Like most people, if I had my choice I would always prefer to shop from small businesses that are local. As a decorator, and as my own client, I realize that this isn't always possible (mostly because of cost) and for those of us outside of NYC and LA our "local" options are much more limited. When you are shopping at a small business (even local ones) shipping can be costly and I've found that the customer service from smaller stores can be less than ideal. Often phone calls and emails take longer than expected to be returned and speaking of returns, if they are even allowed, then they typically are sent on your own dime. To make matters worse, there can often be a hefty restocking fee associated with your return.
Of course, the flip side is that you are supporting a small business which is more likely to have a higher quality product, fair wages, fair trade, more sustainable materials, etc.. so it makes sense that items would cost more and as a consumer it's a much more responsible way to spend your money. This dichotomy is why over the years I've become such a big fan of collaborations. Ones where small businesses team with large retailers so you can get a more socially responsible product (that is often designed better) coupled with the ease of shopping from a big box store.
Right now my favorite collaboration is that between Commune + West Elm. If you are looking for affordable and well designed neutral pieces that won't break the bank, look no further. Most of the pieces are super unique and they look like they could have easily been found in a neighborhood store, but they come with the convenience and support that West Elm is known for. Below I've rounded up a few of my favorite pieces from the collection and I can only hope that in the future we will see more collaborations between these smaller, more obscure companies and the chain retailers that we have come to trust and love!