How to Furnish a Home With Sustainable Secondhand Furniture

Homebuyers here in Chicagoland and around the country are seriously focused on sustainability. According to a poll from, 85 percent of people surveyed said they would like to own an eco-friendly home, with 68 percent saying that they would pay more money for an eco-friendly residence.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to start making your current home more environmentally friendly, without breaking the bank. Reducing your footprint and making your home more green starts with taking a few conscious steps — from embracing smart appliances and programmable thermostats, to making mindful choices in your garden, to adding insulation that can help lower your utility costs year-round. And did you know that you can also help the planet while furnishing your home? 

A recent report from Apartment Therapy highlights the positive impact of “sprucing up your place with sustainability in mind” — by focusing on upcycling when selecting your furniture and decor. As writer Caroline Biggs puts it: 

Whether you’re on a tight budget or planning for a major eco-friendly interior overhaul, there’s one simple but highly effective decor swap that designers say can help lower your home’s negative impact on the environment. It’s as easy as shopping for used furniture items instead of buying brand new pieces when outfitting your space.

Opting for secondhand or repurposed furniture can help divert materials away from landfills and cut down on waste, deforestation, and emissions — all while empowering you to fill your space with pieces that come preloaded with history, charm, and character to spare. 

Indeed, there is a big push for reused materials and sustainable pieces in home design in today’s market; opting for repurposed or reused furniture and products made from sustainable materials is one of 2021’s top design trends. 

Savvy designers and homeowners have also been gaining a renewed appreciation for mixing classic pieces with more modern finishes, blending the old and the new to create a style that is neither fully traditional nor entirely modern. Many are embracing an aesthetic that has been labeled “grandmillennial,” which is all about adopting retro, vintage, and antique elements, combining them with modern flourishes, and creating an aesthetic that is totally unique. 

Looking for a little inspiration to get started? Here are a few ideas for repurposing, recycling, and upcycling sustainable secondhand furniture and decor for your Chicagoland home: 

Finding Your Style

Just as you should build out your list of wants and needs when purchasing a home, furnishing your space is all about figuring out your unique goals and vision. 

Is your style more industrial chic, or modern farmhouse? Do you want to focus on timeless pieces that could belong to any era, or are you more interested in creating a midcentury modern marvel, or an Art Deco throwback? Do you want to unite everything around one color scheme, or go more eclectic? Do you want to focus your budget on one or two showstopper pieces, or look for a few smaller elements you can place throughout your home? There are no right or wrong answers; it’s all about finding what works for you! 

It’s also important to think about functionality. Think carefully about each space in your home, and how you use it. The chairs and shelves you choose for your home office, for instance, may not be the same you would use in your living room. Do you want pieces that can help make entertaining easier? That can stand up to a home full of active kids and pets? 

Fortunately, there are all sorts of ways to figure out these big questions. Spend your time perusing design and decor blogs and websites, or pick up a few interior design-focused magazines from your nearest store. Talk to your friends and family for ideas, or consult with an experienced professional designer or stager.

Write down the ideas that appeal to you, and start looking for pieces that match your criteria. For instance, as one designer explains to Apartment Therapy, you could start by finding pieces that inspire you online, taking a photo or screenshot, and then using that to guide your search in secondhand or vintage stores around Chicagoland. 

Restore, Refurbish, and Repurpose

Remember that a sustainable lifestyle involves making mindful and pragmatic choices. 

For instance, rather than purchasing an entirely new item, think about how you can upcycle items around your home. Try getting inspired by the materials and pieces you already have on hand. Could that dresser drawer become a fun dog bed? Could your oldest blankets be repurposed as curtains or dish rags? Could that old storage unit be refashioned into an outdoor planter?

Similarly, think about the possibility of restoring pieces, rather than tossing them out. For instance, if you have an old chair with a stained lining, it may be possible to get the piece reupholstered with an eco-friendly material, rather than buying an entirely new item. There are also many DIY ways to freshen up and restore wooden and metal surfaces, from adding a touch of paint or stain to seamlessly removing scratches and knicks. 

You can also make old pieces feel like new by making a few small substitutions — by, say, changing the lampshade on your favorite light, or putting your favorite piece of artwork into a fresh frame. 

Where to Find Vintage Furniture Around Chicagoland

Here in Chicagoland, you’ll find history around every corner. From the city to the suburbs, you’re never far from an amazing source of lovingly collected or beautifully restored secondhand furniture or vintage decor. 

Here are a few resources that can help you start your search for secondhand stores, retro boutiques, outdoor fairs, and affordable flea markets around the area: 

When Home Means More, You Need a Team With More to Offer

Is your home working for you? For many of us, the way we think about our homes has changed — and that might mean you’re ready to make a move to find one that better fits where you are now. 

Home is about so much more than just four walls. Buying or selling a home is a big deal, and with everything we experienced in 2020, our homes have never been more important. That’s why your local Baird & Warner agent is with you at every step of the way, with the tools and support you need to make your real estate journey easier — including in-house connections with local experts in mortgage and title. 

So whether you’re looking for your starter home or you’re ready to move on from one, your Baird & Warner agent can help you through every part of the buying and selling process. 

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