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Tips for finding quality furniture at garage sales

used 1940s sofa

This ripped, dated and water-stained sofa was headed for the landfill. Saved by Carol's Upholstery, this 1940s Chippendale Camel Back style sofa with intact metal coil springs and a solid harwood frame is ready for reupholstery and many more years of use.


DIYers and Environmentally-Conscious Shoppers Find Value in Second-hand Furniture


Furniture is the third largest household expense, which is an expensive reality for many newly established households including newlyweds, first-time homeowners and young families.  With garage sale season just around the corner, it's a great time to find quality second-hand furniture but, unless you know what to look for, can be hard to spot.  The key is to look beyond the furniture's outward condition to see its real value.  Older furniture is typically better constructed than new and has a long life-cycle that can span generations. Second-hand furniture purchases also keep these items out of our landfills. Millions of pounds of furniture are unnecessarily dumped in landfills every year in the United States.

Carol Morrissey and Ann Ray, the garage sale gurus and co-owners of Carol’s Upholstery, located in Novi, MI, want to share their collective 40 years of furniture and upholstery experience with you.  "You’ve got to look past, even ignore, old, worn, torn, stained and dated upholstery.  It’s what’s underneath the fabric and filler that makes for a quality piece of furniture.  You can always change the upholstery to suit your style,” says Carol.

Animal Print Upholstery in Detroit

Subtle animal print upholstery and decorative nailheads updated the old chair into an on-trend accent piece.



They offer the following advice:

  1. Know where to go.  Thrift shops, garage and moving sales are the best places to find furniture at low cost.  Shopping estate and antique shops increase the likelihood of finding quality furniture more easily, but you’ll pay more since the store is in business to make a profit buying and selling second-hand furniture.  Check the web first to plan your shopping excursion.  Sites like GarageSaleFInder.com can give you multiple listings for a specific day and may even include photos of big ticket items, like furniture.

  2. Ask about age. “You want to find furniture at least 15 -20 years old, which is better engineered and manufactured,” says Ann.  She continues, “Most furniture in this age range is made with steel coil springs, which are virtually indestructible.”

  3. Flip the furniture over.  Look for a solid hardwood frame and, again, any steel spring system.


2012 Trend Faux Patent Upholstery Materials

Faux patent, available in many colors and patterns, is one of the latest upholstery trends great for kids of all ages.



Once you have your fabulous find, you’re ready to reupholster the piece to fit your style. Upholstery fabric ranges in cost from $20 - $100 per yard, with the average cost of $45 per yard. Total cost for re-upholstering depends on the type of fabric selected, fabric yardage required for the project, labor, and cushion refill. Labor will vary depending on the complexity of the piece. Budget-minded consumers with smaller projects, like dining room chairs, should check for remnant fabrics available. With literally thousands of upholstery fabric brands, styles, patterns and colors, you have unlimited options to make your second-hand furniture find uniquely yours and looking brand new.

For those in the Detroit metro area, check out Carol’s Upholstery's Garage Sale Furniture Finding Clinic Saturday, May 19, from 12-1 p.m. at their shop located at 44480 Grand River Avenue in Novi.  Giveaways, special promotions and refreshments provided.  For more information, visit Carol’s Upholstery Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CarolsUpholstery.