New Life for Old Furniture

August 15, 2008

You’ve heard me wax poetic about how fulfilling it is to get rid of home furnishings and other belongings via Craigslist and Freecycle. Well in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, I’m quoted in an article about giving new life for old furniture–i.e. shopping via consignment shops, yards sales and the like to furnish a home. I think writer (and friend) Jen Miller did a terrific job with the piece.

FYI, currently we have a number of pieces of furniture in our house that are old but which we’ve given new life to:

* a denim covered armchair (where I’m sitting right now) that started life as my father-in-law’s favorite chair when my husband was young. Originally, it was covered in scratchy green-plaid wool, and went off to college with my husband, then to his series of post-college apartments, where it often sat in the apartment, full of memories but too scratchy to actually sit on. A few years into our marriage I surprised him by having the chair and its foot rest recovered in denim. Now I have to fight him to sit in the chair.

* a wood, floor lamp, with a tripod-like footing, that originally sat in my grandparents living room in their Maine home. After my grandparents died, my mother assumed ownership of the lamp, then gave it to me.

* a wooden bench/storage seat that used to hold board games, also at my grandparents’ house in Maine. Now I have it in my dining room, tucked into a bow window, and it holds all of our table linens. When we have extra guests for dinner, we pull the bench up to the table as seating.

* two camel-colored leather couches that my father-in-law had in the living room of his East End, Long Island home. We he moved to Florida, he didn’t want to pay to move the couches, so my husband and I took them. Now those couches, worn almost threadbare-thin, sit at right angles to one another in my kids’ playroom. They’re perfect for each girl to stretch out on when they want to chill out and watch TV.

* five dressers and two nightstands in our bedrooms upstairs. All of these are used or hand-me downs, including a painted-green maple dresser that was my childhood dresser but which my teenager daughter now uses.

You really can give new life to old furniture. What do you have hanging around your house, as far as furnishing go, that used to live somewhere else?

4 Responses to New Life for Old Furniture

  1. Anonymous on August 17, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    looking for picture of a 1949 TV Chair purchase from the Broadway dept store. How could I find one? I have been on the seach for a 1949 catalog but no such luck yet

  2. Theresa in Mèrida on August 15, 2008 at 11:50 pm

    Most of my furniture here is 2nd had or medio usu as they say here (half used). We sold or gave away everything when we moved,but most of that was 2nd hand too. Here is the best part, I actually sold most of my furniture for what I paid for it after using it for 5 or more years. Some I even got more money than I paid. I bought my pecan wood dining room table and 6 chairs for $75 and sold it for $125.The trick was buying good quality at the best price (I would wait until the monthly half off day to buy things at the Salvation Army). The people who bought my stuff were happy, they got a deal.

  3. Daisy on August 15, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    We sold several old pieces at a rummage sale last August. These were DIY style pieces that were perfect for our apts and duplexes, but we eventually replaced them with something a little nicer. The shelves, chairs, and even the small cart on wheels sold in the morning – to neighbors!

  4. Jen A. Miller on August 15, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Leah –

    Thanks for linking to the article — and for the kind words.

    This is a story that really grew out of my experience with used furniture. I bought my house over a year ago (yeah!) but put everything into the downpayment so didn’t have anything left over for furniture. I realized last night, as I was discussing the article with my mom, that I haven’t bought a new piece for the house yet. Here’s what I have, though:

    -My living room set came from my father’s basement. He was upgrading, so he gave me his. It’s about 10 years old, but matches my living room and is solid wood and comfortable.

    -My dining room table was bought for a song off It was a kitchen table in my old apartment and has a sleeve to extend it to dining room size. It’s going to be replaced soon with — surprise — my dad’s nice dining room set. He just got re-married, so he and wife are moving to a new house and combining their furniture.

    -The cabinets in my dining room came from my grandparents’ house

    -My dressers came from, well me. They were the dressers I had as a kid, and they came from my grandparents. They had 8 children, so there was a lot of furniture left when the kids moved out. I was complaining to my mom that I couldn’t find a head and footboard that would match the wood in quality and color, so when she cleaned out my grandparents house, she gave me a headboard and footboard that matched perfectly. Turns out that it was the bed she shared with her two sisters when they were little. Not only is it beautiful, but I’m so happy that I’m able to keep the piece in the family.

    -A small table in my spare room was bought for $2 at a yard sale

    The only new stuff I have are my desk and bookshelves, which came from Ikea. The desk’s great, but I’m probably going to replace the bookshelves with used furniture. It’s just better designed and of better quality. Nothing beats solid wood.

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