How to Shop Secondhand Like a Pro

In with the old! Secondhand home goods are hotter than ever. HGTV Magazine is here with all the tips to become a master thrifter.

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Midcentury Modern Living Room With Thrifted Furniture and Decor

Colorful Midcentury Modern Living Room With Secondhand Finds

This midcentury modern living room is full of secondhand furniture and decor: a blue sofa, rattan shelves and a vintage Turkish rug.

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We love hearing the stories behind pieces in people’s homes, and the best ones start with, “You won’t believe where I got this.” Nothing matches the excitement of nabbing the perfect secondhand find. In that spirit, we challenged ourselves to decorate an entire living room with vintage and pre-owned goods. We scoured thrift stores and popular resale sites like AptDeco and Chairish. We learned how to bid and negotiate. We felt the pain of finding something we loved and, poof, losing it before we committed.

That thrill of the hunt, and the ease of shopping for pre-owned furniture online, has turned resale home goods into a massive industry: Sales have grown 63% since 2015, according to Chairish. AptDeco has seen similar gains. “The experience these days is more like shopping from a traditional store,” says AptDeco cofounder Reham Fagiri, “so that has dissolved some of the skepticism around buying used items.” And of course, giving a piece a second life is a great way to create less waste, too.

Living Room Console With Vintage Midcentury Decor

Living Room Filled With Secondhand Finds

This living room is full of vintage midcentury modern furniture and decor: art, a ceramic lamp, console and an egg chair.

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Tips for the Hunt from Lauren Makk

HGTV star Lauren Makk goes thrifting nearly every week. Here are her secrets.

HGTV star Lauren Makk is an avid secondhand shopper.

Lauren Makk Shows Off Her Thrifted Finds

HGTV star Lauren Makk is an avid secondhand shopper.

Photo by: Courtesy of Lauren Makk

Courtesy of Lauren Makk

  • Be patient. Don’t walk into a thrift store or hop onto a resale site and expect to find the exact leather armchair you want. It might take several tries to find something, but the thrill can’t be beat. And you may even uncover a completely unexpected treasure.
  • Timing is everything. If you’re shopping in person, get to know the people who work at your local thrift stores and check their calendar for big sale days. There’s power in being the first person to arrive, because you have all the fresh picks. But there’s also power in being among the last: You can negotiate prices.
  • Know the lingo. Antiques dealers call anything 100 years or older an antique, while vintage is the proper term for younger items. Secondhand can be anything that’s pre-loved, whether it’s a ’60s-era table or a sofa from a big box store that’s a few years old.
  • Use the shape to decide. When you’re in the market for vases, lamps and pottery, shop for the right silhouette versus the right color. You can always just take it home and spray-paint it.

Foolproof Finds

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Shop secondhand for these pieces: They often get better with age!

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Where to Shop

Thrift stores and flea markets are obvious choices, but you can score great pieces online, too. Here’s where to start.

  • Best for: Gently used furniture and rugs from stores like West Elm, Pottery Barn and CB2
  • Delivery: The site handles shipping and delivery in the contiguous United States; pricing is based on your location and distance from the seller.
  • Why we love it: You might find something new. The company works with brands to sell custom pieces from canceled orders.
  • Best for: A mix of antiques, vintage items and contemporary pieces
  • Delivery: The site handles shipping and delivery nationwide. Small parcel delivery starts at $9; in-home delivery starts at $299.
  • Why we love it: Well-known stores and designers have profiles. You could stumble on an item sold by Nate Berkus!
  • Best for: Vintage ceramics, accessories and fabric
  • Delivery: Sellers handle their own shipping and delivery. Prices depend on the service they choose.
  • Why we love it: Vintage stores often use this marketplace as their online platform. It’s a great way to support small businesses.
  • Best for: Large pieces like sofas, tables and dressers, and giveaways like pianos
  • Delivery: You’ll work out pickup and/or shipment directly with the seller. Local purchases are easiest.
  • Why we love it: You never know what you’ll find nearby — and lots of items are listed for free.
  • Best for: Authentic antique furniture and art
  • Delivery: The site handles shipping and delivery nationwide. Prices fluctuate based on size, weight and distance.
  • Why we love it: Sellers need to be approved, so you know you’re getting pieces from established dealers.
  • Best for: Big-name brands and special vintage finds
  • Delivery: The site handles shipping and delivery nationwide. Deliveries within “white-glove” service areas (select metro areas) cost $19 to $99.
  • Why we love it: The company inspects and cleans each item before photographing it, so you know everything for sale is in good shape.
  • Best for: Unique vintage rugs
  • Delivery: The site handles shipping and delivery; it’s free within the contiguous United States.
  • Why we love it: You can buy high-quality rugs from Turkey and Morocco that are authentically worn.

Your Fix-It Tool Kit

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Repair minor flaws in your pieces with these handy helpers.

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One more thing!

You don’t have to be a DIYer to shop secondhand. Check out MegMade, Chairloom and Chair Whimsy for already refurbished vintage pieces.

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