9 Ways To Score Gorgeous Free Furniture And Make It Work

freaking-out-over-your-paint-colors

 

Dear Laurel,

I am a very attentive obsessive reader of your posts. Not only do I love the education received, I love the many people you’ve featured that I now follow.

But here’s my problem.

I was all excited about this post where you talk about cheap decorating advice when plumb broke.

Well, one man’s “cheap” is another man’s no-can-do. And I guess broke is a relative term? What I mean is–

 

We need FREE furniture or else super-duper cheap. Like a $50 dollar sofa that looks nice.

 

Laurel, look. We’re phenomenally house poor. Spare me the lecture. I know. I know! Not that you would give me a lecture. We’ve had some unexpected expenses. But, I love our new home and believe me, the house is nothing even remotely ostentatious. It’s a modest 3 bedroom Cape Cod style home built in the 60s and only 1575 sq feet.

In addition, I’m six months pregnant with twins! The doctor says that I might need to go on bed rest, but I need to take it easy, so I’m not working right now.

 

To add to the problem. I have Mark D Sikes tastes and seriously, maybe $3,000 to furnish the entire place.

 

Antonio_Zucchi,_Potrait_of_James_Adam

Antonio_Zucchi,_Potrait_of_James_Adam

 

How does one incorporate pieces that we have and cannot afford to replace or even cover?

 

My personal example includes a wrong choice of color for my sofa. And then there’s a chair that I re-upholstered 15 years ago and is still in perfect shape, but, my taste has evolved.

We’ve managed to get the house painted. There’s a decent rug that works in the living room, but it is not a long-term piece for me.

One thing I have done is a DIY drop-cloth drape in the living room. I am quite satisfied– for now.

So perhaps a post on ways get dirt cheap or free furniture that’s of good quality and looks great. And also, how to use what you have and make it work for what you want.

 

For some of us, even custom slipcovers are too expensive.

Thank you again for your hard work and sage advice.

Sincerely,

Carolyn

 

 

Hey Everyone,

Thanks for that Carolyn.

But  before we dig in, thank you all so much for your words of encouragement and kind votes for the Amara Blogger Awards. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can read about it in Sunday’s post.

And oh my… Thank you for the abundance of difficult rooms and floor plans. I realize now, that was probably a foolish thing to do because it requires me to ask you questions and then I need photos. Great photos. And I need the furniture drawn in the room. Or at least the measurements of your current furniture.

 

You expect us to do all of that, Laurel?

 

Well, yes… I mean, no. I don’t expect anything. :] But, that’s what the job of an interior designer is. Just one teeny tiny facet. And since I’m not there to measure everything and take photos, you’re the designated driver, if you so choose. To make matters worse, I can’t guarantee that your home will make it onto the blog. But I do enjoy looking at them. I’ve already spent a lot of time doing that, even if I didn’t respond.

Okay, let’s jump into today’s topic which is how to decorate beautifully with not just a meager budget, but no money at all.

Is it possible?

Yes, it’s possible.

For some people.

Just so you know, this is based on a real “Dear Laurel” email I received recently.

 

I can relate so well to Carolyn’s difficulty. Back in 1991 when we bought our townhouse in Northern Westchester, I guess we didn’t realize how much things were going to cost.

Plus, we had baby Cale, just turning one. I had just finished up what ended up being my last semester at the New York School of Interior Design. And, I wasn’t yet, working. I was doing the Mommy and Me and Gymboree thing that year.

 

 

But, when I did get a job a year later, working for a Bedford, NY decorator, I wasn’t even making enough to cover day-care expenses for three days.

 

However, I am grateful for that job because I learned much during those years.

 

Aaron, Cale and me 1995

Okay. I dug up one image taken around the end of September 1995. That’s baby Aaron, 8 months, the wild child, Cale at 5 and me, of course, pushing 40.  And, you can see a tiny sliver of shrimp-pink carpet and an ugly beige electric radiator which we later removed as it wasn’t necessary.

 

It wasn’t until I began my business in 1996, nearly a year after this image was taken, did we take out an equity source loan, so that we could get rid of the carpet, add the mouldings and paint.

 

Oh, what a difference all of that made!

And, then things started to improve for several years. And in that period, I acquired several pieces that we needed and fixed up others.

 

But let’s get back to the subject of FREE FURNITURE.

 

 

BTW, Did you know? My favorite word in the English language is “free.”

My second favorite word is “scholarship.”  :]

 

 

There are a lot of ways to score great free or almost free furniture.

 

1. You find it

In some urban areas like New York City, you can often find some terrific furniture on the street. Over the years when I lived in the city, I couldn’t believe what people would leave on the street. In fact, when my husband moved me out of my UWS apartment, we left a few pieces of crap on the street and it was gone within an hour!

 

 

2. Ask Around

 

I guess that’s kind of obvious, but maybe you haven’t thought of it. The best place to start is with family and friends; particularly elderly family and friends who have not yet down-sized. They may be thrilled that you want to take some of their furniture off of their hands. Less for them to do.

If there are any dementia issues, however, I would check in with children first if it’s an aunt or uncle because they may have laid claim on something. And of course, if you have siblings, it’s best to be equitable about this.

 

What if the free furniture is in great condition, but not really your taste?

 

We’ll get to that in a sec.

 

3. Then, of course, are estate, yard and tag sales. Sometimes you can get some fabulous deals. You already know that.

 

4. Local thrift shops. You know that one too. :]

 

my bedroom with vintage night stand - almost free furnitureI found my wonderful night tables at a thrift shop in Katonah, NY 19 years ago. 50 bucks each. I just wish that they were a little smaller and had a drawer. Otherwise, they are perfect. lol

 

5. Flea Markets

 

my bedroom with vintage wing chair

More of my old bedroom. But I am sharing it again because there’s a great photo of my pretty little white wing chair. I picked this up at a flea market about 6.5 years ago. It had this horribly ratty-ripped-to-shreads fabric and there was an exposed wood frame on the back and part of the arm.

I took it to my upholsterer and told him that I wanted the wood to go away. No problem. He understood exactly what I wanted, agreed and seemed very excited about this project.

A couple of weeks later, he proudly delivered the chair.

And yes, I’m kicking myself that I didn’t take before pics.

 

6. But, if you want to be able to see a lot of free and/or super cheap furniture without killing yourself, (meaning online) my favorite internet sources are:

 

Facebook Marketplace.

I mean, check out this baby.

Are you ready?

 

Facebook china cabinet 45 bucks! East Rockaway NY

45 bucks for a vintage, well-made china cabinet! Yes, it’s in East Rockaway, NY where only five people live because it’s that remote. (I apologize if you’re one of the five and I just insulted you) But go and rent a U-haul with a couple of body-building friends and it’s yours. 45 bucks. How can you go wrong? That is, unless you can’t fit it through the door. Please don’t forget to measure!

 

Or how about this apartment-size sofa for $150- in Brooklyn, NY and in very good condition.

 

In addition there’s

 

Craigslist (which also has a free section)

Freecycle

Nextdoor which is a neighborhood social networking site.

 

HOWEVER,

 

Before you go all hog-wild acquiring all of this stuff for free or close to free, you still need to have a plan.

 

Otherwise, you may find yourself needing to dump pieces that don’t work. Of course, it won’t sting as much if it never cost you anything in the first place. But still.

I know that you know it, but just a friendly reminder. :]

 

7. You could also try putting up notices in community bulletin boards, social clubs and houses of worship. Like, “looking for a Louis XVI set of dining chairs, but Gustavian will work too.”

 

8. Many communities also have a local Pennysaver where people post items for sale. Some of them are free too. They usually have a listing of local estate and moving sales.

 

What if I find some fabulous free furniture, say a sofa or chair and the fabric sucks? Remember, I can’t afford custom slip-covers.

 

Hmmm… but Carolyn did say that she reupholstered a chair. If you can sew, there are a zillion tutorials on both upholstery and slipcover making.

Personally, I think that slipcovers even if you have to clean toilets five days a week to pay for them are the way to go.

 

And here’s a great source for cheap white (and other colors) cotton duck (canvas).  And they also have video tutorials on slipcover making. ( please click the link for that)

 

IMO, Miss Mustardseed is the queen of tasteful furniture make-overs. She also has a lot of great tutorials. I really don’t know how these people do it.

 

But fine. You’re going to stand firm and say no to slip-covers.

9. Well… there is another option which I’ve touched on a few times. And this might be a great option for Carolyn who goofed on the color of her sofa.

 

Paint. Paint the upholstered furniture.

 

Let’s explore this option because there’s paint and there’s paint. And it could be wonderful, or you could make a big bloody mess and that would not be so great.

Many of you may recall, oh my over five years ago, I received these wonderful chairs in some expensive Kravet fabric. I loved the fabric. In fact, I had just done the exact same chair for a client. (you can see it in the link)

And I have a confession to make related to this.

 

I didn’t make it then. Back then, I wanted people to think I was perfect. Now I don’t care. (as much) lol

I really goofed. I had gotten two chairs that ended up being too big. Here’s what happened. They were supposed to go where the green settee is. I tried to sell it even though I still love it. But it’s really not very comfortable to sit on.

Nobody wanted it; not so much as a nibble. I considered putting it in my bedroom. No can do.

Well, let me try it in front of the radiator.

Gorgeous!

Great! Well, then I’ll just put the new chairs across from the sofa. There’s plenty of room.

 

The chairs came and at first I thought it was a matter of me getting used to them. That happens sometimes.

 

I woke up the next day. No change. After a week of hating them more and more in that location, I decided to cut my losses and I put them on Craig’s List and a nice young man came and picked them up for about half of what I paid at wholesale. Great find for him!

I knew that the CR Laine chair would look great. And the fabric would be wonderful too!

After 10 weeks, the chairs arrived. They did look great. But the fabric seemed too summery to me. I probably said all of that in the original post. And I knew that if I could tone down the white, they would be absolutely perfect!

Let’s look at more painted upholstery and techniques

Excellent tutorial on DIY Network for painted upholstery.

 

Painted-upholstery homemade by carmona - free furniture - painted chair make-over

Homemade By Carmona has some excellent tutorials using Annie Sloan Chalk paint.

 

Here, she uses a dry-brush method, but she used a wet-method with another chair, also with great results which you can find in the link. It seems that chalk paint is the way to go for the best, softest results. However, it works best on fabrics that can be brushed like velvet.

 

before-chair - free furniture - Taryn Whiteaker
Please check out the after of this chair on Taryn Whiteacker. You won’t believe the transformation!

 

Kristi from Addicted To Decorating painted an entire sofa. And it looks pretty good in the photos. But she confesses that it’s best for a temporary solution.

A Beautiful Mess - free furniture - transformed with paint

And on A Beautiful Mess they transformed this vintage settee into a striking piece.I love the color, but, think it looks a little like plastic.

Very poor review for simply spray fabric upholstery paint on Apartment Therapy.

 

We’ll stay away from that one!

 

Here is my over-all view on painting upholstery.

 

Unless you’re me, ;] if it’s a piece of free or almost free furniture, there isn’t much to lose. If possible, try to test and experiment in an inconspicuous spot. An idea situation would be if you have a sofa or chair and are planning on taking the skirt off. You can use that. But, you have to be patient and go through all of the steps. That’s the hard part.

  • Some techniques will take a fair amount of time.
  • Over-all, I probably wouldn’t do it unless necessary on a piece that was sat in a lot.
  • DO make sure that your technique is one that the paint won’t come off on people’s clothing.
  • It’s best for small chairs, benches and ottomans.

In fact, if there’s one thing that can breathe new life into some dated furniture, it’s paint.

Remember the fabulous painted vanity in this bathroom?

And the master of paint both in paintings and his dwellings is William McLure.

While it’s possible to decorate on the cheap with free furniture or nearly free, I think that it does take a lot of patience and time. If you enjoy thrifting, then of course, I think it makes a lot of sense for many people. And some people have no choice, if they want to have something to sit on– AND they want it to look nice.

 

Have you done a furniture makeover that is EXCEPTIONAL, please feel free to send it to admin @ laurel bern interiors dot com.

 

Please do not send it to the other address.  Oh, and I’ll also need to have a before pic. If I get some really great ones. I’ll do another post and feature your fabulous projects. If you have a website or instagram account, of course, I’ll link back to that.

Okay, I have some terrific news and it isn’t free furniture–

 

But… there is a fabulous unpublished sale going on at One King’s Lane! 25% OFF!

And it’s going on through October 30th. Holy Crap! Okay, it’s not every brand.  (list of exclusions)

This page is the list of exclusions. But here’s the thing. Just put in the promo code which is:

OKLPREFALL

 

Mark D Sikes on One Kings Lane!
But, here’s the really great news. The sale DOES include the fabulous new Mark D. Sikes line and there are new pieces in the line.

Also, definitely included are all of the great Visual Comfort pieces and most of the art and of course, all of the One King’s Lane private label pieces.

Well, that’s all for now, but expect to find a very special widget for Friday’s Hot Sales.

xo,

 

 

 

  • Marilee - August 27, 2018 - 11:35 PM

    That picture of you with your two boys is so precious. I love it. You are so pretty, and your boys are just adorable. That must be a good memory.ReplyCancel

  • Wren - August 25, 2018 - 7:08 AM

    Laurel, thanks so much for the one Kings Lane coupon code. I’ve been lusting after the Ralph Lauren equilibrium table lamp for some time after I saw Kelly Hoppen use it for a bedside lamp and found it on OKL. It was still much too expensive. Saved almost $250 with this code was able to purchase it for my home. You rock.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 25, 2018 - 12:21 PM

      Oh wow! I love stories like that. Thanks for sharing Wren.ReplyCancel

  • Lorri - August 22, 2018 - 2:41 PM

    I read a blog where the blogger had a black belt in Craig’s List shopping. She got an astonishingly gorgeous French-style armoire for $75. I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. 😉ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 22, 2018 - 7:18 PM

      Hi Lorri,

      This is reminding me of a story I saw on TV years and years ago about a woman who was so adept at using coupons, she actually EARNED money from them!ReplyCancel

  • Christina - August 22, 2018 - 2:35 PM

    Oh, I’ve SO been there with Carolyn. I can finally afford to buy furniture, but I still love looking for great deals and making them my own. I spent years making old free/cheap things look beautiful. Aside from the previously mentioned sources, local “Buy Nothing” groups on Facebook are a great place to ask for a specific need to be met. And because the groups are hyper-local, you won’t have to drive through hours of traffic to pick something up.

    Sending a few furniture makeovers your way soon;)ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 22, 2018 - 7:15 PM

      Thanks so much Christina. It is fun to take the proverbial diamond-in-the-rough and make it into something not rough. ;]ReplyCancel

  • Barbara Kemp - August 22, 2018 - 1:09 PM

    Has anyone heard of bartering? Well, I have done this over the years, this for that. Your talents for my talents. A dear friend and I used this method for years and have remained friends for 30 years.

    Also, I have purchased loads of decorator fabric from Walmart, yes Walmart. Most fabrics are $5.00 or less per yard. Some fabrics can be ordered in larger quantities while others come in various amounts to the stores. I love fabric, you have no idea but those $60 per yard or $120 per yard have never been in my budget. Plus at $5.00 per yard I do not have to live with it for YEARS!

    Last but not least I have made drapes out of just about anything that is left over. Yes indeed, just as my mother taught me. Remaking or reusing in another way.

    Carolyn keep us posted on those little ones. Wish I lived close to make you lunch and rock a baby.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 22, 2018 - 7:13 PM

      Hi Barbara,

      Thanks so much!

      As I see it, bartering works really well if the two people have equivalent services to offer and don’t try to take advantage of the other. But, that’s a potential problem. For instance, a piano teacher gives a one-hour piano lesson for $80. But, $80 would not buy an hour of my time. (unless it was a really, really good friend) And what if instead of one hour, I spent two or three hours but my friend couldn’t understand why it took so long?

      I could see it working if for instance it was an hour piano lesson in exchange for an hour massage or an hour of personal training. Something like that.

      However, I’m glad that it has worked well for you.

      Please note: Carolyn is a real person who wrote about this issue, however, I took a little artistic license and embellished the story a little. ;]ReplyCancel

  • Laura - August 22, 2018 - 12:16 PM

    Hi Laurel, I absolutely love this post! I am going to try painting a little green nursing chair. It is a horrible drab green now, so going dark blue. I have found good cheap furniture at church sales too. Best wishes LauraReplyCancel

  • Carina - August 22, 2018 - 11:29 AM

    What a fantastic post (as usual). Is there a Toronto (GTA) Facebook Marketplace?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 22, 2018 - 7:00 PM

      Hi Carina,

      I don’t know the answer to that, but probably.ReplyCancel

  • Mary - August 22, 2018 - 11:06 AM

    What I find charming about decorating your home with these more affordable finds is that it gives the space a warm, cozy, collected, layered look.
    When I see pictures of cozy rooms I am reminded that that look takes time to put together. It takes time to acquire those pieces. But so worth it in the end.
    And thanks for featuring my bathroom again. That was a nice surprise!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 22, 2018 - 11:20 AM

      Hi Mary,

      You’re welcome about the bathroom; not sure which one it is. Sorry, I should, but I don’t off-hand because things are just that backed-up in the ol’ noggin. There’s a lot that’s website related behind the scenes that nobody sees.

      But, yes, I agree with you completely. In fact, some of my favorite projects were ones where the clients had pieces, usually inherited that they wanted to work into the room. Plus, they might’ve had art and/or collections, porcelains, etc that made the rooms look all the more personal and as if they had evolved even though they were new.

      I also love mixing in a few antiques in contemporary/modern rooms and vice versa.ReplyCancel

  • Pam Hastings - August 22, 2018 - 10:55 AM

    If Carolyn lives near the greater Boston area, I have some furniture I’m willing to give away.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 22, 2018 - 11:15 AM

      Well, there you go. However, I don’t know where Carolyn lives. And, there’s possibly other readers in the Boston area who might be interested in your furniture. The only problem is… One of you will need to post contact info. It’s not that I wouldn’t put people in touch, but if I do it for one, then it could get out of hand and then I’d need to start charging brokerage fees! haha.ReplyCancel

  • marci xenias - August 22, 2018 - 10:10 AM

    Auctions! I didn’t see auctions listed, and that is where I have acquired almost all of our furniture. Cheap, really cheap, I’m talking 50 cents for a kitchen table and chairs, but it all depends on the auction, if it’s raining outside will get you even better deals at house sales. http://www.auctionzip.com and you will be able to find auctions anywhere. I live near Amish country in Pennsylvania and most days there are at lease a few auctions going on.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 22, 2018 - 10:50 AM

      Hi Marci,

      We’ve been through the auction thing numerous times. In some parts of the country, cheap auctions are plentiful and in others, where I live, virtually non-existent. But thank you, just the same. For some folks, it’s a great source for low-cost furniture.ReplyCancel

  • Kirsten - August 22, 2018 - 10:08 AM

    Some great ideas, and we have had a lot of great furniture and reclaimed building supplies from Freecycle over the years. We even got some perfectly good fencing for our sheep, from some retired farmers!

    If I was trying to decorate on a next-to-zero budget, I would follow Laurel’s advice about having a plan. If you spend some of your precious budget on a tempting statement piece, only to find that it makes everything else look shabby and mismatched by comparison, then you would probably feel discouraged.

    I feel that if you have a low budget, you have to put way more effort into achieving a clean, classic, minimalist look, than if you had a lot of cash to splash. You mention drop-cloth drapes. If you have them in one room, they might not achieve much, but if you go with ceiling to floor drop cloth in every single room, it looks intentional, and makes a statement.

    Floors can be painted, even if vinyl. I painted mine with a floor paint to which I added fabric medium to deal with any flexibility in the floor. Much cheaper than getting the floor re-done, and having to go with a cheap vinyl due to the budget.

    IKEA do a 2 x 3 Jute rug (smaller sizes also available) – this will work with the airynatural look of the drop-cloth drapes. I have also got mirrors, wither cheap second hand, or from budget stores, and chalk-painted/waxed the frames.

    I’ve also bought lamps and shades from budget stores, don’t look at the colour or finish, just make sure you like the size, proportions and shape – then paint the base to your scheme (you need a good quality paint, but since lamps are small, you only need a small amount, even a sample pot size).

    For the shades, you can mix a paint colour you like with a glaze and a fabric medium. The trick is to start with a thin glaze, and build up to a less dilute colour gradually in coats. I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m just about to paint some plastic wicker-effect garden furniture with some linseed-oil based paint. I would be willing to bet that you could paint it straight on to any cupboards that had a plastic finish, after a light sanding. You could also paint onto plastic plant pots, plastic wicker furniture, etc.

    Good quality, large baskets also look airy, and large plants would add to the airy/zen look.

    For a colour scheme, I would say it’s hard to pull off bright colours and glossy finishes on a budget. Instead, the airy/natural theme could be carried through with matte white walls and ceiling (same shade). Any accent painting or kitchen cupboards could be in muted natural colours, grass greens, ochre yellows, and a mid to dark taupe, with the occasional dark accent, say a blue-black (blue so dark it almost looks black) door, picture frames and mirror frames (matt, and waxed).

    Finally, you can get cheap but up-to-the-minute copper or brass finished cabinet handles which will update your kitchen for a very small spend (especially if you have painted your cupboard doors). Best of luck with your project – some of the best decorated houses I’ve seen have been done by people with next to nothing – if you are confident about having a clear plan you love, and sticking with it, then you will create something wonderful, and more personal than if you could just go and buy a room set from a store.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 22, 2018 - 10:47 AM

      Wow again! Thanks Kristen. You sound like a pro. Question about the size of the Ikea rug. 2×3 is mat size and you wrote “smaller sizes available.” I think that you probably meant something other than a 2×3. Maybe 9×12? But, I never advise on rug sizes unless I know the room measurements, etc.ReplyCancel

      • Kirsten - August 23, 2018 - 12:28 PM

        Gee, thanks Laurel, hoping to maybe be a pro one day, but in the mean time decorating our ancient Welsh farmhouse with 100% traditional materials (painting vinyl was in a former, 1950s house) and taking upholstery lessons locally – amazingly there is a great teacher here in the back of beyond. Reading your blog is like going to design school, so maybe I’ll eventually make it! And ha ha, I meant 2 x3 metres not feet – I guess ‘smaller sizes’ than 2′ x3′ would be great for a doll’s house, right? And Stonehenge is 18 inches tall 😉ReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - August 23, 2018 - 6:13 PM

          Hi Kirsten,

          The Welsh farmhouse sounds amazing! Actually, most of the things I discuss, I did not learn in design school. Maybe 20% at the most. And from what I understand from a friend who’s a recent grad, it hasn’t changed much except everything is done on computers of course.ReplyCancel

  • Téa - August 22, 2018 - 9:53 AM

    great post with terrific ideas, Laurel! Thanks for the links! My greatest find is an upholstered chair I picked up off the sidewalk – missing its seat cushion – dragged it to my SUV and hoisted it in. Boy, was I thrilled when I finally had the $$$ and the upholsterer told me the arms were mahogany!! PS – check for when smaller municipality’s “bulk pick up” days are — people move the items out the night before, rather than hauling to a dump…ReplyCancel

  • Andrea - August 22, 2018 - 9:07 AM

    I’ve made plenty of cheap or free scores on Craigslist and Kijiji (Canada). I have also given away lots of free stuff, to keep the karma flowing, I hope.

    Here are my caveats, though:

    – Learn how to check for bedbugs. This is super important as it can cost you THOUSANDS to get rid of them, and treatments often need to be repeated. There’s loads of good, factual info online about how to do this. You need to have no shame about checking. I’ve known several people whose homes acquired an infestation, and it is a nightmare. It has nothing to do with socioeconomic status, or cleanliness.

    – Getting furniture reupholstered is surprisingly expensive. There are many people who are getting rid of excellent furniture with no issues, no rips or stains or sagging springs. Do NOT settle for something that needs work. A few things are really easy to reupholster, like dining room chairs, the rest are NOT.

    – You can paint wood and even melamine furniture – but learn how to properly prep them before you paint. If you don’t these pieces just become garbage, as getting the bad surface plus the original surface off is a terrible endeavour.

    – Don’t settle for pieces that are “almost” alright. It’s easy to get that free or cheap thing into your house, but then you will be stuck looking at a thing you don’t like or love, and will continue to pursue something better, which wastes your energy. Be selective and only take/buy what is right for you. If you don’t love a cheap or free thing, then let it go to a new home !

    – Don’t overlook wood furniture with a damaged surface or ugly finish. A coat of paint is your friend, and can really improve a good piece of furniture.

    – Be realistic about the size of your rooms and only take/buy what is an appropriate scale.

    – You can post an ad for what you are looking for.

    – Make friends with a cheap mover unless you have a truck or cargo van of your own, and remember to factor this cost into the cheap or free price.

    – Many times when people are getting rid of a bunch of stuff at once, it is due to a crisis situation, like a parent going into a nursing home, divorce, sudden work relocation. Be respectful of people’s time, and show up when you say you will. These folks are often happiest to unload many items at once. If they have a perfect sofa in the right color, but you have to take a horrid 1970’s bedroom set at the same time, take it all with no dithering. Go directly to your local donation center to unload what you don’t want.

    – Be mindful of smells. Smoker’s furniture will continue to stink for some time. There is no hope for upholstered furniture with animal or human urine, short of replacing the foam and upholstery.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 22, 2018 - 11:02 AM

      This is so weird. I thought I answered it, but I don’t see either published. oh well. Some great advice there. Some is already mentioned in the post or implied. Or, it’s in other posts. But always good to have reminders, of course.ReplyCancel

  • Margaret Robb - August 22, 2018 - 8:42 AM

    Hi Laurel For those needing REALLY cheap stuff, I highly recommend an on-line auction called MAXSOLD. Most of my house is furnished with buys from them -including a antique Persian rug & a Barrymore chesterfield (for $2.00) Mainly estate sales & no delivery -but lots in NY and California. Like always, you have to kiss a lot of frogs!ReplyCancel

    • Fenella - August 22, 2018 - 2:24 PM

      Ha! Yes, Maxsold can be fabulous. It’s pretty much nationwide, now, and their website is easy to follow.

      Lots of local auction houses now stick the bulk of their auctions online, too.

      Just read the small print for their mark-up, which can get greedy, and don’t be swayed by last-minute desperate bids. If it’s for sale once, I GUARANTEE it’ll be for sale again, in another sale, somewhere, sometime.

      My other go-to is Habitat for Humanity, of course.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 22, 2018 - 10:05 AM

      Hi Margaret,

      Thank you so much for that resource. In the back of my mind, well actually not too far back, I’m always thinking that with the time and energy spent hunting down just the right thing, I’d spend the time trying to figure out how to earn more money. But again, that’s just me. Still— I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is easier. :]ReplyCancel

  • mrsben - August 22, 2018 - 8:32 AM

    Super advice Laurel and chiming in with some more additional tips: Kijiji Classifieds is also another source where someone may find ‘free’furniture. (I believe they have it in the U.S.A.) As for anything you may get 2nd hand (particularly off curb-side) sealing it in plastic for a few days will get rid of unwanted pests. (Supplies — Painter’s clear plastic drop sheet(s) and a roll of duct tape. Both of which can be purchased at most $-stores.) Regarding before & afters of furniture pieces; having done my fare share over the years (trial & error) be prepared to use some ‘elbow grease’ and do some ‘how to’ research before you begin …. ☺. Oh, if not in the position to DIY and if there is a Trade School in your area; often the charges by graduating students are more than reasonable as many are building their portfolios. (Many schools/colleges have bulletin boards where you can post a request.) To conclude; wishing success to Carolyn on her search.
    -Brenda-ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 22, 2018 - 10:02 AM

      Hi Brenda,

      That is some great advice and thank you for the resource. I especially love the tip about wrapping in plastic for a few days.

      As for Kijiji, that’s too many eyes and jays for my brain, however. But, that’s just me. :]ReplyCancel

  • The Slipcover Maker - August 22, 2018 - 7:52 AM

    Another resource for inexpensive used furniture is the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Their inventory changes frequently. Sofas, chairs, dining sets, tables, etc. in good shape. I have found a few vintage pieces that are pretty wonderful.ReplyCancel

  • Maricar Barnshaw - August 22, 2018 - 12:15 AM

    Hi Laurel,

    I am new to your blog and I have been reading your blog for some time now, mainly to learn more about drapes and window treatments.
    I am new to interior decorating, so your tips have been really quite helpful. Hopefully I can afford to pay for your services in the future=) I am buying more lottery tickets, though…in time, I just may have the winning lottery ticket and have the funds to pay an A+ interior designer=)

    Anyway, another source for inexpensive furniture is EBTH, or Everything But the House. It’s an auction website, but the final auction prices seem to be more affordable than most auction places.

    Regards,
    MarcReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 22, 2018 - 9:52 AM

      Hi Marc,

      Thank you for such a kind email. I am not currently taking on any new clients as my blog/website load is already filling up my days in excess. Thank you for the source. That’s another good one.ReplyCancel

  • Runningonempty - August 21, 2018 - 11:41 PM

    A fantastic post! I would just add that we spray insecticide underneath the item in the carport, and also Glen 20 disinfectant spray inside and outside items, don’t know what the equivalent is called in US. Also look for borer holes, before taking something home. You don’t want that in the timbers of your house.ReplyCancel

  • Lisa M - August 21, 2018 - 11:28 PM

    I love your blog! I’ve been reading several years. I wanted to suggest 2 apps for free and cheap items. Letgo and Offerup have some amazing finds. I just found a vintage mail sorting shelf from a school for $40, but I wasn’t fast enough to get it.ReplyCancel

  • Sara - August 21, 2018 - 10:42 PM

    I admit I am guilty of driving around on garbage night looking for free furniture. My husband thinks this is not one of my more endearing qualities.

    I picked up some beautiful antique chairs recently and I love cleaning them up and repairing them myself (I have some great ‘after’ pictures). I invested about $50 in repair supplies and now have a nice collection of furniture pieces that I sometimes give away after they are repaired. For me it is more about saving them from the trash collector.

    But, I live in Charleston and it is amazing what people put out on the street in my neighborhood. Plus, I find that early May is the best time to find great furniture on the street. College students are moving out and surprisingly they put out some wonderful older pieces–especially wood chairs!ReplyCancel

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