Today's post is all about how to find + buy second-hand furniture! Chris and I recently relocated from Stamford, CT right outside of NYC to West Hartford, CT, approximately two hours from Boston or NYC. With that came an extremely welcome transition to 1,500 sq ft. (vs. 700 sq ft in Stamford). What wasn't so welcome was the sudden need to furnish a three-bedroom house. Yikes.
My upbringing as a military kid (we moved every 2-4 years until middle school) has trained me to "make a house a home" ASAP in order to feel settled and my friends will tell you that I take great pride in moving and unpacking my entire home in one day (not kidding - pictures on the walls included). As you can tell from these photos, this house has TOTALLY ruined my record as I haven't styled a single room. ((Once you read all about the fact that nearly everything you see here was purchased in the last four weeks, however, you'll realize how much MORE dismal it was when we moved in! It's all perspective, right? :))
Not only is moving stressful and time consuming (coupled with living in a hotel for a month with a dog, and starting a new job, nbd) it's expensive! Little things like curtain rods and trash bins add up before you even START thinking about big-ticket items like furniture.
Because I'm not one to balk at a challenge, however, I sat down with Chris and outlined our big priorities so that we could determine what we had to buy new and what I could scavenge for second-hand:
- A new mattress + bed: We've been struggling with our Bob-O-Pedic (it is SO BAD) Queen for the last few years and it was time to upgrade to a king. C is 6'3" AND a squirmer. End of story.
- A new couch: Our new house has a living room, sunroom, AND a basement and we only had one couch that was pretty beat up.
- A dining room table: Our last apartment was TINY so we ate at a little farm table I inherited from my great-grandma. We had a few chairs from IKEA that I knew we could supplement by buying a few more but our new dining room needed a much bigger table.
- A kitchen island: Our kitchen has an awkward open space that I thought was too small for a table. As we are still renting it (for now) I wouldn't invest in a built-in island.
- End tables + bedside tables: We had 2 totally different black tables and one white end table and a sunroom, living room, bedroom, and guestroom to accommodate with some sort of table situation.
- Accessories: Per my point earlier about styling: I hate clutter and have donated anything I don't LOVE every time we've moved ... which is great, but has definitely cleared my inventory now that we have so much space.
There are lots of secondary priorities (barstools for the basement, chair(s) for the living room, etc) but it was important to start SOMEWHERE so that could check things off the list and not end up with a house full of crap we don't need (which is easy, if you've ever been to HomeGoods). I knew that we had a limited budget so we immediately decided to buy the bed and mattress brand new (obviously - ew) but then get to work on purchasing as much as possible second-hand. I'll share my top tips for how to do this below as well as a full budget breakdown of what we've snagged so far. Transparency is caring, right?!
Tip #1: Re-evaluate what you already have. We looked at our new master bedroom layout and realized that our tiny little white end table was actually perfect as the new king size bed was so large. I'd painted the table a few years ago so we simply painted one of the black tables that was a similar height to match. The color makes them look uniform while the difference in style adds interest to the room. We also found an antique dresser in Chris' parents basement that we'll use as a TV stand. Benjamin Moore Advance is the BEST paint I've found for painting furniture. High gloss white. Let it cure for a LEAST a week for a hard finish.
#2: Find local furniture consignment shops in your area and visit, often: We found a great consignment shop around the corner from our house and we stop in every few weeks (if you're local; ask for Pete!). I've found that prices are negotiable 99% of the time, but to get the best deal, keep your eye on pieces that have been there for a while. They are normally looking to keep inventory moving and may be willing to negotiate a bit more.
#3: Search Craigslist by exact item (and be willing to drive): So, Craiglist. I know the site has a bad rep but I think if you use the site safely there are good deals to be had. Once I identify an item that I want but am not willing to pay "new" for, I search craigslist. Daily. Not kidding. I wanted the IKEA Stenstorp Island but $399 for IKEA quality + another $150 or so for the barstools was too much. So I searched Craigslist every day and about a week into it I found someone an hour away from us that had handmade the same island out of steel and real wood. We had to drive up on a Sunday during a blizzard and they were totally rude and jacked the price up once we got there (actually my only bad craigslist story to date) but we still snagged it for $300 total. (Update: My friend Lindsay shared that she sets up email alerts from Craigslist for things she's searching for. Brilliant!)
#4 Search Craigslist by town + brand: I may get hate for this BUT it's reality - I search Craigslist by towns around me that I know are wealthy. For example - I also had been lusting over a Restoration Hardware couch, that at $3800 (for the slipcover version so I could dry clean it) was not ever happening. I had been searching a particular town and the term "Restoration Hardware" for a few weeks and low and behold found a family retiring to Cape Cod and selling the EXACT SAME COUCH. With the receipt. Two years old. I negotiated it down to $380. I should note, always meet a seller in daylight at a police station parking lot OR bring at least one person with you. I also google map the seller's address to check out the neighborhood before agreeing to go there (sorry if that's rude) and send it to my husband or another family member if he's going with me. Sad but this is the reality of the internet.
#5: Search Ebay for accessories: Before you buy accessories on One Kings Lane/Anthro/Etc, search the item on Ebay. I'm a big believer that homes with character have a balance of old and new, and buying vintage accessories adds a lot of character (+it can be cheaper)! For example, I found a super cute lobster mail clip (I don't even know what you're supposed to do with that but I thought it'd be a good way to organize + store all those cute mini instagram photos I impulse print). Too bad it was $150. Crazy. So I searched "vintage mail clip" on EBay and found this cute pineapple one for around $15! I've done the same thing with bookends (found sailboat ones for $5) and brass candle sticks (bought 12 for $42).
#6 Bonus tip: ESTATE SALE IT!! I LOVE driving around on Saturdays after grabbing coffee with C and stopping wherever we see a sign. Last weekend I went to four and only bought a vintage brass frame and little ginger jar ($5 total) but it was fun and much cheaper than the mall! Quality not quantity. I also follow online auction houses like Black Rock Galleries - sometimes they even host estate sales in the Hartford area. I recently got an amazing old map from an estate sale they hosted in West Hartford (it's being framed then I'll share it). I also normally make a trip to Brimfield every year but my partner in crime had a baby so we skipped it this year. I could do a whole other post on that sale alone.
So there you have it. My best tips for furnishing a home on a budget. In summary, to date we've purchased:
- Kitchen Island + Stools : $300
- Dining Room Table: $240 (and they delivered it!)
- Restoration Hardware Couch: $380
- Knick Knacks: Approx. $100
- End tables: $360
- Paint + supplies to repurpose what we have: $100
- Total: $1480 for honestly about $7,000 in new furniture
I'd LOVE to answer any questions you may have and would love your feedback as it relates to this sort of post is. Happy hunting!