Design centers help you avoid the big mark-up on items you typically have to buy through interior decorators. By Cameron Huddleston, Former Online Editor June 24, 2010 July is a great time to find deals on furniture, as retailers mark down prices to make room for new inventory that arrives in August (see Best Buys of Summer). But what about those unique pieces you see in the pages of design magazines, the ones sold to the trade only? Is there any way to snag a discount on items you have to buy through an interior designer, who typically marks up merchandise 30% to 50% over the "to the trade" price?Yes, there is, according to "Steal These Deals" in the August issue of Kiplinger's Personal Finance. Here's the scoop: Now design centers, with manufacturer showrooms that sell to the trade, have begun to open their doors to consumers. If you go to a participating center, designers affiliated with its consumer buying service will help you locate what you’re shopping for and charge you a lower markup. For example, in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., you have a two-hour window to shop with a designer, who marks up products 20% if you buy within the first hour of service or 25% if you buy in the second hour. If the design center near you doesn’t offer its own buying service, look for an independent buying service that operates nationally, such as Decorative Buying Service. Advertisement DBS owner Michael Zarlin charges a flat 20% markup. But with any buying service, you won’t get a lot of hand holding. Zarlin says that you pay to get the items you want, not personalized attention. To find a buying service, call the design center nearest you (see www.id-d.com/interior_design_centers.htm) or do a Web search using “consumer buying service + interior design” (or “design center” or “designer furnishings”).