When it comes to thrifting, most of us tend to focus our efforts and our attention toward the clothing aisles, and for good reason. You can find so many fantastic deals hidden in there, from vintage day dresses to tailored menswear, children’s clothes and everything in between. Yet, have you ever considered thrifting for the home?
Before I got married, settled down and started a family of my own, I was determined that everything in my house be brand-new. I spent hours scouring websites and looking for deals online for everything from dressers and sofas to wall art and desk accessories. After a few of those purchases, I quickly realized that to save both my pocketbook and my sanity, I would need to take a different approach.
That’s when I decided to take another look at my notion of thrifting for the home. These pieces are a little different than those you buy for your own personal wardrobe. Why? They’re sitting out for everyone who visits your home to see, use and enjoy. Therefore, it’s important to pick out only the best-quality items to furnish your spaces. So, how do you determine what to add to your cart and what to pass over? Here are a few general rules I like to follow.
Thrifting for the Home: How to Analyze
First of all, start by analyzing the item’s overall condition. Is it a sofa that has seen decades of wear and tear? Or, is it a teacup set that’s significantly scratched and chipped, with pieces missing from the enamel? In other words, can you look at the item and immediately tell it’s had a good, long life? If you’re shaking your head yes, then leave it. Or, read on to Step 2.
Otherwise, if the item is intact and in good condition, it’s worth giving it a second look. Be sure to look at all angles of the item, which means flipping over couch cushions, looking underneath upholstered chairs, opening the drawers of a desk, and more. Sometimes, there can be major usability or aesthetic issues that you can’t tell just by looking at the exterior of a piece. If the furniture has doors, make sure they all open and close correctly and seal tightly. If it has fabric, make sure it’s free of stains or at least looks cleanable. If there are embellishments such as jewels, silver knobs, lace trim, etc., then make sure they’re all affixed securely.
Just because an item looks worse for the wear doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a “no.” If it’s an item you really need for your home and it’s priced to sell, consider the effort it would take to upfit it and make it usable. For instance, if it’s a chair with a bent or scratched up leg, could you replace that one leg and call it a day? If it’s a dresser with a door that sticks, would a little oil address the problem? If it’s a couch that’s covered in a retro pattern that you would never put in your home even if someone paid you, can you just reupholster it?
After you thrift for a while, you’ll begin to find that even if you need to pay a little more for materials from a hobby store or pay a contractor to help you bring a piece back to life, it’s still infinitely cheaper than buying it new. If it’s worth the legwork, it’s worth the money.
One of my favorite mantras when it comes to thrifting for the home, and thrifting in general, is “If you don’t need it, it’s not a good deal.” My mama would repeat that to me every time I came home with armfuls of vintage dresses from my local thrift store just because I thought they were pretty. The same applies for thrifting for furniture and accessories.
If you have absolutely no space for that French Country armoire or no one you can give or sell it to, you don’t need to be loading it into your car. If you do, you’ll just be saddling yourself with a massive piece of furniture destined to take up space in your basement or garage until you finally donate it, in which case it will likely end up right back where it currently sits now. So, be selective with your shopping and intentional with your purchases. A few thrifted finds here and there can go a long way, but you don’t have to fill your home with cast-off treasures just because they were less than $10 each.
Your Long-Term Vision
When we moved into our forever home last year, I knew I wanted some things at the property to be new. I invested in a few key pieces, such as our custom living room sectional, that I knew would be family heirlooms and would last us for years to come. Yet, I wasn’t afraid to thrift for most of the rest of the pieces, mainly because I knew exactly what I wanted and needed.
Before I set out shopping, I made a list of the things I wanted our home to contain, so I could focus on those items in particular. Had this been five years ago, I would have just picked up what looked good in my rental house at the time and fit my current taste and budget. Yet, there was something about having a family and spending so much time on this new house that I only wanted to select pieces of furniture that I knew we’d be keeping around for a long time.
For instance, we did a complete bathroom remodel in our new space and decorated in calming tones of teal and white. I went thrifting in search of coral wall art that would complement those hues and pop against the blue walls. I found a gorgeous set of old French paintings framed with velvet, coral mats that look like they cost $100 each or more. They were ideal for the space, but if there had been even one scratch on one mat, I would have left them on the shelf. I wanted quality and I had to develop a discerning eye.
That really directed my thrift store hunt, as I was only looking for pieces that looked new or almost-new, abandoning antique items that would require a lot of time to bring up to par.
So those are my four tips for thrifting for the home? The takeaway is that if you find a piece you both love and need, take a look at it and see if it’s in good condition, or at least fixable if not. Then, you can take it home with confidence, knowing that you have the perfect spot to put it so you can admire and love it for years to come.