The easiest way to score (secondhand) | Bleader

The easiest way to score (secondhand)


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Since this page regularly features homes filled with all things thrifted, found, and repurposed, it's high time we offer some general tips on finding fantastic furnishings on the cheap.

Where and when to look

The floor stock at larger stores such as Unique, Salvation Army, Goodwill, and Village Thrift turns over quickly. We recommend popping in whenever you have five minutes to spare. Remember: successful thrifting requires persistence and patience.

A collection of pro thrifter Dean Fisher's favorite finds. In case you didn't notice, she's a big fan of yellow chairs. - DEAN FISHER
  • Dean Fisher
  • A collection of pro thrifter Dean Fisher's favorite finds. In case you didn't notice, she's a big fan of yellow chairs.

Don't be afraid to cruise down alleys, especially during the first and last weeks of the month. Moving day is prime time to turn one man's trash into another's refinished Windsor chair. And don't forget the suburbs. Those thrift stores usually aren't as picked over as the ones in the city.

Though it's not exactly a resale shop, you should check out the as-is section at IKEA. You can find amazing deals on floor models and returns, which are usually still in great condition.

If you're hoping to transform your space with a fresh coat of paint, stop by the "oops" shelf in Home Depot's paint department. There's a wide range of colors for just $5 per gallon.

Keep an open mind

When you're shopping secondhand, it's important to think outside the box. You might pass on a $5 armchair because of the ugly mustard velvet upholstery, but if you like the shape and it's well made, it could be a great deal.

Always consider the option to repaint, refinish, and recover. With the right tools and a little elbow grease, bringing life back to an old credenza is a simple enough weekend project. And if you're wary of bringing home anything with a cushion, a good upholsterer can sanitize the frame and rebuild with new foam.

Buying online

I'm possibly more addicted to browsing Craigslist than I am to browsing thrift stores. While some prefer the more tailored search function that eBay offers, I like the thrill of the hunt and the local offerings on Craigslist. If you are searching for something specific, don't forget to simplify your keywords; for example, if you're hoping to find a set of classic Marcel Breuer Cesca chairs, see what pops up when you type in "chrome" and "wicker."

Accounting for misspellings is also a clever way to unearth a great find; you'd be surprised at how many "dinning room" and "cofee" tables are up for grabs.

Finally, make sure you have all the facts before committing to an eBay purchase or a drive out to the burbs for a Craigslist ad. You should be very clear on the condition of the item, the price (with shipping if applicable), and, if you're transporting it, the size. And I shouldn't have to mention this, but always take someone with you or at least tell a friend where you're going when you're doing a Craigslist pick-up.

There's so much more to cover, so check back for the next installment of our tips for scoring secondhand. And be sure to pick up the Reader's Best of Chicago issue next week for more hints on where to find great deals!

Once a month, the Reader's Dean Fisher uses her expert eye and a shoestring budget to overhaul a Chicagoan's space. Want to have a room redone? Send a photo of your pitiful interior to

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