Furnishing My House Secondhand, Beyond the Thrift Shop

Keeping items in use for as long as possible is one of the best ways to minimize their environmental impact – and buying used things instead of a new item is even better because you’re not creating more demand for new products!

“Second-hand” might sound like it’s not as desirable because someone else didn’t want it anymore. But there is treasure to be found in “pre-loved” items! I’ve gotten a lot of my furniture used due to budget, and over the last year I’ve been making a special effort to look for household items that I need used before I turn to new.

While you can find plenty of used goods at thrift stores, they aren’t the only place you can get household items secondhand. There’s a whole market of “specialty” used goods shops throughout the Seattle area, and I’ve found them to be a great place to find higher quality items or when I’m looking for something specific.

Find Practical Household Items and Unique Decor at the Antique Store

Some friends took me antiquing in Snohomish a couple years ago and I was surprised by how fun it is to wander through the collection of random items, practical, of indeterminate purpose, and purely decorative. Even items that weren’t to my taste were enjoyable to wander through, getting a glimpse of the past. I’ve started going to the antique mall in Seattle on my own to find inspiration and useful things for my home. Although there is a wide selection of items to look through, like the thrift shop, I’ve found them to be higher quality and more interesting.

Last year, my antique mall scores included:

  • an olive wood bowl
  • a wooden serving tray
  • a raising and lowering barstool
  • a wool blanket from Ireland
  • an upcycled pillowcase made from an old wool blanket
  • a fun set of glasses from the 60s
  • a teak chip bowl
  • an oversized glazed planter
  • a wicker laundry hamper

I’m not big on decor for decor’s sake, so I appreciate finding functional items with character to add a little pizzaz to my home. Some of the other home furnishings that tempted me at the antique store:

This cool movable clock slash art piece is from MOMA

I think this is a nutcracker? Totally fun!

A pre-seasoned cast iron dutch oven, for the same price or cheaper than a new unseasoned one?

I regret not bringing home this cool acid-stained coffee table!

I love the art deco styling of this piece! Imagine this in a sharp brass frame instead of the plastic one. If I didn’t have too much art already…

The antique store’s not just for knick-knacks and costume jewelry, it’s also a great place to look for statement servingware, unique pre-framed artwork, drinkware, holiday decor, and accessory furniture.

Add Architectural Character and Remix at the Salvage Store

I took a field trip into south Seattle and visited Second Use, a salvage store that sells everything from refurbished light fixtures to rescued letterpress letters, and salvaged mantels to saved faucets. There are several salvage stores throughout the Seattle area, each with a different selection of architectural components salvaged from remodels and tear-downs. I didn’t bring anything home, but the light fixtures I price checked seemed comparable or cheaper than what I’ve seen new.

Lights and cabinets and cupboards in all manner of styles are available.

Yes please to these oversized lamps!

Beetle-damaged wood can become an accent, instead of waste, when used intentionally.

Talk about instant architectural character!

Tell me a teenager wouldn’t love a huge letter on their wall. And a collection of letters could make a cool install covering a whole wall!

The next time you’re looking for new light fixtures or planning a larger remodel, consider incorporating salvaged goods into your new design – and salvaging some of the materials no longer used in your home so that others can use them! There are specialized salvage deconstruction teams, or you can ask your contractor if they can deconstruct components that still have value in a way that they can be salvaged.

Get Used Furniture at Furniture Consignment Stores

I found a (tiny) coffee table the perfect size for my small den at a furniture consignment store in Ballard. Ironically it was a piece I’d been eyeing new online (for twice the price), but I’d decided to see what was available at the consignment store first :) I’d never been to a furniture consignment store, and was really happy with the broad selection of big pieces of furniture, from dining tables and chairs to office desks and sofas to ottomans and coffee tables. Most of the furniture that you can buy from big box stores is made of MDF rather than solid wood, so used furniture is an opportunity to find higher quality items at a more affordable price point.

A live edge dining table

Dining table and upholstered chairs

The consignment store does the work of curation, so you may be more likely to find higher quality pieces in attractive styles than at donation centers or save yourself the need to filter through self-posted online marketplaces like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.

And of course, online

While I’ve gotten many pieces of furniture through Craigslist – among the best finds my Ikea office desk, a Mission-style rocking chair, and an oak dining table – this past year I decided to try out the antique market on Etsy as well. You can search the site specifically for antiques (although sometimes the definition of antique feels surprisingly recent!) as well as filter by the seller’s location.

Rugs are a type of home decor that feels especially daunting to me, because they can be very expensive! And, despite being quite pricey, many are made out of synthetic materials using low-quality techniques that seem to wear out quickly. After browsing through lots of new rugs and failing to find a style that struck me, I decided to gamble on an antique rug. There are many antique rug specialty shops online, but I wound up finding the rug that I got on Etsy. The challenge that I found with antique / handmade style rugs is that they aren’t necessarily standard sizes like new rugs are – but since my room wasn’t a standard dimension this actually turned out to be great because I could buy a rug that fit my space to a T. It just took some searching to find the perfect size.

Beni ourain rug, exactly the right size!

And while I’ve dipped my toe into the secondhand market for home furnishings, there are so many more options that I haven’t tried out yet! Although it often requires a bit of hunting to pick out a secondhand piece of furniture, I’ve scrolled through enough online furniture shops to say that can be the case for new items as well ;) I don’t know much about how to tell the quality of upholstered furniture, so I may stick with new sofas for the time being, but I’m excited to continue my forays into pre-loved home decor.

Where do you look for secondhand furnishings?