How to Buy Furniture at Thrift Stores

Looking for a fun, inexpensive way to furnish your home? Domestic CEO gives you 6 tips to find great pieces of furniture from thrift and second-hand stores.

Amanda Thomas
6-minute read
Episode #150

Last week, I talked about how to get great deals at thrift stores.

I’ve had some amazing luck with used furniture and household supplies from second-hand stores. I’ve been able to use some items right when I bring them home (brand new baking pans for just a few bucks!).

Some, however, require a little work to get them the way I want them.

See also: DIY: Upcycle an End Table for Under $30


All in all, there are some great furniture pieces to be found at thrift stores. If you have a little extra time, you can turn a good looking piece of used furniture into a great looking piece of your furniture that dresses up your home.

Today, I’m going to give you 6 tips and tricks that I use when looking for a piece of used furniture:

Tip #1: Look for Potential, Not Perfection

In general, when you are looking to buy furniture from a thrift store, second-hand store, or garage sale, you want to look for potential. The perfect piece rarely comes across your path. But with a little inspiration and time, you can often transform a piece of outdated furniture into something new and unique.

If you are inspired to redo a piece of furniture, but you’re not sure of your abilities, start small. Buy a little side table that is in great shape, and add a coat or two of paint. Start experimenting with redoing furniture and see how far you are willing to go.

See also: DIY: Painted Dresser for Your Patio


Personally, I am willing to dismantle furniture, sand it, paint it, and then put it back together. I draw the line at refinishing furniture, though. My practice pieces just never turned out quite right. I’d rather just paint them. So now, I don’t even look at the color or type of wood, just whether or not it can be painted.

Tip #2: Know Your Measurements

Before you start looking for a piece of furniture, take measurements of the spaces around your home where pieces can go and bring them with you. Whether you are looking for a desk, a chair, a table, or a bed—know what size the furniture needs to be to fit the room. I always write myself a little note in my phone and take a picture of the empty space. That way I always have the information handy.

Imagine walking in to a second-hand store and finding a gorgeous desk that you think would look great in your bedroom. You buy the desk, find a way to get it home, haul it upstairs, and find out that it’s about 2 inches too long. Not only is that heartbreaking, but it’s also a complete waste of time and energy.

When I'm thrift shopping and I see a piece of furniture I like, I ask the staff for a tape measure (they almost always have one handy) to confirm whether or not it will fit. If it does, I open the picture I took of the space I’m trying to fill and hold it next to the piece of furniture. This way, I can visualize whether the lines of the piece also fit the room. Having this information handy means I can go ahead and buy on the spot. I won't have to run home and measure, while worrying that someone else will swoop it up while I'm gone.

Tip #3: Know Your Colors

Just as you need to know your measurements, you should also have a good idea of what colors you want to use. Finding a piece of furniture in a thrift store that fits and matches your décor is like the finding the holy grail of thrift shopping.

Mr. Domestic CEO and I recently bought a condo and we wanted to decorate it to match the midcentury feel of the home. We wanted to use teals, limes, and other fun, punchy colors to make it pop.

One day, I went into a thrift store and saw two barrel chairs that were in great condition. Both had velvety fabric—one in lime and one in a light aqua color. I fell in love immediately! Although we’ve talked about getting the cushions recovered, they look great just the way they are. The best part? They cost only $20 for both. Talk about a major score!


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