Thrift Store Furniture 101

Hello all, I recently did a segment with Jill Scott of NY1 all about Thrift Store Furniture 101 and it was SO good she made it into TWO parts, Check it out:

Part two:


Here are the accompanying tips for your to print and SAVE!!! $$$$$$$$$$

Thrift and consignment stores can be a treasure trove for cool pieces, if you know what you’re looking for. Here are some tips for separating the chic from cheap.

What to look for in a couch.  Big pieces—like couches— are usually priced well at thrift and vintage stores because they take so much floor space, they want to move these items. But, when shopping for a couch, consider sturdiness, size, comfort, and pattern.
A sturdy frame is a sure sign it’s well made:
 Look for a frame made of “kiln-dried” hardwoods such as maple, birch and poplar. Wood that is dried in a kiln or oven has less moisture than wood that is dried by air, so it lasts longer.
To check the durability of the frame, don’t be shy about lifting to feel it’s weightiness, and wiggling arms to make sure they’re steady. If the frame is loose on an upholstered couch, you’ll have to disassemble the entire thing, which may not be worth the trouble.
Your couch is probably the most used piece of furniture in your house, and the piece that should be the most comfy. Comfy cushions are probably the most important factor in being happy with your couch. Foam cushions are the least expensive and are accordingly feel “spongey”, while goose feather are the softest and most worthy of your upholstery budget. Check springs, are they coming out from underneath or too loose? They should be firm for intense makeouts and portly visiting relatives. J
 Remember when you shop for a couch, forgo polka dots and crazy patterns for a classic, clean style you can always update. Also, be realistic about color and fabric choice. A white couch conveys class and elegance, but can get easily dirty after being carried up the stairs. And trust me: If you want to have a romp on the couch or enjoy a glass of red wine after a long day at work, a white couch is hazardous. Buy furniture for the way you live now, not the adult you think you’ll be in 20 years.
Consider the condition of the fabric: There an old saying in upholstered furniture which is “if you can smell it, you can’t sell it”, so don’t be shy. Stick your nose and see if it smells of animal urine or mold, which are hard to get out.
If your couch passes the smell test, but has spots, it might be a matter of what can you live with. You can try an upholstery cleaner, which might take out some stains. For the rest, consider whether you can you hide with a pillow? Or maybe camoflauging with fabric paint. If all else fails consider slipcovers, which is cheaper than upholstery as a chair can run you $400 for and a couch $800.

 For wooden armoires and dressers, to make sure it’s a quality piece, check the frame (you can actually pick it up to feel the weight)  and check the edges, back or underneath to see if it’s solid wood or just veneer over plywood or particleboard.

Check quality and sturdiness of drawers by checking inside to see if they are nailed or stapled versus dovetailed.

 For end tables tables, you can also shake legs to see if it’s sturdy. And when it comes to condition: white beverage rings are ok, which means its only seeped into the finish, but beware of black circles, as that means the water damage has steeped into the wood.

When examining lamps, it’s easy to update with shades, but look at the wiring. Besides just plugging in, check for frays, or whether the wires are dried and brittle which means they require rewiring.

 For beds, when examining headboards, make sure rails are secure. And even it’s cool, consider the size: old beds were smaller in width and length (4ft versus the standard double size which is 4/12 feet), which is tough to get a mattress for.

 When selecting furniture for tiny NYC pads, it’s important to think of function, as well as aesthetics. Consoles and buffets are retro-cool, and can stash dishes inside while the top serves as a bar. An armoire can be placed in the hallway to hold winter clothes and sports equipment. Opt for a coffee table with built-in storage—perfect for corralling candles, magazines, and photo albums. An antique trunk placed at the foot of your bed can be both charming and practical when used to hold extra bedding.

Make sure it fits in your home and hallway! Many New Yorkers have bought furniture only to get it stuck in the second floor landing! Measuring first will save your frustration later.

 Shopping thrift for furniture is an affordable way to start experimenting with different styles. Don’t know the difference between mid-century and Shaker? Visit museums ,libraries, hotels, or read design magazines to get a better understanding of how design fits into your everyday life. And even if you’ve gone mad for one particular period or store, never buy everything from the same place or the same era—it’ll scream straight-out-of-the-catalogue. It’s like buying an entire outfit off a mannequin, too obvious. The key to well-executed home décor is to mix things up.


2 Responses to “Thrift Store Furniture 101”

  1. Says:

    Do you know if it is easy to find a circular dining room table for 12?

    I have been surfing online but I can’t seem to come across any others than tiny tables

    • robynm Says:

      Hi! That is a large table. I found some on Etsy, but it almost looks like it might have to be custom made. Good luck and keep me posted!



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