Why Pay for New Furniture? How to Find Used Pieces

May 7th 2016

Expensive, new furniture may look shiny on the showroom floor, but the moment you take it home and start using it, it becomes secondhand. Instead, follow these simple steps to learn how to find, select and resurrect cheap, secondhand furniture. Unlike cookie-cutter items from a catalog, your unique, intelligently chosen pieces will reflect your personal style. The best part is that when you put your feet up on your refinished coffee table, you’ll know you turned your home into a designer’s paradise for pennies on the dollar.

How to Find Cheap Secondhand Furniture 

  • Craigslist: Listings for your city contain a myriad of furniture of all kinds for sale, as well as “curb alerts” and other offerings under the “Free” section. Often, posters simply don’t have the time or manpower to move a heavy piece of furniture, so if you have the means to pick up bulky items, you can easily score a free mattress, armoire or even a piano.
  • Freecycle: This is an online community where members post items they want to give away. Freecycle’s website says they are “all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills.”
  • Local garage sales: In most residential areas, you can find at least one or two garage sales every weekend. Neighbors who need extra space or extra cash might be selling the perfect end table you need to complete your living room. Just keep an eye out for signs, remember to haggle and try to show up as early in the day as possible for the best pickings.
  • Thrift stores: While not always the cheapest option, good thrift shops are well-stocked and maintain quality control. They also typically house the widest selection of secondhand sofas.
  • Estate sales: While images of crystal chandeliers and fine silver may come to mind, not all estate sales are initiated by rich families. Regular people with affordable items pass away, too. These are your opportunities to find extremely well-kept pieces of furniture that the owners would not part with under normal circumstances.
  • Friends and family: If you ask around, most people have an item or two that they would be happy to unload, even if they don’t have the motivation to write a “for sale” ad or organize a garage sale.  
  • Trash: You know the old saying, but one man’s trash really might be perfectly usable furniture that he has simply grown tired of. When looking for curb pieces, the two best strategies are to drive around near the first of the month in a transplant or university neighborhood with a high rental turnover or scour ritzy neighborhoods before trash day. Furniture that the local millionaire throws out may be in perfect condition. 

How to Choose the Best Pieces

When it comes to wood furniture, avoid particle board and favor pieces solidly built out of high quality wood, even if it currently looks scratched and scuffed. You can transform wood with a coat of varnish, but nothing will turn flimsy particle board into a durable product. When it comes to items that are a little loose or rickety, examine what is causing the wobble. People often throw out “broken” furniture that simply needs a screw tightened. Conversely, if the piece is truly damaged, don’t waste your time. 

Make Your Secondhand Furniture Shine

A little TLC goes a long way. Scuffed wood can be sanded or varnished and suddenly resemble a priceless antique. Likewise, sometimes all it takes is a fresh coat of paint in a well-selected color to turn something drab into a showpiece. For refinishing tabletops, stains and polyurethane can work wonders, or you can explore crafting options, like decoupage, mosaics or wine cork collages. For ideas and creative inspiration, check out sites like RobojunkerAddicted2Decorating and Apartment Therapy.

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