Giving a Second Life to Furniture Header Image

Just under 10 years ago, my husband and I became first time parents and first-time homeowners a mere three days apart. It was a wonderfully exciting time, but boy oh boy was it overwhelming! I found myself alone in a new city with a new baby for long hours every day, and I knew I needed a creative outlet.

Having a big (and mostly empty!) house to decorate proved to be all the inspiration I needed and a great way to fill those long newborn nap times. I started looking for secondhand furniture to put my custom stamp on, and before I knew it, I had discovered a new passion. Within months of redoing my first piece of furniture, I started a small refinishing business that quickly grew and flourished over the next several years. I went from selling online, to having my own booth at a creative market, to having a furniture and decor studio of my own.

Secondhand Life to Dresser


This piece started off as $19.99 Goodwill find!

Needless to say, furniture is my THING! I absolutely love giving new life to vintage and antique furniture – and occasionally even newer furniture that just needs a little help. Over the years, I have sourced furniture from yard and estate sales, online sites, the side of the road, and of course, secondhand stores like Goodwill NCW!

Finding furniture at Goodwill NCW has many perks. First of all, it means not having to deal with random people online and it avoids awkward pick-ups. Believe me, there’s nothing worse than driving a long way to pick up a piece of furniture only to find out there’s something wrong with it! Instead, for often the same price as those online deals, you can get up close and personal with the piece without added pressure and make sure it’s right for you. Bonus – you also know there will always be someone to help you load it at Goodwill NCW!

So, after almost 10 years of buying, redoing, and selling furniture, I’ve learned a thing or two – sometimes the hard way. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re on the hunt for a special piece!

Let’s start with an obvious one… Look early and look often! If you’re looking for something more on the specific side, you must be willing to be patient. I have an antique English pine piece in my home that I searched for YEARS to find. Now obviously that’s not the norm, but just know that sometimes you must be ok with the thrill of the hunt. But you can up your chances by stopping into your local Goodwill NCW store regularly. Inventory can come and go quickly, but new items are added every day! I like to try to stop in weekly.

Tip two is to look beyond what you see and think outside the box when it comes to the function of a piece. For instance, the piece below could be a small kitchen island, a coffee bar, an entrance table, or extra storage in your living room for blankets. Side tables can function as nightstands. Stools can be plant stands. A bed frame can be made into a bench. Interesting old wooden chairs can add character to almost any room and are great additions to your outdoor decor. Also, remember that paint and knobs are fairly inexpensive and can make a HUGE difference to the aesthetics of a piece. The possibilities are truly endless when you use your imagination.

Tip three is to come prepared. If you are looking for a piece of furniture for a specific space, make sure you have the measurements of the space readily available. Put them in the notes section of your phone so you never have to dig for them. Bring a small tape measure with you to measure any potential pieces. I’ve missed out on items because of not being able to measure, and I’ve also bought pieces that didn’t fit where I wanted them. Believe me, neither feel good! Additionally, you may want to carry paint swatches with you if you are looking at upholstered pieces to make sure they coordinate with your space. 

Furniture in one of our stores


This piece could work in almost every room of a home!

I don’t encourage impulse purchases, but when you’re dealing with a one-of-a-kind item, time isn’t usually on your side. Being prepared cuts down on all the extra “think time” that is sometimes the cause of someone going home with “your” piece! I thought too long about this piece last week and missed out on it. It may look pretty average now, but a sleek makeover with black paint would have it looking very on-trend and modern!

Second Life potential


Can you see the potential?

Tip four may or may not be important depending on the intended use of the piece but learn how to tell if a piece is solid wood or not. This is primarily important if you are planning on painting or staining a piece. While you can certainly paint pieces that are not wood, they often take more prep and more materials, so it is just something to be aware of. Solid wood pieces are HEAVY and will typically have dovetail drawers like this one below. You will be able to see and feel the grain of the wood. Faux wood pieces will be lighter in weight, and you will likely notice the “compressed sawdust” look somewhere on the piece. 

You may also come across a piece with veneer. Veneer is a thin piece of expensive wood that is applied to a more cost-effective type of wood. It can be (gently) sanded and painted just like solid wood. None of these are good or bad, just be sure to know what you’re getting into!

Make sure your piece is well constructed, no matter what it’s made of.

Lastly, just have fun! For me, the process of looking for furniture and imagining what it “could be” has become almost as fun as finding a perfect piece. Good luck, and happy hunting!

About Lauren: Boy mom to three and a vintage, antique and home decor enthusiast. Favorite phrases include “honey, I was thinking…” and “thanks, I thrifted it!”. You can find her on Instagram @portlandrowliving.

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