Furniture Pieces You Should Always Buy Used
Buying used furniture is better for your wallet, the Earth and your local economy — plus, you might find a genuine heirloom.
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Mid-Century Modern Coffee Table
The clean lines and simple shapes of mid-century modern furniture will always have fans. One surefire way to bring the 1950s and 1960s into your living room is with a mid-century modern coffee table, the kind that once held issues of Life Magazine or Davy Crockett coloring books. Iconic shapes include the guitar-pick-shaped triangular version or the famed boomerang-like design, with its kid-safe rounded edges.
Benefit: Used furniture of this era is usually made from real wood and built to last. If you’re concerned about stability, give the table the wiggle test before buying to make sure those decades-old legs still have game.
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Sure, you may not collect Hummel figurines or thimbles like Grandma once did. But even if your collection is more modern — hello, Funko Pops — you need to show it off.
Check out a thrift store or estate sale and you may find a spectacular curio cabinet hiding in plain sight. Check the glass front over carefully. It could be difficult to repair, especially if the glass is curved, and a replacement may need to be custom made.
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Small Wooden Dresser
Bedrooms have ballooned in size in recent years, and dressers along with them. But if you need a dresser that will fit in an older home’s bedroom closet, you may find a used, more compact dresser that will hold your KonMari-folded modern clothes.
Older dressers tend to be more solid and long-lasting (farewell, particleboard). Pull out the drawers to ensure the internal compartments are solid and the drawers still slide evenly. Your favorite color paint, new drawer hardware and lovely liners can dress up that vintage dresser as a one-of-a-kind showstopper.
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Small to Mid-Size Bookshelves
E-books have their advantages, but there’s much to be said for a good old-fashioned printed book. Put those beloved volumes on display in a used bookshelf, many of which boast unique carvings or details of their era, just like the books they hold.
Buying used, you are more likely to land a bookshelf made of real wood, and you can paint or stencil it to fit your decor. Take some inspiration from this list of 12 best-looking refurbished bookshelves.
Marble — it’s not just for museum sculptures any more. Marble-top tables are breathtaking and long-lasting, so if you can get your hands on a used item, nab it with no fear that it won’t last.
Burl Wood Furniture
Burl wood isn’t from a specific kind of tree. Instead, burl wood is created by a tree when it undergoes some form of stress (it’s 2021, we can relate). The wood deforms, and its grain forms a sought-after twisted appearance that is beautiful when the wood is used to make furniture.
Burl wood furniture had a heydey in the groovy 1960s and 1970s, when homeowners were willing to march to their own design drummers. Now it’s making a modest comeback. You might see burl wood in everything from dressers to bookends to tables to elegant frames around mirrors. And while it can be pricey, if you stumble upon a used item, don’t worry that it’s near the end of its lifespan.
“(Burl wood’s) dense structure makes it ideal for lasting a lifetime, and more, without splitting or warping,” says Anna Brockway, co-founder and president of Chairish, an online marketplace for vintage, antique and pre-owned furniture.
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There’s something so homey about a farm table, and they’re easy to identify. Look for clean, simple, sturdy wooden tables that make great backgrounds for Instagram food photos.
Because the style became popular again, furniture makers are cranking out new farm-style tables that have never been near a farm. But a used one often boasts history and quality workmanship, as many of these tables were made to last.
With a farm table, don’t worry if it’s not pristine. Sure, you can do some refinishing, but Brockway says that’s not really necessary here. “Sometimes you want that old farm table that has the gouges and the black rings because it looks cool — it was a working farm table!” she says.
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Rugs aren’t technically furniture, but older ones often carry charm in appealing muted colors. Obviously, you don’t want a threadbare rug that looks ratty, but a previously loved look is just fine. (Here’s a simple hack to add cushion to any rug.)
“Slight wear and tear on a vintage rug not only adds character, but softens the weave and colors for a perfect, worn-in look.” says Brockway. “At the moment, we’re especially loving this with Swedish flat weave rugs, where time and age only adds to beauty and value.”
And if you need convincing, consider that rug manufacturers are selling rugs designed to look used!