Furniture: The Art of Getting Great Deals

Most folks don’t realize they can usually score great deals on better quality used furniture than they would on same-priced new furniture.

It’s the truth, but finding unique furnishings for a steal takes more work than walking into your local furniture warehouse and settling for the least offensive budget-friendly offering.

Whether you scour the yardsales, watch for estate sales, or keep an eye on the Craigslist and online sales sites, there are unpredictable great deals that can include furniture you never dreamed you could own.

Since leaving the big scity of Vancouver for a small island city of Victoria on Canada’s western edge, I’ve had a crash course in finding awesome deals.

antique furniture

Location, location, location

What makes deal-finding in Victoria unique is, as a long-popular retirement destination, it has an aging population with a penchant for quality of life and beautiful places, making them often more discerning on furnishings and decor too. Sooner or later, they start to downsize, or things wind up as part of the estate.

A bit macabre, but heck, it’s true — retirement communities have fabulous used furniture markets, and make good places to visit for great deals on an antiquing roadtrip.

If you’re open to great vintage, mid-century, or even antique furniture for your home, here are things to keep in mind.

Leg work gets you great finds

Thrift stores, yard sales, and Craigslists are great to find stuff, but they’re all hard work too.

If you’ve got a car or can get around to outlying areas, do it. You’re likely to find great shops in young, urban areas, but they may be expensive. You might find “less hip” shops in older areas, but they might have better sources for their finds, and be less likely to over-inflate prices.

Once you find the right local shop with the right buyer for your tastes, it’s time to keep an eye on the stock.

Timing is everything

A trick of the furniture-finding trade is timing. The best day to hit your favorite furnishings or collectibles shop is on Sunday or right after the weekend. Why? Because shopkeepers tend to hit the yardsales on Saturday/Sunday, dropping off new stock as they score it. Good stuff tends to be priced well and sells quickly, so you’ve got to be sharp to get great deals.

You might think “Oh, they buy then refinish it, so it won’t go on the floor right away” but in the better-priced shops, this isn’t the case. They try to find saleable items they can turn over quickly. A good wipe-down and out the door it goes, in the shopkeep’s dream scenario. My local fave shop’s a tiny place, and owner Karen prices things competitively for fast turnover, so we diehards must keep a frequent eye on all she acquires.

So I’ve learned: The end/beginning of the month is often a boon for finds, with people unloading their belongings right before a move. Whether downsizing, leaving town, or just tired of their stuff, some really great finds can be had.

My Great Deal: In which I find a table

I recently scored a start-of-the-month yard-sale-weekend find at my fave shop. Moving, I unloaded my old Ikea Lack table, which I deludedly thought a “good deal” for $40 new, but less than 18 months later, it was in such lousy condition it was only suited for the trash — and I don’t abuse my belongings. So much for the “good deal.”

I had a $100 budget for a new table and started the search, which mostly entailed visiting my favorite haunt often. With month-end looming and the promise of new stock coming, a coffee table I’d been eyeing for $75 got reduced to $60.

It was a simple table, shown here. I imagine it’s one of a kind, since turning it over yields no date, maker, or company. It has pencil marks, where I imagine some craftsman marked it up during his time making it, presumably three to four decades ago, since it has that sleek early-’60s minimalist look to it. It fits perfectly in my home, in every way — size, design, style, era. It’s the table I never knew I was looking for.

I went in on the first Sunday of the month, and not only was the table ready and waiting for me, but so too was the most unique hamper I’ve seen in awhile — another item on my “new house needs” list, and budgeted in for $40. The oak-strip hamper was a whopping $22, and all-in with taxes, I took the new table and hamper home for $91.

The best part is, both the table and the hamper are one-time-only projects some old woodworker dude likely made himself. No one else likely has the same. Not the same wood, not the same design, not the same lines. It’s mine.

Unique solutions for you

There’s a lot to love about finding unique pieces that make your home as original as you are, but when it’s way more affordable than you expect, it’s more rewarding and satisfying than you can dream. Your finds often become a conversation piece for years.

With every previously-loved purchase you make, you’re keeping something out of the landfill. You’re getting something more unique than you’d find at Ikea or anywhere else for the same budget (or less). And when it’s not “new,” there’s a freedom that comes from getting terrified of putting that first scratch or blemish on it.

Fact is, there’s no need to be captive to the mass-produced world of furniture stores and cookie-cutter decor. It’s a big world of unpredictable finds, and great deals, out there. It’s a fun journey. One by one, you can fill your place with personality pieces that no one else has.

Duck into the inconspicuous storefronts, or ask folks you meet for the best little shops. Most of us diehards keep the best stores as our dirty little collectibles secret, but if you ask nicely, we might just tell you.


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