“getting good decent furniture without the hell that is ikea or paying an arm and a leg?”

thrift
Photo by PoPville flickr user Elvert Barnes

“Dear PoPville,

I just moved and am now realizing I’m in need of a lot of new furniture. Are there any good second hand stores, list servs, or other tricks and tips of getting good decent furniture without the hell that is ikea or paying an arm and a leg?”

69 Comment

  • I’ve had good luck at Chartreuse out in Frederick, MD.

  • World Market has relatively inexpensive furniture. I bought matching coffee and end tables there almost 6 years ago, and they’re still going strong. I remember that I saved money on shipping by having the furniture sent to a WM store, and then picking it up from there.

  • I love Belfort – it’s out by Dulles but the quality is really great and prices are reasonable.

  • Try the vintage stores around DC. They usually have solid-quality wood furniture at reasonable prices. GoodWood, Nomad Yard Collectiv and Miss Pixie’s would be at the higher end; Ruff’n’Ready (a personal favorite) requires more digging but is more affordable. Community Forklift also sometimes has furniture. And don’t discount Craigslist, I got a beautiful, sturdy waterfall dresser for free there.

  • if you pay close attention to reviews and such, i have had some good luck with wayfair.com

    • I second this. Plus they have free shipping. We bought our sectional through Wayfair to take advantage of the free shipping and no flat pack annoyances like Ikea. It has survived 3 toddlers, a dog, and two cats.

    • Agreed with Wayfair, especially for smaller things like side tables and rugs and mirrors. I also got my bed on wayfair it it’s super cute

  • I have an awesome sectional I got at Marlo in Rockville. I admit it was a nightmare in there with the sales guys swarming, but worth it. I have also had luck with Overstock.com for certain pieces.

    • I got some of my furniture from Marlo as well (in Alexandria, though, not Rockville). They usually have “special financing” available, I was able to split the payments up over 2 years without interest… which was way better than shelling out a couple grand all at once.
      I did have some delivery issues… but they were resolved and overall I’m happy with my purchases!

    • I got my bedroom furniture (bed, dresser, nightstand) at Marlo 9 years ago; it has survived 4 moves and still looks great

  • maxwell smart

    Depends on what you define as paying an arm and a leg and also what level of investment you are planning to make. I personally see furniture as something I want to invest money in and get something of quality that is going to last… even if that means not furnishing an entire apartment right away.

    • I moved from an apartment that was relatively small (around 550 sq ft) with a lot of built in storage, to a much larger apartment (around 900 sq ft) with almost no storage. So, I would love to get investment pieces, but also need to acquire enough furniture so I’m not living in chaos.

      • maxwell smart

        I hear you. When I moved to DC it was my first time living without roommates and I had taken advantage of roommates having various furniture items. But I was also willing to wait until I could afford what I wanted, so I lived without a sofa for 3 years because I didn’t want a $500 throw-away Ikea sofa.

        • People pooh-pooh IKEA, but many of their pieces are solidly made.
          .
          My sofa is an IKEA one that I got from Freecycle as a stopgap when the “real” furniture company I’d ordered a sofa from went out of business. I re-covered the sofa and liked it enough that I kept it as my living-room sofa, and it’s holding up well four years later.
          .
          I would NOT recommend IKEA for stuff like dressers, but in my experience they’re good for bookshelves, tables, and desks, and you can often find those items on Craigslist for cheap or free if you’re on a budget.
          .
          For things like dining chairs and upholstered items, I’d recommend test-sitting them first — my experience is that some are solid/well-made and some are uncomfortable (and sometimes rickety, although with secondhand chairs that’s sometimes the fault of the previous owner not tightening things sufficiently).

          • And even with dressers, there are some good pieces. Mine is 13 years old, has survived two moves, has lived next to a bathroom with not great ventilation for the past 9 years, and is still in great condition with all drawers stable and slides working perfectly.

            Related, my other stopgap furniture recommendation is CORT, out in Rockville. The used rentals can be found at excellent prices in good shape with good delivery service. The stopgap couches I got from them in 2010 continue to get praise from guests.

          • maxwell smart

            Don’t get me wrong – there are good things at Ikea. It’s like shopping at H&M – sometimes you get something that is well made and holds up several years and sometimes it falls apart after 2 washes. You really have to pay attention to the construction and materials at Ikea – if it’s made with particle board or fillers (like many of their bookshelves) – it’s going to fall apart (speaking from experience when roommates bookshelf completely self-destructed at 3am). My dresser is from Ikea because I did need to solve that one fast and cheap and I really regret it – the drawers do not have sufficient reinforcement so once a month I have to disassemble the drawer and flip the flimsy pressboard bottom. As this point it’s been warped soo many times, I had to MacGyver a support with a metal plate.

          • HaileUnlikely

            I basically agree with this, though I find the Hemnes dressers very decent for their price point. I have a Stornas dining table for which I paid $300 and consider it one of my best purchases of all time – It is hard to beat for less than double its price.

          • maxwell smart

            Actually it’s the Hemnes dresser I was talking about – the bottom of the drawers is made of a very flimsy piece of press board and has not held up at all. I suppose if the drawers were only half full, then maybe you would be okay, but Marie Kondo I am not.

          • HaileUnlikely

            I just put clothes and stuff in my dresser. I keep my dumbbells and kettlebells on the floor, not in my dresser drawers. (More seriously, yeah, the drawer bottom is pretty flimsy. I do still think it compares favorably to most other dressers that don’t cost at least a couple hundred dollars more, though).

          • HaileUnlikely, LOL on the idea of keeping weights in one’s dresser drawers!
            .
            I am simultaneously heartened by your recommendation of the Hemnes dressers and disappointed to know it’s the Hemnes that has been disappointing for Maxwell Smart.
            .
            I have a freebie dresser that I think is an IKEA Malm where two of the drawers will close only partially, and it’s driving me nuts. (Particularly since my cat thinks that climbing into and behind dresser drawers is a great activity, and I have to put aluminum foil in the drawers to stop her.)
            .
            On the other hand, I have an IKEA Aneboda dresser that’s had no issues (other than my annoyance that the drawers themselves aren’t as tall as the drawer fronts — I need every last cubic inch of storage space I can get!). And I had a brand-new IKEA Malm when I was right out of college, and it never had any problems during the year I had it.

  • Peg Leg Vintage in college park! They have mid-century at reasonable prices!

  • DC has estate sales ALL the time. Check the larger apartment buildings around Van Ness and Cathedral.

  • A bit of a drive, but awesome low prices on cool stuff – Dixon’s Auction in Crumpton Maryland. Every Wednesday the auction happens all day long. A true happenin’ – they’ve been in business for decades, worth the trip to the Eastern Shore on a nice sunny day. Amish diner on site.

    • This place looks cool. Any other auction spots you’d recommend? I heard there’s something up near Baltimore, but I don’t know the name. Now that we have a car, I’d like to pick up pieces outside the city.

      • Yup, it is really neat place. Almost addicting. Nothing else quite like it that I am aware of. I’ve heard of one near Culpeper VA?

        I own a big piece of property next door to Dixon’s and have been planning to open up an Antiques Hunt Club – aka – a DC-based group house sharing in the excitement of the big find! Need some cool members!! 😉

        • Andie302

          I went to an Amish auction in west Dover, DE a couple weeks ago that sounds similar, but since they only do it once a year it was like 10 auctions going on at once. Some for furniture, antiques, quilts, plants, farm equipment, livestock. It was definitely something to see! I’m totally going to this the day after the election! I got an old folding bed frame that I’m going to break down for a couple wall hangings…for $1!

      • Online estate sales are hard to beat. Take a look at Everything But The House. They have sales in both the D.C. and Baltimore area. Hard to beat the prices if you can do local pickup.
        .
        I personally continue to have good luck on Craigslist. (Just be smart about it.)

    • Or Weschler’s right downtown on Tuesday mornings. It’s a total grab bag, but they tend to have nicer stuff from estates. You can score some real bargains, but you will have to outbid the pros (they all know the auctioneers because they have house accounts and are there every week, you do have to fight for their attention). I’ve recognized buyers from some DC resale stores mentioned in this thread, and actually tracked a desk I saw that showed up later that week in a store window for 200%+ more than I know they paid for it! Good way to cut out the middle man, and you can go preview the auction items in person, but they also post lots of pictures online the weekend before

      • Haven’t been to Weschler’s in a while, but when I used to bid on items at Weschler’s and Sloan’s (originally next door to Weschlers, then in Rockville), I would submit an absentee bid. That way I didn’t have to worry about being there at the exact time the item was being auctioned or catching the eye of the auctioneer when I bid. They bid those as though you were there, with the only difference being that you can’t reduce the increment, which you can do if bidding in person. Using this method, I had bought a nice antique washstand with a marble top, several rugs, and a number of accessories, all at what I considered reasonable prices, and some at less than I indicated as my maximum bid. Pays to observe first, though, if you plan on bidding in person, unless you see something at the preview that you really want. You can submit an absentee bid and still attend the auction and watch how the bidding goes.

      • They are called Wescher’s Rats they are constantly scurrying around that place.

  • Wayfair.com`

    • I got my loveseat from Wayfair for around $150. I needed something a very specific size for my teeny studio, otherwise, I’ve had pretty good luck with Craigslist. So many people are constantly moving in DC, you can find some gently used furniture pretty easily. I usually stuck to Ikea stuff, because I know the styles and quality, but there’s a lot of good non-Ikea stuff too.

  • I love Mom N’ Pop Antiques in Petworth. Bill is really sweet and usually willing to make a deal with you. Lots of old sturdy furniture, though as is the case with most vintage/used furniture shops, some digging is required. Go on a Sunday and one of the locals is usually playing piano in the store. 🙂

  • Macys in the ballet on mall.

  • Macy’s is a good place for inexpensive basics. Make sure you catch them on sale.

    • +1

      LOVE my couch from Macy’s

    • +1000 for macys…they are well made and with their cleaning products, i have zero stains even though i’ve been careless and dropped spaghetti and wine on it. I’ve had mine for 4 years, looks exactly the same as when I bought it and it was only $500.

    • Macy’s isn’t bad, but FYI years ago I got a piece from JCPenney that was exactly the same as what I’d picked out at Macy’s and about 20% less. Sometimes it pays to shop around and check out places you never thought of. My last move I got some decent pieces off overstock.com.

  • I moved into a new condo earlier this year and was basically starting from scratch furniture-wise. I have had great luck with Craig’s List. Admittedly, it’s all been IKEA furniture, BUT it’s already put together and you don’t have to make the trip to College Park or Woodbridge. Also, I’ve used Amazon Prime for things like large area rugs and a small futon. The free shipping is amazing for things that may not otherwise even fit in your car.

  • Tom

    Being super picky and watching Craigslist has worked really well for me these past six years. I furnished my first 1BR for less than $200, all without being ambushed and turned into a lampshade in some creepy apartment. No bedbugs, either.

    • Tom

      Worth noting that none of my stuff ever matched and had some dents/dings, etc., but if aesthetics aren’t high on your list of priorities, go forth and scrounge! Heard good things about Freecycle and ReStore in Silver Spring as well, but never tried either so can’t vouch personally.

      • When I moved from a small place to a much larger place, I scored a lot of things on the Freecycle DC Yahoogroup.

  • Check out CMBworlddesigns.com She has solid vintage mid-century style furniture that she refinishes and partially paints (sometimes to your specifications). Her prices aren’t super cheap (I recently got a 62″-long 9-drawer dresser for about $550), but you get good solid, custom-finished furniture for much less than new solid-wood furniture costs.

  • I’m a huge proponent of Craigslist finds! You can find interesting and unique pieces for a complete steal, especially if you’re not afraid to take on a little DIY project. Chalk paint has completely reinvented half the pieces I’ve brought home and I’ve managed to furnish my whole place with quality wood pieces for less than $1000 all together.

    • Andie302

      To piggyback on this – if there are pieces that you like at places like West Elm, Ikea, Pottery Barn, etc. you can set alerts for that specific item on craigslist. I was able to get an invisible book shelf from Design Within Reach for $50 and a chandelier from Pottery Barn at a steep discount.

      If a piece is big enough to fit into the back of an SUV, you can call an uber XL instead of lining up a mover (just make sure you don’t expect the uber XL driver is expected to help move, and have some extra cash for tip for the inconvenience).

      • Additionally, Zipcar has many Cargo Vans in their DC fleet! They run about $18/hour and are significantly cheaper than U-Hauls for pickups within the District

  • Definitely Wayfair.com and its sister, AllModern – their furniture is inexpensive, but doesn’t look cheap and they’ve got a lot of different brands so no one will ever guess where you bought something or how much you paid. My favorite thing about both sites is that they’ve got a lot of accessories like rugs and lamps for under $100

    • maxwell smart

      A word of caution about AllModern and related sites: These places are often selling knock-off furniture pieces that are of significantly lower quality than the original piece. Generally they ‘look’ the same, but the construction and materials are lower quality and will fall apart within a year. The often lack subtle details in shape that make them not as comfortable as the original. Yes, buying the original design from DWR is expensive… but it will also last and not end up in the landfill.

  • I’ve always had good luck at finding furniture at the Georgetown Flea Market which isn’t as expensive as you might think. Be sure to bargain with the sellers. It may be a bit more expensive than Ikea but it will last you at lot longer. Also, watch for ads for the DC Big Flea – I think it’s coming up. It’s a big antique show out at the Dulles Expo Center. You can find some bargains there as well as nice antiques.

  • Mom ‘n Pop antiques on Georgia in ParkView/ColumbiaHeights. Huge selection of desks, shelves, cabinets for such a small place. I’m sure they’ve got plenty of bedframes and headboards as well.

  • It’s hit or miss, but I’ve had great luck with overstock.com. The trick is to read the item descriptions very carefully: look for real wood rather than particle board or MDF. Takes a lot of sorting, but worth it for the deal you often get.

  • If you like the thrill of the hunt, you can find weekly estate sales on EstateSales.net.
    I’ve found all kinds of neat things over the years, and I love being able to look inside the old houses!

  • CORT furniture clearance in Rockville. They have ikea prices for very nice, but gently used couches, plus all sorts of other furniture.

  • My wife works at Weschler’s Auction House across from the FBI building–she’s decorated our house with steals she gets there. We are talking $20 sofas and drawers and cabinets and bars and coffee tables, etc. Also nice paintings. Worth a look.

  • We got our couch at Bob’s – as several of our friends. The selection isn’t huge but it’s a comfy couch and it was nice to be able to see something in person and sit on it. Bob’s has several locations a bit further out in the burbs.

  • If you’re into the DC and area vintage shops that people mentioned (Mom n Pops, Miss Pixies, Peg Leg etc), you should check out ATTIC (https://attic-dc.com). It’s a website that lists what all vintage furniture stores of the DC area have in store. Good luck!

  • if you are OK with the products at IKEA (they seem much better than they were 15 years ago) just don’t shop on a weekend. Go on a Tuesday night at about 7pm, and you’ll have no problem navigating the store quickly.

  • saf

    I’ve got a couch and a chair/ottoman pair looking for a home.

  • Evo in Navy Yard.

  • Bob’s Discount Furniture, Gilt.com and Wayfair.

  • Craigslist. If you want it brand new, great. But you can get pretty much brand new high quality furniture for huge discounts on craigslist. DC has so many people coming and going – they get desperate to get rid of stuff. While you may certainly want to professionally clean a used couch for example, wood products like tables, chairs, dressers, etc. are perfectly fine buying used. I have several Crate & Barrel items that I bought for about half the price and look new over the past few years….just takes some hunting.

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