Okay, so I have a major problem: my mind won’t stop designing! I have plans racing through my head for all the rooms I plan to redo next. Yes, there’s my dining room which I’m currently working on, but there’s also my mom’s guest room, our bonus room, my kids’ bathroom and my daughter’s bedroom all coming down the line. And my thoughts are exploding with all the possibilities for ALL of those rooms. Honestly, if my energy level could keep up with my brain it’d be all good!
All of that has made me realize it’s time for a trip to the local flea market in search of some affordable items I could use for these upcoming makeovers.
The local flea market here has over 600 vendors! That amount of merchandise can easily become overwhelming. But even a trip to a small thrift store or a quick search online for some used home decor can be challenging if you’re not fully prepared.
So with that in mind, here are some tips for getting the most out of buying used home furnishings, whether you’re shopping thrift stores, consignment sales, flea markets, antique stores, yard sales or online sites like Craigslist and Ebay.
So here are my tips for buying used home furnishings…
Don’t forget that most of these sellers/stores only accept cash so have more than enough on hand. And make sure you have a vehicle large enough to transport whatever you plan to purchase (I made this mistake during a recent trip to Asheville, NC).
If you’re looking for something specific or expensive then do your research before shopping. Figure out what the going rate is for the item and google ways to spot a fake.
Look for the unusual and unique
The great thing about buying used home furnishings isn’t just that it can save you money, but often more importantly for me, it can help you score some very unique one-of-a-kind items. Whether I’m searching online or at a local flea market I’m always keeping an eye out for that unusual piece that I can’t pick up at the local mall.
Look for interesting shapes, colors, materials and textures. Look for items that have character and maybe even a story to go along with it. Simply anything that you haven’t seen before that you’re drawn to may be worth the money. After all, there’s no guarantee it’ll still be there the next time you go shopping.
Be open minded
I always go shopping with a list of items I’m looking for for my current or upcoming projects, but I don’t limit myself to that shopping list. I keep an eye open for anything interesting because you never know what treasures you might stumble upon.
Look for items that may not be exactly what you want but could become what your looking for with a little work. Maybe a new coat of stain, some new furniture knobs or some mirrors installed in the doors will turn that dumpy piece of furniture into your dream item.
I am regularly looking at the inventory thinking how could this be transformed into something better?
For me, the best way to figure out if an item is worth a makeover is to focus on cosmetic changes. Cosmetic changes would include changing the color, the pattern or the fabric of the item, but would also include replacing smaller elements like furniture feet, decorative accents, lamp shades, picture frames and handles. These are all fairly easy to change. What’s harder to change is the overall shape and construction of the item. So I’m always looking for products that have a great form and only need some cosmetic changes.
If you need some inspiration in this area check out the bottom of this post.
Reuse, repurpose and upcycle
Some of the best deals scored when shopping for used furnishings are found in repurposing and upcycling items. It’s amazing the transformations that can be done with a little creative thinking. It’s all about looking beyond the inexpensive boring items you see on a shelf or in a photo and envisioning what it could become.
An old rustic ladder can be transformed into a towel rack. A beautiful plate and large candle holder can be glued together to make an interesting decorative stand. You can add legs to an antique suitcase and create a table. Or even try turning vintage sweaters into cozy pillows. One project I have planned is to turn an old serving tray into a hanging jewelry organizer. The ideas are endless!
Really think outside the box and let your creative juices flow while you’re shopping! Again, if you need some inspiration in this area check out the bottom of this post.
Online search terms are important
If you’re searching for used home furnishings online the search term you type in is really important. After all, this word(s) is the launching point for finding what you want.
I recently decided to see if there were any affordable mid century modern credenzas on Craigslist for my dining room. But I didn’t just search “mid century modern credenza”. I also searched all of the following: “MCM”, “sideboard”, “buffet”, “modern storage piece”, “retro furniture”, “modern credenza”, “antique furniture” and “mid century modern dresser”. Being as thorough as possible with your search terms increases your chance of finding what you’re looking for.
And keep in mind that sometimes the seller misspells important words in their post like say the brand (“Crate & Barrel” is sometimes misspelled) or the description of the item like the word “chandelier”. So take a minute to search the misspelled term and you may just find the perfect item waiting for you under the wrong name.
Negotiate if you can
Some sources for used items will allow you to negotiate. This would include flea markets, yard sales and Craigslist sellers—although if a seller states in their listing that the price is non-negotiable then I respect that and don’t ask. Otherwise, you can always offer a lower price or ask if the price is negotiable. The worst that can happen is they say no.
If you’re going to offer a lower price for an item be reasonable though. If the item is marked at $100 offering $40 may immediately turn the buyer off from wanting to negotiate with you at all. A better offer would be in the range of $60 – $80.
Take mental notes of the condition of the item and the demand for the item you’re considering. This information can give you leverage in convincing the seller to accept a lower price. If you’re going to ask for a lower price it makes sense to back up the request with logical reasons like any minor damage, missing pieces or the fact that the listing has been sitting on Craigslist for a long time and you’re ready to finally take it off their hands.
At the same time, the seller may actually have the leverage for certain items. If the product is in high demand and excellent condition then they have every right to stick to their original price. Respect that and be understanding about it.
Check back regularly
The thing about used home furnishings is the inventory is always changing. If you’re searching online for something you may need to do a search daily. You can ask the manager of your favorite consignment store what day of the week they usually put out new merchandise to give you an idea of when to check back.
Once you’ve looked at a local store or done an online search it doesn’t take long to quickly see what’s new. Persistence and patience are important to scoring that perfect deal!
With all those things in mind, now it’s time to take a look at some inspiration before you head out the door to go shopping. Below I’ve gathered some of my favorite transformations other people have made from used home furnishings. They are so cool and inspiring!
What a creative and cool looking sled pot rack from BHG. This is repurposing at it’s finest!
Did you guess that this table is made from old barstools? Love this fun desk Whitney from Shanty 2 Chic made for her daughters.
Drawers missing on an old dresser? No problem for Jamie from Southern Revivals. What a beautiful way to store toys!
Love this cool looking clock KariAnne from Thistlewood Farms made from an old bicycle wheel she got for free. Now that’s thinking outside the box!
You have to see the before photo of this cute cabinet. It was so sad, but looks so awesome now thanks to Nicole Phillips of Visual Heart.
This is such a great repurposing project by Three Scoops of Love I had to share it even though it was made from a new turbine! You could easily buy an old used one or something similar to make this light fixture though.
Don’t forget that you can easily incorporate pattern into a transformation just by using paint. I love this herringbone pattern BHG featured.
What a fun use for all those old bottles you find at thrift stores. Tammy from Deja Vue Designs made this decanter chandelier.
You seriously need to see the ugly boring framed print Virginia from LiveLoveDIY bought from a thrift store. What a difference! I love that she transformed every piece of the framed art.
I like the fun painted lamps Sheena at Bean In Love made for her bedroom. Lighting can be so expensive new that this was a great money-saving option.
Seriously, I’ve got to go shopping NOW!