Thrifting for Furniture

You know that these unusual items have a way of attracting the attention of house guests, whether you’ve upcycled a dining room table or refinished an antique wardrobe.

Thrifted furniture, packed with charm and character, is an ideal choice for those on a budget, searching for a separate piece to complete a design vision, or those just wanting to have a positive effect on the world and their culture.

So we have some thrifting tips to help you find and give new life to classic items whether you are interested in upcycling, thrifting, or collecting.

Why thrift for furniture?

Better quality: 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 thrift, the comfort of your own living room is a great place to start. Private sellers looking to find new homes for their goods are packed with websites such as Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji, and second-hand applications like Carousell. On eBay and online auction pages, you can also score some deals and find unique pieces.

If it’s more your thing to look for bits in-person, head out to thrift stores, consignment shops, or flea markets. If you live in a larger area, travel to the outskirts of the city to look for goods, as shops and markets in the inner city are often more costly and picked over. Estate sales and garage sales are also perfect chances at a fair price to pick up quality furniture.

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.
  • Get creative. 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 quick.
  • 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!
  • Look beyond. 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.
  • Routinely shop. 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.

Although it might take more time and dedication to furnish your home than one trip to a big-box store, when your design vision is brought to life through products with beauty, character, and appeal, it will eventually be worth it.

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