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November 06, 2008


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I bought my furniture at antique stores. I just shopped around for quite some time before I pieced together what I have. Still, I ended up saving a bundle and have a nice old-fashioned feel. :)

I've had success in buying 'name brand' furniture - i.e. Bassett, Thomasville, etc. I typically find the furniture I want locally then purchase it from one of the North Carolina stores for much cheaper (30-50% off). The tradeoff is that the furniture is only built after you order it so there is a 6-8 week wait.

I would highly recommend Room and Board. Very reasonable and great delivery service. Ikea is ok as well

Another idea, although not always cheap -- Amish built furniture. I had two pieces built because I couldn't find anything to fit some unusual dimensions. I sent specs to a number of Amish builders (well, their distributors) and got bids all over the map. But I ultimately got some good bids and was able to obtain two nice solid wood pieces built to my designs and needs for less than what some of the nicer stores wanted to charge me for something that, while nice, would have still involved veneers and particle board.

It turns out that the best furniture I own has been found at garage/yard sales. Mostly antique furniture. We ended up buying a solid oak table built in 1896 for $10 at a yard sale. It needed some touching up and a good cleaning. It only took me 1/2 a day to make it look like we spent $2000. Also, if you have any statewide furniture auctions, its worth the drive. We've bought my friends two solid oak bedroom sets for $700. This includes the bed frame, a nightstand and a full dresser with mirror.

For wooden furniture, I would recommend looking at unfinished furniture stores. It's all wood (no veneer or MDF) and usually really well-made without breaking the bank. You can paint/finish it yourself to your liking, or also usually pay the store to do it. Upholstered furniture is trickier. I would just read a lot of reviews, because quality/durability/comfort vary widely even within name brands. My couch was my most expensive piece of furniture, but it was worth it because it's what I spend the most time on, and is super comfortable.

We bought our living room furniture at a 'transit damaged freight' store. I'm not even sure what the damage was. In our case I think it may just have not suited the purchaser's taste, although there is one throw pillow that is subtly different in color from the rest, so it may have been a manufacturing or shipping error. Anyway, we paid less than half of what the normal sale price would have been, for new furniture in great shape.

Most of the rest of our furniture has been cobbled together from random places -- thrift stores, yard sales, IKEA, Target, Craigslist. Our bed was probably our priciest investment, but you spend so much of your life there that for the sake of your back and overall health it is probably not worth cutting corners there.

What about IKEA?

I would also recommend Amish if you want high quality. It may take a while but it will be top notch.

Ethan Allen also used to make thing in the US, but some stuff is now made in China.

Go solid wood, cedar lined for clothes. And see if they can use a low or no voc stain or finish.

A little while back, some of our team had some talks about furniture. Ikea, is the inexpensive resort that many people run to but the quality is not top notch, and it's a compensation that we make. CB2 came up as a place with reasonable quality furniture for a reasonable price. Except their stuff doesn't seem to target or fit in a family style home as much as a hip urban apartment. One of our team members spoke about how he built a table and it turned out to be a fraction of the price of buying one, but he also had to go back and consider the money spent on tools (if you already have tools, it might be worth considering?). I would say Craigslist or thriftshops for some items (desks), but definitely not for others (sofas).

Find something you like and then barter for it. You can save a few hundred dollars.

IKEA gets a bad rap, but we've found that their more expensive stuff is pretty good quality. No, it probably won't last for generations, but that's not important to us (it may be to you). It *has* lasted over 10 years and looks like it will last at least another 10. We assembled all of it ourselves, but we like that kind of thing (you can pay them to assemble it for you also). If you're looking for value, I highly recommend perusing the catalog and seeing if you like what you see, since they do tend toward the "modern" look, which may not be what you have in mind at all.

Craigslist, where else? (Assuming that you live in a metro area large enough to support extensive Craigslist ads and you have or can borrow a truck for transport.) Unfinished furniture is also an excellent choice. We've purchased several parawood chairs and stools we've been very pleased with.

IKEA is good for the price if you like clean lines, bright modern look. I use it for real simple stuff I don't feel like spending money on (side tables, night stands, etc.)

Best deal I ever got was Amish made furniture (I live in Amish country) but, like was said above, ask around because the prices are all over the map. Coolest part was the guy I worked with just flipped through catalogs and I pointed out the features of each piece I liked or didn't like, and he put together a beautiful custom made piece at nearly IKEA prices

Creative types (not me) seem to do great going to antique stores. Keeping the woodwork (just refinish it) and replacing any fabric is a good way to modernize and customize well built items with some history.

i also second craigslist. you can find some stuff that is near new (job relocation, moving in with GF, etc) and you 1. do not waste resources on buying new items and 2. save a bundle.

i read something in smartmoney a year or two back where the bought a bunch of crate and barrel and IKEA stuff and deconstructed it. some of the pieces has 1/40" wood veneer over junk. something to watch out for.

We've been married 32 years, and we've only purchased a handful of items new. One is a La-Z-Boy one-and-one-half seat recliner, fun for curling up to watch a good movie. I've purchased several couches for $100 each at garage sales, in neighborhoods where the residents tend to "change their colors" every six months or so. We've also scored at the sales of folks who "stage" houses for sale for a living. And those who decorate model homes and then have to liquidate the furnishings for a song afterwards. We once paid $800 total for a nearly-new solid wood dining table, six Queen Anne chairs, china cabinet, two upholstered wing chairs, and two oak end tables. These items were in the home of a furniture store owner, who decided he needed to showcase brand new items instead of three-year-old things. That was 15 years ago, and the furniture is still going strong......

Another strong recommendation for Room & Board. Excellent quality, beautiful (and numerous) designs, and proudly made in the US. I have loved everything I've purchased from them, and they are classics that will never go out of style. Their prices are very reasonable for their quality and designs.

Second choice would be Craig's List and paying cash for something REALLY nice that someone needs to sell, desperately.

I always get tired of our IKEA furniture pretty fast, and it doesn't hold up that well. I would much prefer to put the extra money into something like Room & Board and keep it for many, many years.

Consumer Reports has a good furniture buying guide for upholstered furniture:

I second the Amish furniture. My parents bought handmade Amish and it's beautiful and extremely durable. Becareful when buying Amish, there are lots of places that will say it's Amish, but it's really just nicer piece-together-furniture. Often with Amish, you go into a shop... pick out the pieces you want, and they build it over the next few weeks or months.

If you're wanting anything leather, then Costco or Sam's is the way to go. Earlier this year, we bought a gorgeous huge leather chaise type chair (think ottoman attached) for DH's office. We'd shopped all around and for a single chair were seeing $600+ easy. But we found this amazing one for $299, and while we weren't members at the time, even tacking on $40 for the cost of the chair alone saved us hundreds. :-)

Try consignment stores and model home close out sales.
You may have to shop for a while but you will find some
quality good buys.


Depends on where you live, and what kind of furniture you're looking for, but I've had GREAT luck at local auction houses. When I moved into my current house, I owned only a kitchen table and a couch, so I had to furnish pretty much the whole place. I spent just under $2000 at an antiques auction; and that included two complete bedroom sets (one double bed frame, one single bed frame, three nightstands, one dresser, and one wardrobe) plus a small little cabinent. The pieces are all absolutely stunning. Solid wood, with inlaid designs.

I haven't found my local auction houses to be a very good source for comfortable chairs or couches -- or coffee tables, and I still need one of those -- but I'm sure they're all different. I would definitely recommend checking out any auction houses in your area.

Also, I've heard that estate auctions can be good sources for furniture; but I have no personal experience with that.

Plan it out first. What kind of decor? Ikea and antiques can not be compared because they are so different.

When you figure that out, then you can plan a budget and work from there.

Value City and Furniture Warehouse tend to have nice prices on furniture. You can get a lot of good deals because sometimes they negotiate the price with you.

We get our furniture for pennies on the dollar...never had a problem finding anything nice...

Or should I be saying..not nice!

not sure if you have a Regency Furniture in your area but we found some nice pieces there at prices that were very competitive.
For example, we ended up buying a leather, l-shaped sectional for half the price that we had seen the exact same item selling for at other department stores.

I too would advise checking out Craigslist. We recently purchased a practically new Pottery Barn table with six chairs for 60% less than what Pottery Barn was selling it for. The only thing is you have to frequently check Craigslist (perhaps multiple times a day) if you're looking for a specific brand name because the good things tend to get snatched up quickly. Also be prepared to sift through the junk posted there to find the items you want.

I would check out if you have any furniture stores that get their merchandise from other stores that overstocked. One store like that in my area sells high-quality, name-brand furniture at a fraction of the price. I got a very quality entertainment armoire that was originally $4000 for under $1k. You never know what you'll find at places like these since their merchandise is contantly changing, but diligence in browsing pays off!

I also recommend Craigslist if you have the time and patience. I got my dining room set on Craigslist for $1200. It was originally $5000. Only 1 year old and used maybe 3 times before we bought it. Its exactly what I wanted and I will have it forever.

FMF I would suggest waiting until after Christmas, unless you are wanting new stuff in time for holiday parties and such. Consumer spending is down, it looks like Christmas won't be too great for retailers, and it might be worth waiting to see how much retailers have to discount in order to get their inventory moving. I know furniture sellers are already hurting.

And yes, I do kind of feel like a vulture now. :-)

I agree with several other comments re: Amish furniture. My parents operate a small, independently owned furniture shop and their main sources for quality built pieces are Amish manufacturers. Their store (which I am not mentioning because this isn't a commercial - I'm just using it as an example that there are small "mom and pop" shops out there!) focuses on products that are solid wood (no particle board) and made in the USA - they are finding it increasingly difficult to find distributors that offer domestic, solid wood pieces. They have had to drop several lines that have started moving production overseas and/or replacing pieces with particle board and MDF. I'm guessing this is a problem for other small business owners too.

These small stores often have reasonable prices since the lines aren't national name brands and the mark up doesn't have to include national advertising/marketing costs, but you are still getting heirloom quality that can often be custom ordered.

Good luck on your search! Hopefully you can find some small stores with quality pieces (at decent prices) in your neck of the woods.

p.s. I've been a longtime reader of your blog - but usually don't post comments since I am a true novice when it comes to investing. Thanks for all that we are learning through your posts - a friend is currently using your job search/salary negotiation tips!

If you're anywhere around the state of Colorado, try American Furniture Warehouse. They have a wide spectrum of price levels. You have to examine what you want to buy on the showroom floor, some of the stuff is not built well, but most of it is. Just avoid the really, really cheap stuff. You can also find good bargains in their clearance areas.

If you're around Omaha or Kansas City, try Nebraska Furniture Mart. Pretty much the same story. I have an issue with some of their store policies (haven't bought anything from them since), but have not had a problem with them otherwise.

Sometimes you can find good deals on Craigslist.


I'm from the West Michigan area and almost all of my furniture has come from Isreal's Warehouse (store). (My mother is a regular there she finds things for me and my sister who live out of state and brings them down when she visits.) Overall the last time I was there we got everything for about 30% of what it would have cost in their regular store. Overall, I think with everything my family has bought over the last several years we spent less than $10,000 among our three houses and condo. (two of the houses had nothing mine and my sister's Mom and Dad just replace some things) The two best buy's I got there were a $50 kitchen table and a $500 sleeper sofa. I think most of the stuff there is from orders that the people out in Cascade and Ada changed their minds about.

Jane --

Thanks! We'll have to check that out!

I agree with the unfinished furniture store idea. We've done this in the past and most times you can actually order the stuff in whatever finish you desire - if you don't feel handy or just don't want to stain/paint it yourself. For sofas and chairs, we've had good luck with Value City Furniture, but I'm not sure it's a national chain. Target has some decent looking stuff, but not sure on its durability.

What would be the best and least costly way to star your own furniture store?

I'm going to deviate a little from the advice given here and suggest that it is worth your while to look into the high end market. If you can afford it, purchasing Stickley pieces will be an asset to your home.

They aren't cheap, but over time they maintain or increase in value. They are wonderful heirlooms that you children and grandchildren may inherit and in the interim you will have the pleasure of using something beautiful, solid and functional.

Another angle on this is to purchase fine pieces that are about 5-10 years old. You will catch them during the temporary depreciation cycle (saving maybe 25% off the new price) and they are nearly as good as new pieces.

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