There’s no better way to add a bit of personality to your home than with secondhand furniture and accessories. No longer just an avenue for frugal-minded college grads looking to outfit their first apartment, secondhand furniture and decor sources are now coveted by the masses. “Everyone should be shopping secondhand,” says the founder of Thrift & Tell who runs the deal-scouring site and social accounts anonymously. “It is much more sustainable than constantly buying new and you can find really interesting pieces that no one else will have.”
While shopping for vintage products or antiques can be considered buying secondhand, focusing solely on loving the piece you’re buying—rather than looking for pedigree, era, and more—is the real differentiator. “Regardless of budget, style, space, or vibe, secondhand allows you to surprise yourself with the unknown, grants a space soul and story, and enables you to responsibly buy anything under the sun,” says designer Marissa Whitley Tago of The Whitley Co.
The one pitfall that is oftentimes easier to avoid with brand-new pieces straight from the retailer is knowing when you’ve spotted a deal and when you’ve, well, not. Before you get started on your secondhand journey, keep in mind these rules for how to shop secondhand furniture and home decor online.
Tips for Shopping Secondhand Home Decor Online
1. Use Trusted, Verified Sites
Buying secondhand can certainly be worth it, but in order to reap the reward, you need to start with a reputable retailer. “I only make large purchases on well-trusted and verified sites like 1stDibs, Chairish, and Etsy,” says Tago. When browsing peer-to-peer sites (such as Etsy or eBay), Thrift & Tell suggests checking a seller’s rating as well as how many ratings they have. “If you are buying a brand name or paying a premium, be sure to look out for vague language like ‘I think it is antique,’ ‘Appears to be gold plated’ or ‘Received as a gift, so not sure.’ These are not always red flags, but at least should be a signal to do your due diligence.”
2. Check (and Double-Check) Dimensions
When shopping online for secondhand furniture, it’s particularly important to pay attention to the dimensions. Chances are, it won’t be returnable if it arrives and you realize you can’t fit it through your door. Measuring all of the door frames, stairwells, and even the elevator (if applicable) in your residence shouldn’t be an afterthought. Trace your path and measure as you go to ensure your new-to-you piece will actually fit in its future home.
3. Utilize the “Previously Sold” Filter
“One of the easiest tricks to ensure you are getting a good deal is to look at what the same item or a similar one has sold for previously. This will give you a good sense of appropriate pricing,” says Thrift & Tell. Most websites will give you the option to filter your search by items that have been recently sold in order for you to easily get an idea of the price range for a particular item. “When doing this exercise, do not forget to cross-reference other like sites to get a sense of pricing. If the item is not an antique, you can also use the current retail price as a reference point.”
How to Find the Best Deals for Secondhand Accessories
Buying secondhand furniture and home decor is certainly about adding one-of-a-kind style to your surroundings, but scoring the best deal is probably also at the top of your list. That being said, finding the best deals doesn’t necessarily mean going with the lowest-priced sofa. It’s all about considering the item’s future needs in addition to hidden costs. For instance, if a pair of wingback chairs appears to be a steal at $80 but requires pricey reupholstery and ships from overseas (something that is usually not a concern when shopping in-person), you likely don’t have quite the deal you might have thought. Thrift & Tell recommends buyers steer clear of purchases that require pricey shipping prices or repairs. “You could easily end up spending a lot more than you originally anticipated.”
Best Places to Shop Secondhand Furniture and Décor Online
For high-end purchases that you can ensure are properly authenticated, 1stDibs is a go-to worldwide marketplace. “1stDibs has a strong and trusted vetting process with over 4,000 vendors, and has a promise to ensure authenticity of products on their site,” says Tago. The platform enables buyers to negotiate prices or make bids on auction items. They also allow shoppers to communicate with the sellers for additional product information, customization if applicable, and more.
Chairish gets bonus points in the furniture department for its try-it-before-you-buy-it function within the retailer’s app. It allows the user to upload a photo of their space to see how the piece will look in its potential new home and with existing decor. When searching for items on Chairish, follow your favorite designers and tastemakers for curated picks or search for specific vintage, pre-owned, or antique buys. The company also offers new and made-to-order products, so when scouring the site be sure to select the intended item type in the search menu. You can save your preferences and follow your search so you never miss a find.
If you have time (and a patient but persistent personality), eBay is a good option for secondhand home accessories. There isn’t quite so much oversight on this community-led marketplace, so be sure to do your due diligence. Keep a look out for buyers with badges that verify their good sales record and be sure to read seller reviews and look into their number of ratings. When shopping for home decor on eBay, look for items that are both inexpensive and speak to you, that way “authentication doesn’t even come into play,” says Thrift & Tell.
While Etsy is a destination for artisan-made furnishing and decor, you can also spot some secondhand pieces if you’re up for a little digging. Use it as a source for refurbished furniture pieces and niche items. “I love Etsy as I feel that I am supporting artists directly and creating a relationship that hopefully is ongoing with fellow creatives,” says Tago.
Everything But the House
Everything But the House focuses on uncommon finds, so if unique is what you’re after, EBTH is a good place to start. Each item starts at $1, with bids building from there until the bidding period ends. The site is also host to a wealth of information on what to look for in just about every category. (Check out their guide for buying used furniture online.) The site started as a way to bring the traditional estate sale into the 21st century but has morphed into a resource that makes finding unique and rare items accessible no matter where you live, while still fostering the thrill of the win.
While Mercari is a nationwide marketplace, users also have the option to conveniently shop local. You can schedule delivery within the app, instead of working directly with the seller, and an Uber-powered delivery process results in contact-free dropoff—no meet-up required. Regardless of whether you shop locally or nationwide, there is always a chance that you might be unhappy with your purchase. Once you receive your item from Mercari, you have three days to confirm the product was properly represented by the listing. If the product was inaccurately described, you can put in a return request. The company will determine if the piece is eligible for return and, if it is, the seller will be required to accept the return.
Although luxury consigner The RealReal might be known for its fashion offerings, but there are deals to be found in the home category as well. From coffee table books to fine art, furniture, and more, The RealReal’s selections skew more toward luxury items but they also focus on authentication, putting a guarantee on every item they sell. They make it happen with a team of hundreds of brand authenticators and experts, who personally inspect the products to help ensure you get what you pay for.