Earlier today, in preparation for this post, I visited a local thrift store. My goal was to take a few photos of decent furniture to photograph and explain what I look for in finding quality pieces. I hardly thought that I’d be walking out with a pair of mid-century chairs for only $38.61!
As I walked past the rows of vintage clothing, toys, baby strollers, and old ties I approached the lines of misfit furniture that had been selected worthy of donation by the previous owners and salvation from the county landfill. The furniture varied widely in age, condition and most of all quality.
It can be hard to look past the appearance of an old table or dated upholstery on a chair. I begin inspecting tables by determining if they are constructed from solid wood and if the primary surfaces are veneer. Is the piece in overall good condition? Worn finishes can be refinished however patching veneer may add complications and expense to a furniture restoration project.
The first piece I came across worthy of inspection was a dark wood table. I cleared the clutter from the table and noticed issues with the top surface.
The top had a mahogany veneered surface and the issues on the top were mostly cosmetic, meaning the finish had chipped away, but the wood was in very good condition.
While inspecting the underside of the table I found the manufacturer’s label and even the model of the piece. The table was sturdy and made by Lane, a good quality US furniture manufacturer. This piece was a bargain at $16! A “like new” condition piece can be purchased on Cherish.com for $625, plus $325 for shipping. I would take the $16 route and then have it refinished to a custom wood finish or even in an updated painted lacquer finish.
As I wandered further into the great abyss of furniture I noticed a vintage sofa. I wasn’t fond of the tufted back or the skirt but the overall lines were clean. The very first thing I did was to feel the front of the outside arm to better understand the construction of the frame beneath the fabric. The frame was about 1 ¼” -1 ½” thick and likely hardwood. This peaked my interest because lesser quality upholstered items will have thinner plywood frames. I then lifted the seat cushion to inspect the springs. To my surprise the original label was intact. Henredon Furniture Industries says it all about this piece! Henredon is one of America’s best manufacturers of high end furniture. Now onto the spring inspection… I pressed through the decking (the material beneath the springs) and felt to see if the springs held compression and were relatively level. All was good. The legs were inspected and appeared to be walnut and if reupholstered would show nicely without the skirt. The bargain thrift store price was only $36, while other vintage Henrondon sofas on Cherish.com have prices ranging from $3000-$6300.
Finally, I came across a pair of chairs. This style of chairs is commonly reproduced today with low quality construction and I needed to be sure that these were vintage chairs worthy of restoration and reupholstery. As I did with the sofa inspection, I felt through the material to discover a thick solid wood frame. I then grasped the arms forcing them outward to see if the joints were loose. Unfortunately, the arms had a bit of a wobble and will need regluing during a furniture reupholstery and restoration. I flipped the chair to inspect the underside and noticed the legs would also need some tightening.
There were no maker’s marks but the frames were marked on the inside back of the walnut frame with chalk, “3-23-67”. I’d guess it is the date of construction. I was so excited to have found these chairs and I could not pass up the bargain so I coughed up the $36 plus sales tax and loaded them up to be restored by my awesome team at Finish Pros!
Countless bargains can be found at the numerous thrift stores around your town.
The goal is to find furniture that will fit your space and seek out quality furniture brands that are worth restoring such as Ethan Allen furniture repair in Raleigh, Henredon furniture for refinishing, Baker furniture restoration and furniture updating.