Find inexpensive furniture by checking auctions and buying used furniture
Quality, Inexpensive Furniture - Can It Be Done?
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Ready for Quality, Inexpensive Furniture
We are ready to buy new furniture, to replace our motley collection of "Graduate Student Modern" pieces. We want *high quality* furniture (solid hardwood, jointed construction, no staples or plastic), in either Shaker or Danish Modern styling.
We've priced this type of furniture in stores, and do not want to pay $400 for a basic dining room chair, or $2,000 for a table. The less expensive things are not made well enough to suit us.
Does anyone have any ideas on where to find well-made furniture at affordable prices? As I said, we are looking for items that "go together" (and in styles that are not common), so yard sales are not going to work. I've read the article in Tightwad Gazette on North Carolina outlets, and that doesn't sound like it will work, either.
If we had the time, we'd buy woodworking tools and take furniture making classes. That plus the wood would cost less than a new dining room set! (and we need dining room, living room, and bedroom furniture, eventually)
Liz and Larry
If you have any Mennonite stores near you, I would suggest you stop in and have a look. We have good friends who bought beautiful dining room chairs for less than $50 (Canadian) a chair. They had to stain them themselves, but it was still a lot cheaper than going to a furniture store and paying $400.00 a piece for them. You can pretty much guarantee that they are going to be well built since each one is made by hand by people who care about their work. Furniture can be custom ordered and I am pretty sure they will just about build anything you need at a greatly reduced price compared to a normal furniture store. The only drawback is that you have to order the furniture in advance and wait a few weeks while it is built.
Most of the furniture stores get a 500% markup on the furniture. Go ahead and look the furniture over for what you want. Divide the price by five and add 20% to give the store some profit and make your offer. Take that $2000 table for instance. Offer $480 it's a good starting point. At least it will allow the sales person to come back with his best price. Lots of these stores also get scratched items that they cannot sell at full price. Ask to see them. They usually keep them in the basement or in a back room.
Auctions are also a good place to look. Be sure to set yourself a limit before starting the bid though. Don't over bid because of the excitement of the moment.
Shopping Is the Key
I have also reached the point in my life where I want all the furniture I buy to last for many years. However, I'm unwilling to pay Ethan Allen prices. I've found that in every place I've ever lived, there is at least one independent (non-chain) furniture store that specializes in good, solid, quality furniture for excellent prices. There's no substitute for just shopping around. Take your time and visit many different shops in your area and in neighboring towns. Sooner or later, you'll find a place that carries the quality you're looking for at the price you like, and you'll end up buying many items there over time.
Our house is now filled with lovely solid oak and cherry furniture, often special-ordered from friendly family-run businesses at a discount (because we bought several things at once). Our 6' tall oak bookshelves cost around $150 each, our bedroom dressers cost between $200-$400, our crib was under $200. They are all gorgeous, traditional furniture that will last a lifetime. Don't overlook upscale used furniture stores either. We just purchased our first dining room set (after 9 years of marriage), a used solid oak clawfoot oval table that will seat 8, w/ six chairs with cushions, in excellent condition, for $600. It really pays to know what you want and WAIT until you find it!
TJ in Los Olivos, CA
We have found great quality and reasonable prices at the unfinished furniture stores. If you don't want to do the finishing, you can pay a little extra for them to do it.
Check out estate sales. It takes some shopping around, but there are some good deals. These sales often occur after someone had died and the family hires a company that comes in and sells the contents of the estate. The family is usually not looking for much of a profit from the items and they just want to recoup funeral costs and estate taxes. There will be items in all different price ranges, so shop around. One nice advantage of estate sales are that things are sold in sets. Recently my wife went to her first estate sale. The ladies running the sale were very polite and nice. She found an antique dinning room table, eight (8) chairs and a china closet for $1000. My wife commented about the great condition the suite was in and it looked like it had hardly been used. How much would you spend for those items in a good quality furniture brand new?
For good furniture at great prices in Danish Modern, try antique stores which specialize in 1950's and 60's. Haywood Wakefield prices are rising, but they are still less expensive than new furniture. Their construction is great. Auctions are worth previewing for well made furniture. Used upholstery furniture is usually not worth purchasing, as fabrics deteriorate and the upholstery has imbedded dust.
Goodwill and Salvation Army often have almost new sets of furniture. It's suprising what they have. And tempting!
Behind the Auction House
Last spring I discovered an antique auction house where my husband and I have found good quality furniture at very reasonable prices. What makes this particular auction house desirable to us is that they have a "back room" where they auction off furniture I'd classify more as used furniture rather than true antiques.
A sample of the purchases we've made over the past year include a mahogany slant front desk for $290, a china cabinet with pediment for $450, and a piano for $110. It's makes me ill to realize that we spent $700 for two bow front reproduction chests from the Bombay company the year before we found "our" auction house.
Although my taste does run toward the classic, I've seen many 60s/70s style modern furniture that I believe would fit your taste and budget. Since the majority of people shopping at the auction I attend are dealers, these pieces go for a song. Chairs sell for $25 each and tables $100 or so. These pieces probably won't go down in value unless some major disaster befalls them.
So I recommend calling around and finding an auction house that operates similar to the one I "shop" at.
I live in South Carolina and love to visit the flea markets, thrift stores and such. We have a flea market here that sells beautiful handmade furniture made by the Amish. It is considerably higher quality and lower priced than you would find at the stores. Look in the phone book or visit any Amish market and ask. They are very friendy people and are always willing to help.
Buy Cheap and Hide Problems
Try checking for quality furniture (look for nice lines and good construction) at flea markets, tag sales, garage sales, etc. You might even be able to use what you already have. The keyword is "slipcovers." They are incredibly easy to make, even with no sewing experience. All you really need is great fabric and pins. If you sew, all the better. You can add trims, make matching throw pillows (there are some good no sew ones), etc. Check for books on slipcovering at the library. Also check out decorating magazines (they are full of slipcovers because of their popularity). They may also have some "how to" articles. The pattern books at the fabric stores offer many patterns with instructions on how to slipcover. You might even yield some ideas by trying a web search using keywords such as: home dec, slipcovers, etc. If all else fails, maybe your budget will allow you to hire someone to make them for you. Best of luck on your new home look!
Shaker Workshop Site
Check out Shaker Workshops at ShakerWorkshops.com/. They have kit pieces and seem to have reasonable prices and good quality. If you build a piece from a kit, you can have the satisfaction of doing some of the work yourself without the time and expense of setting up your own workshop and learning how to build furniture.
If you are going with the Shaker style, I would recommend auctions or estate sales. You will pay more than the garage sales but you will usually get better quality. Shaker is so popular these days that it should not be too hard to find. Look for the pieces that are not obvious. Ones that will only need minor repair. We found a cherry dining table for $56 because the legs were not attached correctly and the table looked too low to be a dining table. I would also study up on woods and furniture style. Another good deal we found was an oak hutch. There was a pine top added to it so it looked wierd. No one wanted it. The sticker price was $300. We got it for $50 since my fiance figured out how to get it out of the basement when no one else could. The bottom part is a numbered piece. Good luck!
My recommendation to you is that you look at auction listings. Often things go very reasonably at auctions, and if you look at the listings in advance you would know if they had the sort of thing you were looking for. You can usually contact the auctioneer in advance and possibly even see the items prior to the auction date.
You mentioned that you were needing items which would go together. Well, you never know, someone might have everything you are looking for, all in one place!
We had to furnish an apartment we were staying at for 6 months, so we looked into furniture rentals, but they were too expensive. However, just as I was about to leave the sales person mentioned that they sold the returned rentals at a very low cost. I began to look around and found a leather loveseat and a full size sofa for 1/4 of the original cost, solid pine dresser, side, end, coffee, sofa, and dining tables for 1/8 of their original cost, and they threw in matching dining chairs for free! Then after 6 months we consigned the furniture, to a place that picked up the things for free, and got 1/2 of our original investment back. All the furnishings were solid, and well built, and coordinated. The apartment looked beautiful, and expensive, and the furnishings wore really well!
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