Creating the Secondhand Home of Your Dreams
I’ve moved a lot in my life—13 times, to be exact. But my most recent move was different. For one, I’m determined that our current house will be the one where we raise our son for the long term, which means I’m putting more effort into turning my home dreams into reality. In any other year, that might mean investing heavily in new décor, but my 2018 New Year’s resolution was to buy used whenever possible, both as a way to help the environment and my bank account. And in creating our new life here in Austin, I’ve tried to stick to that.
Aside from a few things I won’t purchase used for serious ick factor concerns (mattresses, for one), I’ve been surprised at what you can easily find second-hand through local and online businesses. Here are some of my go-tos.
Once upon a time, purchasing random kitchen and bath items was a job for Target, Amazon, or Bed Bath & Beyond. And then I walked into my local Goodwill. All those sundry things—a hanging shower caddy, coffee maker, BBQ tongs—that were on my Amazon wish list, I easily found in good condition there. Any well-stocked thrift store that focuses on home goods (as opposed to clothing-centered shops) likely has similar deals.
There are just a few things to keep in mind. For cookware, inspect the finish for nicks and scratches and the pots and pans for warping—both defects can seriously hamper your cooking. For small electric or battery-operated appliances, make sure the store you purchase from either has a return policy you can live with or that you’re able to test the item in store. Cords should not be frayed, and battery holders should be free of corrosion, unless you are certain you can repair those issues yourself.
In an ideal world, all items would be free of rust or stains, but this is thrifting we’re talking about. Sometimes a little elbow grease, with a cleaning solution as simple as white vinegar, can go a long way.
On hardwood floors, rugs seem like a necessity. But, this was an area where I felt like the potential costs of buying used (hidden stains, smell, pests) outweighed the benefits.
Of course, there’s an established market for pricey vintage rugs of theoretically higher quality, but I don’t have $1,000 to drop on a floor-covering that is fair game for my mud-loving Great Pyrenees and toddler son. For affordable, decently-made options I thought I’d have to rely on the same Ikea rugs populating everyone else’s living rooms, but then I read about Revival Rugs.
Revival is a new-ish direct-to-consumer vintage rug company specializing in handmade rugs produced in Anatolia, Turkey. Each rug is professionally cleaned and inspected—from there some may be overdyed or washed with another color to disguise worn patches. Others, like kilims, are left in their original state.
While the prices aren’t going to match a big-box store, they are quite reasonable for unique, high-quality pieces. Revival’s web site claims that by cutting out the middle merchants they can offer vintage Turkish rugs for up to 10 times less than the typical going rate.
When it comes to used furniture, it often seems like you can go high (antiques) or low (Craigslist) with very little in between. What’s more, it’s all a hassle, whether online or in person, to search for that perfect barstool to fit your counter. One of the greater tests of my new year’s resolution has been avoiding the siren song of cheap new furniture, especially when all I have to do to order is enter “brass stool counter adjustable” in an online search bar and dozens of affordable options pop up.
Still, you can search used furniture pretty easily online, though your results are far from guaranteed. Ebay has a great search function, as a matter of fact. For keeping things closer to home (and saving the carbon footprint of shipping), Craigslist is still the granddaddy of local “peer-to-peer” transactions, but I find the marketplace features of Nextdoor and Facebook more pleasant and trustworthy. There are also a couple of resale apps—LetGo and OfferUp—which combine local verified buyers and sellers with user-friendly design.
If you have the budget, Chairish is a more upscale option, focusing on vintage finds. It’s another online peer-to-peer model, although many sellers are professional antique dealers. You can use the “near me” function to search for items that are available for free local pickup or locally delivered within 50 miles.
Of course, the internet is helping local small businesses show off their wares, too. While it can be a pain to drive to a vintage store’s physical location to check out what’s in stock, many—like my Austin fave, Room Service—now have social media presences alerting followers to new arrivals and deals.
Hardware and DIY Supplies
Do-it-yourselfers, get thee to the nearest ReStore! Habitat for Humanity’s non-profit second-hand shops are appropriately focused on home projects, carrying reclaimed flooring, cabinets, doors, and even paint. Some items are purchased new through warehouses, but much comes from donations from individuals, businesses, and contractors. Most major cities have a location, and your purchase helps contribute to Habitat for Humanity’s homebuilding programs for families in need.
If you live in an older home, or just like the look of antique hardware, online architectural salvage store Historic Houseparts is a treasure trove. Need an Art Deco butterfly hinge? They got that. Or screws for your wonky 1912 doorknobs? They have those, too. Many items are sourced from soon-to-be demolished buildings, but the company does offer reproductions and new homeware items among its massive inventory.
Many of the places listed above—Craigslist, ReStore, Ebay—list or stock second-hand major appliances. However, because items like stoves, refrigerators, and washing machines are things you typically depend on for daily life, it’s best to purchase them from a professional outfit that offers guarantees and warranties.
Luckily, there are many local retailers that specialize in used appliances. Look for those that certify their wares, assist with delivery and installation, and offer a warranty to cover repairs. If you can’t find a mom and pop operation in your area, consider Sears Outlet, which sells refurbished appliances online for in store pickup or home delivery.