Out Of Curiosity:: New Or Previously Owned Furniture?

I’ve noticed a very interesting change in myself over the last few years.  When I first started my Kristi Linauer Interiors in 2005, it was the dream to have those clients with large budgets, and be able to walk into a furniture stores and select new furniture for entire rooms in their homes.  I felt like as a designer, I had “arrived”.

But then, for some reason, that got really boring to me.  In fact, so much so that today, I’d rather pass on the clients with wads of cash ready to purchase everything shiny and new.  I find so much more satisfaction rooting around Goodwill, Salvation Army, and garage sales for previously-owned diamonds in the rough, than I do sitting in a furniture store, searching through catalogs and fabric swatches.

Does that seem strange to you?

I really would much rather take an old, outdated piece of furniture, like Gwen’s dresser

gwens dresser before

…and transform it into something beautiful for today…

gwens dresser after

Something similar, even from a place like WalMart, costs just around $1000!!

walmart dresser

Yes, I did say WalMart!!

Even in rooms where it seems unexpected, I still find it more satisfying to find previously-owned furniture to incorporate into the room.  Take my mom’s living room as an example…


After searching and searching for months for two upholstered chairs to use opposite the fireplace, we came up empty.  Then one day I came across these two chairs on Craigslist, and they were $40 each.  They were sturdy and in good shape, so we picked them up and had them reupholstered.  They were the perfect addition to the living room!

I’m not sure what it is that appeals to me about using previously-owned furniture.  Perhaps it’s the thrill of the hunt.  Or maybe it’s that I like to envision what it can be, and I love the challenge of seeing if I can make it look in reality how it looks in my mind’s eye.

Now trust me, I know this type of thing isn’t for everyone.  Some of you couldn’t fathom bringing another person’s furniture into your own home.  You’d lie awake at night, terrified at what may be lurking behind the fabric, or just beyond the drawer.  I understand that not everyone can look at a cast off, such as my dumpster love seat, and see the beauty that lies within.

dumpster love seat

I promise, you won’t recognize it when it’s finished!!

So where do you stand on the whole new vs. previously owned furniture issue?  Would you rather find that previously-owned diamond in the rough, and transform it yourself?  Or would you rather waltz into a furniture store, flip through catalogs, and plunk down a wad of cash for the perfect piece?

If you have a favorite previously-owned piece of furniture that you’ve transformed, and you’re particularly proud of, leave a link in the comments below. I’d love to see it!!




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  1. Umm, how long ago did you find that loveseat? I swear that piece made it's round in my family. I don't recall it being that beat up though. You need a warehouse for great finds like this so you can just continually have things on hand for when you need them. I know, "Shut up Michelle!"

  2. I just like nice lines — I don't care if it's new or used. I look for a certain style. Used is usually more my budget, but sometimes it's worth it to splurge if the piece is just right.
    I wish I had your skills with refinishing furniture, though! I've seen so many pieces over the years that "would be just perfect if only…" And I don't know how to make the "if only" happen.

  3. Just wanted to correct you on the cost of my chairs, Kristi. They were listed for $40 each, but when we got there the man said he would take $25 each for them. We would have paid the advertised price. 🙂 They were kind of a bright, medium blue. They were very sturdy though, and I knew they would be perfect with new fabric. So glad you found them!

  4. I have found that most new furniture is either too over-the-top ornate, or far too contemporary for my tastes. And the fabric colors at most walk-in type stores are boring, boring, boring. In my household, new furniture just doesn't stay fresh very long, so why pay the price?
    Used or vintage furniture: either it has character or character can be added. Change the color, change the fabric, and don't have to pay full price for the privilege.

  5. Michelle, I actually have a storage room filled that's completely filled!! And it's not a small storage either. 😀

  6. Oh wow…I didn't remember that he gave you a reduced price. Even better!!! See, just one more reason to love previously owned furniture.

  7. Nowadays, you need to be cautious in picking up old upholstered furniture, many times it has bedbugs or other critters, that's happened fairly often in midwest states. Dressers, hard chairs, are fine, but I don't want to worry about what's inside old stuffing.

  8. I didn't see the option for "I'd love to make beautiful masterpieces like you do but am scared to death of taking on those projects and wish I had a cheerleader nearby who knew what they were doing to help me!", so I went with mix of the old and new. 😀

  9. After spending numerous days painting old bedroom furniture for my guest room, I realize it's a lot of work to take something and make it new again. If I don't have to time or resources, I rather just buy it outright.

  10. It's definitely a labor of love. I thoroughly enjoy the entire process. But yeah…I can definitely see that if a person doesn't love the process–the sanding, the priming, the painting–then they would definitely prefer new furniture.

  11. I love old, used stuff–love the unusual style, character, and quality of whatever yesteryear. I love to paint it and make it beautiful again in a different kind of way. I've done my share of reupholstering old stuff, too–love to do that. . .but, sometimes. . .I just want something NEW. . . :)!

    So, my hubby and I bought a new sofa and chair for our family room. It's a Ralph Lauren vintage style with leather and nail head trim, tweed and tapestry, English country, library, c. 1940s–well, you know, Ralph Lauren style! That was 15 years ago and I still think of this chair and sofa as "new"! Sigh. My new stuff just seems to settle right in with my old, used stuff and be right at home and that's OK with me 🙂

  12. I have just found your blog and I am hooked.  I love this post.  I am all about reusing and re-purposing.  The part about your blog entry that had me rolling was your dumpster find love seat.  I swear I grew up with this furniture.  I don't remember the love seat, but we had the matching sofa (same fabric and all) along with 2 orange velour chairs.  In fact my parents had them reupholstered about 15 yrs ago.  They went to college with me, and I think they are still floating around the family somewhere.