Home Edit: How to Shop for Second- Hand Furniture
"That's the problem these days love, things just aren't built to last anymore" says my Dad, as he brashly hits his Nokia against the table leg and is met with a satisfying clang. And despite my best efforts to resist indulging him too much in the good old days, I do have to agree when it comes to the surprisingly short lifespan of many modern products. Be it fashion and beauty trends, technology evolution, or even how we consume media, it seems our attention span has grown shorter and retailer have created products to match. This has expanded into the furniture industry, with consumers less willing to splurge on the "built to last" when the market is largely dominated by price sensitive, easily assembled, easily disposed of pieces.
I use "dispose" rather cautiously here given the varying degrees of how recyclable furniture actually is, and how much of it ends up in landfills. But thankfully, as consumers we are capable of making sustainable choices and investing in second-hand furniture from independent sellers is a great place to start. So here are some key things to consider when buying second- hand:
1. Where to look...
Traditionally, car boot sales, vintage markets, auctions, and antique stores are great places to find good quality second hand furniture. Charity shops like the British Heart Foundation famously supply furniture but of course its potluck whether you find something to your taste or not. The internet has also given rise to digital spaces like Preloved, Freecycle, Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree, Etsy and Ebay just to name some. Pamono, Vinterior and Retrouvius all specialise in preloved furniture and interior design, so check them out too!
2. … and what to look for.
I can't stress enough how important it is to view the piece before you buy! Remember , it was previously loved for a reason... For cabinets and cupboards, check all the hinged work and the drawers close properly. Can the weight of your things be supported? For sofas and chairs, hardwood is always best. Make sure there's not many knots in the frame and the joins are in good condition. Sit in them and get a feel for how comfy they are... Do they creak? Can you be supported? Try to avoid things covered in fabrics like silk, fur or leather as these tend not to pass the test of time and will be expensive to reupholster if needs be. Metal furniture is ideal as it's one of the easiest materials to restore. Read more on How to Revamp Old Furniture for some helpful tips on this!
3. Come Prepared
There's no use us falling in love with a piece is you have no means of getting it back. Or even worse, getting it home and realising it won't fit in the space you have. Know the dimensions you've got to work with and call ahead to ask about delivery or come with a care/van big enough to make it home!
4. What to Avoid
Mattresses. Don't compromise here, old mattresses harbour all kinds of bacteria that could be harmful to you. Also, remember if a price seems too good to be true, it usually is. Whether this has to do with the quality or authenticity of a piece, its best to double check before you scoop up that bargain that later deems itself more hassle than what it's worth.
By Contributor, Beth Martin