“Where did you get that?” An enthusiastic and genuine question those who thrift furniture get asked all too often. Whether you’ve upcycled a dining room table or refinished an antique armoire, you know those unique pieces have a way of attracting the eye of house guests.
Filled with charm and character, thrifted furniture is an excellent option for those on a budget, looking for a distinct piece to complete a design vision, or those simply hoping to make a positive impact on the environment and their community.
So, if you’re interested in upcycling, thrifting, or collecting, here are some thrifting tips to help you find and give new life to classic pieces.
Why Thrift For Furniture?
While purchasing second-hand furniture might sound appealing to those trying to get a deal, it has many benefits beyond your pocketbook.
Let’s be honest, they don’t make furniture like they used to. Most furniture built in the past was meticulously made by hand using real solid wood. It’s these types of quality pieces that really stand the test time.
Better For The Environment
The fast furniture industry is enormous and wasteful. Made of inexpensive plastics, particleboard, and resin, fast furniture items not only break quickly but look dated in only a few years. Opting to buy furniture second-hand reduces demand for new resources, therefore reducing the energy and waste needed to produce, package, and distribute new items. It also keeps our landfills clear of pieces that take millennia to break down and decompose.
Better For Your Community
Buying second-hand is a simple and effective way to help support your community. Whether you purchase items from an individual looking to declutter their home and make a few bucks or a thrift store in your neighbourhood, that money gets reinvested into the local community.
Where To Look
If you’re interested in thrifting, a great place to start is from the comfort of your own living room. Websites like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji, and second-hand apps like Carousell are filled with private sellers hoping to find new homes for their items. You can also score some deals and find unique items on eBay and online auction sites.
If hunting for pieces in-person is more your thing, head out to thrift stores, consignment shops, or flea markets. If you live in a bigger city, head to the outskirts of town to search for items, as inner-city stores and markets are often more expensive and picked over. Estate and garage sales are also great opportunities to pick up quality furniture at a reasonable price.
Tips For Thrifting
Don’t let the thrill of the hunt get the best of you. Follow these tips and you’ll be successful in your second-hand pursuit.
Establish A Budget And Stay Within It
You can form a realistic budget by visiting popular furniture stores and pricing out a similar item. Know exactly how much you have to spend before making your purchase. Shop using cash. Not only does it allow you to keep track of your spending, most garage sales, flea markets, and small thrift shops prefer cash. Lastly, be aware of hidden costs. While the piece itself might be a steal, consider all that must go into the item after the fact and how much those refurbishments will cost (don’t forget about shipping if you’re shopping online!).
Be Flexible, Yet Focused
When it comes to thrifting, you never know what you’re going to find (or not find). If you set out to find a particular piece but come across another item that you love, change your plans. But make sure you stay focused on your overall design goal and don’t go overboard for the sake of not missing out on a great deal.
Look beyond an item’s intended use to uncover hidden potential. Repurposing is a great way to breathe new life into old items. Turn an old dresser into a bathroom vanity. Use an old ladder as a blanket rack. When you look at an item with repurposing in mind it might go from garbage to treasure.
Inspect Before Purchasing
If you have the opportunity, inspect the item before purchasing. Look for mildew, stains, warping, cracks, and smells (like urine or smoke). If purchasing the item online, and an inspection is off the table, ask the seller to send pictures or video of any known damage as these are often not included in the original listing. Lastly, if the item is upholstered and in need of repair, store it outside of your house (in a garage or storage locker) until you’re able to properly tend to it–bed bugs don’t just hideout in beds!
It’s hard not to get caught up on every scratch and dent but look past the surface and focus on the bones of the piece. Is it made of high-quality wood? Is it solid and sturdy? Is it comfortable? Items that have good bones often make the most beautiful, rehabbed pieces that last well into the future.
Being patient and shopping frequently are the two keys to success when thrifting. Keep an eye out for garage and estate sales. Shop your local flea markets, thrift and vintage shops, and consignment stores weekly. Check online listings and apps every few days. Don’t get discouraged if your perfect desk, table, or side chair is nowhere to be seen on your first trip out.
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