A Style Expert’s Guide to Sourcing the Best Bargain Furniture Online

The internet has provided us with a lot of amazing things, from sites like Zoom that allow us to stay in contact with loved ones virtually to search engines that hold endless amounts of free information about literally any subject you could think of. One of our favourite things to do though is to scour the net for furniture bargains. Gumtree, eBay, Facebook Marketplace—we're always on the lookout for the perfect set of Thonet dining chairs or Parker sideboard to add to our own home. There's a bit of an art to it, so we enlisted the expertise of stylist, author and expert furniture-hunter Jessica Bellef to provide us with all of her online furniture shopping hacks to secure the best pieces.

Where to look

When it comes to the best places on the internet to look for bargain furniture pieces, Jess lists Handkrafted as a great place to start to peruse a curated list of the best Australian furniture designers and artisans. She adds "there are lots of beautiful handmade, highly crafted pieces to drool over, and it’s always good to support Australian talent and locally made products". Jess is also a big fan of Instagram and Etsy to uncover new artists and designers that could be selling your next perfect bargain piece.

Planning

Now, it's time to talk tactics. With the right planning, you'll be sure you're sourcing and selecting the right pieces for you and weeding out the duds in the process. Jess tells us to "get specific about what it is you actually need and write a list". For example, "if you are looking for a desk, do you need it to have drawers for storage? Does it need to be narrow to fit into a tight space?" she adds. By fine-tuning your search to begin with, you'll save a lot of time (and possibly tears) down the track.

Jess also tells us that mood boarding is a really important part of your interior design process and can help to narrow your thinking down even further, making it easier to know when you've stumbled on a piece to buy. She explains that "it helps visualise the end goal and streamline the sourcing process". Jess suggests that Instagram and Pinterest are the perfect avenues to begin liking and saving images that you're drawn to so that you can start to identify colours, styles and reoccurring materials that you instinctively love.

To avoid any heartbreak, Jess advises creating a budget from the get-go so that you're not shopping for "champagne on a beer budget". Be realistic about what you can afford and use the search filters on websites so that you're always looking at pieces that fit within your specific budget. Another great tip from Jess is to get clever with word searches. "Use www.thesaurus.com to find similar words to expand your furniture search. For example, other words for sofa could be: lounge, couch, daybed, chaise, chesterfield, settee, loveseat, divan, futon etc".

What to look for

"Always, always check and double check the dimensions", Jess says. To make sure you're going to have space for your new bargain find, get out the measuring tape or ruler and plan out where it will go within your room. Jess adds that "often the product image online won’t give you an idea of the scale of a piece and it can be really deceiving". Another decorating hack that she mentions is the importance of mixing things up. Jess warns that "if you buy a mass of decor from one store, your house is going to look like a staged show home". To avoid a clinical feeling at home, "include vintage and handmade pieces, and things you’ve collected on your travels". For anyone looking to purchase a beautiful lamp online, Jess has an important tip: "check they are compatible with Australian voltage and ask if they have been safety checked by an electrician". No one wants a blown fuse and a broken lamp!

What to pay

This part of the process can be tricky when bargain shopping for furniture online. There are so many factors that determine the price of each piece, but Jess recommends using trusty Google initially. "Use Google to gauge the going price of the piece or a comparable style. Use Google reverse image search and the Google shopping tab." The other thing that Jess mentions is the materials your pieces are made from. She explains that "natural materials like solid timber, leather, brass etc can cost more than their synthetic counterparts, but they will age well and last longer, so are often worth the added spend". Also, don't forget to factor in the cost of delivery "as sometimes that can double the price".

Jess's best bargain find

We know that Jess's home is filled to the brim with gorgeous one-off pieces that she's sourced over her career as a stylist, so we wanted to know what her absolute best online score is. Her answer: "there have been many! I am pretty frugal (ok, I am a cheapskate!) and I love a bargain". If she had to choose just one piece, she told us that "I am extra fond of the second hand G Plan sideboard I found for my front entryway. It’s a beautiful teak piece which I paid $200 for".

We're obsessed: The 9 Australian artisans we're shopping on Instagram right now.

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