Furniture shopping is often a frustrating experience – many of the “big-name” furniture stores offer products of only moderate quality at inflated prices. Buying a new piece of very high quality furniture is often prohibitively expensive. But, if you are willing to put a little extra effort into the furniture buying process, you can find many quality pieces at your local thrift store.
The most important step in this process is choosing the right thrift stores to shop at. The ideal thrift store to begin your search at is one in middle to upper-middle class area that has a decent supply of furniture at any given time. Checking with friends and neighbors is often an excellent way to find out which thrift stores are worth your time; using the internet is another efficient method – just Google “your city thrift stores” and most likely a large number of hits will come up. Simply scan through the descriptions and look for stores that include furniture in their description of what their store mainly sells. Often in a relatively large metropolitan area, you can also find reviews of various thrift stores in your area which will also help you to make a short list of your “best bets” thrift stores.
Once you have made a list of thrift stores to visit, block off some time on a Saturday (or Sunday, just check to make sure the stores are open) to go shopping. Before you go shopping, make sure to make a list of what dimensions the furniture you want needs to be – otherwise, it is easy to distort sizes in your brain and end up with a piece that is either much too large or too small for your space. Also be sure to bring along a vehicle that has decent cargo space for carting away your finds.
Now comes the most enjoyable part – picking out furniture pieces available here! There are several markings of a well-constructed piece of furniture: dovetail construction of all drawers, solid wood throughout (no plywood or veneers), general sturdiness, drawers and doors that operate well. This is a time when it really pays to avoid judging a book by its cover – a pretty exterior can easily hide a flimsily constructed structure. Remember that most finishes can be changed – if the wood is high-quality, then it is extremely easy to repaint a surface and it is even fairly easy to re-stain a surface. So remember: look at the “bones” of the piece – the “bones” are what are difficult to change.
When choosing how to refinish your selected piece, make sure to take the time to do a little research ahead of time. Checking a few books on painted finishes and/or staining furniture at your local library is an excellent way to determine what would be the most suitable finish for your piece. A couple hours of research and reading at the front end will save you many hours of frustration!