10 Tips for Buying Second Hand Furniture

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October 2, 2017

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One of the best ways to save money when it comes to buying new furniture is to shop secondhand. 

But that doesn’t mean you’ll end up with worn-out items and mismatched sets!

By following a few simple steps, you can transform your home while upcycling old furniture into showpieces that add flair and style to any interior space.

1. Try Before You Buy

Whether it’s an armchair or an antique chest of drawers, the best policy is to try before you buy. For sofas and chairs, sit on them for a few minutes to find out whether there’s a hard piece of wood jabbing into your back or springs loose. 

For cabinets, dressers, and other pieces, open all the doors and drawers to make sure they work properly. For tables, lean or push on them from an angle to make sure they’re steady on their feet.

This way, if you do find something that’s damaged or needs minor repairs, at least you’re going into the purchase armed with accurate knowledge about the condition of the furniture. 

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2. Reupholster!

The easiest and cheapest way to breathe new life into an old piece of furniture is to reupholster it. Many older pieces are still quite structurally sound and just need a “facelift” before becoming as good as new. Quite often, older furniture is extremely durable and resistant to wear and tear.

Another great tip with mismatched sets of furniture like chairs or ottomans is to reupholster/paint them in the same design.

3. Become a Sofa Pro

Sofas look simple, but their inner design is a little more complicated. That’s why furniture shoppers may find the gorgeous piece in the showroom window is actually very uncomfortable when you take it home and spend some time sitting on it. 

When shopping for a sofa, whether brand new or secondhand, lift up the cushions and examine them. If you can sense loose styrofoam or layers of mesh, the cushions will probably not last for more than a year or so. Sit on the sofa with its cushions removed and feel for sagging spots or rigid bars that could end up causing long-term discomfort. 

4. Don’t Automatically Avoid Laminate/Veneer Furniture

While these items may not be made of solid wood, furniture made from pressed fibreboard, veneer, or laminate doesn’t always mean you’re getting a bad deal. In some cases, you can replace or re-glue peeling laminate. Pressed fibreboard and veneer pieces are often more resistant than traditional solid wood items.

5. Hard vs. Soft

When shopping for furniture made from solid wood, always choose hardwoods like maple and oak over soft woods like pine. Soft wood is easy to chip, pit, and deface, plus it will begin to sag and warp over time. Hardwoods last much longer, and it’s easy to restore their shine with a little polish and effort.

6. Metal is Easy to Restore

Even if you don’t consider yourself a DIY expert, it’s not hard to restore metal furniture. Wrought iron and other metals can be easily cleaned of rust. Add a coat of paint, and you’ll have a piece elegant enough to be used indoors. 

7. Be Cautious With the Flat Pack

Low-cost furniture sold at shops like Ikea that require buyers to assemble the items themselves are often not very sturdy. In some cases, the original buyer failed to assemble the furniture completely. In other cases, some of the original pieces might be missing, further reducing its durability.

8. Research Children’s Furniture

Manufacturers issue recall orders for children’s items that have shown to pose a risk, so it’s no surprise that some owners sell recalled furniture. If your heart is set on a piece of children’s furniture (or toy), do some research to find out what, if any, security precautions you need to take. But keep in mind that some children’s furniture is sold simply because the children grew up!

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9. Upcycle and Re-use

There are lots of innovative ways to transform old furniture into amazing new pieces. For a broken table with just two good legs, cut it in half and attach it to a wall, perhaps using it as a nightstand or a small table. 

Another idea is to take an old dresser and re-purpose it as a bathroom vanity or small entertainment centre. With a keen eye, even the oldest and most damaged piece of furniture can be re-purposed into something amazing.

10. Arts and Crafts

Indulging in your creative spirit is a great way to transform a boring piece of secondhand furniture into an artistic expression. Instead of just repainting an old nightstand, paint a lovely mural across the drawers. Or try cutting out shapes with coloured paper and attaching them as a form of decoupage (one of the easiest ways to do this is by decorating old furniture with wallpaper.

With a keen eye and a little TLC, anyone can find great secondhand furniture for their home. By simply using a few paints and fabrics, you can transform even the most battered secondhand pieces into furniture that adds flair, colour, and style to your home.

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Photo credit: flee marketantique tablechair




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