Updated on 05.16.07

The Furniture Dilemma

Trent Hamm

Que?My wife and son and I currently live in a tiny apartment. I mean tiny. It nominally has two bedrooms, but the second one (used as a nursery) is only slightly bigger than a closet, and our living room has a love seat in it – a love seat about to fall apart, no less. Our only furniture (besides beds and dressers) is our wonderful dining room table, which was a wedding gift.

In short, when we move, our house is going to look painfully empty. We’re debating whether to take the love seat at all – if we do, it will likely wind up in the garage as neither of us thinks it will hold up for much longer. It has fundamental structural issues and I’m fairly sure a carpenter couldn’t fix it and reupholster it for a cost that would make it worth while.

That means we’re going to need at least some furniture, and so we’re canvassing for ideas on how to fill a house with furniture that is of at least some quality. Here are our options:

Buy lots of new (or close to new) stuff that will have a long life. We have the cash on hand to do this right now, but it would be a very large expense. We have a furniture outlet near us with very reasonable prices (that’s where we got our bedroom stuff) and we also have a card there that lets us get 25% off all furniture purchased on one visit, which definitely helps. There are also several options in Des Moines or Albert Lea for furniture wholesalers and liquidators, but they won’t deliver more than a half-hour’s drive outside of the metro, so that means we’d have to find our own transportation for the stuff and probably spend a day hauling stuff back and forth. This option almost seems like a gigantic waste of money to go do this, though. The big advantage we see is that this furniture would last quite a while.

Buy the best of Goodwill/consignment. In other words, look for good used furniture. Again, we have a few outlets near where I live, but most of the good options are either in Des Moines or Albert Lea, which again adds in the travel factor (both are more than an hour away).

Right now, my wife and I are leaning towards a mix – new furniture for the living room, Goodwill-type stuff for the family room (mostly because of kids and the likelihood that they’ll run amok there) and guest bedroom (because it won’t be used that much, although we will be having about 38 guests in the first six months of owning a home). We have the cash on hand to handle any of these options, but obviously the less expensive ones appeal to us more.

This goes out to my homeowner readers: how did you solve the furniture question when you first moved into a larger home?

Loading Disqus Comments ...
Loading Facebook Comments ...
  1. Adam says:

    When my wife and I moved from a small house (about 800 sq. feet) to a larger one (about 1900), we did both. We bought a new living room suite…with cash, of course. But we bought a couple of pieces of furniture from yard sales and goodwill.

    We also asked our families for extra pieces we could use for awhile. We got one nearly one entire room of furniture because it was wasting away in a garage.

  2. kevin says:

    When my wife and I upgraded the house, we looking in the classifieds and garage sales. Since it is garage sale season, that might help you get by on the cheap.
    For now, we are saving up to buy nicer stuff once we can afford it.

  3. mitchell says:

    a mix.
    not everything is worth buying used.
    you won’t be able to find everything you want used.

    also, check college campuses/craigslist/facebook marketplace. new college grads want to unload their apartment stuff in a hurry, on the cheap.

  4. k says:

    I would buy new, but seriously think about what you “need” to buy now. Your ideas about how you want to use the space may change as you live in it. I waited about a month before I bought anything I didn’t bring with me so I could figure out exactly what items, and with what design characteristics, I wanted.

  5. Trent: If you are OK with doing little bit of touch up and ready to buy soemthing that has no warranty and cant be exchanged IKEA’s ‘as is’ section should be considered. I have documented my recent expereince on my site.

  6. Amy says:

    I ran into this problem furnishing my first apartment. My solution was to buy a bunch of VERY cheap used furniture (and some of it was fairly awful) and slowly upgrade it with a mix of quality new and used pieces as I found deals on them. I then resold the used furniture on Craigslist for pretty much exactly what I paid for it. The only cost was my time, but that outlay was fairly substantial.

    I would strongly recommend against buying a houseful of new furniture. I found that after a few months, I had a much better idea of how my rooms were getting used, and what sort of furniture would really fit, and am really happy that I didn’t buy several of the pieces that I was eying when I initially moved into the apartment, as they wouldn’t have worked with the space at all.

  7. Bp_968 says:

    Whatever you buy, buy quality. I spent alot on some leather couches 10 years ago and they are still holding up great even after going through 3 moves. Any of the walmart crap I bought died long ago. Skip the extended warranty too, they stick it to you with those (especially on furniture).

  8. David says:

    IKEA. It will last a few years at least, is inexpensive, and they try to be sustainable in their packaging and manufacturing process.

  9. Brett McKay says:

    My wife and I had this exact conversation a few days ago. We figured we would just move into a house with what we had and slowly add quality items to. Sure, our house will look empty for awhile, but I’d rather have an empty house than a house full of crap furniture that I know I’ll be replacing will have to move.

    PS- I hate moving stuff.

  10. Jezebella says:

    Antiques/vintage things retain resale value and are generally well-made of quality wood. Chipboard is practically disposable and has almost NO resale value beyond what you might get at a garage sale. It’s quick but it weighs a ton, swells up if it gets even a drop of water on it, and always loses value.

    Check out flea markets on the edge of town and on rural highways, and local auction houses for deals. You’d be surprised how affordable antiques are at your local estate sales and smaller auction houses. Even something that needs refinishing could easily come out costing less than something new. You’ll find quality stuff with character for less than new, and it’s a lot more fun than dealing with aggressive new-furniture salespeople who want you to buy The Whole Set when you only need half of it.

    I second the opinion that you buy slowly, only what you need at first. That’ll give you time to find what you really like and want.

    Obviously, if your aesthetic demands that every piece of furniture in the bedroom MATCH, antique/vintage/flea market shopping is not for you.

    I have a lot of crap that came in boxes and I have vowed to never, ever, buy furniture in a box again. I’m done. I’ll wait until I can afford something of quality that will last and last.

  11. James says:

    I second the garage sale idea. Around here TONS of people get rid of like-new furniture. I haven’t quite figured out why yet…maybe they just decided the color wasn’t quite right for them.

  12. Getzly says:

    I think the best plan is to buy the pieces you know you’ll use the most new or nearly-new. For the rest, I highly recommend craigslist as a source for discounted furniture (sometimes even really nice stuff!).

  13. Tyler K says:

    Two suggestions:
    1. Don’t buy a houseful of things you *think* you’ll need. Go with the bare minimum to start, and you’ll soon discover what your actual needs are. You may find that you prefer having the floor space to having a bunch of furniture.
    2. I’m sure you’re not considering it, but… The guy who said Ikea has obviously never tried to subject anything from there to daily use. Their furniture is of extremely poor quality, and will fall apart on you FAST. Ikea is good for disposables, but avoid buying anything you don’t want to replace in 6 months.

  14. Jeremy S says:

    Try not to buy furniture you don’t need. I know that when moving into a larger home, it may seem like you need alot, but I’d advise you to think seriously about it. Just because you have space for something does not mean you need to fill it.

  15. Helen says:

    The secondhand – consignment store/newspaper classified/mall notice board/ thrift store – idea is the best IMHO. Partly because there is a huge environmental cost associated with new furniture. And locally made furniture costs twice as much as cheap slave-labor imports.

    Make sure you MEASURE your spaces and know to the inch what will fit, as everything looks smaller in a spacious showroom.
    We chose a new leather sofa as it wipes clean and doesn’t hold dust and dust mites.

    Guests can always bring camp beds.

    We usually end up sitting on the floor with the kids to play – toddlers need lots of floor space. Watch out for flimsy things that can be pulled over, drawers that pull out, sharp corners.

  16. Vincent says:

    I’m with Jezebella. You can usually find some excellent pieces at flea markets and estate sales. It’s harder to find matching pieces/full sets, but they’re often of very high quality and have plenty of vintage charm.

  17. Louise says:

    When my parents moved into their house they just shut the doors to the empty rooms. These rooms were awesome for kids’ birthday parties, forts, and other messes for the years it took to expand the family and furniture to fill up the house. The best was riding bikes inside the house because they were Christmas presents and, well, I’m sure you know how hospitable Midwest winters are.

  18. Kitty says:


    Seriously. I have lived with a bunch of junk (antiques needing refinishing/reupholstery, pressboard bookcases, etc) for years and I am slowly replacing it all with high quality pieces. Also I’m putting an effort into keeping existing pieces on the project list.

  19. kim says:

    Think of each piece individually. Our livingroom has a couch made by lazyboy that we paid over $1000 for. It is in a dark green with a subtle plaid. It holds up beautifully to the abuse 3 small children provide daily. It hides dirt amazingly well. After 3 years it is still in excellent condition. It was a wise purchase. Have she salesman flip the couches over to compare the quality of construction. That’s what sold us! On the other hand, we chose to go to an unfinished furniture store and buy all of our livingroom tables there. We stained the tops and painted the bottoms to match the couch. They get lots of abuse, but we can sand them down and give them a boost at any time. Two end tables and a coffee table cost about $125 with the paint and stain. For less publically visible furniture, we go to estate auctions. I don’t need matched furniture in my room!

  20. Clark says:

    I just moved in to a new apartment. It’s the first time I have lived by myself and it’s been a pricey experience. Currently, I own a limited amount of kitchen supplies. Two wicker chairs from Ikea and a small wooden table that used to be on my porch at my last shared apartment. Lastly, I have a king size tempur-pedic bed that is on one of those iron bed frames that the mattress places give you for free. As minimal as that all sounds, it is all I “need” in my 750 sq ft apt. My girlfriend and I have a place to eat and play board games and we have a place to sleep. I have been contemplating buying a love seat from Costco Home, but we might just buy some of those 65 cm excercise balls and build a bean bag couch instead. We decided it would be more fun to have a “play room” instead of buying expensive leather furniture that we would have to worry about with our pets (2 curious ferrets). Ikea sells good disposable furniture, thrift stores are hit or miss on furniture, but they have a large selection of kitchen appliances.

  21. UncleOxidant says:

    When we first moved into our house, now many years ago, we didn’t have much in the way of furniture either. Mostly we just waited for the right furniture to come along used. As I recall, we didn’t have much of anything in our living room for the first six months. Then we found a nice sectional sofa at a garage sale for about 1/3 of what it would have been new. We picked up a new kitchen table at a sale at Dania. We bought used chairs for the table at GoodWill. All of this took several months – close to a year. Actually, thinking back, I kind of enjoyed that minimalism we had then.

    Don’t be in a hurry to fill up the place. Wait for sales for buying new things. Look at GoodWill and garage sales.

  22. avlor says:

    Don’t buy a houseful of furniture right away. We didn’t. Plan a couple rooms right away, so you have something to sit on and places have company in. Keep it simple. But then save up, and take the time to find things you like. If you just fill it up right away, then you’ll be right away saying – we have to replace all that someday. (hope that rambling makes sense – it’s been an odd day)

  23. Laura says:

    My fiance and I decided to pick one room to make really nice, and we chose the living room (not the room with the television, we have a separate family room). We spent most of our savings on a nice couch set that will last us for years, and will get a nice rug and lamps to go with it. The rest of the house is going to be filled with junk or hand me down furniture, and then, one room at a time, we’ll build up to a really nice house.

  24. Elizabeth says:

    I would also vote for a mix. Definitely consider IKEA for certain items. We purchased a very nice metal shelving unit at IKEA for our kitchen and it was far cheaper than anything we could find anywhere else and it will last a long time. Lastly, make sure you look for furniture that closes (e.g. bed stands that have drawers and cupboards.) This way, things can be a little disheveled and no one will know. Plus you can keep kids out of them more easily. One of my favorite pieces of furniture is a roll-top desk we got for $30 off of Craigslist. I can close it and then not have to see or think about my work!

  25. Jack says:

    We bought some inexpensive used furniture and then slowly upgraded. We found some very nice unfinished (new) furniture and then spent some time staining and finishing the pieces the way we wanted. They’re still our favorites. Dining table with leaf and chairs, end tables with matching coffee table.

  26. elkit says:

    I’ll add http://freecycle.org/ to the list of great suggestions. And don’t forget to tell your friends that you’re looking for furniture.

  27. Kevin says:

    These days my approach is to shop thrift stores until I find something that seems right, and try it out for a while. If a single piece turns out to be inadequate then I upgrade it to an investment-grade piece. The rationale is that you only end up paying investment-grade prices for the items that truly warrant it, which for me is a very small number of things.

    I’ve found with both purchasing steps it’s important to hold out for something that’s just right. It takes some patience, but every time I’ve bought something that seemed “just ok” I’ve ended up wanting to replace it later. Obviously you want your investment-grade furniture to be a good investment, but you also have to give the thrift store stuff an honest try.

    I’ve had to move a lot in the last few years and have found that Ikea stuff doesn’t survive moves well. Yes it’s cheap and functional, but it tends to break or lose pieces during the moving process.

    Buying furniture just to fill space sounds like a bad idea. I agree with Louise, just close off the empty rooms and fill them when you get to them.

  28. Anne says:

    I’m a huge fan of craigslist for furniture. I just moved into a new place and had an alcove I wanted to slip a desk into. The space is an odd size, too narrow for most desks. I kept an eye out on craigslist for a couple of weeks and found a solid wood desk that fits the space perfectly, in both width and depth, for $80. With a few coats of paint it was exactly what I wanted.

    For craigslist, I think it’s best to know pretty much you want and then go looking for it. listpic.com is a godsend for browsing furniture ads.

    I’d recommend you go new and somewhat higher-end on upholstered furniture, since you never know how hard people have been on it and, not to be too paranoid, but bedbugs are becoming a bigger and bigger problem. And whatever you do, don’t buy a matchy-matchy set of bedroom/living room/dining room furniture. Buy stuff that coordinates but doesn’t truly match.

  29. MossySF says:

    An idea is to leave it bare. My parents remodelled their home 2 years ago and have been shopping for furniture since then. But having all the empty space is great for the grandkids running around and it just seems like the correct state for the house now.

  30. briana says:

    First make a list of everything you think you’ll want, then prioritize: things you will definitely need or will have a hard time living without, things you will want to get within the next few months, and things that would be nice to have but aren’t strictly necessary. Check Craigslist, thrift stores, consignment shops, antique shows and garage sales first, but if you don’t find what you need just go and buy those things new (I usually end up at IKEA, but wherever you like), but only buy what you really can’t live without. Give yourself a time frame, say 3-6 months, to live in the space, assess your actual needs and to try to find the other items on your list on sale or secondhand. If after that interval of time you haven’t found anything that suits, and you’re still sure you need it, you can go and buy new. For the ‘nice to haves’ just keep watching those classifieds etc, and be prepared to jump on a deal if you see one.

    We moved to a bigger house a year ago, and the biggest must-have was a dining room table. We ended up getting a good deal on a slightly scratched floor model at IKEA that matched a set of beautiful antique ladderback chairs from my in-laws. Since finding that deal, we always look at the ‘as is’ corner in the store in case it’s got one of the ‘nice to have’ items on our list.

  31. melanie says:

    We bought a good quality couch and area rug for the living room when we bought our house. Everything else we slowly added as we found good deals over the next two years. Some is from antique stores, thrift stores, curbs, IKEA, and craigslist. I really think it’s worth the wait to find things with personality, whether they cost $10 or $1000.

  32. Sue says:

    We have had wonderful success with a combination of IKEA and unpainted furniture. The beauty of unpainted furniture is you can finish it yourself or get the store to put on a custom finish in the stain colour you want with a nice lacquer finish. I totally agree with those who say IKEA is poor for upholstered furniture. However, we have had wooden “relaxing” chairs with upholstered cushions (e.g. “POEM”) and these have lasted and lasted. Their solid wood dining furniture is good. I also like IKEA for flexible furniture. I’ve bought lots of stacking cabinets, tabletops and sawhorse-type legs over the last 30 years so I can set up table/cabinet arrangements anywhere and then reorganized them as needed. You might also want to consider whether you go with wall to wall carpeting or area rugs on hardwood. We have wool area rugs that we have moved numerous times and they have survived for over 30 years.

  33. akl168 says:

    You have a baby and another coming along – don’t bother buying nice furniture.

  34. ideagirl says:

    I work for a major furniture retailer. We have a clearance center of scratch and dent items that employees can buy at or below cost. A few times a year these prices are also made available to friends and family. My whole house has been furnished through clearance center merchandise, and none of my furniture had more than a few scuffs on it. The price break allowed us to buy high end, name brand furniture at entry level prices. Definitely ask around to see if anyone you know has an in at a furniture store.

  35. I’ve lived in our house 2 years almost and haven’t bought any bedroom furniture. And yes it’s been noted on my blog. I can’t find stuff I like that fits. I tried buying 2 sets but neither set fit. I have a three story victorian that has tiny staircase up to the attic, which was converted into a master bedroom. So my issue is spacing. Trying to find nice furniture that fits! Ugh, plus we’re moving in 3-5 years so I almost at the point of not buying anything because what if it doesn’t fit in our next place? I find it so frustrating, but every single movers said where we live it’s typical people can’t get furniture in. That’s why they send the professional mover to measure all angles to make sure it fits before they deliver. Hence my 2 sets I bought were “returned” before they ever got there.

    Also I gave it 6 months to see how we use the space, and I know what I want, if only it fit. Also I need a split boxspring for a Queen bed to fit up to my master bedroom. A double doesn’t even fit up the darn staircase unless it’s split! Our neighbors put their gorgeous bedroom set in a guest room because it wouldn’t fit up to the master.

  36. heather says:

    A very few things are worth spending money on — a great couch, mattress set, the table you eat at every day (kitchen), and your kitchen chairs. I’d check out the catalogs (pottery barn, crate and barrel and room and board) for this, too, not just the outlet stores nearby. Look for quality first, bargain second — because in these pieces, quality IS the bargain. It can be hard to find.

    Small things like end tables, coffee tables, dressers, etc. can either be improvised or purchased at resale/antique shops and garage sales. A clean coat of nice white paint pulls everything together, and often you can find really well-made stuff that will stand the test of time, as opposed to today’s fiberboard yuck. Don’t rule out K-Mart (the Martha Stewart line) or Target, either, esp. for lamps and textiles.

    I definitely prefer to err on the side of minimalism, especially in the beginning. Move what you have and live in the new space for at least a few weeks before running out to buy new. Get a few magazines and pull the pictures that appeal to you to give you some design direction.

    Best tip of all – only buy what you really, really love. You’re going to have this stuff for awhile no matter what you pay for it, so don’t get *anything* just because you feel like you need something to fill the space.

    For inspiration see if your local library has any of the following: Found Style by David Butler, Junk Chic by Kathryn Elliot, Easy flea market style by Alan Caudle, and Budget Living Home Cheap Home.

    (speaks the librarian who seems to move every 3 years and is on her 2nd house…)

  37. zaphod2016 says:

    1.) Ikea is overpriced junk. Even a $500-$1,000 Ikea unit will fall appart within 2 years.

    2.) I will wager that you intend to put up a fresh coat of paint, perhaps some new curtains, etc. I would wait until after you have cleaned up each room before buying furniture.

    3.) When buying used (CL, classifieds, etc) always be mindful of the delivery issue. Nothing is more heartbreaking than damaging a great deal on the way home.

    4.) Do not rush yourselves through any redecoration decisions. The longer I live in my house, the more renovations I plan. As I proceed to do repairs, my master plan changes. My wife and I had planned out everything- appliances, paint colors, furniture; but as we got used to the house we realized that our initial plan could be improved upon.

    5.) I’m not sure what your appliance situation looks like, but it may be a smarter move to replace the applicances before getting furniture. The difference between old appliances and the new energy/water efficient stuff is significant. We decided to focus on the ongoing utility savings of new appliances, even though that means an empty living room and dining room for perhaps another year.

  38. threadbndr (karla) says:

    With little people in the household, go for a style that is sturdy and low maintence. I have a Arts & Crafts style bungalow, and the A&C furniture is VERY hefty and sturdy. I’ve got a mix of family and found antiques, mid-range and low end reproductions (which will gradually be replaced).

    I agree, live in the house for a while before you decide what to buy. Think about traffic flow – would several seating groups of chairs make more sense than a huge sectional? How large a dining room table really makes sense for the space? What shape?

    Don’t be in a hurry. Take the love seat – if only to have somewhere to sit while you are thinking about how you want to use the space.

    Get the bedrooms and the kitchen done first – that’s the space that’s essential to the FUNCTION of the house. Then worry about the more public rooms. The living room may be the last room you tackle and that’s ok.

  39. Michael Langford says:

    Don’t buy used upholstered furniture.

    Bedbugs and fleas and several types of mites are all very common in used furniture, especially used furniture that is in rooms with other used furniture.

    It is *great* to buy antique and other used furniture that isn’t upholstered. If you can hunt around and slowly build up items from flea markets and estate sales, you can buy a set of used assets that may even appreciate in value over time.

    Then again, a trip to Ikea isn’t that expensive if cost is your only thing you’re worried about.


  40. ck_dex says:

    If you have a subscription to the online Consumer Reports, check out their guide to buying furniture. We found it very useful when helping my mom by new furniture recently.

    When we started out, we bought a mission Stickley couch and loveseat for about $5000K with top-of-the-line fabric. One couch for each of us to flop on. We had to live quite simply for a couple of months before and after the purchase, but fifteen years later, they look as good as new. Also, we made do with basic wood chairs and tables for a while after buying the couches, and gradually replaced them.

    From your magazine subscriptions, sounds as though you are not averse to trying your hand at some of your own pieces, like coffee tables or lamps. One of my all-time favorite books devotes itself to artist Alexander Calder’s home in Connecticut, in which he and his wife, Louisa, made many of their own furniture pieces and textiles (she was a mad rug-hooker). His kitchen cabinets were old steamer trunks and boxes he shipped back from Paris when he returned to the U.S. Ok, maybe that’s too funky, but it knocks your socks off to see something so totally unique.

    Beware the free in-store design services. They can be really good at helping you pull everything together, but they will press you hard to do everything all at once with free financing for 6 months.

  41. HardwareGuy says:

    My wife and I found a furniture rental place that sold the furniture after the rental term was over. We were able to get quite a few pieces for a fair price.

  42. Franke says:

    A suggestion I’m surprised I haven’t seen here is to buy unfinished, unassembled wood furniture. It usually costs about half the price of the assembled kind. Of course, only do this if you’re handy and have the patience to follow a bunch of instructions.

  43. Amy says:

    I’m an interior designer and I’ve purchased a lot of furniture. My advice: don’t rush! Go very slowly. Look for vintage furniture for anything made of wood. For upholstered furniture, I would recommend new.

    There are two companies that sell good quality upholstered furniture and offer an excellent value on shipping ($199 in-home delivery for an unlimited number of items). You could check their catalogs/websites, then plan a trip to a city where they have stores (Chicago, for example) where you can make your selections in person. Also, make a checklist of exactly what features you’re looking for, to make the shopping easier.

    Also, good lighting is as important as the furnishings, so plan ahead for where you need to put light fixtures. With young kids, wall-mounted lamps are better than table or floor lamps. Aim for 3 light sources per room.

    But above all, don’t panic about getting the space filled right away, since you need to live in the space for a little while first. The old love seat and plastic patio chairs can get you by for a few weeks.

  44. Markus says:

    When I moved to my new appartement (60m2) I took from my old stuff what was absolutely necessery: a bed/couch, a table, a chair, a cupboard for clothes and a stand for the television.

    I was living with this for six months while I made with the help of my aunt (who is a carpenter) new stuff. It took so long because it was restricted to evenings and weekends. I could have taken more old stuff with me as my previous appartement was much larger but I decided against it because it would not have been fitting furniture for this appartement. The new furniture is now a little over 5 years old and I feel absolutely no desire to change anything. The amount of thinking and the long manufacturing process does now really pay of because there’s enough flexibility planned in to accommodate all my mind changes.

    It surely helped that I was only home for sleeping while spending all day at university in the first year.

    Take your time, go for quality wherever you feel that you really want to spend time.

  45. miguel says:

    Take your time on buying furniture. It took my wife and I several years to furnish the house, and we used hand-me-downs in the mean time.

  46. miguel says:

    Two more things. Looks at a wholesale club, like Sam’s club for furniture. It’s usually really good quality. We got our mattress there, and it was about $200.00 less than the bed dealer next door.

    Also, Ikea, if you have one, has some decent stuff, but it also has some really crappy stuff. The shelving and office space stuff is usually OK. I adore my Ikea Expedit book shelfs for my office.

  47. Maryanne says:

    Am, Could you please let us know the source you referred to in your e-mail for upholstered furniture?

    I found a great place for good prices on high quality furniture.
    It’s Izolli Interiors. I did a lot of research and found them on the web.

  48. Maryanne says:

    Could you please let us know the source you referred to in your e-mail for upholstered furniture?

    I found a great place for good prices on high quality furniture.
    It’s Izolli Interiors. I did a lot of research and found them on the web.

  49. Stacy says:

    When I first moved into my house, I had a bunch of hand-me-down and super-cheap furniture. Over the years I have just picked good-quality pieces that I really loved; slowly filling my house with furniture I actually liked.

    Recently, I heard about a local furntire store that was offering some great financing options. The offer was one year with no payments and the next three years with no interest if you spent $2000. I furnished the entire living room and a few extra pieces for the rest of the house with furnitre that I adore. Everytime I look at it, it makes me happy.

    Now, my plan for payback is to take this year of no payments, and make an additional contribution to my emergency fund b/c that is the account that is earning the highest amount of interest. Once I have the full amount of the portion that I financed I will pay it off in one lump sum, or if the payments start before I have that amount, I will make the minimum payment until I have the lump sum. This way, not only am I saving up the money to pay it off while not paying interest, I am actually earning interest on the money for my furniture purchase.

    I know this option won’t work for everyone, but it has really worked out for me!

  50. Robert says:

    When my wife and I bought our house, we were facing a similar problem. We went from under 800 sq ft to almost 1400. We had all the rooms covered except for the living room. All we had was a love seat.

    The house we ended up buying had a nice couch in it. We asked that the couch be thrown in with the house. It was in good shape and was a very good quality couch. In the end, we got the house with the couch that already matched the carpet and walls.

    Some people would rather buy new stuff all the time. If the house is furnished, ask that some of the furniture you are lacking be thrown in with the house. If you are haggling over price, the furniture can be another bargaining chip in the process.

    In the same line of thinking, I know someone who bought a house close to a golf course, and made sure the golf cart was thrown included with the house. This stuff happens all the time with appliances – why not furniture too.

  51. This is a great post. I can’t wait to hear some more responses, because I’m planning on moving out of a two bedroom also.

  52. Paula White says:

    Y’all have small children, correct? BUY USED! Furniture–new or used–all looks the same with red kool-aid spilled on it!

  53. RT says:

    We moved from a tiny 2 bedroom house to a house that is quite a bit larger.

    Most of our furniture actually came from family. We found out that when you have spare room, you become a storage unit for others. Stuff that we are not “storing” in various rooms are usually furniture that’s been passed around the family.

    The only furniture that we actually went out to buy would be our bedroom suite. We’ve never had a new bed or mattress, so we splurged. We bought quality solid pieces because we knew it would last a lifetime (except the mattress which we could easily get 20 years out of).

    Our next goal is to work on one room at a time. Our office currently is one banquet table that holds 2 5 year old computers. Since we spend quite a bit of time there, we are going to get suitable furnishings. We’ve spent 2 years like that already. Nice solid desks that could be passed down is our goal. We’ve not had luck with MDF board type desks lasting for more than a few years, especially if you move.

    We have some family that is getting to the age where they will be moving out on their own, so the passing around will continue. We have dishes and a table that we are specifically saving for them.

    So, my suggestion would be to find if there are any friends and family that are planning on getting rid of any furniture you could use, but maybe pick a few pieces you could splurge on that you use a lot. We’ve also had luck with local auction houses. If you wait until the end of the night, a lot of times you can get items really cheap.

  54. DivaJean says:

    You need to ask around. Talk to friends, co-workers, people you know at church- whoever- about your dilemna. You will be extremely surprised at furniture and household things that will come your way. People are much more willing to part with stuff they aren’t using when they know its someone who will really use it.

    Once you start getting, you may find that from what you get, you might want to have an interim style for your home. Like for instance- say you love the asthetic of Mission furniture- but find that you are receiveing more of an 80’s look in what folks are giving up to gift you. Aim for a style in between what you wanted (even if it seems a bit discombobulated at first) and what you’ve got- so as you get the funds to begin to buy what you want, you can start piece by piece in replacing what doesn’t fit in to what you’ve wanted.

    I’ve also had tons of luck garbage picking this time for year for furniture. Head out to the closest college town and check out the side of the road on garbage day. Free for the taking! We annually garbage pick all the furniture & wares we can- clean it up- then have a big garage sale the first weekend the college students come back. Two years ago we made $2000 cash in this manner.

  55. nightingale says:

    Well, I’ve found that Craigslist is a good place to start, but a lot of stuff can be gotten at yard sales for nearly free (and this is yard sale season, too! I’m going to head out looking soon for myself…). Also, people tend to put some decent stuff by the side of the road which can at least get you by for a while. I know my parents in Florida moved into their place and furnished it for a year or two with free stuff, then had time and money to slowly and steadily replace the free and yard sale furniture with better used stuff from Craigslist, family, and stores etc.

  56. Jennifer says:

    Wait, wait wait…Don’t buy anything right away that is not completely necessary for some time. You may be AMAZED at the offers you’ll receive from friends and family. My theory is that there are people who want to upgrade and hate to see something go to waste. Since you’re in obvious need, they will ask you if you’d like the old couch that was in the basement rec room. It will alleviate their guilt at maybe throwing something away and fill your need. Then you can live there for awhile to really get your feel for what you’d really like. Paint and refinishing go a long way in making things match.

    When we got married, we had no furniture (except a bedroom set which was a wedding gift) and furnished our 2 bedroom apartment with yard sale finds, cast offs from parent’s neighbors that were repainted. Our living room furniture in the apartment were the remains of the great uncle’s hunting cabin which was being sold. Yes, it was ugly, but it worked well for 3 years and when we bought our house it went with us.

    Shortly thereafter, one family member decided to upgrade her dining room set and we were the recipeints of the old dining room set. We did get new living room furniture, which still looks great 9 years later as we got a quality set. We inherited 2 side chairs from grama that we had reupholstered.

    I could go on and on (in fact, I already have). I’ll just end by saying that we’ve been married 12 years. As we look around our house, much of it was given to us, and we can pick out the items we actually purchased…. but the house looks great, thanks to the help from friends and family. And with no debt to speak of (except our house) it feels great too.

  57. Aussie says:

    When my husband was going to grad school in Iowa, most of the furniture in our apartment were college type furniture and when my brother in law graduated, we inherited a lot of his furniture so we ended up with a bit of a mix and match situation. We bought a few things from wal mart with the intention of either selling or donating when we would leave Iowa.

    We are now living in a much much larger apartment and we were in the same situation where we had one couch and no other seating. No dining table, just a breakfast type table. So we budgeted a sum of money and decided to get new furniture from Ikea and from local furniture stores for the living room and the dining room. We used the online catalogues of local stores we liked and also of Ikea to decide exactly which items we wanted and also to look for deals. In one case, a coffee table advertised as $299 online ended up being $199! We then rented a U Haul pick up truck, spent a Sunday buying furniture and hauled it back to our apartment, all for a cost of about $50 which included the gas to refill the pick up and of course the cost of the furniture which we had saved up for anyways. This was much more economical for us since there were separate delivery fees for each place we wanted to get stuff from, typically between $50 to $80 each.

    I think your idea of getting some used furniture for less traffic areas and for the kids is a good idea. I don’t know if you have a spare bed set for your guest room but we use Aero bed for our guests and they love it. You can also get a raised one for slightly more but it’s basically like a real bed in terms of height off the ground and can be packed away when not used so you can use the spare room for other purposes as well.

    I know the nearest Ikea to Iowa is in Chicago so that option is clearly out. But I would suggest considering renting a u Haul truck to help cart the items back to your place. Unless the items are going to be too big for you and your wife to move yourselves. In that case, maybe pick one or two stores you like and buy the bulk of your furniture there so you don’t have to pay so much for delivery.

    Happy shopping!

  58. Adrian says:

    I just graduated from college and will be getting married in mid-June of this year. I secured a good job, as did my fiance. Because of this, and because I hate losing money to rent, we opted to buy a house. Nothing too exorbitant, but it’s something that I can afford on my income alone. This allows anything extra (my fiance’s income) to be diverted to savings, our IRAs and soon furniture. I actually moved in not quite a week ago, and being as young as we are (23), we have little in the furniture area. We got a nice, nearly new couch from a relative for $75, and a used La-Z-Boy from my parents, but that’s about it (I’ve been sleeping on my air mattress). When she moves in after we are married, we plan to use some of our money from wedding gifts for furniture, but will opt to go to a reputable furniture dealer near Des Moines, such as Homemakers, and purchase good quality furniture. I truly feel that spending more of your money right the first time is better than spending less a couple of times.

  59. ps says:

    First, I would look through the used / goodwill / garage sale stuff to see if I can find something that I really, really like and would like to take home with me. A lot of times, you can find some really decent stuff. Sometimes, you might even find some furniture style that you really like that is no more in production. I found my bedroom dresser / armoire that way. I couldn’t find a dresser that I liked for about 6 mo. after moving into my new home. I finally found what I was looking for in a garage sale. A little bit cleaning and new paint, it looks almost new. But on top of everything, I really love the design. I couldn’t find the same in the regular stores.

    Anyway, so I’d say – a mix. See if you “really” like some used furniture. Whatever’s left – buy new.

  60. Michelle says:

    Given your entrepreneurial streak, maybe you could trade some of your time and/or skills with a local craftsman who makes furniture.

  61. ps says:

    Oh and one more thing:

    If you can find the time and the patience, you might want to go through the smaller / local stores first before you hit the national chains. You might find some great bargains and great quality that way. Also, I find that the smaller stores are more willing to negotiate the price.

  62. This reminds me of what happened when my parents bought and moved into their current apartment. They went from each living in long time. First they focused on renovating the house, and then, eventually, there were some furniture purchases. We didn’t really have a full house’s worth of furniture until I was about 10 or 11.

    My sister and I loved it. We used to ride bikes and roller-skate in the house.

    I’d advise taking it slow, buying good stuff when you can afford it, but not worrying about having everything you might like right away.

    But I’m sure you’ll do what’s best for you.

  63. Tim says:

    Pay attention to stores like Mattress Discounters. They’re currently running a “buy one, get one free” bed sale. If you’re going to need a new bed when you move, that’s a good way to get a decent bed for yourself, and put a decent bed in the guest room too. Then you can finish out the guest room with cheaper IKEA furniture, which will hold up for several years of inconsistent use.
    Also, get good couches. Get cheap end tables and coffee tables (IKEA has great ones for $49 – $149). Especially since kids will put drinks down without coasters, and they’re going to be painting them, and such. But really good quality couches will last 30 years. My mother still has couches that she bought before I was born (I’m 35). And after a reupholstering, they’re as good as new.

    Good Luck.

  64. Looks like I accidentally deleted some of the middle of that comment: I meant that they went from living in separate, teeny apartments to living in one big one, and so much of their furniture was doubles (two beds, two little dining tables, etc.) and even if they’d used all of it, it still wouldn’t have filled the space. We had a lot of empty space in that apartment for a long time.

  65. Jamie says:

    I’d echo the garage sales comments. Great place to pick up furniture, as most people just don’t want to deal with it anymore. Oh, and as my wife has taught me, don’t ever pay what people ask at a garage sale. Make a lower offer. They want to get rid of it, and they’ll always be willing to give a little.

  66. Margaret says:

    Online classifieds, kijiji, craig’s list.
    Honestly, buy used good quality furniture from other people who are “upgrading”.

  67. Elizabeth says:

    I totally agree you should take your time. A few twists on what’s already been said:

    1) Remember that buying used is always more environmentally friendly that buying new. No new resources were used in making the furniture on your behalf.

    2) If there are certain pieces that you know you want relatively quickly, consider picking a deadline for the used route before giving up and splurging on something new. For example, we have a guest coming this weekend and really needed to replace the mattress in our guest room before she comes. My husband and I decided we’d leave ourselves two full weeks to buy a new mattress if we needed to. Sure enough, we snagged a 2-year-old pillowtop mattress for $40 off Craig’s List a few days before our deadline.

    3) I paid $5000 for a sofa several years ago. Several stains and cat tears later, it’s probably worth less than the very cool vintage one I found on the side of the road last year. This was brought to my attention when I recently re-did Step 1 of Your Money or Your Life, which is designed to drive home the point: most stuff loses a lot of value pretty fast. Right now I’d rather have the $5000.

    4) Related to the above point, a good sofa cover costs about $150 — if you can find a structurally sound but ugly used sofa consider this option.

    If as you say so many people are trading down on their houses in your area they may also have to downsize on the expensive furniture they bought to furnish their big houses. Good luck!

  68. Jen says:

    Here’s a slightly different take on the furniture situation: do nothing. OK, maybe in your case buy a new couch.

    You have essentially 2 living areas, the living room and the family room. Designate one for the couch and TV. Designate the other as the playroom, get some big pillows, a toy box, and a bookshelf, and maybe a kids table and chairs. The kids shouldn’t be watching TV for the most part anyway, and it’ll give you someplace to put their stuff that they’ll enjoy being in.

    My husband and I stumbled on this idea accidentally. We moved into our house with only 1 couch and 2 public rooms. For the first 6mo, boxes stayed in the front room while we got the rest of the house set up. Then it was empty. Then I put our tent up in it as a joke, and it stayed that way for 2 years. When people would ask why there was a tent in our living room, we would say, jokingly, that we liked camping, but didn’t really like being outside. Friends who visited us often slept in it (and yes, we did on occasion take it down and go camping).

    Anyway, we had a son, and decided that room should be his playroom, since it wasn’t otherwise getting much use. It has worked out really well for us. It has a books area, and an art area, and a toys area, and is big enough that he can ride his tricycle when the weather is bad. When he outgrows the need for a playroom, we will convert it into a library. He spends a lot of time there looking at books now, that it won’t seem that different to him.

  69. db says:

    My best advice is don’t buy anything until you’re moved in and had a few weeks to bounce around the place and see what’s missing.

    Then, as you go buy wherever you want but make sure you’re buying the best quality you can for the purchase.


  70. Killer Bees says:

    Buying used furniture is a good idea in principle. But it wasn’t for me.

    After my divorce, my son and I moved into an apartment and we had pretty much nothing and I’d only just started a new job. So I had no savings at all. My mother very kindly agreed to get a credit card and put me as the co-signer. It had a $3000 limit and I bought all new furniture for my apartment including white goods. I also bought linen and kitchenware and school things for my son and new work clothes for me.

    I bought mid range price stuff but very good stuff. I didn’t want to have second hand goods which I’d have to replace in a couple of years. I’m very happy I did it that way. I only had one card to pay off and by xmas time this year, it will be all paid off and I can cancel the card.

    In the meantime, I’ve been saving as well, so anything I need next year will be paid for with cash.

  71. FIRE Finance says:

    Buying furniture on a garage pr “whatever” sale has always saved us hundreds of dollars. Luck along with sales in upscale neighborhoods is a big factor in getting what you wish for. Also, we are pretty focussed in our search for used furniture, this always helps. Sometimes we work hard too. We get furniture which is dirty, clean it up, polish it and make some repairs if necessary and then we have a nearly brand new set! Another trick is to ask friends about moving. While moving if they are doing any furniture give aways we do collect them.

  72. Susan says:

    Don’t buy anything that you don’t consider permanent. Moving used furniture in and out of house is a pain. Just save up and buy one quality item at a time. Start with essentials like a couch.

  73. Robin says:

    My mantra: Buy used, but nice stuff, if you can find what you want. Craigslist is great, and new furniture is hugely overpriced. If you can’t find it used, then wait for a good sale and buy new.

  74. brandon says:

    I had this convo with my girlfriend last week. When we move after graduation, the only things I plan on keeping are my TV/Stand, and bed. Everything else is disposable. I suggest picking one room at a time and focusing your efforts on it by replacing things with quality. We’re young and won’t have kids for another 7-8years. All my furniture was given to me over the years by parents or donated from friends who have graduated and I plan on replacing it all, but in the mean time, my crappy college furniture will come with me

  75. Louise says:

    Spend some money on a few good pieces for the main room. I actually have never bought a piece of furniture new, with the exception of a bed/mattress, desk and electrical goods, and I’ve furnished 5 houses from scratch. Thrift stores are fantastic. Start looking at furniture in a diferent light. For instance a 50’s or 60’s dressing table can often be a fantastic low line entertainment unit – just take off the legs and mirror, remove a drawer and drill large holes for cables. The tv sits on top, the dvd/vcr player sits where the drawer was, and the other drawers are normally a really good size for cds’ dvds, magazines etc. A chest of drawers bought for only a couple of bucks can be put inside a built in wardrobe to provide storage for tshirts and sweaters. A single bed with drawers underneath can go in the family room or spare bedroom as a lounge with the addition of a piece of thick foam for the back – extra sleeping room and storage all in one. Stain different pieces the same colour to tie them together. Don’t paint most of it, that makes it look like a tacky thrift shop find, instead take the time to strip it if necessary in order to stain the wood a nice colour. I consult with people professionally who want to sell their houses on how best to present them and believe me these inexpensive ideas really work.

    Check with all your relatives as to what they may be able to spare and don’t forget Freecyle. You can replace less attractive or impractical pieces if necessary as money comes in and then pass them on to someone else through Freecycle.

  76. Mel says:

    We went with what we had when we moved and upgraded as necessary when we found things that were the right style, price and quality (and when we could afford them) the only thing we spent significant money on was the sofa and we have not regretted it for a second! Natuzzi might be a bit more expensive than the other brand but it is the most comfortable sofa ever!

    IKEA actually does have some quality merchandise, you just need to be careful with what you buy (like you would have to with any store). We bought a beautiful dining room table there and it is exactly the style we wanted and very heavy and sturdy. It also expands to seat at least 10 people comfortably, which was necessary since we often have large dinners with friends and family. So far it has held up well, now we just need some chairs…

  77. Lauren says:

    Make a list of things you would like and be patient. My husband and I have a mix of new and used furnishings in our home, but all are high quality that we have built up gradually. Check the outlet stores in your area (if you have them). We bought a top of the line mattress for $200 at an outlet store in our area. Also, watch for clearance sales at the large furniture retailers. Usually the sales staff are happy to tell you what time of year they usually occur, and you can get some fabulous bargains. At a recent clearance sale we bought a solid wood dining table at a 90% discount, and my sister furnished an entire living area with new furniture for under $700 at the same sale.

  78. TJ says:

    I bought a Broyhill hide-a-bed sofa @ an estate auction for $40. Yes, fourty dollars! Mattress still had the plastic on it, never slept on. Older gentleman had bought the sofa new and within a year was living in a nursing home. Couch stayed in his house until he passed and family had an estate auction. He had only use it for a couple of months. Looks brand new and luckily I liked the colors/style. Best things to look for @ estate sales/auctions are lamps and rugs. You can save a fortune this way.

  79. RK says:

    Before purchasing second-hand furniture from any source, do a little research into bed bugs which have become a serious problem throughout the United States in recent years. Introducing one infected item into your home will cost you dearly as eradication can run thousands of dollars and it isn’t a do-it-yourself proposition.

    There’s a great deal of information about the subject on the Internet. You’ll find information about how to identify an infected piece as well as horror stories of the victims of an infestation who report that, in addition to the significant disruption and financial hardship that results, the physical and psychological damage is significant.

  80. Tamara K.Roy says:

    If you really want a genuine wool rug for your family and home, first make sure it is made of 100% wool, not some artificial wool imitating fibers. Pay attention to the manufacturer – if it is a reputable company, the size of the carpet and the price corresponding to that size.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *