May 26, 2024

What to look for when buying used furniture at thrift stores

Darren Keefe, cohost of HGTV’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” will present at the Southern Ideal Home Show at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds, April 8-10.

Darren Keefe, cohost of HGTV’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” will present at the Southern Ideal Home Show at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds, April 8-10.

Courtesy of Marketplace Events

Repair, repurpose and reuse.

Those are the three Rs to keep in mind when searching for used furniture, says HGTV star Darren Keefe, who appears at this weekend’s Southern Ideal Home Show in Raleigh.

Keefe, co-host of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” is a skilled tradesman and furniture maker whose “focus is spreading kindness and humor through design and every day DIY.” He’s a big proponent of seeking out quality used furniture instead of buying lower quality, mass-produced items.

Keefe appears at this weekend’s three-day event at the NC State Fairgrounds, which runs from April 8-10. The News & Observer talked to him about his passion for quality furniture, and how shopping at thrift stores can be an economical way to add long-lasting pieces to your home.

At the bottom of the story, you’ll find information about the Southern Ideal Home Show and how you can attend and see Keefe in person.

Why is buying quality furniture important?

You might think the old saying, “they don’t make ‘em like they used to,” is just a cliche. But when it comes to furniture, that really is often the case, Keefe said.

The furniture that was produced 50 to 100 years ago, or even earlier, was generally built with quality materials that were made to last. The craftsmanship, with features like mortise and tenon joinery, add to the durability and longevity of older pieces, Keefe said.

“I think that when people bought furniture, you know, a couple centuries ago, they bought it for a lifetime,” Keefe said. “It was something that they expected to pass on through generations. They were buying heirlooms.”

Now, though, furniture is often mass-produced, using less substantial materials, such as particle board. Those materials likely won’t last, and they don’t have as much character as older, antique pieces.

“You can’t expect those items to be handed down,” Keefe said. “They’re going to pick up water damage very easily. They’re just not going to last.”

Keefe’s top tips for thrifting quality furniture

If you’re looking to add quality furniture to your home or other living spaces, it could be hard to find pieces brand new, unless you’re shopping at a high-end, expensive furniture store.

It’s easier, and more affordable, Keefe said, to shop for quality furniture secondhand — or even repurpose items that you already have.

Keefe identified the “three Rs” for shopping for quality furniture, plus some other tips:

Reuse. Look for quality pieces at thrift stores or other secondhand shops, including antique stores. By buying secondhand, you’re reusing pieces that others have decided don’t work well in their own homes, giving the pieces new life. And this tip goes both ways: if you have quality furniture in your home that you don’t want anymore, try donating it and letting others find use for it in their own space.

Repair. “Wood glue is your friend,” Keefe said. Some furniture pieces you get might need some extra love before they can truly shine in your space, especially if they’re older. That might involve just sanding down a piece, or it could involve bigger repairs. Don’t be afraid to work on pieces to make them work.

Repurpose. Find a piece that you love the shape of, but you hate the color? Or maybe you’d like to use a piece for a different purpose than it was originally intended. Keefe recommends repurposing pieces to fit your design preferences and lifestyle. Try changing up the color of a piece with paint or stains, or adding new hardware or knobs.

Not sure if you’re getting a quality, long-lasting piece of furniture when you’re out at the thrift store? Keefe recommended checking the back of furniture. If the piece is made of particle board, the back will likely be a dead giveaway.

Have fun. Keefe recommends thinking about thrifting and identifying furniture for your living space as an activity that you can have fun with. Try bringing your family or friends along for your thrift store adventures, or even think about each project and piece of furniture as a work of art. And the good news? In most cases, mistakes are reversible or able to be hidden. Don’t worry too much or put too much pressure on yourself to get things perfect.

Darren Keefe (1_fitted.jpeg
Darren Keefe, cohost of HGTV’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” will present at the Southern Ideal Home Show at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds, April 8-10. Courtesy of Marketplace Events

More information about the Southern Ideal Home Show

The Southern Ideal Home Show features more than 250 booths where you can shop exclusive deals from vendors, chat with industry experts and glean inspiration.

The show is held this weekend, April 8-10, at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds (4285 Trinity Road, Raleigh).

More details:

The event runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on April 8 and 9, and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on April 10.

The event will be held in two buildings at the State Fairgrounds: the Exposition Center and the Jim Graham Building. You can enter the event at either building. Will call will be located in the Exposition Center.

Parking for the event is free. You can enter on Hillsborough Street, Youth Center Road and Trinity Road.

The event requires tickets, which can be purchased online in advance or on-site at the fairgrounds. To purchase tickets online, visit

Tickets for attendees ages 13 and up are $9 if purchased online, and $12 if purchased on-site at the box office.

Children ages 12 and under can attend the event for free if they are accompanied by a paying adult.

The show is offering discounted rates to some groups on certain days of the event.

Seniors (ages 60 and older) can attend for $7 on Friday, April 8. Tickets must be purchased at the box office and you must present a valid ID to receive the discount.

Friday is also “Hero Day.” All active military personnel, veterans, firefighters, police and other first responders can attend the show for free on Friday only. Present a valid ID at the box office to receive your ticket.

Sunday is “Teacher Day.” Teachers and school staff can attend the show for free on Sunday only. Present a valid faculty ID at the box office to receive your ticket.

Curious about which vendors are going to be at the event? You can find a full list of exhibitors for the show at

How to see Darren Keefe at the Southern Ideal Home Show

Keefe will present live on the Fresh Ideas Stage and teach attendees how to make a simple garden bed at the following times during this weekend’s home show:

Friday, April 8, at 1 p.m.

Saturday, April 9, at 1 p.m.

The presentation will also include a question-and-answer segment with the HGTV star.

Learn more about Keefe ahead of the event at and

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer

Korie Dean is a reporter on The News & Observer’s service journalism team. She is a graduate of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at UNC-Chapel Hill and a lifelong North Carolinian.