How To Shop For Used Furniture That Doesn’t Suck

June 14, 2017

Dropping a few thousand dollars on a matching furniture set has never been my style or fit into my budget. After several years of dealing with IKEA furniture falling apart or settling for a shabby-chic look because all I could afford was scratch-and-dent, I’ve stepped up my used-furniture game a little bit.

A few weeks ago, I bought a house and have been replacing some of the old furniture I didn’t love with some new-to-me pieces that are sturdy, beautiful and I’m hoping will last a long time.

Shopping Craigslist

The key to Craigslist is focus. The interface isn’t super user-friendly and it’s difficult to see everything, so figuring out keywords to search are important. I’m into mid-century modern furniture, but instead of searching terms that will return expensive results like, “MCM” or “mid century,” I search for things like “walnut,” “console,” “sputnik light,” etc.

It’s okay to ask for more pictures! If the listing only has one photo and you’d like to see the woodgrain in more detail or figure out if the legs are scratched, just ask.

Credit: Retro Wanderlust.

Shopping Facebook Marketplace

Facebook Marketplace is like going to a weird rural auction: It makes me slightly uncomfortable but is kind of fun to watch. Over the weekend, I posted a dresser for FREE and received 25 messages in 10 minutes. The dresser wasn’t anything special, but people go nuts for free stuff. Here are a few things I noticed from the seller side of Facebook Marketplace:

  • I was more tempted to respond when someone created a personal message. Facebook gives you the option to send a pre-populated message.
  • People who said, “I can pick this up today!” were my favorite, and the dresser ended up going home with a woman who let me know she could be at my house in 20 minutes.
  • A few fellas liked my Facebook profile photo and were actually not at all interested in the dresser. (Ed.: Men.)
  • A whole bunch of people didn’t read the full description. I didn’t want to spend time re-explaining things I had listed in the item description, so I skipped many of those questions.

Joining Buy/Sell/Trade Groups

Just today, I purchased a desk for $25 through the Twin Cities Mid Century Modern Facebook group. Sometimes when people don’t want to mess with the Marketplace they’ll list items and post photos on group pages — many of the groups were around before Facebook Marketplace was invented. In the mid-century group, people often want to make sure their old pieces go to someone who will take care of them.

Search for styles you like, neighborhoods and cities close to you, then join the Facebook group. You can always leave if it gets overwhelming or you don’t need more pieces.

Retail Stores

Minneapolis is full of consignment, thrift and antique furniture stores. A bunch of my favorites are on Instagram and Facebook, so I see new arrivals, sales and in-store events, and I’ve managed to score a new buffet and dresser over the past few weeks.

Figure out a style you like, find a handful of stores to follow on Instagram, and then see what pops up in your Explore tab – you’ll likely find some others too.