Jennifer Williams of Crow Trading Co. shared some tips on decorating with vintage or antique pieces:
¢ Decorate with pieces you love. Go with what you like and will work for your lifestyle.
¢ Don't be afraid to decorate in an eclectic style, mixing styles and ages of furniture. "A clean-lined red painted antique Chinese cabinet can look great with your great-grandmother's Victorian chair."
¢ Families with children can incorporate antique furniture into their decor, too. "Some people think of antiques as being too fragile for an active family," she said. "Many of the pieces we sell have been around for generations and have many years of use and enjoyment left."
MODESTO, CALIF. When Kristin and John Webb were ready to buy furniture for their home, they didn't go to a showroom or big-box store in search of brand-new pieces.
Instead, they headed to Crow Trading Co., a Modesto, Calif., store that sells antique and vintage furniture, decor, accessories and collectibles.
Money was a concern for the first-time homeowners, who recently moved from Los Angeles to Turlock, Calif., Kristin Webb's hometown.
With a new mortgage and a 15-month-old toddler, "we were trying to find things we can afford," said Kristin Webb, 36. "It's not like we have money to burn."
At the store, they found a "really cool" 100-year-old solid wood Asian buffet-style cabinet.
"We'll backlight it and put all of our wine and martini glasses in it," she said.
Webb loves its unique look and that it's a multifunctional piece that can be used in any room.
"It's not that I won't buy new pieces," she said. "But from a design standpoint, I don't want my whole house looking like a Pottery Barn catalog."
With uncertain economic times ahead and high prices on everything from food to gasoline, many consumers are watching their hard-earned dollars more carefully.
Unable - or unwilling - to plop down hundreds of bucks on brand-new couches, beds, armoires, coffee tables and such, shoppers are taking a fresh look at consignment, antique and used-furniture stores.
Used furniture can be found all over: in thrift shops such as Buy-Rite and charity-affiliated stores such as Goodwill, the American Cancer Society's Discovery shops and Community Hospice's Hope Chest. There also are consignment stores.
How a typical consignment store works: An employee evaluates the merchandise a person wants to sell and assigns a fixed price based on its condition. The piece is then displayed in the store for sale.
When someone buys it, the store keeps a previously agreed-upon percentage, which can range from 40 to 60 percent of the selling price. The rest goes to the original owner. Consignment is an option for people with gently used furniture to sell who don't want to deal directly with potential buyers or haggle over price as they would at a garage sale.
J.S. West Bargain Annex and K.P.'s Consignment are two Modesto stores that buy and sell pieces on consignment.
K.P.'s, in business since 2004, carries everything from armoires and chaise lounges to sectionals and dining-room sets.
J.S. West's Bargain Annex, which carries used and new discount furniture, has offered consignment services since the early 1980s, according to store manager Donna Sinchak.
"We get customers who want gently used furniture," she said. "Sometimes people get tired of their homes having the same old look but they don't want to spend a lot" to redecorate.
There are also those who come there to sell their stuff.
"We get people who are downsizing," Sinchak added, "including retirees moving into smaller quarters."
The Bargain Annex does a 50-50 split with its consignees. If a piece doesn't sell in 90 days, the owner receives 50 percent of the final marked sale price.
Ellen Bobian of Modesto has been a regular at the Bargain Annex store on Eighth Street for about 10 years.
"I don't buy anything new anymore," said Bobian, 62. "Why, if you can find something just as good - if not better - at a lower price?"
Bobian said she likes to change her furniture often, so she buys and sells items on consignment at the Bargain Annex all the time. Previous acquisitions include a Victorian-style settee with a matching chair, a Flexsteel couch and a buffet.
"I paid $600 for the Flexsteel couch," Bobian said. "I saw the same couch in a store and it was $3,000."
There have been occasions when she waited to buy an item to see if the price would be reduced, and her patience paid off. But a few times, she delayed too long and missed out. But that comes with the territory, she said.
Just for kids
Stores such as Once Upon a Child and Little Ones, both in Modesto, Calif., specialize in children's merchandise.
Katie Hansen opened Little Ones in the Roseburg Square shopping center in June. The store is different from a typical consignment store because it buys items outright, said Hansen.
"It's a good business to be in because babies are always being born," she said.
In addition to clothing, toys and strollers, the store has infant and toddler furniture: cribs, bassinets, high chairs, beds and bookshelves. The store's furniture inventory varies depending on what people have brought in.
People come into the store "looking for good deals because they're tired of the high prices in regular stores."
"A lot of people are struggling," she said. "Everybody wants to save a penny."
The most requested items are cribs, she said.
Hansen said she gets a lot of business from grandparents who want a whole setup for their own house - a crib, changing table, high chair, swing, etc. - for their grandchildren when they visit.
Shops that sell used children's furniture, especially nursery items, usually have strict requirements regarding what they will and won't accept.
"It has to be clean and in good, resale condition," Hansen said. "No broken or missing pieces, no rips."
She's also likely to turn away furniture that is six or more years old because of safety concerns.
Parents who want to sell their gently used nursery furniture should do a bit of homework.
"Customers should call first to make sure we're accepting what they want to sell," Hansen advised.
They should also have the item's manufacturer, make and model information on hand. Store employees will check to make sure the item has not been recalled.
Hansen said any used item brought to her store should be assembled so she can verify its condition. And, she added, potential sellers should have realistic expectations about pricing. She prices nothing in her store over 60 percent of retail value.
Nothing beats a bargain
Kristin Webb of Turlock, Calif., said that although she does have some newer furniture, when it comes to substantial pieces - such as the buffet cabinet from Crow Trading Co. - she prefers old over new any day.
"It lasts forever and is visually interesting," she said. "To get what we got, if we went into a store and bought something similar brand new, we would have paid double the price. I felt like I got a great deal."