10 Furniture Items You Should Always Consider Buying Secondhand, According to Interior Designers

updated Apr 29, 2021
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Credit: Grey Crawford courtesy of Massucco Warner

While there are lots of reasons why you should shop for secondhand furniture, the most important may be its positive impact on the environment. “I recommend shopping for used furniture over new store-bought items because there is little to no ecological footprint,” says interior designer Rebecca Hay. “Plus, older furniture is usually built to last, while newer big box furnishings can break in a few years and end up in a landfill, contributing to greenhouse emissions.” 

Along with reducing waste and conserving some of the natural resources required to produce, warehouse, and ship brand new furnishings, designer Kelly Finley of Joy Street Design says vintage furniture items supply loads of style and personality for a fraction of the cost. “When shopping secondhand, you are more likely to find high quality, one-of-a-kind pieces without the high prices,” she says. 

Curious what types of housewares interior designers prefer to shop for secondhand? From bathroom vanity mirrors to artwork and more, designers say you should always at least consider buying these 10 big-ticket items used. 

Credit: Marika Meyer Interiors

1. Upholstered Chairs

If you’re scared to buy (or salvage) an upholstered chair because of its fabric, interior designer Marika Meyer says don’t be. “Chairs can easily be reupholstered and updated with a fresh coat of paint,” she says. “If you get lucky, you may not even need to purchase one — I found the most charming little chair literally on the side of the road and turned it into the perfect desk chair.” 

Credit: The IT Factor Courtesy of Joy Street Design

2. Dressers

In the market for a design-savvy media console? Finley says to look no further than the nearest flea market or vintage shop. “You can find dressers composed of quality woods with nice details like dovetail drawers and transform them into an entertainment center, ” she explains. “Just double check that the hinges are sturdy and that the internal compartments are still intact.” 

Credit: Stephani Buchman courtesy of Rebecca Hay Designs

3. Bathroom Vanity Mirrors

An antique bathroom mirror is an eco-friendly way to upgrade a lackluster bathroom without any heavy lifting or spending, particularly if you choose something that’s on the smaller side. “I love old vintage brass frames because they add warmth and elegance,” Hay explains. “Just make sure the glass is in good condition and [that] it’s fitted properly for hanging. Otherwise, you will need to add a wire or mounting bracket to the back.”

Credit: Maggie Griffin Design

4. Coffee tables

When it comes to coffee tables, interior designer Maggie Griffin says you can’t go wrong with a used one. “The more beat up, the better,” she explains. “A few nicks and scratches will make even the most conscientious guest reassured in putting their feet up on your coffee table at the end of the day.”

Credit: Don Freeman courtesy of Jayne Design Studio

5. Rugs

Let’s face it: For as important as area rugs can be in a home, the best looking ones are usually pretty pricey. That’s why William Cullum, senior designer at Jayne Design Studio, recommends shopping for vintage and antique rugs instead of mass produced, store-bought styles. “Carpets can oftentimes be the most expensive item in a room, so when you find a great one with personality at a great price (and most importantly the right size), it can be transformative,” he explains. Try flea markets, a resale site like Chairish, or even Facebook Marketplace for finding local deals.

Credit: Philip Harvey courtesy of Massucco Warner

6. Artwork

If you’re searching for an interesting piece of art that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, interior designer Melissa Warner Rothblum of Massucco Warner recommends shopping for one secondhand. “Oftentimes, when I’m looking for an unusually sized piece of art, a vintage piece comes to the rescue,” she explains. “Vintage art is usually very well persevered and any local frame shop can swap out the frame to make it feel like new,” she says.

Credit: Kristin Dion Design

7. Stools

The only thing better than a chic footstool is one that’s sustainably sourced. “My favorite vintage purchase of all-time is a stool that can easily be moved around from room to room,” says interior designer Kristin Dion of Kristin Dion Design. “I shop vintage for special decor items that will infuse character into a space.”

Credit: Sean Litchfield courtesy of Becky Shea Design

8.  Dining Chairs 

Dining chairs are often a splurge because you need multiples, which is why interior designer Becky Shea suggests purchasing them secondhand. “I love that used dining chairs tell a story,” she explains. “Just thinking of how many people sat in that seat over the years is so mesmerizing to me.”

Credit: Mike Chajecki courtesy of Rebecca Hay Designs

9. Entryway Tables

If you’re looking for a durable table that doubles as a practical entryway piece, Hay recommends purchasing a used console. “An old card table or demilune cabinet makes a great addition in a foyer by adding grandeur and elegance,” she explains. “Look for solid wood style versus veneer, so that you can re-finish and potentially re-stain it to fit the colors in your home.”

Credit: Grey Crawford courtesy of Massucco Warner

10. Sofas

If you’re looking for a sofa in an unexpected scale, Rothblum says vintage is the way to go. “Vintage sofas are easy to find in petite sizes as well as extra-long sizes,” she explains. “The trick is making sure it’s comfortable to actually sit in. For a sofa, I like loose back cushions for extra comfort.”