As a designer, I don’t mind spending money on our home. In fact, I’d rather spend money on furniture, decor, and renovations than on clothing or cosmetics, but that’s just my personal preference. Creating a home Emmett and I love makes me really happy and brings me joy! All of that to say, while I don’t mind splurging on a beautiful light fixture, a vintage rug, or high-end building materials, I do appreciate a good deal and definitely shop around… especially when it comes to furniture. Last week on Instagram, I shared Emmett and myself cruising around in a classic car (a ’69 Mustang for you car people) while my SUV was in the shop, and I captioned, “They don’t make them like they used to.” I think the same holds true with furniture. If you’re looking for heirloom quality or designer furniture, it often comes with a hefty price tag- much like a classic car. Luckily, there are plenty of ways and resources to work within your budget when sourcing this type of furniture. Nothing is out of reach and you can snag some great deals! Click through to read about 5 ways to score quality, high-end furniture on a budget! I’m breaking down my top sources and how I navigate each.
#1 : ESTATE SALES
I’m kind of an estate sale fanatic at this point. I probably go to one per month! I’ve always loved estate sales, but this year especially- they’ve been a fun and creative “break” for me. I’m often asked how I find these local estate sales, and how I determine which ones are worthy of my time. I’d recommend researching LOCAL estate sale companies- as if you were going to sell your own home and the contents within it. You can find out a lot about how a company operates, the premier (or higher end) companies, as well as how busy or how many sales they host per month. Once you identify the top estate sale companies in your area, follow them on social media, subscribe to emails, and make sure you’re “in the know” for upcoming sales.
My favorite local estate sale company (here in Salt Lake City), is great about sending email notifications and posting upcoming sales on social media. They usually begin by sending dates. A week or two later, they’ll share 7-10 photos inside the home, and then I spend time analyzing those photos. What am I looking for? Interesting furniture, decor, high-end finishes, just an overall sense of the home and the items that fill it. Often times the company will post brief descriptions with the overview images, which influences my decision to go to a sale. They’ll share the square footage of the home, the address, as well as featured collections or certain furniture callouts (Persian rugs, Delft pottery, custom upholstery, etc). Estate sales are an amazing way to score high-end pieces… you just have to identify which sales are worth your time. I think a big part of that is figuring out which company hosts the best sales in your area.
#2 : FACEBOOK MARKETPLACE
This is probably the most popular, mainstream resource for scoring quality, vintage, or high-end furniture. You know I love Facebook Marketplace (and even have a blog series devoted to it), but given its popularity- that also means it’s a more competitive market. I’ve noticed I have to spend more time digging lately, a bit more money, and more time & energy, in general. It actually reminds me of the housing market right now… inventory is being snatched up so quickly and if you really want something, you have to be willing to pay more or be extra quick to make an offer. Don’t worry though- I shared my 7 best tips for scoring the FBMP item you really want. I go into great depth and have had success despite the competitive market! It’s a wonderful resource that I still enjoy spending time on, and I do think it pays off. My dining set is proof, and one reason why I’ll never give FBMP up. Haha! You never know what you’ll find.
#3 : AUCTIONS
Auctions are a newly discovered resource for me. I used to be intimidated by them, but after testing my luck at a couple online auctions (like Everything But The House) and gaining confidence, I decided I could try an in-person auction. We receive flyers in our mailbox almost weekly for auctions (still not quite sure how we ended up on that mailing list), and Emmett was the one who suggested we check it out sometime. Again, this is another instance where you should get to know your local auction houses and their reputation (some specialize in furniture, some specialize in farm equipment, etc). It’s an amazing way to find cool things on a budget, but you do have to understand how it works and know what you’re doing. Before you show up, preview the inventory and mark the items that interest you. Figure out what you want to buy, research the going price for the furniture you’re interested in, set a budget (how much you’re willing to spend), and figure out transportation. Before bidding begins, familiarize yourself with the terms, regulations, bidding process, and rules. Know your payment options and stick to your number. I’m not sure if my strategy is correct, but I never bid first or seem too interested- even if I’m really excited!
#4 : THRIFT SHOPS & ANTIQUE STORES
I will say, traditional thrift or consignment shops are often less expensive than traditional antique stores. You’re likely to find a better deal at a THRIFT store, but if you don’t feel like digging or spending the time to frequent the store to see what is new- an ANTIQUE store might be a better fit. Even if the price is a little higher, you’re usually saving time… and it’s more of a niche selection, whereas thrift stores contain anything and everything (clothing, furniture, shoes, books, toys, whatever). I think it’s important to distinguish the difference between the two- they’re both valuable resources, but offer different experiences and selections. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t think “luck” is involved with thrift shopping. An experienced thrifter knows the best stores, where to go, when vendors restock, and shows up often to scour the store. It takes a trained eye and a lot of time, but the reward (and thrill of the hunt) is always worth it! I think the best thing you can do to become a good thrift or antique shopper is to simply get out there and go… it’s all about experience and hours spent in the trenches.
#5 : ONLINE RESOURCES
Online resources such as Etsy, eBay, and Chairish offer collectors or individuals a platform to sell their possessions. I’ve purchased from all three websites and have had wonderful experiences with them all! The upside to online resources? You can shop from the comforts of your couch, save items to wishlists, take time to ponder the pieces you’re deciding on, and compare prices. It also gives you a vast database to shop from, given many of these resources are nationwide or worldwide. Instead of limiting yourself to your local area, you’ve expanded your search range (by a lot), which means more options and more variety. The biggest downside to purchasing online is the shipping cost. Shipping large or heavy furniture is always costly. However, you can mitigate a lot of that by arranging your own freight. I typically use Greyhound when purchasing from Etsy and pickup my furniture at the local station. It’s usually a fraction of the price of white glove delivery- I’m talking MAJOR savings.
Do you use any of these resources? If so, which one is your go-to or favorite? Do you have any other tricks for scoring high-end or designer furniture on a budget? If you’re interested in another home renovating or decorating post that involves creating more room in the budget or scoring designer items for less, be sure to check out 10 ways to save money on major home buys. That’s another post that has been really helpful and popular lately… I’m spilling more secret tips in that one!
PeggiOctober 7, 2020 at 6:32 am
So much good information! I will say that for furniture, my preferred method of shopping is still thrift and consignment stores. This does require lots of time, but the hunt is half the fun! I have successfully purchased items from both Craigslist and FBMP, but honestly I don’t love the interpersonal nature of these transactions. I’m intrigued by the idea of following estate sale companies. I didn’t realize that was an option! I have only ever stumbled upon these sales, so now I have some research to do! I’ve professed my love for Etsy and Chairish, but I really only use them to train my eye and gauge prices. Shipping costs bum me out. The auctions in our area are renowned for farm equipment and colorful characters, but I have a friend who has agreed to be my guide whenever I’m ready.🤣 Shopping secondhand offers quality, value, originality and adventure! What could be better than that? Happy hunting!
SarahOctober 7, 2020 at 8:59 am
Most definitely! I could spend an entire day thrift or antique shopping- that’s my happy place. Shipping prices always spoil my furniture dreams, but if you’re going to do it- Greyhound is the most affordable option (I’ve found). You should try an estate sale or an auction sometime- they’re actually really fun! Take your friend up on that offer :) Hope you’re having a lovely week!!
MelissaOctober 7, 2020 at 7:33 am
Oh how I love the thrill of the hunt! I totally forgot about EBTH. I bought several things from that site but eventually became frustrated with their shipping prices. They were completely inconsistent and at times absurdly high ( for small wares). I am intrigued by Greyhound shipping-did not know there was such a thing. I love estate sales and use estatesales.net to track the ones in my area. I like getting emails from one source rather than each individual company. I think they are nationwide. I’ve even used it to look for sales when I travel. One trick I use at estate sales is to try and find multiple items to purchase. You can get a much better price when you “bundle” items. I look for things that I can resale which will offset the cost of what I keep. I have become really frustrated with FB marketplace. I found the old format so much easier to use. Maybe I’m missing something. Thanks for the inspiration! Think I’ll be pursuing the thirst store today.
SarahOctober 7, 2020 at 8:53 am
I’m with you, Melissa- I haven’t used EBTH in a year or two… after moving out of their headquarter state (Ohio), shipping just got to be too much. I’d much rather visit an in-person estate sale or go to an auction. I’m going to have to try estatesales.net … thanks for the tip- that’s a new one to me! I’m also going to try your bundle idea. I’ve never done that! I usually go on the first day of the sale (upon opening), and they’re never willing to negotiate with me because sales usually last 2-3 days. Maybe the bundle trick will bring me better luck! FB Marketplace feels less honed in these days. I thought it was just my algorithm. I think the old format was more user friendly, too. Oh well- I’m still on there scrolling everyday. Haha! Happy hunting :)
LaurenOctober 7, 2020 at 8:11 am
I’ve used eBay in the past, and of course FB marketplace, but have never heard of some of the online resources you’ve listed here. I can’t wait to try one of them out! In general I’m a person that loves a good hunt, so thrift and antique stores are 💯 my preference, especially because I can see them in person. However online shopping is becoming the norm, and I’m excited to try it out a bit more. Thank you for sharing your tips Sarah, and have a wonderful Wednesday!
SarahOctober 7, 2020 at 8:49 am
Yes! Definitely check them out- and if you find something, try Greyhound for shipping (it always cost WAY less). I also love a traditional in-person shopping trip to local thrift and antique stores… that’s definitely my happy place. Estate sales, too! Happy Wednesday Lauren :)
Hannah GokieOctober 7, 2020 at 9:14 am
These are really good tips! I’ve found that estatesales(dot)net is a great resource for putting all the estate sales in my area into one email — you just sign up for alerts in your area, and they’ll email you weekly on Thursdays with the estate sales happening in your specified area, with the times they’re open, links to photo galleries, addresses, etc.! It’s helped clear my inbox a little instead of subscribing to each different company’s email list.
SarahOctober 7, 2020 at 7:01 pm
Ohhh thanks for the tip, Hannah! That’s another new one to me. That is super helpful :) Can’t wait to give it a try.
Anne (Julia)October 9, 2020 at 11:10 am
I second this! They also have an app. I go to at *least* one estate sale a week.
SarahOctober 9, 2020 at 11:24 am
This is AMAZING info. Thank you :) Can’t wait to give it a try.
Danna FOctober 7, 2020 at 10:28 am
You learn something every day…especially here! I love thrifting. I grew up going to garage sales and loved earning money setting them up and selling my outgrown clothes. Garage sales have evolved into these other avenues you talked about.
We have a neighborhood site on FB (Buy & Sell in St&#N) where you can post items. I love it because there is no bargaining & you can pay via PayPal or venmo. Don’t get me wrong, I like to bargain but when you post on this site, you are wanting to get rid of it fast and selling for very low cost. It’s mostly clothing, small house wares. Now, FB marketplace is great here for furniture. I bought a buffet on there a year ago.
Estate sales are my favorite too but its been a really long time. I usually go with my mom & aunt but its been years. I must check out the estate sales website. Watch out checkbook! Ha!
Great post as always Sarah! Happy Wednesday.
SarahOctober 7, 2020 at 7:03 pm
I love hearing that, Danna :) I also love thrifting… garage sales, stores, estate sales, whatever- if there are cool home items to be found, it’s such a fun treasure hunt for me. I could spend an entire day shopping like that. I’m wondering if my neighborhood has something similar to yours for buying and selling? I’ll going to look into that! Thanks!!
Danna FOctober 7, 2020 at 10:43 am
Ok, I did not know about EBTH and….wow! I see you did a post on this. Will have to come back & check it out.
SarahOctober 7, 2020 at 7:06 pm
I haven’t shopped there in awhile, but it’s a great resource if you can figure out the shipping! I used to be addicted to bidding on items over there, haha. But really ;)
KingaOctober 7, 2020 at 2:40 pm
I always look for something special in a great price, so my go-to are a flea markets and fbmp and I started to check Etsy. I live in Paris region, so the first 2 are sometimes overloaded with goodies. Lately I’ve bought 2 lamps, tall (1,75m) brass one with classic delicate ornaments and table lamp made from alabaster and it’s perfect for my kid room, but you need to be quick to snatch the things you like.
SarahOctober 7, 2020 at 7:09 pm
I have to imagine Paris is an INCREDIBLE place to find beautiful, vintage furniture. I’m envious, Kinga! Your lamps sound absolutely stunning :) What incredible finds!