5 Things to Look for When Buying Used Furniture

DIY , Finding Vintage Furniture Jun 21, 2016 No Comments

5 Things to Look For When Buying Used Furniture

The furniture section is my go-to spot anytime I enter a thrift store, garage sale, or even Craigslist.  I can’t get enough of it, really.  I get butterflies just thinking about what I might find or what I HOPE to find.  The pieces I am generally drawn to are usually antique, vintage, or mid-century modern.  Especially Mid Century Modern.  I generally bee-line straight to these pieces when I find them, but no matter what catches my eye, there are always a few things I check out.  When buying used furniture, this is always how it goes:

  1. The lines and age are usually what I can see from a distance while I’m heading in that direction.  A piece with great lines ALWAYS grabs my attention.  When I first spot a piece I’m already mentally re-doing it in my mind in one way or another.  Is it a piece that looks solid and well made?  Does it capture your attention?
  2. Next, I generally open a drawer or look underneath for a name. While you can definitely redo a newer piece from anywhere, what you really want is a good name to go with your amazing lines.  You don’t want to get it home and find “Walmart” written on a sticker somewhere.  I always have my phone at the ready to search any name or company I find.  This wil usually give me a good idea about the piece and its age.  I have done redo’s on no-names though from every category and have been happy with the results.  It just depends on whether the piece meets all my criteria.  I’ve also redone pieces with no name and later found out they were from a famous name and series, so you can’t always count on the name being there.
  3. Is the piece made from real wood? You don’t want veneered chip board or anything of the sort.  Quality furniture is made from real wood and will usually be put together nicely.  You want dove-tailed joints.  Knapp joints, also called pin and cove, half moon, or pin and scallop joints are also great on antique pieces.  What you don’t want is glue or crappy nails holding things together.  You want a solidly built and sturdy piece.  One that has already gone through time and come out strong and reliable.  (see below for examples)
  4. When buying used furniture, I try to figure out what it needs or what it is lacking. Is all the hardware attached?  Original hardware is a pain to track down.  I still have pieces that I’d like to have the original look, but I can’t find the hardware anywhere.  You can definitely get away with updating hardware on some pieces but if given the choice, I’d stick with original almost all of the time.  It really depends on what your plans are for the piece.  There are plenty of ideas on Pinterest for up-cycling a piece like a dresser with a missing drawer…and they come out amazing.  If all the hardware is there I usually breathe a sigh of relief then look closer at what else it may need.  If it’s only a sanding or maybe even stripping off of old paint, it’s still in the running.
  5. Next, do I NEED it or can I flip it? This is where my phone comes back into play.  I try to look up other pieces and see if they are popular or selling.  If it’s a piece I want for myself, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.  This is how I found my Kent Coffey Perspecta credenza and side table.  I saw it and HAD to have it.  Knew instantly that I’d be keeping it and that was before I even opened a drawer and knew what it was or who it was by.  I paid $80 for both of them and the credenza routinely sells for around $1500 while the end table itself usually sells for around $200.  I didn’t have to do a thing to either piece besides wipe them down and wax the wood.  They are MAGNIFICENT!
dovetailed joint

Dovetailed Joint from YoderMissionFurniture.com

knapp joint

Knapp Joint from Lumberjocks.com

Buying used furniture can be a lot of fun. If a piece meets this criteria, I usually snatch it up.  Sometimes I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do with it, but so far I’ve found a purpose or style for each and every piece.  There are great deals out there if you look for them and are patient enough to find something perfect for whatever your reason may be – to keep and use it, or to redo and sell it.