Buying Secondhand Furniture for Beautiful Home Decor

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Here is information on buying secondhand furniture, for beautiful home decor, by ensuring you know what factors to consider when shopping.

If you are new to this blog: Welcome! My name is Anna and I share information on collecting antique/vintage items, refurbishing furniture and making small crafts/projects. The purpose of this blog is to share with you how to use creativity and antiques to make your home beautiful. In addition to information here on the blog, you can also follow me on the following social media accounts InstagramFacebook or Pinterest.

Back Story

Have you noticed the recent uptick in prices? It seems just about everything costs significantly more than 5 years ago. Homes, cars, and furniture. If you have endless sums of money, I suppose the increasing cost of things isn’t an issue. However, if you are like me, and you are looking for ways to affordably furnish your home, then I have some information to share with you.

Over the past 20 years, I have spent many hours finding unwanted pieces of furniture and giving them new life. It was such a popular past time, it turned into a business.

In addition to refurbishing furniture, I bought and sold vintage and antique furniture.

Although I no longer sell refurbished or antique furniture, I am passing along information I learned over the years on how to:

  • purchase the right pieces of furniture;
  • identify if it’s well made;
  • identify options for refurbishing it; and
  • incorporate it into your home decor.

Buying Second Hand Furniture for Beautiful Home Decor

Below, is information on how to identify the right type of furniture, give it a new look, and incorporate it into your decor.

Antique raw pine dresser

Know your Style

It seems common sense, but, this is probably the most important piece of information. It’s easy to get swept up with finding a second hand hutch, sideboard, coffee table etc at a great price. Especially if you are at a yard sale or re-store and feel that the piece will be purchased by someone else in a matter of minutes. In the context of fast decision-making, it’s easy to make a poor decision. Right? Knowing your own personal home decor style and your home’s needs are the first considerations.

Write down your style in the notes app on your cell phone. Include images of pieces of furniture you like. Is your style french farmhouse or is it mid-century modern? Do you prefer a more casual look for something more traditional? Do you prefer formal pieces of furniture or something on which you can put your feet up? What colors are in your existing home?

Knowing your own style and having existing images of furniture you like, readily available on your phone, will help ensure you make a good purchase. It will help to train your eye on the details and elements you are looking for.

Painted hutch and pine side table

Be Open Minded

This sounds contrary to my last piece of advice. Right? How are you supposed to know exactly what you want and still be open minded? When I say “be open minded”, I am referring to the potential a piece of furniture has. For example, if you like a more casual cottage look, then try to imagine certain pieces of furniture painted. If you prefer a more natural and boho look, try to imagine furniture stripped of its existing stain and varnish. In short, if a piece of furniture has the lines and function of what you are looking for – try to imagine it with a different finish and new hardware.

Second Hand Furniture for Beautiful Home Decor

The Victorian chest of drawers shown above was purchased at a library sale for $60 because it had a very orange toned finish. After some cleaning and sanding, it was given a new look.

Bring a Tape Measure

Can I tell you how many times I “eye balled” a piece of furniture and brought it home only to learn it wouldn’t fit? Once you buy a vintage or antique piece of furniture, you can’t return it. Buying the “wrong size” piece of furniture is a tough lesson to learn. This has happened to me so many times – I now carry a tape measure in my purse. I also keep a tape measure in every room of our home.

Along the same lines, the scale of furniture is important. The scale of a table, coffee table, hutch, etc has to be consistent with the size of a room. It doesn’t make sense to have a diminutive coffee table in an open concept living room with two sofas. It also doesn’t make sense to have a large dining room table, if there isn’t enough space in the room to pull the chairs back.

Second Hand Furniture for Beautiful Home Decor

This tall chest of drawers would need to be located in the right space. Given the height and scale, it could look out of place in a large room.

Fortunately, there is an easy solution to these challenges. Simply document the size(s) of furniture you are looking for. Keep a list of furniture pieces you are looking for and write down the approximate sizes needed in the notes app on your phone.

Take Your Time

Finding the right pieces of furniture will take time. If you are persistently looking at FB Marketplace and going to outdoor markets, eventually the pieces you need will show up. However, it will take time. Use the notes and images on your phone app to guide your decision-making. There is nothing worse than buying a piece of furniture only to realize several months later it’s not working for your home and now you have to get rid of it.

Look for Quality

Modern day furniture is not made to last for generations. It often includes materials like particle board, plastic veneer, pre-drilled pockets, press board backings and hollow core panels. Vintage and antique furniture is usually well made. Specific traits to look for include – solid wood construction, dove tail joinery, well known makers marks, original wavy glass, finely crafted details, and beautiful hardware.

Dove tail joinery

The above drawers display dove tail joinery.

Some of my favorite vintage and antique furniture makers include the following:

  • ABC Carpet and Home
  • Design within Reach (DWR)
  • Ethan Allen
  • Hermann Miller
  • Nichols and Stone (no longer in business but their mark is found on furniture)
  • Rejuvenation
  • Restoration Hardware (RH)
  • Thomas Moser
  • Handcrafted Amish furniture
  • Handcrafted Shaker furniture

One more note regarding well made furniture. Vintage and antique furniture, especially if made by a reputable company, will weigh more. So, be sure to bring a friend (or two) along with you on a furniture hunt.

Use Paint

In recent years, the trend of painting furniture has slowed down. There has been a movement to go back to wood toned furniture. However, there are still wonderful old pieces of furniture that can be transformed by paint. Best of all, painting a piece of furniture is a very affordable way to give it a new life and look.

As of late, moody colors have been on-trend for painted furniture. Dark greens, maroons, navy and black are all popular colors.

Second Hand Furniture Beautiful Home Decor

This antique side table was given a makeover using a warm grey milk paint.

Reupholster Pieces

This suggestion is controversial. Hiring someone to reupholster furniture can be expensive. Even buying new upholstery grade fabric is expensive! Having said that, there are many beautiful and well made pieces of furniture that are worth reupholstering. Over the years, I have taught myself how to upholster furniture by reading books, watching you tube videos, and practicing. You can do the same. Developing the skills and ability to reupholster furniture has allowed me to create custom, high quality furniture at a comparably low price point. (Compared to buying custom upholstered furniture)

Older furniture is often made with a kiln dried hardwood frame. You won’t find the same quality of furniture in today’s larger furniture stores.

Second Hand Furniture Beautiful Home Decor

If you want to learn how to reupholster furniture, start with a small project like a bench or a stool. Then work you way up to more difficult pieces of furniture.

This button back chair by Ethan Allen is an example of how reupholstering a piece can give it new life. You can’t tell from the photos but that yellow fabric was dirty from years of use. I purchased this beautiful quality chair from a neighbor for $60 and reupholstered it using a heavy weight antique sheet from France. I upholstered the back of the chair with a vintage feed sack.

Buying Second Hand Furniture for Beautiful Home Decor

This settee was reupholstered using a heavy weight, striped, vintage fabric from France. Before it was reupholstered, I purchased the settee from a gentleman for $40.

Prepare to Pay More

Finally, if you are looking for a genuine antique or vintage piece of furniture in excellent condition, prepare to pay more. While this may not fall into the category of “affordable”, certain pieces of furniture will continue to increase in value over time. Consider these pieces an investment. Additionally, I find buying well made and higher priced antique furniture is still a more affordable option than buying comparable newly made piece from a retail store.

Certain pieces of vintage and antique furniture are going to be more expensive, especially if they are in excellent condition. If, for example, you are looking for a 7 foot dining table in great condition, then you will likely pay more.

The same is true if you are looking for specific mid-century modern designer pieces. If you want to buy genuine Eames or Bertoia chairs then be prepared to pay more. It’s also true if you are looking for genuine European furniture, for example, an English step back cupboard.

Buying Second Hand Furniture for Beautiful Home Decor

I purchased this antique white oak cupboard, in excellent condition, from a reputable antique dealer and was priced accordingly. However, it was still less expensive than buying a newly made cupboard of comparable quality. Remember what I said about antique furniture being heavy? This cupboard made out of solid oak easily weighs 200 pounds. It’s what I call a “relationship tester” weight.

Summary

Thanks for stopping by the blog today. To recap, here is summary of the tips offered:

  • Know your style
  • Be open minded
  • Bring a tape measure (or two!)
  • Take you time
  • Look for quality pieces
  • Use paint
  • Reupholster pieces
  • Prepare to pay more

Wishing you the best of luck on your furniture adventures. I hope you find exactly what you are looking for and it fits perfectly in your home.

Anna Signature Block

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One Comment

  1. This was such a helpful post, Anna! Sometimes I find pieces in an old barn or at an outdoor event and I never know if they’re worth trying to rehab or not so your tips will definitely help me make a more sound decision. I love all the pieces you’ve been able to rehab and save over the years. Especially, that tufted chair. You know it would be right at home at my house 🙂 Sending you hugs and can’t wait to see what you do next, CoCo

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