Adventures from the Design Within Reach Warehouse Sale


Every four months or so, modern classic purveyors Design Within Reach offer DWR Warehouse and Sample Sales at their four warehouse locations across the country. (San Francisco; Secaucus, New Jersey; Estero, Florida; and Cincinnati/No. Kentucky)

The DWR storage facilities are filled with overstocked and discontinued items, customer returns, and damaged pieces and opened to the public. My mom recently moved to Northern Kentucky, and as the Fall Warehouse Sale was occurring last weekend (November 3rd and 4th), I reckoned it was time for a visit. Interestingly, there’s no DWR studio in the Cincinnati area, so the warehouse’s location in nearby Hebron is curious, though convenient.

Adventures from the Design Within Reach Warehouse Sale
The sale started at 10:00 a.m., but a wrong turn gets us there around 10:20. Already, the parking lot is packed, and cars are lined on the grass along the roadways in the warehouse park. So, I launched over the curb and join the rulebreakers about a quarter mile from the door.

    Before entering, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect: I didn’t know whether there’d be rows and rows of Eames lounges, or just some scratch-and-dent barstools and odds and ends. So, I hadn’t really set a budget for myself, or even determined whether I’d buy anything.

Upon entering, the place is totally packed. Something tells me many of these shoppers had lined up at the door an hour or two before the sale commenced.

    The sale is laid out wisely; items are set up by category: dining, outdoor, sofas, etc. Except for all the stuff you’ve actually seen before- the modern design classics that DWR makes “within reach”. These iconic pieces - Saarinen’s womb chair, Noguchi coffee tables, Eames molded plywood chairs, etc- are splayed out right inside the front door, and the shoppers are swarming all over them.

Then, the twinge hits me, and I realize I am going to spend way more money than I may have first thought. Naturally, I start feeling a bit anxious: the crowd is a bit overwhelming, I realize that all the items I see are limited in number and are quickly being claimed. Plus, it hurts to see some of these design classics for the first time in such damaged condition. (Not all are ruined, but many possessed serious flaws.)

    So as to make sure we saw everything before the masses, we cruised through the whole sale before taking our time with anything in particular. The Warehouse Sale workers were abundant and very helpful; I was asked more than twenty times if I was ready to be “written up” with the various items I carried around so as to keep them in reserve. It really was a quite large space, and they truly had an abundance of items for sale, more than presented in their catalog or in a local “studio”.

    When we had reached the end (lamps, clocks, house numbers, and the like), my anxiety began to subside…I imagine I had convinced myself that I was totally gonna spend a bunch of money, and that it’d be okay. So, I walked back to the beginning, and this is what I ended up with:

Eames Molded Rocker: White

The Eames Rocker is certainly my favorite purchase. They had five: two blue, two orange, and one white. My wife and I have been looking at these on eBay and in local vintage furniture shops, and I knew she’d prefer the white…it can go with any color scheme. (She fancies it'll eventually go in our nursery when the time comes)

Problem! The left maple rocker on the white chair is cracked all the way through…probably the result of over-tightening the screws. So I try to locate a worker to see if they could get me a screwdriver to simply switch out the left rocker with one from a non-damaged chair (the blue one right next to it). So my lady asks the guy above her, and he asks the dude above him, and twenty-five minutes later (as the nerves returned), I finally talked to someone with the authority to give me the okay. “Don't you have a screwdriver?” he asks? Crap. Another fifteen minutes later, and he returns, and we realize we need a wrench to hold to nut behind the bolt.... All the while, my mom and I have to fight off the crowds from taking the other pieces we’d already claimed (see below). Eventually, after talking with four levels of authority, two tool recognizance missions, and some seriously dirty knees and hands from goofing around on the warehouse floor, I have an as-new white Eames Rocker.

I haven’t told my wife about this one yet; I’m gonna slide it next to the tree on Christmas. It’s not really a gift for her, but she’ll love it, and it'll add to the excitement of Christmas morning. Perhaps I’ll throw a big old red bow on it. She never reads my Curbly stuff anyway, so I’m totally okay with giving away my secret here.

Walnut Mag Table

I’m a sucker for molded plywood in all shapes… I’d seen these magazine tables in catalogs and lots on online sofa advertisements, and whatnot. To me, it seems like alot of modernism-bang-for-your-buck. There were eight when I first picked it up (and carried it around for almost an hour), and all were gone by the time we went through the second time. It’s an intentional piece; distinctive, and not terrifically expensive, and can be used in a variety of ways: magazine/book table, end or side table, nightstand, laptop desk (when turned on end). Mine looked in excellent condition, and though the color/finish is a little lighter than one imagines for walnut, I thought it was a heap of modernism for a hundred bones.

Eames Hang-It-All.

I don’t dig much on retro kitsch, but I’m always looking for ways to be playful. The Hang-It-All was the first piece of Eames design that I saw in a coffee table book back in college. I’ve thought many a times how I might try to make it DIYable. But actually holding one in my hand, I couldn’t resist. 


Taburet M Stacking Stools

My mom isn't much for modernism, but her eyes leaped onto these stacking stools from the front door. We grabbed one the one in cherry with the most pleasing grain pattern (there were five), and kept it with us during the whole morning. As my mom looked at it while we waited during the Eames Rocker experience, she got more and more excited by it, and I convinced her to get two. When I went to get the second one, there were only two left, and one had serious scratches on the seat. The other had a small nick in the corner, but can be easily repaired. My mom wants to do something weird with them, like put them at the end of her bed where no one can see them, but at least she bought something original and quite minimalist.

  A week later, I’m quite satisfied with my finds. I think I found three choice, effective pieces for under $500 (My total cost was around $470 with some ridiculous Kentucky sales tax). I saved around $300 (around 37%), with no shipping charges. I heard among the buzz that the prices continue to drop throughout the weekend, but by the time we left, all those like ours were already claimed.


Plus, once I stopped freaking out, I had a lot fun.


[Images from DWR.com and Shelteriffic.com]

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Anonymous on May 23, 2010:

Thanks so much for posting your experience! I don't live anywhere close to a DWR warehouse so I always drool at the thought of actually getting to go to one of these famous warehouse sales. So I have to be content with trying to find used goods on Ebay and Craigslist. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Right now I'm debating what happens when I can't find that perfect piece used. Who can afford the prices that DWR stuff really sells for?

smbriones on Nov 16, 2007:

How do you find out when the next one will be?

erika on Nov 14, 2007:

Wow! And thank you for all of the wonderful details! I was born and raised in the Nati and never even knew that they had a warehouse there. I tried to get my sister to go to the sale just to tell me all about it but she has zero interest in anything modern as most mid westerners.

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