Buying Second-hand Furniture

Buying second-hand furniture  can be daunting.  But it can also be fun & very satisfying.


It’s the “recycling” of the design world due to the fact that we’re using less raw material, packaging, energy to produce, in addition to reducing waste & pollution, which is always a good thing.

Second-hand pieces of furniture are individual because they have their own story.  This is why it is acceptable & sometimes more appealing for them to have flaws or to be not quite perfect.  Would you rather have a piece that someone says “Ooo, I’ve never seen one of those before!” or “my friend’s got one of those”?


It can be difficult to know where to start when looking for something so we thought we’d give you a few tips to help.


Tools of the Trade (Small)

  • Go in & look around.  You never know what is hiding behind that horrible 80’s formica bedroom suite.  You can also build a relationship with the shop owner who can look out for pieces for you & put them by.  Finds can be rare & you’ll know the piece when you see it.
  • Check the condition of the item.  Certain damage won’t spoil the look you are going for or can be fixed but some can be irreparable.  There’s a lot of advice online, including tutorials to help you mend things nowadays & you’ll be surprised that you know someone who has the knowledge & can help you.
  • Go out of town.  Shops less accessible or the larger warehouse type usually have the best deals & boot fairs are good places to source pieces too.  Take a torch with you so you can see into the dark corners of the building & you can also use it to check inside cabinets.  Towns often have antique markets or fairs although these can be more expensive but are worth looking in as they may have that special piece.  Don’t be afraid to haggle & you’ll could end up with a bargain!
  • Consider the size.  Second-hand shops usually have a “no returns” policy so take a tape measure & think about access & doorways.  Can you imagine falling in love with a piece, getting it home & not being able to get it into its intended space?!  Awful!
  • Keep an open mind.  You may have to accept that you’ll never find the exact piece that you are picturing in your head.  Maybe you’ll find something similar that you can adapt or you might find something that you instantly fall in love with that’s completely different.  That’s one of the many lovely things about buying second-hand.  It’s like sifting through a pirate’s treasure chest for the gold!

  • Keep looking if you find that you buy something that wasn’t exactly what you wanted.  You can always resell the first piece.
  • Take lots of cash.  Lovely pieces can be snapped up fast so you don’t want to run the risk of somebody else buying it whilst you pop to the cash point.
  • Be brave & barter!  A lot of dealers can be knocked down but do decide on your maximum price & if you can, do some research on your phone there & then.
  • Consider the cost of up-cycling it.  Some pieces are trickier & more expensive to restore than you think.  Don’t just buy something because it’s cheap.  Paint can’t disguise everything & the cost of specialist paints can be high.
  • Smell upholstery.  Some odours like smoke can linger in fabric.  Check the filling in chairs & avoid mattresses as dust mites & other germs live in them.
  • Check for rotten wood or woodworm, & some water damage & burns are tricky to deal with without specialist tools.
  • Check the joints of your piece.  Fixing the wobbly leg of a chair can be a lot of work.
  • Enjoy it!  The more you do this the more knowledge you will gain & you’ll find that you can scour a shop relatively quickly & spot a hidden gem a mile off!


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