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Furnishings on a Budget

Part 1: Find sources that can stretch your decorating dollar
Most of us have lived in a time when we needed to decorate an apartment or home on a budget. We probably "borrowed" items from our parents, inherited castoffs from friends, and purchased cheap furnishings that we eventually threw away.
Sooner or later, however, our taste began to mature and the eclectic uncoordinated furniture we once thought was "cool" might now look like just a mish-mash of old stuff.

Let's face it, we'd probably be happy to get rid of all of it and start over. Unfortunately, few of us have the budget or the opportunity to begin furnishing a home from scratch whenever we want.

Nevertheless, there are ways to stretch your decorating budget and find bargains on quality furnishings that will bring years of beauty and style to your home.
Where are these great deals on furniture?

Try some of these resources the next time you need furniture but want to save money too.

Consignment Stores
These are popping up everywhere and are a great place to sell your old things and find new ones. Items are one-of-a-kind so shop often and be ready to buy when you see just the right piece. Get to know the owner or manager and explain what you need and they might just call when an appropirate piece comes in.

Model Home Sales
Builder model homes are another source of beautiful furnishings. Keep an eye out by visiting models in your area. If you see something you like, ask the sales office how and when the furniture might be available for sale. This is a terrific way to get coordinated and custom items at a fraction of the cost of new. Beware that some pieces may have fading, spots, or dents due to the heavy traffic and cleaning schedules at the models.

Clearance Outlets and Sales
Many major department and furniture stores have outlet center with ongoing or periodic furniture sales. Often the tags are marked with dates and prices are reduced every 30 or 60 days. Furniture in these outlets may be either scratched, a second, and overrun, reposessed, or otherwise imperfect. However, prices will generally reflect any imperfections and may also be negotiable.

You might have a sofa that's just too big for your new living room. Your best friend might have a loveseat that's too small for her family room. Why not negotiate a trade? It can be on a permanent or a temporary basis, as you choose.

Scratch and Dent Rooms
Furniture stores may have a corner or back room where they keep scratched and dented items available for sale at big discounts. Inquire at your favorite stores and visit often to watch for furnishing that might fit into your home.

Part 2: Patience and a ready wallet

Here are more bargain shopping resources.

Showroom Samples
Design Centers (in most large cities) often have periodic "sample sales" for discontinued furnishings that have been used as showroom samples.
Call a design center near you, or watch your local newspaper for ads.

Trash to Treasure
Some people call it "dumpster diving" and others call it "found items" but this can become almost a hobby with some people. Discarded furnishings found in trash bins, on the street, or marked "free" at a garage sale, can be rehabbed into something beautiful if you have the time and creativity. Watch HGTV for some great ideas on trash to treasure refurbishing. Photos 2000-2003 by Glenna J. Morton, About's Interior Decorating Guide.

Junk and Thrift Stores
Yes, you probably do have to visit 15 junk and thrift stores to find even one great item. But if you have the time and the patience, this can be an inexpensive source of some wonderful one-of-a-kind pieces. And if you have a friend who frequents these kinds of stores, let her know what you're looking for so she can call you with possibilities.

Garage Sales and Flea Markets
This is an obviously cheap source for lots of furniture and accessories. Items will generally be inexpensive and may exhibit a great deal of wear. Negotiation is practically expected, so bring cash and bargain away for the best prices.

Auction houses are another source of quality one-of-a-kind furnishings. Read up on auctions before you go and be sure to take advantage of the preview days to examine any pieces you might bid on. Better to find out about that wobbly leg or the cracked drawer before the auction begins. Many pieces that are not classified as "antiques" are extremely reasonable at auction.

Buy with an Eye to Refinish
Sometimes you won't be able to find just what you want and you'll need to get creative. Begin to look at furniture with an eye for its line, scale, and details. Perhaps a dark wood desk can be repainted and updated with new hardware. Maybe a beat up coffee table can be sanded and stained, or an old chair seat recovered with pretty fabric. The only caution -- be realistic as to what you can actually accomplish. A chest with a missing drawer and a cracked top may be too much to fix if you don't have the time, tools, or space to repair it.

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