From the Mailbag: Where to look for great looking affordable furniture
Originally published 10/10/11
I’m a recent college graduate working as an Electrical Engineer and am furnishing my first home. It’s proving to be a more difficult task than I imagined. With the thought in mind that a bachelor pad is as much a statement of a man’s style as his clothing, where should I start looking for furniture?
He’s completely right. Finding good looking furniture on a budget is more than difficult, it’s a pain. It’s also time consuming. Rush through furnishing a new house, apartment, or an office, and you’ll end up broke. Worse yet, you probably won’t even like the finished product. But it has to be done. You just can’t use stolen milk crates for book cases all your life. The key is to look in the right places for certain items. Time and money will be saved. Here’s where to look for what, plus your suggestions & furniture success stories are welcome in the comments…
1 .Consignment Stores – For tables, trunks, desks, and bookcases
Consignment stores are NOT thrift stores. These stores aren’t donation based, and therefore all the crap gets filtered out. Consignment stores sell a client’s furniture and the store takes a cut of the take. That means the store has more skin in the game and only accepts solid stuff that should net a fair price. Used, but still good stuff with great character.
2. Cost Plus World Market – For big upholstered stuff
Cost Plus is a step above Target when it comes to furniture quality. Still very affordable, their cloth stuff holds up quite well. Their leather will almost always be bonded, but that keeps the price down. You’ll have to sacrifice some craftsmanship, but that’s what happens when you’re on a budget. Just treat your couch carefully and you’ll be fine.
3. Craigslist – Appliances, and everything else if you have the time to look.
Craigslist is the Wild West. Ugly as sin garbage will be priced like it’s some work of art, while a chair that looked like it was pulled from an oil baron’s mansion will be dirt cheap. There is no sense here. One way to boost your furniture budget is to go with a washer & dryer from Craigslist instead of new. My $50 Craigslist Sears washer has been just fine for 5 years.
4. Thrift Stores – Smaller stuff like cabinets, side tables, etc…
There’s a lot of rough in a thrift store. But if you keep an open mind about what something can be used for, you’re likely to find a few diamonds. Had no idea that film project was even in the box it now sits on. I just needed some storage and it was inside. The cabinet has a great antique but not girly look. Makes a hell of a small office bar.
5. Target – Chairs, stools, and lamps.
Again, more bi-cast / bonded leather. But not all of us can drop $1200 on a chair. I’ve had a bonded leather chair for three or four years that I’ve got my money out of, and it’s not showing any wear yet. Target also has basics like stools, wood chairs, and mix and match lamps and shades. They’re inexpensive but not cheap looking.
Where else? Are you an IKEA believer? Have you scoured estate and yard sales? Leave your favorite places to get good looking affordable furniture (plus what you’ve purchased at what price) in the comments below.