Tips on Picking Out a Piece of Furniture

Choosing furniture can be a difficult experience, and even more so if you’re looking at secondhand materials. However, if you’ve got a sharp eye and a good idea of what to look for, you should be able to make some amazing purchases. If you aren’t afraid of a little bit of work, and you can sort of envision what you’re going for, you can end up furnishing your home for a ridiculously reasonable price.

1.    Evaluate The Stability

Perhaps the most important aspect of buying secondhand is understanding how to look for a good base or as some would say, “good bones.” If the construction of a piece is sound, it can last for multiple generations. However, you may have to find it through messy paint jobs, mottled staining and numerous scrapes. Pick it up – is it heavy? Does it feel like solid wood, or is it a veneer? Check to see if anything wobbles when you shake it. Be rough with it. After all, you’re going to want this thing to stand up to being redone, which will probably involve power tools. If it can’t stand up to your shaking, how’s it going to hold up against a power sander?

2.    How Will It Fit?

First off, you don’t want to go in looking for a side table and leave with a sofa. That’s not nearly as much fun as it might seem in the store. Second, you don’t want to buy that side table, get it home and find that it either clashes horribly with everything you already own, or that it literally doesn’t fit in the allotted space. D

Measure the space you’re trying to fit something into, write the dimensions down and take that tape measure with you to the store. You won’t remember the dimensions as easily as you think, and you’re probably not as good at estimating as you think. Plus, the bigger you go, the harder it is to guesstimate.

3.    Give It a Good Once-Over

You might very well get lucky and find a pretty pristine piece that doesn’t really need much work to reach its potential. However, some other things can make a big impact. Scratched surfaces can usually be redone, unless you’re dealing with veneer. Foam cushions can be a whole other ballgame – foam is actually pretty expensive. If it’s firm but squishy, you can probably save it, but if it’s rock hard or crumbly, it’s going to have to be replaced.

If the piece has metal, such as an old metal desk or bookshelf, make sure there are no rust spots that could lead to future in-depth work. Furthermore, is the metal painted? If this is the case, you may want to check whether liquid or powder paint was used; powder-coated metal tends to be more environmentally friendly and prevents corrosion better.

4.    Get a Second Opinion

Sometimes, making the right choice about a piece of furniture is not as easy as it seems. If you’re not 100% sure about the piece of furniture, bring a friend or family member with you to check out the piece of furniture. They may be the voice of reason that helps you spot an unstable leg or wobbly table that saves you money in the long run. Plus, furniture shopping is always more fun in groups!

5.    Be Patient

It’s so easy to rush into these things and end up buying something that you don’t really love. Plus, too much rush can lead to overlooking something very important – like a lovely old piece that reeks of cat pee, or a loveseat that’s infested with bedbugs. Take your time looking, and you’ll eventually end up with something you really do love.

There are multiple elements that go into picking out furniture, but it really boils down to knowing yourself, looking at furniture seriously and taking your time. If you can do this, you should end up very happy with your purchases for a long time.


Megan Wild is a home decor expert that loves writing about ways you can save money and help the Earth by decorating. You can check out more of her tips on her blog, Your Wild Home.