's especially known as the go-to place for all kinds of imported rugs; I've gotten some insane bargains.

1/21/2015 at 4:30 PM

IT surprises me that things like this are not more common. In Places such as Africa, southeast Asia, and even the middle east these place are extremely common. the whole bazar, market style just upscaled is a tremendous place to allow your creative juices just to flow out into the things that you are looking for.But great find!!!

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