Friday, April 26, 2013

Starting to Shop at Consignment Stores

The Power of Consignment Store Pieces

Anyone ever moved into a new house and felt completely overwhelmed by the need to fill it with furniture? Never mind the stress that goes into choosing your layout and decorating style... but the cost! OMG, new furniture will cost you thousands of dollars, even if you're shopping at the more reasonable furniture stores.

I had always seen consignment stores and heard chatter about them, but until a couple of years ago, I'd never actually been into one. I think part of my resistance was that I was a little intimidated by this other world where people understood the value of things in a way with which I wasn't familiar. But one day I finally did it, I mustered up the courage, went in, and now I'm hooked. I don't think I bought a single thing on my first five or so trips, but it opened up a whole new world of possibilities.

Last summer I found this piece at a beautiful consignment store in CT. I had gone in looking for something else entirely, I think a gift (this particular store has a lot of cool, inexpensive jewelry too). But this piece caught my eye and stuck with me. Price=$285. I snapped a photo on my phone and showed my husband when I got home. After his standard first question, "How much?" he agreed it was a nice piece (translation: he would be willing to do the grunt work of picking it up, fitting it in the car, lugging it into the house). I waited a little while to think about it... I mean, $285 isn't exactly pennies... but I couldn't get it out of my mind. And it's when I get that itch that I know something's really special, so I went back.

I asked them to tell me more about the piece. I learned it had just been brought into the store the day before, and it was acquired at an estate sale of an old inn in Vermont (can a story get any better than that?!). The woman who bought it has a partner who refinishes furniture... and such is the current finish. Well that story just made me fall in love with it more! The cute ledges on top, the little drawers, the shape of the legs... LOVE! I thought it would be perfect for my dining room. Then that little voice inside my head, "Dining room? Isn't this a dresser? Shouldn't you really be looking at china cabinets instead?" But no, I keep my resolve. I'm in love, and I'm moving forward here!

But back to reality... the cost. Now here's where the intimidation factor comes in for me. I have NO IDEA how much this piece should cost. None. I don't know exactly how old it is, I don't know where it was made, nothing. All I know is that I love it. But as I've said before, I want to at least FEEL like I'm getting a deal... so I asked if they'd be willing to take $250. Yes, still a good chunk of our furniture budget for this room, but I'd been in and out of furniture stores, and a new piece this size (but one most certainly made overseas) would cost significantly more than that, and I hadn't spotted any with the charm (or the charming story) of this one. They called the consignor, and she accepted. Then she ran into the shop to snap some photos of it before we took it home--she never expected it to sell so quickly!

And here she is in my home. And I haven't regretted it once. Literally, of all the furniture in my home, furniture that cost a lot more than this, this piece gets the most compliments, hands down. So was it worth $250? If I sent a pic into Country Living Magazine or Antiques Roadshow, would they value it at $250? I don't know, probably not. But I am certain that if I passed it by in the consignment store that weekend, it would have been gone the next week. And I love looking at it in my dining room. I love its function (currently it houses tablecloths, place mats, and serving utensils). So for me, there's the value.

In the words of my 4-year old (who loves opening and closing the drawers), "Mommy, this is fancy." Hey, she's a discerning critic (just look at that outfit!). If she says it's fancy, it passes the test in my book.


  1. Hi, I saw your thumbnail picture at the Miss Mustard Seed link party, and clicked through to see the pretty dresser -- and stayed to read your story.

    The dresser looks late-19th-century to me (but I am not an expert). I think you shouldn't be so concerned about whether it's "worth" $250. It's better-constructed and more interesting than something made of particle board and glue and shipped here from overseas, so isn't that a better investment?

    But if it eases your mind, I usually see nicely painted dressers ranging from $200-$400.

    1. Thanks so much, Elizabeth! I agree on your valuing the investment piece! Still, good to know I'm in the right range ;)

  2. What a gorgeous piece! I love it!
    House on the Way

    1. Thanks, Leslie. That means a lot, especially coming from you!


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