Forget Ikea: How to find discounted, sturdy used furniture in the city

Rich people are constantly discarding good stuff in this city, here's how to take advantage

Forget Ikea: How to find discounted, sturdy used furniture in the city
Horseman Antiques, home to one of the city’s largest selections of credenzas, and much more. (Photo by Aaron Short)

Whenever the days start getting longer and the weather turns milder, New Yorkers indulge in their desire to redecorate.

Sure, swapping out your dinged up couch can be as simple as toggling through Wayfair, Macy’s or West Elm’s websites or taking a jaunt to the land of relationship peril: Ikea.

Before you board the ferry to Red Hook, it’s a good idea to remember that the city is awash in rich people’s discarded stuff. Each spring, the wealthy riddle our curbs with perfectly respectable hardwood end tables and Instagrammable recliners that can find a way into your home as fast as you can order an UberXL.

But there’s a third way that won’t have you maxing out your credit card, or using it to inspect the crevices of your salvaged street treasures for bedbugs. 

Long-standing antique stores and secondhand shops scattered throughout the city offer an eco-friendly alternative to big-box retailers whose quality of furniture has slid so far the Wall Street Journal wrote an expose about it. You can feel good about shopping sustainably and supporting a small business or a charitable organization like Habitat for Humanity or Housing Works. (We’ve chosen to focus on several outer borough shops since they tend to have better prices but you can find a myriad of clothes, furniture, and housewares at Housing Works’ multiple Manhattan locations.)

Many shops put their latest lots on social media so be sure to browse Instagram to see if anything piques your interest. But the hunt is part of the fun and you might even discover a tantalizing trinket of city history that you didn’t even know you wanted. Don’t be afraid to haggle either.

High-end furnishings

To get a sense of what’s on the market now – and how much a statement piece can cost – head over to Horseman Antiques (351 Atlantic Ave.), one of the last remnants of Brooklyn’s once-thriving antique row. Plenty of designer houseware and home decor boutiques dot Atlantic Avenue but Horseman features four floors of vintage and modern furniture in their 65,000-square-foot showroom. 

"I’ve had people in here for six hours," Eric Luhrmann, manager of Horseman Antiques, told The Groove. "The main floor is where we put our big-name designers but you can find great stuff upstairs and downstairs. It just has to be seen by the right person."

Horseman Antiques, home to one of the city’s three largest selection of credenzas, and much more. (Photo by Aaron Short)

The store is known for its mid-century modern desks, end tables, sofas and credenzas – versatile cabinets that can store dishware and even prop up a television – from Scandinavian, American and Italian designers. 

Be prepared for sticker shock. Teak credenzas can cost between $1,300 to $2,000, while one Danish flip-top desk was listed at $4,800. A collection of new sofas made in North Carolina in mid-century style ranged between $4,000 and $6,000 (relatively more affordable items can be found on the store’s upper floors and in the basement).

If you’re looking for a sofa that will last longer than the Adams administration and have the cash to drop, Luhrmann recommends investing in one with a solid oak or ash frame instead of engineered wood or pressboard.

"Weight is what I look for in a couch," he said. "You want something that can be reconditioned that’s made of solid wood so if it has a little bit of damage it’s repairable."

Junk shops

Still, $4,000 is a lot of change. For those on a budget in the hundreds, a secondhand store like Remix Market (67 35th St., Brooklyn and 5-38 46th Ave., Queens) has upcycled offerings from retailer chains at significantly lower prices.

Remix Market just opened its LIC location earlier this month. (Photo by Aaron Short)

Its Long Island City warehouse, which just opened on March 1, featured a white tufted sofa from Macy's priced at $255, a red pleather couch from Raymour & Flanigan that cost $500 and a minimalist Blu Dot Dandy sofa that was listed at $1,160. Remix also had an eclectic collection of dining room chairs, glassware, and kitchen items. A vintage Sunbeam kitchen mixer which caught our eye at $50 while a slim American Tourister briefcase was only $15.

On the other side of Newtown Creek, desks, dressers and tables are stacked to the ceiling at Williamsburg’s Mother of Junk thrift shop (567 Driggs Ave). 

Mother of Junk, home to almost too much stuff to choose from. (Photo by Aaron Short)

Customers cram into narrow aisles especially on the weekends, which can make for an anxious experience, but the prices are pretty generous. A dark wood dresser that wouldn’t be out of place in a teen’s bedroom in the mid-90s was $75 while a drop table went for $125 and a student desk with brass fixtures was only $50.

They also had an impressive array of glassware, including a six-piece set of water glasses etched "Amtrak President’s Safety Contest Winner Philadelphia 1987-1988" for $4 each.

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Mid-range antique Stores

For something in between high end and "junk," you should visit Bedford Galleries (1167 Bedford Ave.) or Yesterday's News Antiques and Collectibles (428 Court St.) in Brooklyn. 

A worker touches up a dresser at Bedford Galleries. (Photo by Aaron Short)

Bedford Galleries is about a quarter the size of Mother of Junk but its selection of sofas and furniture was impressive (they restore many of their wooden items picked up at estate sales and auctions). Couches lining the front of the store ranged between $450 and $1,500 while a handful of mid-century modern dressers were listed between $600 and $1,400 and credenzas could be had for $850. Prices are negotiable but items move fast and the best way to track what’s in the store is to check its Instagram page.

At Yesterday’s News, outdoor furniture sets spilled onto the sidewalk, enticing New Yorkers with the most covetable real estate perk – a garden apartment. Some lawn chairs cost about $30 or $40 each but expect to pay more for vintage cast metal patio sets. Inside, shoppers sifted through black and white photographs of the New York cityscape and eyed pricey collectibles with the mirthful exuberance of Brooklyn Flea, the seasonal flea market that returns to DUMBO in April. It was easily the most crowded of a dozen stores we visited but you’d likely have the place to yourself on a weekday. And they also have started doing events like collage nights and its first-ever Italian dinner party on March 18.

Finally, there’s the family-run shops that have been in their neighborhoods for decades. These places often require a lengthy trip to far flung parts of the city if you don’t live nearby, so you should call ahead to make sure they’ll be open and scout the area for lunch options and other activities. 

Alexander Antique Shop (47 Bruckner Blvd., Bronx) in Port Morris was once part of the South Bronx’s antique row. The store offers several lamps, end tables, and upholstered chairs and is close to both the Lit Bar bookstore and the excellent Mexican restaurant La Morada. It’s also a short walk to the Bronx Documentary Center.  

In Flushing, Queens, Antiques 16 (147-16 Northern Blvd, Queens) and the aptly named Antique Shop (41-17 162nd St., Queens) which feature Asian art, collectibles and vintage china, are close to Murray Hill, Queens’ thriving Korean neighborhood and the Hindu Temple Canteen, a vegetarian food destination home to a cafeteria-style South Asian cuisine.

Ridgewood Antiques has good furniture to check out and good instruments to use to scare away your neighbors. (Photo by Aaron Short)

Ridgewood Antiques (66-33 Fresh Pond Rd., Queens) has an eclectic collection of desks, lamps and jewelry as well as unusual collectibles that people in the surrounding neighborhoods have parted with, including a massive portrait of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and several accordions. 

And in Mill Basin, Ruth’s Place (1410 E 64th St, Brooklyn), which has lovely sets of fine china and costume jewelry, is around the corner from Mill Basin Bagel Cafe where a bagel with cream cheese will set you back $4.50, perhaps the best deal of the day. 

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