Buying Secondhand Furniture

September 16, 2010 by Kenmore

What could be greener than buying an existing piece of furniture and giving it a simple makeover – or maybe just a good cleaning?

If you’re willing to paint, reupholster or repurpose, you can score great bargains buying secondhand furniture.

I’ve bought some wonderful stuff at flea markets, consignment shops and estate sales. I’ve found that older couples often have classic furnishings in good condition. I’ll sometimes come across great mid-century modern pieces that just need to be cleaned. Choose what appeals to you, regardless of its pedigree. A great piece with good bones can last for years.

Good reasons to buy secondhand:

  • It’s good for your budget. And if you shop at thrift stores, you’re usually donating to a good cause as well.
  • It’s environmentally smart. You’re keeping something useful out of the landfill.
  • You may unearth a real treasure. Older furniture was generally well made using hardwoods and other top materials.
  • You’ll add real style to your home if you can find a piece that’s one-of-a-kind.

Check it over

Don’t let the excitement of a potential “steal” cloud your judgment. Open every drawer. Sit on the chair. Turn the piece over. Lean on the corner of the table. Check bolts, screws and joinery.

Make sure it makes sense

If you’re considering an old chest as a bath vanity, for example, consider how it will have to be plumbed and whether the finish will need to be waterproofed. An armoire that you’d like to use to hold media components will need proper ventilation at the back, or things could heat up.

Try to see past the obvious

If you hate the fabric but love the piece, recover it. Just be sure to check the frame and springs carefully, so you’re sure the piece will hold up to its new use. If you’re a seamstress or crafter, a Kenmore sewing machine may be your first step to a new look.

I repurposed an old armoire to serve as a media cabinet.

Be realistic about repairs

That dining table is a great piece at a great price, but one leg needs to be repaired. Will it still be worth the thrift-shop price after you also pay a professional to repair it? Conversely, if you’re the type to DIY, be realistic with your range of abilities. Check out my earlier post on furnishing a first apartment – it’s got a good how-to on refinishing furniture.

Have a swap party

If thrift shops and garage sales aren’t your thing, consider hosting a swap party where you trade your good, used furniture with friends. Invite a small group of friends to bring photos of what everyone is willing to trade. Over snacks and beverages, exchange photos, chat and make arrangements to pick up or deliver your pieces. It’s a very green method for finding a treasure you’ll enjoy in your home for years to come.

Have you brought an old furniture find back to life? What refurbishing tips do you have to share?

Kenmore recommends…

Ready to give that old flea market find a second life? Get out your Kenmore Progressive canister vacuum with telescopic wand to clean every crevice.


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