Welcome to Part Three of the Half Craft Thrift Manual! You can see the introduction/general tips here, Part One on clothing and shoes here, and Part Two on variety items here. Part Three focuses on furniture.
You definitely get the most bang for your buck when you buy furniture at a thrift store. Items that normally sell for hundreds of dollars or more can be bought for the cost of a post-thrift-score lunch. Here are my tips for the best furniture-buying experience.
1. The most important thing to remember is to keep yourself in check when it comes to furniture. Unlike buying a questionably ugly dress or useless kitchen gadget, furniture is harder to move, and harder to get rid of if you decide that it’s not for you.
2. How am I going to get this a) home and b) up three flights of narrow stairs and around a weird corner in my apartment? Measure the space you are looking to put the furniture before you go shopping, and bring a tape measure. Also, make sure it will fit in your car, or, if you don’t have a car, like me, that you have a nice friend who will help you carry it home. You then must buy this person the aforementioned post-thrift-score lunch.
3. Is the item well-made? Is it real wood, or is it chipboard with veneer or a vinyl covering? A few ways to tell the difference: real wood is heavier, it makes a nice resounding sound when you knock it. Things made of chipboard or particleboard will be much lighter, and the fake wood finish could be flaking or peeling off, exposing the telltale chipboard. Most furniture you can buy from big chains (Ikea, for one) is just the cheap stuff.
4. As always, check the condition. Make sure all wheels/screws/knobs are there and are securely in place. Do the drawers stick? Is there something sticky in the drawers? If the item is clearly well-made but is dirty, think about if it’s worth your time to clean it, and how you will go about doing that.
5. Think about refinishing or hacking. You’re not losing much by trying a little DIY on thrifted furniture. You can sand off an ugly wood finish and re-stain the item to suit your taste. You can do a little reupholstering on a dated chair, or sew chair covers. Try using painter’s tape to create borders when painting furniture to achieve different modern looks. Even just changing the knobs on a dresser to something a little more special can make a big difference.
Don’t Forget to Give Back
Always remember that you can (and should) re-donate anything you change your mind about or want to throw away if it’s still in useable condition. Certain thrift stores, as well as Purple Heart, will send a someone to pick up larger items. There are also organizations that will take gently used prom dresses and give them to girls who can’t afford their own. Find a drop-off location near you here. Pay it forward, guys.