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So even though we gave the place a Best Of in 2010, I told OC Weekly Layout Editor Andrea Adams that I wouldn't write about Just Like the Model until after she'd had the opportunity to visit—hopefully, she got the chance this past weekend.
While flea markets and antique hunting aren't for everyone, there's a solution to bargain shopping when it comes to furniture and housewares . . . as long as you don't mind a bit of foraging. Fountain Valley's Just Like the Model is California's largest model-home-furniture clearinghouse for the building industry, which basically translates to "It's a giant, giant 24,000-square-foot showroom filled with just-like-new furniture (and accessories) recycled from model McHomes."
Visiting Just Like the Model is as overwhelming as it sounds. Get there early enough, and there may be a line snaking out of the entrance to this warehouse nestled in an industrial complex just off the 405—dedicated fans shop early and often to find the best picks. Once you walk through the doors, you'll be greeted by a room full of, uh, stuff. It's intimidating, but be sure to comb through everything. You'll find sofas, coffee tables, dining sets, assorted chairs, lamps, random trinkets, picture frames, artificial plants and flowers, bed frames, artwork, sinks . . .
18429 Pacific St.
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
Region: Fountain Valley
And as with most bargain-shopping experiences, you're not going to find entire sets of living-room furniture in a nice showroom. It's jumbled, it's messy, and it's not easy to sift through it all. Just remember to try to mentally take that fancy sofa out of its surroundings and into the room you want it to be in—never mind that it's being hawked next to some mismatched throw pillows and a fake flat-screen television (that's also for sale, by the way).
One really, really important thing to keep in mind: Furniture and home décor is pricey. And this isn't IKEA, where you'll find dirt-cheap particle board and subpar pieces that might last a few years but definitely won't last a move. Just Like the Model has some solid, well-built pieces . . . albeit with a few (usually) minor imperfections. If you're coming here to look for a $200 sofa, it's probably not going to happen. Keep in mind the pricing at storefronts such as Crate and Barrel and Pottery Barn, and you'll feel better about paying $120 for a midcentury-style dining-room table sitting in a warehouse in Fountain Valley.
Final tip: Sign up for the Just Like the Model mailing list on its website and receive info on new merchandise (photos!) and opportunities for discounts.
This column appeared in print as "OC's Next Top Model."