Nicest but Cheapest Furniture Possible for a New Home?
February 7, 2010 9:31 PM   Subscribe

Nicest but Cheapest Furniture Possible for a New Home? I'm looking for something more durable and nicer than IKEA (my furniture staple since college), on par with, but at a discount from the normal price of, Restoration Hardware, Crate & Barrel, West Elm, etc. I've had no luck at the Outlets for the previous stores. I've read about hotel liquidators and have heard about special wholesalers only available for designers in major cities, but I'm not sure where to find them in D.C. (current city) or El Paso (where I'm moving). Bonus question: Do you have an online designer (like Kelly and Olivia) that helped you?
posted by roundrock to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
We have a resale furniture shop in my town that carries used, high-end furniture. They have some wonderful classic and modern pieces at a fraction of the price of new. Surely there is such a place in El Paso?
posted by LarryC at 10:00 PM on February 7, 2010

Actually, the site I'd suggest has branches both in D.C. and El Paso!

All snark aside, craigslist is where we purchased our Indonesian teak Restoration Hardware outdoor set for $500, our DWR Sleeper Sofa for $700, our Crate and Barrel leather sofa for $200, etc.

All it takes is being willing to sort through a lot of chaff. Using a tool in firefox or other 3rd party craigslist viewing sites lets you preview pics without clicking on the ad and saves time. We furnished our home in gorgeous designer furniture for peanuts, and it took a lot less time to do than you might guess. I'd go to all of the nice furniture stores to get ideas of what you like, then start looking for similar stuff on Craigslist.

-Be prepared to leap (not run, not jump) on deals. If you find the right thing at the right price email them immediately with your information and try to go buy that day (because if it is awesome, you'll have competition)
-Unless the price is really unreasonable, do your haggling in person with cash in hand- it will be more effective
-Decide in advance, if possible, if you want the piece. If you know what model it is, say the Flight Chair from DWR, swing by a DWR showroom on the way to sit on the Flight Chair and decide if you even want it ahead of time. Less pressure when you actually get there.
posted by arnicae at 11:00 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Congratulations on kicking the Ikea habit. I've bought plenty there myself, but always feel like I'm an idiot for insisting on a reusable coffee cup but buying disposable furniture.

There's also a Crate and Barrel Outlet in Alexandria that has good deals on stuff, but if you're willing to go used or thrift, DC actually has some very good options, especially in the murky semi-industrial neighborhoods between DC and the Ikea, on or off of Rhode Island, Bladensburg Road, Kenilworth Ave.

For example, there's a Habitat for Humanity on Rhode Island, and right next door is a used office furniture store that has some excellent mid-century stuff if you're willing to (literally) climb all over the piles of desks and office chairs. They're trying to remake the area to attract artists, so there's some small manufacturers (like a guy who sells very cool lamps) on the side streets. (And 1,000% better Mexican food than you get in DC.)

Community Forklift is more building supplies than furniture, but its next door to a warehouse that sells stuff that was left in storage where several of my friends have found amazing things for virtually nothing. (Seriously, offer the guy in the office $1 for something. He may take it.)

In the other direction, the Habitat for Humanity on Richmond Highway south of Alexabdria is great for furniture.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 2:20 AM on February 8, 2010

Go the craigslist, estate sale, yard sale, & flea market route. Most of my furniture is from the 1920s-40s, and it cost a fraction of buying something new from Ikea. It takes patience, but it is well worth it.
posted by toddst at 5:43 AM on February 8, 2010

On the one hand, I think there is some durable stuff at Ikea and if you choose wisely, reference Ikea Hacks, etc. then it can last well. My Expedit bookshelf was moved from Brooklyn, to NJ and then is now in its second apartment in PA and it is doing just fine.

I agree with above that you are a great Craigslist candidate. For me, I didn't want to pay $1,000 for a $2,000 sofa, I instead wanted a $600 sofa for $300 (which is what I got, loveseat included, perfect condition). It was harder for me to find stuff cheap but in good condition, but there were TONS of options for you. Particularly if you are interested in coordinating in some antiques for personal style and avoiding the look of having cut and pasted a room from the Crate and Barrel catalog. But, if I'd been you, and a $1,200 Ethan Allen entertainment unit for $400 was something I was looking for, it would be raining $400 Ethan Allen entertainment units.

On using Craigslist:

-check a lot, a few times a day. But the big flurry of activity is obviously in the morning and when people get home from work,
-At least where I am, big furniture pieces don't move as quickly as you'd think they do. I am in a wealthy suburban county, and so most people I assume can pay for new stuff and to have it delivered. They don't have trucks, and they don't want the hassle of getting one. So even if you see something you love that is a week or so old, still email,
-But, if you see something you love don't wait a week, jump on it that day.
-Especially with upholstery, you wanna see something in people's houses and not in their storage unit. I say this because of fleas, bedbugs, etc.
-Search a lot of different ways. I've seen a lot of furniture listed in "household" rather than "furniture".
-Personally I ignore anything without pictures, but that's a personal preference.

Happy shopping!
posted by bunnycup at 5:46 AM on February 8, 2010

Craigslist furniture-buying tip: there are ways to get the images to display in the front-page list, and (especially assuming you have a few criteria and know what you want) this makes browsing 5 billion times easier. What I have is a combination of Firefox, GreaseMonkey, and this add-on.

I've heard there are also ways to get a text message when a craigslist post goes up fitting your search criteria (i.e. includes "sofa" "Crate" "Barrel" "beige" and $200-$700) but I don't text so I can't tell you more about that. I suspect this would be fantastic if you figured out a key word that tended to get good matches; for example, to fill my danish-style dining-table lust, the combo was "teak, table, leaf".
posted by aimedwander at 6:45 AM on February 8, 2010

Nthing Craigslist - but don't forget about your local Goodwill, Salvation Army, and the like. There's also something to be said about contacting your friends or anyone in the area - 'anything you want to rid of, we'll move out for you' might work well.
posted by chrisinseoul at 6:48 AM on February 8, 2010

I am always amazed at the quality and price of the furniture at my local Habitat ReStore.
posted by emilyd22222 at 8:20 AM on February 8, 2010

One thing you can do is pick up the Sunday paper and look through the classifieds for the auction listings. Some auction places will have a lot of furniture go at incredibly low prices. Plus, a day at the auction can be an interesting experience.
posted by drezdn at 8:43 AM on February 8, 2010
posted by The Whelk at 11:56 AM on February 8, 2010

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