Consider Buying Used Shabby Chic Furniture in a Tight Economy

Money is tight but your old couch and chairs won’t last another week. Instead of sitting on orange crates or shopping at garage sales, visit a used furniture store, and buy items to upcycle, or make into shabby chic pieces.

While shabby chic, referring to retro look or the use of vintage fabrics and accessories for interior decorating has been a buzz phrase in recent years, employing used furniture has sometimes taken a back seat. That’s true no longer. Used furniture has gone mainstream and many people love the distressed look. It equates with the notion of buying a used car–affordable and respectable.

Hunting for used furniture is not confined to the milieu of weekend garage sales. Stores abound where the cost-conscious consumer can pick up a sofa, dining room table, or bedroom set for a fraction of what the same piece would have cost new.

Chain Stores and Outlets Feature Quality Sofas and Bedroom Sets

One of the best sources to search for used furniture bargains are outlets that work in conjunction with retailers who rent furniture to corporate and other clients that only use pieces for a short time. Other possibilities include chain consignment stores which sell furniture on speculation for clients. National stores selling used furniture include:

  • Brazen Furniture Rental Outlets
  • Another Time Around Furniture
  • Consignment First
  • Home & Garden Consignment Centre

Hotel furniture consolidators are another source. Many of these, however, have only one location, so the trick is finding one near you. If you live near one you can often get expensive, brand name furniture that once graced rooms at chains like Hilton, Hyatt, and Sheraton, for a fraction of the cost. Hotel Furniture sources include Universal Hotel Liquidators, Hotel Furniture Centre, Perez Used Hotel Furniture and more.

Also consider smaller specialty shops and antique stores, especially those near affluent neighbourhoods. In stores like these you may find one-of-a-kind of custom-made pieces and sets that you wouldn’t find in a chain store.

How Used Furniture Ends Up in Stores

Companies such as Brook rent furniture to corporate clients who furnish living quarters for their employees, with the expectation that they will get the pieces back. This often occurs when Brook’s third-party clients want to change the furniture provided to their employees in temporary living quarters. Another way that Brook sells used furniture is when the company changes its own rental offerings. In this case, the company will buy sample pieces, some of which end up on the sale floor without ever being used. These are determined, for one reason or another, not to be viable rental pieces, but are perfectly good furnishings.

When furniture is returned to Brook, the company must determine whether the pieces in question are still usable. “When we look at a piece of furniture, we have to determine if we can refinish it, clean it or repair it (in the case of an upholstery flaw) to determine if we can sell it,” said Mike Jacoby, Midwest General Manager for Brook Furniture in an April 2009 interview.

Determining if Used Furniture is Sound

Consumers interested in purchasing a piece of used furniture should consider the following tips for buying used furniture:

  • Sit on chairs and sofas to test for comfort, loose joints, or wobbly legs.
  • Open doors and drawers to check for sticking, broken parts, or damaged or missing hardware.
  • Check for frames that have been altered.
  • Lean on chairs and tip tables to check for sturdiness.

Although you run the risk of finding a scratch or two on used pieces, the most important thing is overall quality.

“What I tell people is the furniture must be structurally sound with all drawers working if it has drawers and no major gouges,” said Barbara Hagy, store manager for Second Time Around’s Schaumburg, IL location. “The upholstery should have no major stains or pet damage or damage from cigarettes, either burns or tobacco smell because people notice that right away.”

Just because a used piece of furniture is a bargain, is in good condition, and has no structural defects, doesn’t mean you should automatically buy it. Just as in buying brand new furniture, know the dimensions of your rooms as well as the size of entrances and stairways to make sure the pieces you choose will fit.

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