An expert’s guide to treasure hunting for second hand home furnishings
Second hand furniture can add a unique edge to your home, as well as being better for the environment, and often easier on your wallet. Interior designer Deirdre O'Connell shares her tips for sourcing a great find in Ireland.
Scouring for second-hand furniture isn’t for everyone, but its advantages have never been so great. There is the obvious, generally large, financial saving, all the while doing your major bit for climate change, but with global material shortages and long, changeable, shipping delays, wait time for decent furniture can now regularly be 25, 30, even 40 weeks.
For this variety of reasons, more and more of us are turning to local vintage, antique and “pre-loved” finds to furnish our homes, and with a little thought, it can achieve a gorgeous look.
As a designer, I avoid anything too perfect, or anything too dated and fussy. I like contemporary schemes, of bright rooms with charming furniture and interesting touches. I love the mix of the old and the new.
To find treasures of old, I’ve made a list of the places you can source a range of furniture, collectibles, homewares, and bric-a-brac.
Ireland has wonderful, second-hand marketplaces like Done Deal, Adverts.ie, and Gumtree, which are free to sell on and easy to navigate. In the search bars, use brand names or shops, like “Neptune”, “Bo Concept”, “Casey’s Furniture” or “Ventura” to discovery any items from valued furniture names.
A more specific furniture marketplace is the charming Gaff Shop Interiors. They ask sellers to photograph their items really well, for a tidy shop-front look to its webpage. I feel a number of vintage and antique trade sellers use this page too so there are often new items for sale.
I check these sites regularly and find they often have ex display goodies or furniture from show homes. You’ll find seriously good bargains. When you see a good listing, check out the seller’s other ads to see if they have other interesting items. If you find an item that’s almost perfect, remember small tweaks are easy to make. If the leg colour of an armchair is wrong, they can be sprayed or stained to match your other room finishes. A new lampshade refreshes an old lamp. Some contemporary eucalyptus twigs transform a plain coloured, tall vase.
The latter, 1st Dibs, is world-class in its vintage designer listings and is regularly used by interior designers for antique and modern furniture and you’ll see its name regularly in the sourcebooks of design magazines. Note, even vintage designer furniture doesn’t come cheap; I like to browse, and I start my search from “Price Low To High”, you’ll get the gist!
Facebook Marketplace features homeware items and it is a quick and easy resource for finding things, helpfully near your location.
Instagram is a design-lovers haven and there are a number of nice Irish, second-hand home furnishing pages. Refunk sells nicely upcycled pieces, and for bargain hunters, Shop_Dtale is a collection of second-hand home-objects and wall décor.
The Charity Shops
Who doesn’t love a good rummage?! Irish charity shops are second to none for their inexpensive, pre-used furniture and homeware. Thankfully the rooting isn’t as intense as the clothes rummaging, as most charity shops have a corner home section in store, with bric-a-brac and smaller accessories, and often with a 50% sale on.
The jewel in the crown are the dedicated home furnishing charity shops. Oxfam Home on Francis Street in Dublin is a huge shop with space for sofas, tables, wardrobes and sideboards.
NCBI have a number of dedicated home and furniture warehouses, most notably on Francis Street; a huge unit in Cherry Orchard and its largest home store on Mungret Street in Limerick.
The Antique Shops
I mentioned Francis Street already, and a pleasant Saturday stroll in Dublin 8 allows you to visit the charity stores, and the gorgeous Irish antique shops, all in one afternoon.
These galleries of renowned furniture are distinctly more specialist and historically important (with price tags to match!) but vintage none the less and a source of great inspiration if you’re passing through.
Don’t miss the wonderful Anonymous at the end of Francis Street for their quirky, colourful collection of mid century and art deco vibe furniture, cool posters and wall art.
Outside the Pale, the treasure trove that is The Store Yard in Portlaoise (and an outlet in Youghal, Cork too) is an interior designer’s dream and worth a trip to the midlands specifically! Its huge warehouse, full of rooms of salvaged, vintage, period, antique and retro furniture, along with stores of fabrics, curios and garden stuff, is unbeatable.
While you’re in Laois, don’t miss Acquired’s awesome, mid-century showroom in Stradbally, in the Millers House; a beautiful 19th century old mill in the heart of the village.
While we all miss the famous Brocante Market at Dublin Liberties and the now, closed Harold’s Cross Bazaar, if you’ve a car, and a very understanding buddy, drag them around West Dublin for a few hours. A word of warning, these flea markets are not furniture-specific but you’d never know what you might spot in the general rough and tumble.
A Saturday jaunt to The Glen Abbey Market in Tallaght is a life experience. With a few furniture and homeware ‘stalls’, I picked up some nice, intact coffee table design books here.
Delia’s Gallery off the Long Mile Road is an absolute gem of second hand stuff. They clear-out old houses and business premises, so amongst all the ‘stock’ of old beds, lockers, tables and office chairs, you might find a few nice accessories or lamps. This one ain’t for the faint hearted!
Post-lockdown, it’s great to know that Vintage Ireland are running their antiques pop-up fairs again, at locations around Ireland at the weekends.
On the northside of Cork city, the Victorian Quarter has the pretty Mother Jones Flea Market which has a number of dedicated homeware and accessories stalls, and just across the road, don’t miss Salvagem Antique Furniture store which carries some seriously beautiful fine antiques and collectables and a gorgeous old store.
The Salvage Yards
For bigger ticket furniture items and home building and garden ware, check out the salvage yards. The mothership, Macs Warehouse in Dublin 8 never fails to impress for church pews, stained glass windows and commercial steel kitchens (!) and they carry some newer items like mirrors and funky garden décor.
Take a day trip to the Kilkenny Architectural Salvage which is a feast of possibilities including vintage sanitary and homeware.
On the way stop at Kingswood Architectural Salvage, which is an easy stop off the N7 motorway before Rathcoole.
You also pass BG Salvage in Naas, a mass of fine salvaged particulars.
All the salvage shops list online, but a day trip (with an empty car boot) is more rewarding.
There is a great sub-culture to the second-hand furniture world. In my experience, things tend to be memorable; you’ll have a funny story to tell, you’ll encounter hilarious characters, or you’ll learn the hard way about measuring up!
While there are obviously no refunds with second hand furniture, it’s worth remembering that whatever you have, you can resell! Photograph it and list it again on Done Deal, Gaff or Adverts. I’ve become as much a seller as I am a buyer.
I am always an advocate of guiding clients to resell old furniture, those lucky enough to have money for full refurbishments tend to need to get rid of furniture in advance. Unfortunately redecorating often means out with the old, in with the new, so the second-hand world often gets amazing items.
And all to keep that circle economy turning!
Deirdre O’Connell is a Dublin based freelance interior designer and design writer. www.dtale.design