Shopping for vintage and secondhand furniture can be a daunting process but sourcing items through the most trusted platforms, with the right mindset, can save you so much money, time, and ultimately will enrich your space with one-of-a-kind pieces. 

No longer do you have to spend hours rummaging dusty thrift stores. The current slew of online marketplaces, apps, and sites make the entire process much simpler and they often offer delivery to boot. However, with so many options and potential scams out there, it’s important to dive into the used furniture space with some guidelines in mind. 

To help you do so, we’ve enlisted Maggie Holladay, the founder of Claude Home, an online gallery that sells vintage collectibles, unique pieces by up-and-coming artists, and custom furniture, to give us her expert advice on how to shop for vintage pieces like a pro. 

Maggie Holladay, owner of Claude Home. Image: courtesy of Bobbie Brown.

Always Do Your Homework

"Research, research, research!" says Maggie Holladay. You should look at furniture like an investment, she continues. "I look at buying furniture like getting a tattoo, make sure it’s something I will love forever. Also, if the price is hefty, always Google similar items for a comparison. This can also help determine if it will eventually go up in value. That way, if you get sick of it or your style changes you know that you can resell it without losing money." 

She also loves starting her search on 1st Dibs. "It is expensive but works like an encyclopedia of furniture. You can just scroll and discover so many artists and designers you have never heard of and use it as starting point before heading to more bargain-friendly sites," she adds.

Use Your Imagination

Before buying anything, think carefully about it; check the exact measurements, and envision it in your space for a few weeks. "Pieces that aren’t worth the hassle are those you are just purchasing to fill a void or space in your home," shares Holladay. "If you don’t love it, just leave that corner of your home empty until you find the perfect item."

Image: Claude Home

Ask the Right Questions

For sites that are less curated, check out Apt Deco or Kaiyo and virtual marketplaces like Facebook, Etsy, and even Craigslist. "If the pricing of an item seems too good to be true or only stock photos are provided, always question the seller for full details about the origin of the piece and its current condition. They should be able to provide details and additional photos if they are trustworthy," advises Holladay. "Once you can confirm that the seller is legitimate and the site is reputable, have fun with it. For example, if you’re searching on eBay, type in the designer of the vase you love and it might lead you to finding other unique pieces that you weren’t expecting to come across. These sites truly have great finds. You will never know what you will find." 

Image: courtesy of Claude Home.

Do It the Old-Fashioned way

If you prefer to shop in-person, head to flea markets, estate sales, and vintage stores, ideally outside of the city you live in. "Rural areas have the best and quirkiest finds—in a good way. Keep an eye out for statement chairs, strong and unique accent pieces, vases, sculptures, and catchalls," suggests Holladay. "Also, you can never go wrong with a comfy couch that you can unwind and indulge in your favorite TV shows or converse with a friend or loved one. And remember, if the foundation of a piece is strong but it’s a little weathered, it is possible to update upholstery and restore details to improve the condition of any item."

Make it a Passion Project

If you’re looking to learn more about the vintage design world, dive deep into learning about the designers that catch your eye throughout the process. "Not only will you fall in love with their pieces, but you tap into what design style truly resonates with you," shares Holladay. "This also makes you more creative about what you put in the search bar. Instead of typing 'Vintage Sofa,' add in 'Milo Baughman Vintage Modular Style Sofa.' It will lead to finding many more listings and make the process that much more fun for you."