Updated: Feb 18, 2022
I was ten the first time my parents bought a new piece of furniture from a store. Before this momentous occasion, everything in their house was either from my dad’s great aunt, who had passed away the year they were married, or from the side of the road. My parents lingered over catalogs for days before finally selecting a pink couch covered in large, muted flowers. The couch was expensive and took weeks to get to the house. My sister and I were elated. A brand new couch!
My children have never had that special thrill. Aside from our expensive organic mattresses (it felt like we were buying a car), our family has never bought a new piece of furniture. Every couch, chair, table, rug, desk, shelf, and piece of art has come from our parents’ or grandparents’ attics, yard sales, Craigslist, the side of the road, or antique stores. No new resources were used to make these things, so their environmental footprint is near zero (the emissions to transport them to our home from another home or store in New Hampshire is the only knock against them).
Desk from my great aunt, chair from my husband’s grandparents, file cabinet from the side of the road, and typewriter from an antique store (my parents had it repaired for my birthday!).
This method of furnishing and decorating our home also saved us tons of money. Even the cheapest furniture from Walmart cost more than most of the things we own and there is no question that our furniture is higher quality and will last longer. Much of our wooden furniture has been around since before we were born and is still going strong. I have no doubt that we will be able to pass many of these things on to our children.
Personally, I think it’s fun to use older furniture. Dictionary stands are clearly a thing of the past, but this one is perfect for holding up our big Natural History book, a favorite (which I found used at Toadstool Bookstore in Peterborough).
That pink couch I mentioned? Yes, we have that too. It’s still in good shape aside from a couple of tears, which I’ve repaired. I do plan to cover that lovely pink floral fabric at some point (though my friend Laura Johnson from Design 645 recently told me that Beyoncé has a similar couch in her living room, so maybe I shouldn’t), but the couch itself won’t need to be replaced anytime soon. I wouldn’t say it matches anything in our home, particularly, but choosing quality furniture over the years gives our home a more sophisticated eclectic style, I would argue, then if we had bought matching furniture from Target.
Here’s the famous pink couch at Christmas time. The rug you see is also from my parents’ attic and the advent calendar is from a thrift store.
How can you go about making the shift to used furniture instead of new? The most important factor is to be flexible both with your timeline and with your aesthetics. For example, I’ve needed bookshelves since moving last summer, but, instead of buying new ones, I let others know I was looking and, recently, my patience has paid off. My mom, who is excellent at finding things on the side of the road, found us two for free and my husband’s grandmother gave us one. I still need a couple more, so I will be looking on Craigslist and keeping my eye out for yard sales this summer. Will they all look the same? Not at all. But that’s half the fun. Who wants a bunch of cheap cookie cutter bookcases, when you could have furniture with character? Also, if you do want the cheap ones, I guarantee you someone is off-loading them already and you can get them for next-to-nothing.
Next time you need something new for your home, remember, used is the new new and skip the box stores and Amazon. You never know what you’ll find!
P.S. If you have any bookshelves you don’t want anymore, I’m looking. 😉