Monday, April 30, 2007

Getting the Most from Used Furniture: Telltale Signs of a Bad Deal

From curbside castoffs to upscale antique stores, there's plenty of used furniture in the marketplace.

''You want to look for quality,'' says David Fernan, owner of Victoria's Attic, two vintage furniture and art stores in Fort Lauderdale. Here's a list of tips for selecting used but well-made furniture.

Peek inside: Construction of drawers, for example, offer important clues about the quality and durability of a dresser, desk or china closet, according to furniture professionals. Experts at Pop's Unfinished Furniture, a California-based outfit, say the drawers of poorly made furniture typically lack guides, the tracks that help you open and close them. Fernan says drawers in better quality furniture have either wood or metal guides.
Check for cheap shortcuts: Glue, stables and fiberboard indicate cheap construction and a short life-span.
Test the sofa cushions: Low-quality sofas and chairs are often made from low-density foam cushions. These pieces look good in showrooms, but sink and sag in less than two years. Well-made sofas use higher density foam that will retain its shape for years, Fernan says. Seams can be telltale. When shopping for a sofa or chair, check the cushion seams. If the seams have become flattened or if the cushion appears to be sagging, don't buy the piece.
Check the weave on wicker: It's often costly to repair wicker weave, so carefully consider any purchase that needs new wicker caning, say the editors of, a website affiliated with Readers Digest.
Avoid reupholstering: Unless you're really in love with a piece, it may be cheaper in the long run (and less of a headache) to buy a new chair.
Look past the surface: A quality piece of furniture may be lurking beneath an ugly paint job, according to my husband, who has refinished several tables and cabinets. Consider repainting or refinishing used furniture as a do-it-yourself project.
Know the market: Befriend the owners and managers of second-hand and vintage stores. Learn the weekly or monthly timetable for new shipments, donations and sales.

This is from my latest column in the Miami Herald.



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