When we moved house a year ago, my boyfriend and I vowed never to buy a ‘new’ piece of furniture again. Come to think of it, with superb sites like Gumtree, Freecycle, and eBay, as well as countless fairs, second-hand stores and markets, why would anyone buy a new, expensive piece of furniture, when there are so many pre-loved and – most importantly – cheaper options out there? In light of this, welcome to my guide to buying pre-owned furniture.
Option 1: Hidden Gems from the Salvage Fair Salvage fairs are wonderful places full of truly wonderful items, each one with its own unique history, and story to tell. If you don’t mind braving a muddy and inevitably windy field for a couple of hours (and if you do, man up!) and coughing up approximately £5 admission fee, then what’s stopping you from attending your nearest fair of this kind? Up here in Manchester, my fair of choice is the Arthur Swallow Home Restoration and Salvage Fair, which takes place at various sites around the country, including the Cheshire County Show ground in July/ August time each year. When we first attended the event two years ago, we walked around like two children in a sweet factory, gawping at the hotchpotch assembly of items for the home, and no doubt sticking out like two sore thumbs. We were shocked at just how much there was. Drawers, dressers, units, sinks, chairs, benches, doors, taps, soft furnishings, pots, pans, handles, garden pieces and more. They had everything. And I wanted it all. Nevertheless, as recent university graduates looking to decorate our first flat, we settled for three items at a superbly reasonable price.
We paid £100 in total for all three. £50 for the larger table, £25 for the small, and £25 for the beautiful basket, which is currently home to an array of ‘important documents’ folders, the sat nav, and my favourite blanket. What I love most of all about each piece is the character that it brings; the slightly wonky table with it’s rough, wooden planks on top, and the countryish basket, rustic in its charm. The bigger table is in fantastic condition, and for £50, I challenge anyone to find something new for the same price, at the same standard. The next year we visited, we purchased a beautiful, provincial-style chest of drawers. At £125 these were more expensive than the first, but that’s still cheaper than buying new in many cases. Plus, I needed somewhere to house my clothes other than the floor.
Option 2: The Internet Shopping for pre-loved furniture online requires patience, as plummeting into the depths eBay or gumtree can seem like a never-ending process. However, the more regularly you plummet, the more likely you are to find something to match your needs. Freecycle is okay, although it is somewhat like the Primark of the internet – you have to rummage. You have to rummage a lot to find anything decent. This is partly due to the fact that many people use the site as a means for getting rid of their junk, without having to go to the tip themselves. However, I would like to stress that buying second hand is something I believe in strongly, and Freecycle has lots of great options if you are prepared to sort through the less satisfactory items, such as ‘drawer full of mixed stationary’, or the like. Gumtree arguably has more to offer than freecycle, and I have even shitfted a couple of old shelving units myself on there. With no listing fee, it is a cheaper option than eBay for sellers. Again, you may have to wade through 10 pages before you find what you’re looking for, but really there is very little effort involved in this, so why not give it a try? Finally, we come to the mighty eBay. Until a year ago, I was unaware that eBay searches could be narrowed by to location, meaning you can look for furniture in your area, making it easy to collect, and avoiding any courier fees. We have purchased some fantastic items, such as a large, farmhouse-style dining table (£90), and a garden table and chairs (£50). All in all, I would urge anyone to consider buying pre-loved, rather than new. Apart from the obvious financial gains, buying second-hand also means that we can preserve a little more of the earth’s natural resources by enjoying what we already have, a factor that will become increasingly important in future years.