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Second-hand furniture shopping: a beginner’s guide

January 11, 2023

Second-hand furniture shopping is set to become more popular than ever in 2023. Fast furniture, like fast fashion, tends to use materials that are not readily recyclable, meaning a lot of it ends up in landfill. Many shoppers are now looking for sustainable alternatives, and what could be more sustainable than buying second-hand?

There’s also an economic crisis, which means we’re looking for ways to save money while creating a stylish sanctuary at home. ‘In most cases, vintage furniture costs up to 80% less, is better made and immediately available, and brings character, uniqueness, and style to a room,’ says Anna Brockway in a piece for Forbes. ‘It is also kinder to the planet,’ adds the co-founder and president of Chairish, an online vintage marketplace.

Plus, as a society, we no longer judge those who buy pre-loved clothing or furniture. Architectural Digest reports that, according to a GlobalData report, ‘97% of consumer respondents say there’s no longer a stigma associated with buying second-hand’.

There's a huge rise in second-hand shopping in 2023

Photo: Fneun / Adobe

Where to buy second-hand furniture

First up on our list of places to bookmark is Facebook Marketplace; with straightforward, easy messaging and a constant update of new items, Marketplace is full of absolute hidden gems. It’s easy to navigate and search the specifics of what you’re looking for, and easy to find things that are local to you or from people within your network. There’s a great mix of well-known brands and high-quality vintage furniture. It’s also great for children’s furniture and toys.

Gumtree is similarly user-friendly and provides a phone number if you have questions for the seller. Launched in 1995, eBay was one of the first auction sites on the market and now has over 182 million registered users. You can use the buy now function or get bidding on rare finds; it’s addictive. If your budget is tight, FreecyclePreloved, Freeloved and local Facebook groups have plenty of free items to pick up. Often people just want something, particularly a larger item of furniture, collected and are happy to offer it for free. 

Of course, there are plenty of places to look offline too. Local tips and community recycling centres can have a reuse shop attached, where you can find great pieces of furniture with low-price tags for upcycling. There are local charity furniture shops, like Phyllis Tuckwell in Guildford, run by lovely, knowledgeable staff who know their furniture and offer an upholstery service at the back of the shop. They also have a furniture showroom in Farnham.

Scout out car boot sales, like the Battersea Car Boot Sale for smaller items and flea markets for incredible vintage. European flea markets are perfect for finding one-off antiques at much lower prices. Although, you’ll need to make sure you can get it home. For online vintage, try VinteriorEtsyPamonoRetrouvious and Selency.

Antiques fairs and charity shops are great places for second-hand shopping

Photo: Olly / Adobe

What to know?

Being quick and decisive is one of the key things to remember with second-hand furniture shopping. Absolute bargains can be found, and they’ll sell like hotcakes, so you need to be first in there. Basically, if you see something you like, go for it immediately, it won’t wait around. Most sites will offer an alert if you type in what you’re looking for. With charity shops, you can sometimes put a reserve on an item if you want to go for a coffee while you mull it over. Unique furniture comes up all the time, so keeping a regular look out will herald good results.

It can be handy to make a list of what you’re looking for or a mood board for the styles you like, so you’re less likely to buy things on a whim. Saying that you never know what might pop up, so keep an open mind. If you love a chair’s shape but not the fabric, you can always look at re-upholstering it to make it a piece you will cherish.

A message from the editor:

Let us help you create the home of your dreams! Get ideas & inspiration from Good Homes every month, delivered direct to your door. Visit goodhomesmagazine.com/newsletter to sign up for the weekly Good Homes newsletter. Meet the Good Homes team at Ideal Home Show and be inspired by our on-trend roomsets.

~ Karen Walker, Editor, Good Homes

Second-hand furniture shopping is an absolute labour of love, and building your collection over time will help you create a home full of beautiful pieces with their own story.

You can always upcycle your second-hand furniture

Photo: Syda Productions / Adobe

More top tips for second-hand furniture shopping

‘When it comes to shopping second-hand, I think it helps to be specific about what you want,’ says Lindsey Henderson, editor and founder of House House House and owner of a rather lovely home in Margate.

‘Second-hand shopping can be a bit overwhelming since there is so much choice, but if you have an idea of what you want, it will help you narrow it down easily,’ she adds. ‘Having a tape measure handy is always useful; make sure you know the size of the piece you are looking for or the size of the space you want it to fill.’

Lindsey's example of second-hand shopping

Photo: Lindsey Henderson

‘Having patience is another thing I think is essential when it comes to second-hand shopping; resist the urge to just buy something “for now” so you don’t end up with things you don’t adore and eventually need to get rid of.’

‘Just like my wardrobe, when I’m shopping for my home, I have a one-in-one-out policy, so I don’t end up with too much stuff, and it stops looking curated and starts looking cluttered.’

Lindsey’s final tip? ‘Have fun! Second-hand shopping is a bit like a game – when you win the piece you’re after, there is no feeling like it!’

Lindsey's fabulous decor in her Margate home

Photo: Lindsey Henderson


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A message from the editor:

Let us help you create the home of your dreams! Get ideas & inspiration from Good Homes every month, delivered direct to your door. Visit goodhomesmagazine.com/newsletter to sign up for the weekly Good Homes newsletter. Meet the Good Homes team at Ideal Home Show and be inspired by our on-trend roomsets.

~ Karen Walker, Editor, Good Homes