Home Decor

Home Decor
Home Decor Ideas

Best Furniture Paint

Best Furniture Paint
Favorite Furniture Paint

BEST Furniture Makeovers

BEST Furniture Makeovers
Best Furniture Makeovers

How To Transform Second Hand Furniture Easily

Transforming second hand furniture is an easy and economical way to re-do your space! In this post, you'll discover where the best places to find second-hand furniture are along with our BEST tips for what to look for when you're buying used furniture. 

Then, we'll provide you with step by step instructions on how to paint second hand furniture properly so YOU can have beautiful looking furniture and save some money while you're doing it! 

Once you're finished go to our furniture refinishing resource page to see our most popular thrift store furniture makeovers and get some more inspiration! 

second hand furniture, thrift store furniture, used furniture, used furniture for sale, used furniture stores, thrift store

Can I start with a really quick story?

Many moons ago, before the chalk paint® craze and before I had a handle on painting furniture, I was thumbing through the Craigslist ads in search of a used kitchen table.

I had two young boys at the time and I knew that I didn't want to spend a lot of money on an old table that may or may not catch some abuse over the next few years.

But just because I didn't want to spend a lot of money on a second hand piece of furniture, that didn't mean that I didn't want a nice table for my family to look or eat at.

Without too much searching on Craigslist, I discovered a used farmhouse style table and four chairs offered for the low price of $65.

I snatched them up, ran to the store and bought myself 12 cans of white spray paint (smack forehead), too thick of a foam pad to reupholster my chairs made plenty of mistakes along the way then gave the table the royal scratch down to achieve the perfect distressed and worn farmhouse look (sarcasm).

I'm slightly embarrassed to share my very first furniture flip with you, but I think it's so important to learn from other people's mistakes.

So, today I'm happy to be an example of what not to do! Plus, I'll spill my guts and share some of the most valuable tips and tricks that I've learned from refinishing second-hand furniture!

-P.S. If you're interested in taking a peek at that first farmhouse table project I talked about above, I'll leave a picture of it at the end of this post- it's a great reminder that we all have to start somewhere on our learning how to paint furniture journey! ;)

Before we can talk about how to transform a used piece of furniture, let's chat first about some of the best places to find second hand furniture...

painting old furniture, old furniture, refinishing old furniture, refinishing second hand furniture, refinishing thrift store furniture, painting thrift store furniture

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links to products I love and use every day. You can view our full disclosure here for more info. 

The Best Places To Find Second Hand Furniture

You might be asking yourself where to buy second hand furniture. Here are our favorite places to find the best used furniture deals!

1. Craigslist

Peruse your local craigslist ads in the comfort of your jammies. It has been my experience that you'll see an increase in listings from Friday-Sunday as people use the weekend to clean out/declutter their homes/prepare to move. 

However, 75% of the time I can negotiate the very best prices on Mondays or Tuesdays- those that aren't patient enough to wait another weekend want to get rid of their furniture quick! 

If you live in a small area, your Craigslist listings might look few and far between. Broaden your search to the next big town and you might just find what you're looking for! 

I scored a great deal on both this vintage buffet and this used headboard using Craigslist.

2. OfferUp

Craigslist is the King of online sites when it comes to buying and selling used furniture. 

But there are a few additional online options you can try as well. When you're looking for used furniture for sale don't overlook OfferUp, VarageSale, Krrb, and Bookoo.

3. Yard Sales

This is probably my least favorite way to find second hand furniture. I prefer not wasting my time driving around looking for that next possible gem...

But, that doesn't mean that I haven't pulled over on the fly and found some nice second hand pieces this way. 

You'll find that most owners are willing to negotiate on their prices. If people are having a sale to downsize before a move, people will drop prices quickly to get rid of their stuff. 

If you decide to go this route, be prepared to get up early. The early bird gets the worm!

4. Thrift Stores/Local Habitat for Humanity

You can find great used furniture bargains at second hand furniture stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army. 

Do a search in your area for "used furniture stores near me" and you might be surprised to find a thrift store that you didn't know about. 

Ask your local thrift stores when their markdown days are and what days the highest amount of inventory gets put out. 

As an example, I found this older dresser and this 70's dresser at our local thrift store.

5. Estate Sales

Estate sales can be hit or miss, but they are another great source to find high-quality second hand furniture. 

Generally speaking, estate sales are usually advertised on your local Craigslist page, but you can also sign up for alerts for your local area on EstateSales.net

Be sure to check out Kelly Elko's post on Estate Sale Tips. She's dishing out some of her best-kept secrets to make sure you have the best estate sale shopping experience.

6. Family/Friends

The most convenient way to find used furniture comes from your grandparents or parents! Let's face it- vintage wood furniture was clearly constructed better back in the days! 

If your relatives are downsizing and offer you a piece with dovetail drawers, say yes! You can give those good bones an easy facelift and it will leave you with a nice quality piece of furniture customized to your liking. 

Hop on over and see what I did with this used desk that I received for FREE from a friend!

7. Local Facebook Community Pages

Most cities now have local FB community garage sale pages. If you're looking for a specific used furniture item you can put in your keywords in the search bar within that group page for easy searching. 

Most community pages have rules such as the seller has to go in order of who expressed interest first. 

If you're on at the wrong time, its possible to miss the buy of the century, but it's still a worthy search option when you're looking for second hand furniture

8.  Flea Markets & Antique Fairs

If you're lucky enough to live close to a vintage and antique flea markets/fairs, you can find some real furniture gems to refinish. 

Arriving early guarantees that you'll have a great selection to choose from. 

Arriving on the last day or before they close will give you a greater bargaining chip. (Because let's face it, those vendors want to sell so they don't have to pack up those gems and haul them back home.)

Here you'll find The Top 20 Flea Markets In The US for 2017! Are you lucky enough to live close to one of these destinations?

favorite tools, favorite paint products, favorite top coats, best top coats, best paint brushes

8 Quick Tips When Buying Second Hand Furniture

#1: Know the Dimensions of Your Space. 

There's nothing worse than purchasing thrift store furniture only to find out that it doesn't fit in your home. Darn it! 

Don't forget to write down your height requirement in addition to the depth and width measurements. 

If the used furniture you're eyeing is too short for your space that's okay! You can always add legs to your furniture. 

Great Tip- Put a measuring tape in your purse as you head out the door!

#2: Do A Smell Test. 

Your nose won't have to get too close to detect smoke or major pet odors. But, even minor smoke odors can create additional work. 

On a few occasions, I've been guilty of skipping this step which means I didn't discover the smoke odors until after I brought it home. 

It's not a total loss. It just creates a few extra steps for yourself. 

In my Favorite Furniture Painting Products & Tools Resource post, I mention some GREAT suggestions for getting rid of those strong smells once and for all!

#3: Look For Structural Damage. 

When you're shopping for second hand furniture, open up the drawers, sit in the chairs, lean on the furniture and inspect the piece carefully. 

Don't worry about little fixes like small gauges, scratches, missing hardware, loose drawer railings- even a beginner can repair those problems easily. 

Whatever kind of damage you see, be confident that you or someone else can fix it. 

BONUS Tip!- Don't be afraid to point out the imperfections to the owner to negotiate a better deal. I've received HUGE price reductions because I took the time to negotiate!

#4: Look For Quality Items Made From Wood. 

Be picky. Be choosy. The right piece will find you. 

Don't settle for chintzy laminate or cheap pressboard in your hustle to find the right piece. 

I've had great success painting pieces with a veneer finish! Just keep in mind that you want to aim for quality- it will always last you longer in the end. 

#5: Start Small! 

Second hand chairs are tempting. Kitchen and dining chairs can be a beginners DIY dream! 

Beginning DIY-ers are capable of selecting new fabric, new foam cushions and updating the chairs with an industrial staple gun. 

However, give it some good thought when it comes to upholstered side chairs or larger ones that would go in a family/living room setting.

Unless you have advanced upholstery skills, you'll want to make sure you like the current upholstery or at a minimum educate yourself on the reupholstering costs before you fork over your money on a steal of a deal. 

That good deal could lead to expensive costs later if you're unaware of the costs to hire out your reupholstery.

As a guide, check out these case studies of real-life upholstery jobs and what people really pay.

Of course, painting the upholstery is also an option! Yes, you read that right! You can paint upholstery (and that's one more reason to make sure that the upholstery is in good shape.)

#6: Think Outside The Box

Have you thought about these ideas before?

Repurpose an old dresser and use it as a bathroom vanity.

Create a custom cabinet and a media console by separating and transforming the top and bottom section of a china hutch

Purchasing used furniture will likely save you big $$. But, if you can get two pieces of furniture for the low price of one... well that's plain old robbery if you ask me. ;)

#7: Use Pinterest For Creative Inspiration

Sometimes its hard to visualize what a particular piece of used furniture would look like painted or refinished. 

If you find second hand furniture but you're unsure how to refinish it, don't be afraid to take a step back and peruse Pinterest for a few minutes to get some furniture ideas and inspiration while you're standing in the middle of a thrift store or garage sale.

#8: Negotiate.  

Negotiate! Negotiate! Negotiate! I'm speaking from experience here- the asking price is hardly ever the final price. So don't be afraid to negotiate for a lower number. The worst they can say is no. 

I think you're going to be surprised just how many times you'll get a discount. 

How To Transform Second Hand Furniture Easily!

Here is a recent example of a second hand furniture transformation!

I was on my way to the grocery store when I passed by a Goodwill store that called out my name.

It was in the middle of the afternoon- not necessarily a prime time for finding the best furniture selection, but sometimes when you have a gut feeling that you're going to find something good, you're compelled to act on it. ;)

I walked in immediately and saw these nightstands marked down to $25 a piece.

It may be hard to see in this picture but they came with minor water damage in the top right-hand corner, a dirty and dusty finish and some minor scratches on the front and sides.

All common everyday furniture imperfections that you might also find on used furniture in your own local area. The good news!? They are all easy to remedy!

furniture before and after, painted furniture, painting furniture, painted nightstands, refinishing furniture, refinishing 2nd hand furniture, second hand furniture

Steps For Repairing and Painting Second Hand Furniture

1. Make Your Repairs

If the scratches are minor (not too deep) you can sand down the scratches until your imperfect area blends in with the rest of the surrounding surface.

If there are deep scratches, you can easily fill those in with 3M Bondo Wood Filler, let dry and then sand.

You can also typically sand down minor water damage marks.

I like to use this Orbit Sander to sand down the tops of my pieces. For all other light surface scratches, sanding by hand using a medium to light grit sandpaper works great!

sanding used furniture, how to sand and refinish furniture, how to repair furniture, how to prep furniture for paint

2. Prep Your Used Furniture

Before you paint, take off any hardware and consider storing it in one zip lock baggie. This makes it easy to find them when you're ready to re-reattach them.

Do you remember how dusty and dirty these were?

I used a Murphy's Wood Cleaner to quickly gave them a good wipe down. (If you use TSP, be sure to make sure you rinse off the solution really well.) 

You'll find that most DIY paint companies claim that you can use their paints with little or no prep. That's just not true. The MOST important thing you do to transform your used furniture IS THE prep!!

Some furniture pieces need an overall light sanding (especially if the finish has a lot of sheen to it or has a waxy build up from Pledge like products), but at a minimum take the time to wipe down your used furniture so that it's free of dirt, grime, and oils.

It only took me 40 minutes from start to finish to sand down the imperfections and wipe these nightstands down. And it was easy!

pure and original paint, fresco, lime paint, classico paint, using pure & original paint

3. Paint Your Furniture, Then Protect It

Select your paint brand and color(s). Some of my very favorite furniture paint brands can be found here!

For this thrift store furniture transformation, we mixed a beautiful custom grey hue using Pure & Original's Burned Sand and Black Classico Paint, then wet distressed them. 

After 24 hours, we sealed the nightstands with several coats of General Finishes High Performance in Flat.

This DIY furniture project was completed within 3 days (including drying time).

With minimal effort, minimal time and minimal money, we transformed a pair of second hand nightstands into this!

We're calling these The Mitzler Nightstands Project. What do you think? Is it a big improvement?

prepping furniture, painting furniture steps, painting furniture tutorial, thrift store makeover, second hand furniture makeovers

2nd hand furniture, thrift store furniture, where to buy used furniture, thrift store finds, repairing furniture

used furniture stores near me, used furniture, used furniture for sale, thrift store furniture, second hand furniture, how to refinish furniture

painting furniture, furniture makeover, pure and original paint, classico paint, furniture makeovers, painted nightstands

Pure & Original painted nightstands, Pure & Original furniture makeovers, second hand nightstands, how to refinish furniture

flipping furniture, thrift store furniture makeover, second hand furniture makeover, used furniture makeover, thrift store painted furniture, painted old furniture, grey furniture

What NOT TO DO When Refinishing Used Furniture

AND as promised, here is a quick look at one of my very first furniture before and after experiences transforming a second hand piece of furniture.

Below you'll find a few pointers on what NOT to do when you're refinishing used furniture. Learn from my mistakes, friends! :)

Take a good hard look at this before and after... 

distressing furniture, how to distress furniture, how to paint furniture, how to seal furniture, how to reupholster chairs, furniture tutorials

Here's What NOT To Do When Refinishing Used Furniture!:

Take Measurements

I'm giggling.. You may not have noticed but did you see my new seats? Did you catch how obnoxiously high my foam pad was? I wanted those chairs to be really cushy. And I definitely got cush!

But, as a new DIY-er, I forgot functionality.

Look how much room (or lack of) I gave my family to slide their legs underneath. Oops! ;) Don't be like me! Make sure to take measurements before you pick out your materials.

Furniture Distressing

Let's point out the obvious and talk about the distressing elephant in the room! 

When I first starting painting furniture, the process of distressing furniture stressed me out. Why? 

Because I didn't know how to distress furniture properly

Can you relate? My table looks like I literally took sandpaper and scratched the table back-n-forth in specific spots (because that's exactly what I did). In my opinion, distressing furniture should look natural, not deliberate

I've learned a few tricks since then! If you're struggling with how to distress your own furniture, check out our How To Distress Furniture Naturally tutorial. 

It's an easy technique that walks you through how to get the perfect naturally worn finish each and every time and it's definitely worth the read!

Select A Good Furniture Paint 

Using spray paint is certainly a choice, but its one that I would NEVER use again on wood furniture. 

There are so many BETTER looking furniture paints and finishes! Here are a few of my tried and true paints brands that I like!

Since furniture makes up such a large percentage of our homes expense, we can't replace furniture as often as we would like.

Rather than paying full price for furniture, consider transforming second hand pieces with a little elbow grease and a few supplies. I challenge you to give it a whirl!

Phew! That was a lot of VALUABLE furniture refinishing information! Sign up HERE to receive this in a PDF form so you'll always have this information to refer to!

Still not convinced? Stop by and see what my DIY Furniture Refinishing Friends did with these second hand furniture finds!

second hand furniture makeovers, thrift store furniture makeovers, 2nd hand furniture makeovers, used furniture makeovers, before and after furniture

1. Reviving a Craftsman Pedestal Table by 58 Water Street
2. How To Love Your Furniture When You Hate The Color by Just The Woods
3. Trying Out Wise Owl Chalk Synthesis Paint by That Sweet Tea Life
4. When In Doubt, Go With Red! by Whimsy and Wood
5. How To Transform Second Hand Furniture Easily by Thirty Eighth Street

If you enjoyed this article and found it helpful, we would love it if you would share it on Pinterest or Facebook! (This lets us know what kind of helpful resources and DIY furniture makeovers you'd like us to write about in the future!)

Happy Painting!
Carrie || Thirty Eighth Street

furniture painting, painting furniture ideas

old furniture, used furniture before and after, used furniture ideas, second hand furniture ideas, furniture makeover ideas, thrift store furniture ideas, used furniture, second hand furniture, thrift store makeovers

refinishing furniture tutorials, painted furniture lessons, painting furniture lessons, painted furniture tutorials, diy furniture, popular furniture makeovers


  1. Love this post Carrie! I see these end tables all the time here in TX. I may have to snatch a few up for small projects!

    1. Thanks, Crystal! I see them all the time here too! They were popular with the sled bed craze in the early 2000's. ;) I've seen them refinished in all kinds of colors. They look beautiful painted!

  2. Great post Carrie. And those nightstands are absolutely fabulous! I made the mistake of adding chalky type paint on mine and not sanding so it feels like chalk right now. Not the desired effect.

    1. Oh, I'm sorry! Did you seal them by chance? I really love General Finishes High Performance in Flat. It has a low sheen but great protection. I usually seal the tops of my high traffic pieces with at least 5 coats.

  3. Carrie...that color gray is gorgeous! Hope you wrote down the 'formula'...I'm still a furniture refinishing newbie and would love to find more pieces to hone my skills. Thanks for the tips.

    1. Thanks, Lynn! I fell in love with the custom color too! Mixing paint colors is a close runner up to actually painting the piece. Be patient as you look for your pieces. They are out there and you'll be glad you waited for that perfect one at the right price!

  4. I LOVE how you transformed these second hand pieces. The color is absolutely beautiful!! You make me feel like grabbing my keys and driving to my local Goodwill to hunt for a piece I too can paint. Thanks for the inspiration...NancyJeannete@ladyandthehouse.com

    1. Then, I have done my job right today! Thanks so much for the sweet compliment, Nancy! I hope you do venture out and have fun on your hunt!

  5. I love the makeover! The tables look great! Thanks for all the great tips too!

  6. Wonderful shopping tips and painting advice. I always tell myself, practice makes perfect. I love the tables. The color is fabulous.

    1. I loved how the custom paint color turned out too! And you are so right, the more you paint, the more you learn and feel comfortable doing it! Thanks for stopping by, Debra!

  7. Great tips from a master Carrie. I still have so much to learn when it comes to making over pieces of furniture and you've shared a wealth of information in one post. Pinning so I can come back again and again

    1. Awe, Michelle! You made my day! I'm so glad you found this post so helpful!!

  8. Carrie - does the General Finishes sealer cause paint to yellow? I know some sealers do. I want to avoid that. We are re-doing my daughter's bed, and some small accent pieces. Do you still recommend that same brand on white/light paint colors? Also, do you like the other finishes (satin or semi-gloss) do you recommend a different brand for that? Thanks! Love this blog. You are amazing.

    1. Hi Monica! I really like to use General Finishes High Performance to seal and protect my furniture pieces. I usually apply 5 coats to the surface areas (tops of dressers, nightstands, buffets, etc). You can get away with less coats for light traffic area projects. The sheen is a personal choice. I really like the look of waxed furniture pieces- but for most furniture pieces I just don't think wax holds up. I usually select a Flat finish because its the closest to mimicking a wax finish but with great durability. The only time I've ever had GFHP yellow on me is when I miss a drip. The collection of the HP in a lump does look somewhat yellowish. If you're painting a bed that has a chance for more drips- say a bed with lots of spindles you could add a smudge of paint to your top coat to tint it white. Pour out the amount of top coat you'll need, then add just barely any paint. That way if you happen to get a drip that goes unnoticed, the drip will at least be the same color as the paint. ;) If you're painting a flat surface headboard- I wouldn't bother with tinting the top coat- I've never had it yellow on me! Yay for fun projects! xoxo Hope that helps!

  9. Your tables look great. I love that color.
    Thanks for sharing at Waste Not Wednesday.

  10. Lots of great information in one post, Carrie. Your night stands are beautiful! And how lucky are you to have found a pair?! Thanks for sharing, Cynthia

  11. Thank you so much for sharing for Waste not Wednesday! you were my feature this week! We will be live at 10 pm EST!

  12. Great ideas. I always need new pointers when re-doing a piece of furniture. I have not used the Pure and Original paint yet so might just have to order some for my next project. Thanks for sharing your post at the Family Joy Blog Link Party this week!

    1. Melissa- You are going to fall in love with Pure & Original paint! The color choices are amazing too!

  13. What a great tutorial. I will be featuring this tonight at my Swing into Spring party that opens at 8pm EST. Please stop by and pick up an I've Been Featured button. Thanks. http://diybydesign.blogspot.com

  14. So may wonderful tips for someone who is starting out and also has been doing it for a while!

    1. I'm so glad you found some helpful tips! Thank you, Sam!

  15. Wow! Such a helpful resource. So glad I found this at the #HomeMattersParty. I've Pinned it to come back to later.

  16. Great Job! Thanks for sharing at Dishing It & Digging It!

  17. These look great! Thanks for giving us all the details of how you transformed these pieces. Great job!

    Thanks so much for joining the Grace at Home party at Imparting Grace. I'm featuring you this week!

    1. Thank you, Richella! Glad you enjoyed our nightstands!

  18. Lots of great information here for the DIY beginner. Thank you for sharing at Snickerdoodle. I am featuring your post today at the Snickerdoodle party.

  19. Great tips for upcycling furniture Carrie!!! pinning :)

    1. So glad you found it helpful, Tara! Thanks for stopping by! :)

  20. What a transformation! Beautiful!

  21. I absolutely love furniture flips! It's what got me started! And Craigslist is definitely my go to to find old furniture to refurbish! Great post!

  22. What great tips! I always love to see before and after pictures. I usually use chalk paint, but always seem to use spray point (I know, cringe ;) because I am just TOO impatient, but I usually have to touch our kitchen chairs up every year.... ;) mypeartreehome.com

    1. I'm glad you found our tips helpful! Spray painting is definitely a quick way to get a transformation. Sometimes its the best solution for things that will need touch ups frequently. No cringing here! :) Thanks for stopping by, Morgan!

  23. Girl, I'm way too embarrassed to post my earliest projects! ������ good for you, and yes yes yes to all of your tips!

    1. I bet even your earliest projects are stunning! So glad we get to keep learning and evolving!

  24. I love how you flip furniture, you have great taste & I love this blog! I do have a question, I am starting to refinish furniture, I often add a light stain to the inside of the wood drawers. Mainly because I want to preserve the wood. Is this wrong? Have you ever stained the inside of dresser drawers?

    1. Thank you, Amy!! I have never taken the time to stain the inside of a dresser drawer but, I don't think that it's wrong. Some people line their drawers with paper. I would chop it up to a personal choice. :) I think the only down sides that I can see to using stain on the inside of a drawer would be 1. Your time. and 2. Stain usually has a strong odor. I would think you would need to air out the drawers for a lengthy period of time before you could put clothes in it? If you have additional questions about refinishing furniture, ask away! It's so nice to hear from you!

  25. Thank yo so much for your response! I am redoing a dresser for a friend. I think I am going to leave the drawers plain in case she wants to refinish it again in the future.

    Thanks again!

  26. Just found this post. Love this transformation. I just purchased two nightstands at a consignment store and would love to make them look like these. Any chance you remember the custom stain amounts of each of the two colors? Thanks in advance.

    1. I'm sorry, I don't remember the exact measurements. I added small amounts of Black to the Burned Sand until I got just the right shade of dark grey. I probably used half a quart of paint total for both nightstands? I hope that helps!

  27. Love your before and afters. I've never painted furniture and have a question in regards to painting... are furniture paints designed to be distressed? Can I simply paint it on and then top coat it to get a sleek look? TIA!

    1. Some furniture paints like milk paint are designed to give you a distressed and worn look and will leave a "chippy" finished it applied with straight milk paint. However, other chalk and clay based furniture paints don't automatically give you a distressed look. You have sand it or wet distress it in order for it to look distressed. You can get a nice sleek look from furniture paint. I recommend General Finishes or Dixie Belle Paint to get a really nice full coverage look. Hope that helps!

  28. Thanks! Love this post Carrie! I see these end tables all the time here in TX. I may have to snatch a few up for small projects!