Tuesday, February 1, 2011

INTERIOR IDEAS. Penny Pinching is a Good Thing: Inexpensive Ways to Fill Your Home

Craigslist.  Ebay.  Antique Stores.  Sidewalks.
From the internet to street corners, it's not very hard to find bargains.  But I'm not talking about airfares or designer bags.  Instead I am referring to chairs, floor lamps and yes even crystal glasses, all at rock bottom prices or better yet, many people's favorite word, FREE.  In today's economic climate we are all finding ways to save or stretch a buck.  We buy combo meals because it's cheaper than buying each item individually.  We go to Happy Hour for cheaper drinks.  But our homes are the places we try to save the most:  Lowering the utility bills by turning off electronics when we leave the house, saving water by sweeping the driveway or switching to mobile service only and ditching the landline. 

What happens when you want that floor lamp you saw on DWR's website or a new coffee table and you just paid PG&E, AT&T and other acronyms you write a check to every month?  The first place you should hit, and we all know this, is Craigslist (http://www.craigslist.com/).  You never know what you'll find.  If you dig long enough you'll find some great pieces and my partner and I can attest to that.  Our best find was the Artemide Mega Tolomeo floor lamp (sold at DWR for upwards of $775 http://www.dwr.com/product/tolomeo-mega.do?keyword=tolomeo+mega&sortby=ourPicks) we randomly found one day a few blocks from our place.  The seller had just gotten it, didn't like it (God knows why) and didn't want to go through the hassel of returning it.  Instead he posted it on CL and we ran right over.  Why?  He was selling it for $100.  SCORE!  It was in great condition and looked great in our living room (pictured).  Of course there is the ever popular Ebay where we found the Kartell white ghost chair that we won for $200, there was no tax and shipping was included (DWR sells the chair for $410). 

But if you don't have the patience to sit in front of a computer for hours on end or hate venturing into thrift stores with its mix of used jeans merchandised next to grandma's old sofa with that musty, weird smell that lingers even after you've left the store, there is an alternative:  a hotel liquidation center.  When hotels, motels and resorts renovate, the existing furniture just can't be sent to landfills.  That's a waste.  Instead, the pieces are sold to stores who then resell them at great prices.  For example to stage a home in Los Angeles last year, we found Hotel Surplus Outlet (http://www.hotelsurplus.com/) that sells furniture from properties like The Peninsula Hotel of Beverly Hills.  After finding them online, we ventured out to the San Fernando Valley where we found a huge warehouse of furnishings of all types.  With a limited budget, we found it cheaper to purchase pieces from them than trying to rent the furniture.  For the living room (pictured below) we were able to find a $200 microfiber sofa, 2 lounge chairs for $80, a wall mirror for $75, a glass and chrome coffee table for $75 and 2 chrome floor lamps for $150.  The drapery panels and hardware were picked up from Target for around $45 and the bookcase in the corner was a discard from another client.  In total $625 (plus tax) for a new living room.

The outlet came in handy for the dining area also where we found the table for $150 and splurged on 4 chairs for $500.  The chandelier was $150 from Lamps Plus (http://www.lampsplus.com/) and again the bookcase was a discard from another client.  The result wasn't bad at all for $800.

Speaking of staging, many staging companies turn their inventory when they need or want to.  If you head back to Craigslist in any city, click on "furniture" under "for sale" and type in the word "staging", you'll find these companies.  The up side to this is that since the pieces were used for staging, chances are they would be pretty near new condition.  You can also visit http://homestaging.com/ and click "Directory" to find the closest staging company to you.

Yet another place to find slightly used furniture are consignment stores, which sells merchandise for people of which the store gets a percentage of each sale.  Pieces can include designer and high-end furniture from an estate where a couple is getting divorced or someone who has decided to redecorate their home and doesn't want to use sites like Craigslist.  In Chicago, Berry Hill Home Furniture Consignment (http://www.berryhillhome.com/) sells designer sofas for half or more off of retail prices.

If you don't have a hotel liquidation place near you or you prefer brand new furniture, then don't discount retailers that have outlet stores like Crate & Barrel (http://www.crateandbarrel.com/) who has outlets in 8 states and Restoration Hardware that has 11 outlet stores nationwide (http://www.restorationhardware.com/store-locations/outlets.jsp).  Just like clothing outlets, these stores have an array of merchandise of outlet only type items or slightly damaged pieces discounted from 20% to 50% or more.  Another great tip about retail stores is at the end of year they perform inventory and the less to count the better.  So at "end of year sales" or "after Christmas sales", you can pick up furnishings at outlet prices, mostly in the stores but retailers sometimes post them on their sites. 

When it all comes down to it, our homes are our castles.  But we don't have to spend a king's ransom to furnish them.

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