Almost every item in this photo is used (save the Ikea Lack table in the middle), and the same would be true in almost every room of our flat.
*Note: I've rearranged since taking this picture!*
You really can find great pieces and make great statements with your decor, if you know what you're looking for. Here are some quick tips:
Where to Look
Whether its physical shops, like Goodwill or Salvation Army, or online, you should be able to find something near you. In the States, I used Craigslist a lot, and only had one bad experience. Here in London, I use Gumtree or Freecycle.... and yes, I've been stood up once or twice. But when something is free, you put up with a little more trouble! And be smart when looking online. Communicate with sellers-- ask for photos, clear meeting points, phone numbers in case of miscommunication-- there are simple things you can do to minimise the number of dead-ends you hit in looking.
What to Look For
Look at the 'bones' of a piece. Do you know what I mean when I saw that? Look beyond paint colour, faux finishes, even hardware, to the actual construction of a piece.
- What's its shape? Are there nice curves or clean edges?
- What's it made of? Solid wood, mdf? How long can I expect it to last?
- Hows it finished? What are the joints like? Is it coming apart in multiple places or is it solid and sturdy?
Our church was getting rid of this piece... which was bright red when I got it. But it's a sweet little cupboard, and I loved the curved legs. If all I'd seen was the red gloss, I'd never have given it a chance!
What to Look Out For
I hear some of you freaking out. What about germs?! Bugs?! Someone else used that! I know all the questions about cleanliness, bugs, etc..... but that's where common sense comes in. Look carefully at the item. Turn it over. (Yes- I have turned sofas upside down in Goodwill- do it!) Look for bug holes in the wood, for moth damage on upholstery, for rust or warping.
I have had the joy that is bedbugs- not from my furniture, from the neighbours- and yes, it put me off used upholstered furniture for a while. But if you know what you're looking for and do a thorough check, you'll be fine. Use your best judgement, but don't forget how much a good scrubbing or a coat of paint can do! Give it a good clean, leave in the garage for a week if you're worried. It'll be fine. Really.