Recycle & Reuse: Where To Look For Good Second Hand Furniture
One of the reasons that I started writing my blog back in June 2016 was because I was always being asked questions about my home decor on my Instagram account. These questions were (mostly) about interiors - what I did, how I did it and where I got it. Over the last few years, I’ve found there are several questions that come up frequently, both interior and non interior. On the interior side, these can be narrowed down to the following: How do I plan a gallery wall? How do I hang my pictures and prints? (answer to both of these questions here). And finally, my favourite, should I *insert interior decorating activity*. Such activities include (but are not restricted to) go dark, go white or most frequently, paint my front door pink even though my partner hates the idea. To these questions, I answer the same - go with your heart, do as you wish, ignore trends and friends and don’t EVER ask your partner what they think about interior decorating plans if you think they might attempt to put you off. My husband is a motor industry Brand Director. I don’t tell him how to write a balance sheet, submit a forecast or examine an under chassis (totally made up word, I barely know what my own car is). Therefore, the idea of him having any input into the front door decor is, quite frankly, laughable. Partners, know your limits.
However, above all of these and more common than hot dinners in my house is the question, from where do you source your vintage furniture? This, I must admit, is one of my favourite questions to answer. For me, there’s nothing more exciting than finding a piece of furniture that someone else no longer requires that is perfect for your home. There’s several excellent benefits to this, the first and foremost being that you are perpetuating the recycling process. Did you know that the charity Emmaus saved over 4,000 tonnes from landfill in one year alone? If you have ever purchased a piece of second hand furniture, then this is a very good reason to feel quietly smug. Secondly, in a world where we are bombarded by trends, adding something to your home which is individual and unique will make you stand out from the Instagram crowd. And finally, if you are restricted by a budget, then purchasing second hand is good for your bank balance, plus might even encourage you to get your creative hat on with a bit of upcycling. Plus, of course, there’s an additional bonus should you be purchasing directly from a charity in that you are donating at the same time. In these situations, everyone’s a winner. The charity benefits financially, you benefit by adding something cool to your home and what’s more, in many cases you can donate your OWN unwanted furniture to help the cause. Perfect.
My first, and most perfect, buy was at the Sue Ryder Hospice Sale For Donated Goods in Nettlebed, back in 2010. A thrice weekly sale, it’s a cornucopia of wonderfulness for anyone who likes a thrift find. The grounds of this Victorian mansion are filled with unwanted goodies and this particular day, my luck was in. I spotted the Jentique mid century sideboard from across the yard and knew it had to be mine. I threw my body on to it until the man with the money apron came over and asked me for £10. Yes, £10. And it still had the original purchase label inside the green felt lined cutlery drawer. From this point on, I was smitten. eBay was my home boy; charity shops were my Mecca and if it wasn’t dovetailed, over fifty years old or slightly smelly then it wasn’t coming in. From tubular 1960’s brown leather Pieff loungers to vintage tea trolleys, from boho Peacock chairs to G Plan coffee tables, my home has been filled with countless special finds, auction wins and, let’s face it, some absolute rubbish. I’ll never forget the cocktail cabinet, picked up on Gumtree for a fiver, only to open the doors to be accosted by fag fumes strong enough to knock me out. Undeterred, I bleached, Flash sprayed and painted in oil eggshell but still the aura of eau de Marlboro remained. I admitted defeat and listed it on Freecycle with full details of its scented detractions. But one man’s trash is another man’s treasure - it was collected within two hours and went off to it’s new home in the sun. Well, North Yorkshire.
I work with many brands and the combination of modern pieces and vintage never fails to make me happy. A mid century sideboard teamed with a modern urban print; a floral oil painting picked up in a charity shop juxtaposing with a sleek, modern kitchen - this, for me, is the way to my heart. But where to source? I’ve listed below my go to places for vintage trawling, plus a few I’ve picked up via investigation. Some of these are regional but many are countrywide. Let’s do this.
Okay, we’ll start with an obvious one. It’s impossible not to find something to bid on when scouring this haven of the second hand. My favourite searches are retro and vintage furniture - many is the time I’ve gone down a rabbit hole of 1970’s sofas and coffee tables and come out with no idea of how I’m going to get them from Mid Glamorgan to York. Be wary of location - I always set the distance to within thirty miles, unless I am intent on purchase in which case I’ll get quotes from Shipley prior to bidding. Think out of the box when it comes to search terms. I once won a vintage red leather Natuzzi corner sofa in perfect condition (original price around £5,000) for £400 which had no one bidding on it but me, simply because they’d taken a shocking photo and listed it simply as red sofa. Hours and hours of fun. Oh, and an absolute money pit.
Free to post, Gumtree is the little sister of the mighty eBay but is no less interesting. Excellent for finding local deals, it’s a one price stop with no auction process. You can set your range to within a certain mileage from your home and it works by e mailing the seller to purchase. You can pay a fee to have your advert at the top of the page (promotion) which is a bit annoying when scouring as the same ones appear every time, but it’s worth the look as there are definite bargains to be had. A quick search today revealed a 1970’s wooden lamp base for £5 and a huge vintage mirror for £15.
As I said above, the saying one man’s trash is another man’s treasure is never truer than on Freecycle. It’s a hotbed of giveaway excitement and it always comes up with something that’s worth having. Listed today, I found a brand new IKEA table top (slightly damaged on delivery so another was additionally sent), a Habitat sofa and an entire wardrobe of Christmas dog outfits. Random, but I’ll be kicking myself come December when I’m wanting Buddy to dress up like a bauble. You can tailor your search to your area and it’s free to post.
This isn’t one that I’ve used much - my experience is that it’s better in some regions than others - but I had a quick look at my local area to see what was going down. Again, you can post for free and you can also access Police and Government auctions (items that have been repossessed by HMRC or lost property that has never been recovered, including cars). I managed to find a G Plan drinks cabinet in fab condition for £50 and a teak table and four chairs for the princely sum of £15, both within 20 miles of my home. Worth a look.
This was a revelation - only previously looked at when I’d been searching for kittens (true story, they have a pets section). It’s got a standard sales area but also a Freeloved area. This sounds slightly seedy but I can promise you it’s worth investigating. Within moments of looking, I’d gained a 2ft rubber plant in excellent condition with a large cactus thrown in, free of charge and only ten minutes drive from my home. Winning. On the sales side, items are listed at a set price and you contact the seller directly to put in your request to purchase. Items spotted whilst investigating included a huge original French street sign for £75. There’s also an Unwanted Gifts section, so you could feasibly pick up something new for a fraction of the price that you’d find on the High Street.
Moving on to the charity shops, Sue Ryder have branches all over the country. They also list on eBay, plus they will collect furniture items from your home free of charge for their stores. The Sale of Donated Goods takes place in Nettlebed, Oxfordshire and if you have a large car and can get up early, I would absolutely recommend a visit. It’s the sale of overflow goods that are surplus to shop stock and there’s barns full of crockery, ornaments, kitchenware and art prints, plus clothes, books, garden equipment and even rugs and bedding. However, you need to be there for 9am if you’re looking for furniture. The queue for the yard is legendary, so much so that they have a pork bap van parked up for eager but hungry punters. You can see the schedule by clicking here. It’s an absolute dream if you like to search for treasure.
The BHF have plenty of well established charity shops across the country but it’s a little known fact that they also have 185 dedicated furniture and electrical stores. Our local one is Leeds and it’s full of good quality, second hand furniture. You can get an idea of what they sell by clicking here - I visited last year and documented what I found in a blog. They offer a free furniture collection service and also offer a 10% student discount.
Emmaus are a charity dedicated to helping the homeless and not only do they have fund raising furniture stores across the UK to raise money for the cause, they also work with companions to run workshops on how to upcycle and bring unloved and damaged pieces back to life. It’s a way of teaching new skills at the same time as helping those in need. Again, they will collect furniture if required for sale in their stores. You can see a list of where the stores are located here.
The Red Cross also have specialist furniture and electrical stores across the country. Scope have a dedicated store in Northampton and DEBRA also have stores which are high in furniture donations. And of course, every High Street will have at least one charity shop - they’re always worth a visit to see if you can find something that can give your home the edge whilst at the same time giving back by donating to a cause.
The Community Furniture Store is regionally focused, with stores in York, Selby and Scarborough but it’s worth googling to see if there’s one in your area if you’re not a local. Created with the aim of helping families who are struggling financially, they offer two prices - one for buyers on benefits and one for buyers who are not. They have a regular supply of house clearance furniture and donated goods. Again, they will collect free of charge and also deliver free of charge as long as you are within a sensible distance. Previous purchases have included headboards, coffee tables, sideboards and even art prints. And of course, all money spent goes towards keeping this service going so you’re giving back to the community.
So that’s my recommendations if you’re in the market for a vintage furniture trawl. Mixing up your look by using both new and vintage products not only gives your home the individuality that we all crave but also meets our needs for keeping our decor sustainable and long lasting. Bring a little bit of second hand furniture into your life and give a little bit back to our environment by saving it from landfill. Winning all round.