Vintage chic: Tips for buying the best second-hand furniture

Vintage furniture stores can be a treasure trove of second-hand finds. 

Vintage furniture stores can be a treasure trove of second-hand finds. - Credit: PA Photo/Handout

From 70s globe drinks cabinets to 80s leather La-Z-Boys, vintage furniture is packed with character.

And in a world where finite resources demand a switch to more sustainable living, the circular economy is on a roll.

If you are considering the leap to pre-loved, here are a few tips for making the right purchases...

Buying from charity shops

Purchasing pieces of second-hand furniture from charity shops is not only a sustainable way of circulating goods; it also profits a charitable cause. And don’t expect to be faced with a jumble of chipped and broken cast-offs.

Crisis, the homeless charity who have shops worldwide and an online store, use profits to train and employ homeless people to upcycle and restore pieces to a high standard. Along with providing an employment opportunity, the scheme helps boost physical and mental health.

Expect to find G Plan dressers, Nathan dining tables and Ercol cabinets. Prices are reasonable for the pieces and quality of craftsmanship – and every penny is well spent. To find your closest shop, visit crisis.org.uk or buy online at ebay.co.uk/usr/crisisuk.

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Sticking with a charitable theme, if you want to get rid of furniture to make way for new purchases, The British Heart Foundation can arrange free collections. Visit bhf.org.uk.

Hunting bargains on eBay

The world’s favourite online bring n’ buy sale is still one of the best places to find a bargain piece of furniture. Sifting through what’s available can be overwhelming, so it’s best to settle on some specifics first. Deciding on particular brands or design periods – such as art deco, mid-century or contemporary – will help whittle down the options.

Sites like eBay are a great means of sourcing second-hand furniture.

Sites like eBay are a great means of sourcing second-hand furniture. - Credit: PA Photo/Alamy

Admittedly, it is tricky to authenticate pieces but do some research and have a few questions ready to ask the seller. It’s also worth looking at past reviews on their profile.

Other important considerations include the item’s measurements and the delivery distance. Most buyers will be expected to either collect the item themselves or arrange a courier, so factor that into your budget. Try Shiply (shiply.com) to source some quotes.

Picking up freebies

Believe it or not, not everyone is out to make money. Whether it’s a retired couple in a hurry to downsize or a family who’ve run out of space, some people are desperate to get rid of their furniture. In fact, you’re doing them a favour by picking it up and providing a new home. Don’t forget, there’s a charge attached to council collections and fly-tipping in the UK is illegal.

Antique and thrift stores can be a great place to find vintage furniture. 

Antique and thrift stores can be a great place to find vintage furniture. - Credit: PA Photo/Alamy

A few useful websites advertise free items. Preloved (preloved.co.uk) has an eclectic range of goods. On our visit we found a Moses basket and walnut veneer art deco wardrobe up for grabs alongside (bizarrely) 12 bin sacks of manure. Responding to adverts requires a £5 annual membership fee.

A more sophisticated site, the grassroots and non-profit set up Freecycle (freecycle.org) allows searches based on location – reducing carbon footprints even further by not needing to travel so far. Membership is free and the site is carefully monitored.

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