When I moved into a house this summer, my first big task was to buy a sectional couch.
I had an exact vision in mind. I wanted a teal velvet fabric to go with my already-planned design scheme and an L-shape that would allow for two people to lie down separately while watching TV.
But when I started searching online, I was shocked by the sticker prices. In the world of furniture, it seemed there were two options: sites like Amazon and Wayfair, where you can often find a bed frame or couch for as cheap as $300 or $400, or larger luxury furniture chains like West Elm and Crate and Barrel, where almost every big piece is over $1,000.
Yes, furniture stores have sales, but they usually cap out at the 20 to 30 percent off range. That takes some of the burn off the tag, but not all of it. I ended up buying a slightly reduced custom sectional from West Elm and chalked it up to an investment.
There’s a reason I use the term investment. Purchasing furniture isn’t like buying an item of clothing or a car — its value doesn’t drop the second you walk off the lot. You can take your furniture with you to any space you live in. And if you get rid of it, you can generally make up some of your cost by selling the pieces on sites like Facebook Marketplace and Nextdoor.
But there are also ways to save money from the get-go while buying good furniture. Here are my strategies.
Shop the Outlets
Many furniture stores have outlets, including one you may not expect: Anthropologie.
Anthropologie opened its first (and so far only) home outlet in Pittsburgh in the fall of 2019, according to the Pittsburgh Business Times. The outlet is now taking virtual appointments.
How do they work? First, email [email protected] to get an appointment. In my experience, they respond fairly promptly with a 30-minute time and ask if there are any kinds of furniture in which you’re particularly interested.
When the time comes, you’ll have a Zoom appointment with an employee who will take you through the store. If there are specific items that catch your eye, they’ll stop and answer any questions about things like price, dimensions, details. This is likely the cheapest you’ll ever find unused Anthropologie furniture, but that comes with a caveat. I found that the best deals were on damaged merchandise, which ranged from a fabric stain to a chipped piece of wood furniture.
The worst part about virtually shopping the store is that they don’t offer shipping. During my virtual appointment, I didn’t fall in love with anything, so I didn’t look into shipping. But the outlet does offer recommendations for local third party delivery companies.
My biggest piece of advice: watch their Instagram story @anthro_homeoutlet if you’re on the hunt for furniture. Their home outlet is a great choice if you’re looking to totally rework your style because they have so many options.
Another great place to look for discounted furniture is HomeGoods, owned by the same company as T.J. Maxx and Marshalls. Home Goods’ merchandise varies from store to store, but they often have great bargains and stylish furniture, as well as little knick-knacks to decorate your space.
Other spots I always check for unexpected discounts are the clearance sections of department stores like Macy’s or Nordstrom. Macy’s even has a Last Act section for their deeply discounted items — these usually aren’t couches or bed frames, but you can almost always find plates, curtains, throw pillows and home accoutrements here for heavily reduced prices.
Mix High and Low
I knew I wanted to replace the chandelier above my dining room table. It might have resembled ornate crystal but it was actually just plastic. And I had a style in mind: the Sputnik design, which looks like a giant orb with spokes coming off of it.
I typed “gold Sputnik chandelier” into Amazon and found a $92 option that I loved.
I love how the style adds flair to my dining room but also didn’t break the bank. When making investments in furniture, it’s important to think about your values. Do you value comfort or style more? Do you view furniture as part of your life or more like pieces of art?
For me, I knew I would be much happier having the style I wanted in a light fixture, even if it wasn’t as well-made as independent, artisan options.
One pro trip: when searching for things like light fixtures or even bigger furniture pieces online, be as specific as possible. I do this by identifying a “dream item,” the model item I can’t afford but want to find something similar to, and then use generic terms to describe it.
If you want to actually see your items in person but don’t want to drop top dollar, stores like Target and Walmart give you that choice. Most of these stores have partnered with celebrity designers or just plain celebrities, like Chip and Joanna Gaines and Drew Barrymore, to create stylish collections that look like your favorite luxury home items at a fraction of the price.
Buy Thrift, Then Redesign It
If you really want to save money on furniture and get high quality, the best option is to go vintage. Not only is it environmentally sustainable, but you’ll likely find really interesting styles at a much lower price than anything new.
For all the best advice on vintage furniture, I went to Paul Donofrio, owner of St. Petersburg’s Vintage Marché, a monthly market of vintage furniture from a variety of vendors.
His guidance is to be constantly on the lookout and ready to make a purchase for a good piece even when you’re least expecting it.
In terms of design, Donofrio holds to this adage: “if it’s on stilts, it will sell.” What that means is look for furniture with tapered atomic legs, or what Donofrio calls casually “ice cream legs.”
But all in all, Donofrio says good design is timeless. And if you find a design you love with elements you don’t — say, a darkened wood dresser or a mustard yellow couch — you can always reupholster or stain and refinish the piece and make it different. In the case of mid-century furniture, Donofrio says, that can even add value.