Published on March 26, 2019

This might seem like a strange confession for a home editor, but I’ll be honest: I rarely buy furniture unless it’s discounted. It’s a habit I’ve had since I first moved out of my parents’ home.

When I was furnishing my first apartment in Montreal, I bought a tulip table and chairs from a guy on Craigslist that liked collecting mid-century furniture. I’m pretty sure I paid no more than $200 for the whole set. Later on, I got into the habit of waking up at 7 am to hit my local estate sales before everyone else arrived. There, I scored brass bookcases for under $100 (for a pair), countless vintage artwork, and more.

Years ago, I scored a great deal on a rug that I’m pretty convinced had been mispriced—think $350 instead of $1,350—from a retailer that shall remain unnamed. How did I know it might have been a mistake? The 9×12 rug was significantly less expensive than the exact same rug in an 8×10 size. The store corrected the price the following week.

Now that my taste has evolved, I scour online auctions for high-end pieces I could never otherwise afford. I still dream of the day I’ll stumble upon a Jean Royère Ours Polaire sofa, but in the meantime, I’ve scored some great deals. The point is: You don’t have to spend a small fortune to create a stylish, layered home. Here’s how I do it.

Flea Markets

Flea markets are some of the best places to source great furniture finds at a fraction of the price, so LA’s Rose Bowl and Paris’s Les Puces are always high on my list when I travel. When I’m home, I use eBay as my online flea market. The best part: I can set alerts for items I’d like to buy and let the sales come to me instead of thrifting around.

Auctions

A high-end antique dealer once warned me to never buy from antique stores or gallerists and to look for estate sales or auctions instead. One of his favorite online sources is Live Auctioneers, which corrals auction houses from around the world, making it easy to place bids on items you want to get at a major discount. The trick: knowing exactly what you’re shopping for. While the hunt may take longer, it’ll be all worth it once you get a Tobia Scarpa sofa at a tenth of the price.

Estate Sales

Estate sales are a great way to scour for vintage home goods at a fraction of the price. You may not always come across what you’re looking for, but with the help of a few alerts and some digging, you can find seriously great deals. A prime example: this African Senufo wooden stool that recently sold for $100 and can often be upwards of $1,000 in more high-end stores.

Trunk Shows

If you’re looking for high-end design but you don’t necessarily want to pay full price, keep an eye out for trunk shows, which can sometimes offer discounts on collections before they’re released. Sites like Moda Operandi have perfected the model and can be a treasure trove of original designs you wouldn’t find elsewhere.

Vintage Shops

In many ways, the internet has transformed the way we shop for vintage furniture and decor. And while eBay may be great for alerts, other highly curated websites make it easier to discover things you may not come across on larger platforms. Some of my favorite sources are Chairish, 1stdibs, and Pamono, which all offer their own curated shopping experience. The trick: Always head to the sale section first and set alerts to get notified when items you love go on sale.

Flash Sales

Flash sales were all the rage a decade ago when sites like Gilt and One Kings Lane revolutionized the way we shop for home decor, and while the sites have now both diversified to include larger catalogs, there are still some serious deals to be made if you visit the sites often: think Le Creuset cookware, Matouk sheets, and an ever-evolving clearance section.

Discount Apps

Even when shopping on mass retailer sites, there are ways to avoid paying full price. For instance, always getting into the habit of visiting the sale section first, as these products don’t always show up in other sections. As for getting that last-minute deal: A plug-in like Honey will help you access discounts you never even knew existed.

Seasonal Sales

When shopping for big-ticket items like a sofa or a bed, it’s worth waiting a few extra weeks to reap the benefits of a public holiday sale. While we all know the magic of Black Friday deals, other smaller holidays like President’s Day or even Easter weekend are also worth their weight in gold when it comes to savings. Sites like Design Within Reach also have their own yearly schedules, with yearly sales like Herman Miller in June and Knoll Classics in September, so learn the sale patterns of your favorite retailers to save big when the time comes.

Online Outlets

Outlet malls aren’t always worth the trek, especially when you live in a city like New York where the closest option requires a rental car, but many retailers are now taking their outlets online. Sites like Barneys Warehouse and Nordstrom Rack are surprisingly full of great home deals, while retail giant Overstock is essentially dedicated to the outlet furniture model online. Never underestimate the power of a good outlet deal.

Consignment Shops

We often think of consignment shops when it comes to high-end fashion, but sites like TheRealReal now have extensive home sections filled with real people’s unwanted homewares. This isn’t your local garage sale either: think Arne Jacobsen chairs, Hermès throws, fine art, and more—all in one spot.

Discover more of our favorite decorating tips:

Sarah Sherman Samuel, Nate Berkus, and More Share Their First Apartment Mistakes
The One Thing I Wish I Knew Before I Moved Into My Rental
7 Overdecorating Mistakes You’ll Never See a Designer Make

Discussion