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I got my start in the blogging world years ago through my love of thrifting furniture and sharing the before and afters. What I’ve never gone in depth about is exactly how I go about discovering the best thrift store finds and all my tips and tricks for scoring high end pieces at Goodwill prices.
I truly love the process of hunting for that one special piece of furniture that will complete a room and bring in some much needed character. Plus, it’s an economical and environmentally friendly way to furnish your home – and it brings in a unique touch that nobody else owns.
If you’re ready to dive into the world of thrifting secondhand furniture, then keep on reading to learn how to find your next project piece at a budget-friendly price tag!
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Thrifting Secondhand Furniture
Have you ever experienced the thrifting “high,” that is explained as that excitement you experience when finding something epic, whatever epic might mean to you? If you’re new to thrifting furniture, it’s ok. I’ve got you! Read on to learn more and leave this post as one of the “hip” thrifting gurus.
When it comes to thrift shopping, there are lots of different terms to understand. I think knowing the difference between these things can really help narrow down your scope and make the whole process a little less overwhelming for beginners.
- Thrifting: the act of shopping at a thrift store, flea market, garage sale, or a shop of a charitable organization, usually with the intent of finding interesting items at a low price
- Secondhand or Used: (of goods) having had a previous owner; not new
- Antique: a collectible object such as a piece of furniture or work of art that has a high value because of its considerable age; anything 100 years old or older
- Vintage: anything 50 to 100 years old; something of age that showcases a style of the past
- Consignment: agreement to pay a supplier of goods after the goods are sold
- Estate Sale: a method of selling all (or nearly all) of the contents of a home; usually held after a death or other event that causes the inhabitants to quickly move away from the home
Most of my own thrifting is done at local stores like East Cooper Home Store or Community Thrift. I also love Habitat for Humanity ReStore if you have one nearby. Consignment stores can be a little trickier since they are actually operating for a profit rather than as a charitable organization and prices tend to be better at donation-based places since they’re not looking to turn a profit.
Sometimes I also like to go to local antique shops and see if I can find any goodies. Be sure to pack your patience if you visit one though – a lot of times they require a fine eye and a lot of digging to score the good deals. I also find that things can be very overpriced compared to the thrifted furniture I can find elsewhere, but the hunt is part of the fun! I recommend starting at true thrift stores first and moving on to consignment or antique stores once you have a bit more experience in sniffing out a good deal.
Online Thrift Store Furniture
If you’re not quite ready to jump into in-person thrifting, online is a great place to get started and get your feet wet. I’ve had a ton of luck finding great deals at Facebook Marketplace. If you’re hunting on Facebook Marketplace, it pays off to be specific in your searches.
It also helps to expand your search radius if you’re willing to drive a bit further. And I always check when I visit new places, like the mountains, too! As you continue to search for pieces, the Facebook algorithm will actually start suggesting items that they think you might like.
Some other great websites to check out are Etsy, Chairish, eBay, 1stDibs and more – just make sure you pay attention to shipping prices when shopping for used furniture online.
Locating Thrift Stores Near You
Try typing “furniture thrift stores near me” into Google the next time you’re out running errands. This will help you pinpoint locations in your daily path that you can easily stop into on a regular basis.
Goodwill Furniture Stores
Depending on your location, Goodwill can be a good option for secondhand shopping. I’ve found that one Goodwill on one side of town carries the best secondhand Anthropologie clothing. On the other side of town, they have killer designer furniture. Think about the locations surrounding the Goodwill you’re visiting. Are you in a hip area of town? Near a resort town? The location typically helps your luck at finding great things!
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Charleston, South Carolina Thrift Stores
I’m frequently asked, where should I go thrifting for furniture in Charleston, South Carolina? Let me tell you now, we have incredible thrift stores here in the Lowcountry. It’s hard for me to make a list of my favorites and I’m going to dedicate an entire post to those. For now, here are a few of my favorites and remember, check the stores frequently. Also, I’m using the term “thrift” lightly here, as many of the stores are heavily home focused.
- East Cooper Home Store
- Community Thrift in North Charleston
- Community Thrift in Ladson
- Animal Helpers ReTAIL
- Consign Charleston
- Berkeley Habitat for Humanity ReStore
- Habitat for Humanity Downtown Charleston
- Dorchester Habitat for Humanity ReStore
- Sea Island Habitat for Humanity ReStore
Tips & Tricks
You made it to the thrift store, now what? Throughout my years of finding thrifted and secondhand furniture, I’ve discovered some useful tips and tricks to help me score the best deals. Here are my top 5 pointers if you’re on the hunt!
- Take your phone: I always bring my phone with me when I’m searching for thrifted furniture. It can be super helpful when you’re trying to identify the worth of a piece and figure out if the item you’re eyeing is a good deal or not.
- Use Google Lens: Following up on tip number 1, I love using Google Lens to help me find exact or similar pieces of furniture while I’m on the go. It’s super user-friendly and helps ensure that I’m not over paying at the register. You have to download the Google Photos app (for free) to get started, but it’s well worth your time! Here’s how it works:
- On your Android phone or tablet, open the Google Photos app
- Select a photo
- Tap Lens
- This will bring up a search of similar or identical items and their prices, so you can easily discover the worth of a piece and a little more about it
- Time it right: If you’ve ever been to a thrift store during the weekend, you know it’s nearly impossible to find the good stuff, plus it’s crowded! If your schedule allows, I highly recommend going on different days and times during the week. Typically the Monday following a long weekend or holiday is a great time to score amazing pieces since a lot of people will do their cleaning out or organizing over the weekend. Sometimes you can even find overstock pieces or floor models from big box stores if you get lucky!
- Learn to identify: There are a few markers that I think are helpful to learn before you begin searching for secondhand furniture. Knowing furniture marks can help you to identify the time period and style of a piece. To find them, check the inside or underside of drawers, the back, or lower edges for tags or markers. Check for metal tags, brands, or stencils and then use Google to find more information on that particular furniture maker. And if you can’t find a mark, don’t stress! Just use Google Lens to get as much info as you can.
- Learn wood types: Being able to differentiate wood types, like solid wood, veneer, and more, will be helpful before you go thrifting for furniture. Some species of wood are better than others depending on what you’re planning on doing with the piece (i.e. painting, stripping, staining, etc.). Be sure to read up on my All About Wood Furniture blog post to get more info on all the different types of furniture you can find.
Once you’ve found your perfect piece, read all about the best way to refinish it with some of my favorite furniture refinishing blog posts:
- Different Methods for Stripping Furniture
- How to Sand, Bleach, and Whitewash Wood Furniture
- Removing Veneer & Refinishing Furniture
- How to Seal Furniture
So what do you think? Are you ready to head to your local thrift store in search of the perfect secondhand piece for your home? Let me know if you have any thrifting tips that I may have forgotten, and be sure to drop me a photo of your favorite thrifted pieces and their “Coastal Oak” makeovers below!
Images in this post photographed by Caitlyn Motycka Photography.