Monday, April 18, 2016

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The Amazing New Way to Buy Chic Secondhand Furniture

The rest of the room is a work in progress, but the couch? We're together for life. 

Last year, when I began decorating our new house, I knew that I wanted a curated vibe—a home that was the product of my travels, antiquing trips, and thoughtful decorating, not something I threw together with a couple Target runs. I knew this would take time (that’s my excuse for my half-decorated house!), and sometimes, it meant getting a little creative with my sourcing: I bought my dining room sideboard at a small antique shop in Baltimore, my vintage folding screen and kitchen chandelier on Craigslist, my dining room table on Ebay, and I had my living room chairs custom-made—not to mention the dozens of thrift stores I’ve scoured along the way for smaller pieces of furniture and home accessories. 

But when it came time to find a couch for my sunroom—a small room off the foyer with windows on three sides—I was stumped. The couch I’d purchased for the living room was, much to my husband’s chagrin, a bit on the firm side—definitely not one you’d sink into to read a book. So I wanted something super-comfortable, but with style. Enter Viyet, a website I’d never heard of until Google led me there. (I was searching random things, like “botanical print sofa” in this case, that I thought might lead me to an interesting couch.)

Viyet, a company launched from a one-bedroom apartment in New York City, is among a flock of recently churned-out websites—Chairish is another example—for buying and selling secondhand furniture. 

What sets these ventures apart from Craigslist is the guarantee of quality—you don’t have to sift through a dozen avocado-green couches from 1975 before finding a gem. Viyet is especially useful if you’re unskilled at spotting diamonds in the rough online: Curators—many of whom are renowned interior designers—review photos of items that users submit to sell, and only choose the pieces that satisfy their aesthetic sensibilities. If an item is selected, Viyet sends out a photographer to take a few professional photos of it, which means you don’t have to try to judge the quality of an item from a few poorly-lit, grainy cellphone shots. 

In the case of my sofa, the curator was Martin Lawrence Bullard, who was named a top interior designer by Architectural Digest and featured on Bravo’s Million Dollar Decorators. In other words, I could trust that the couch would be beautiful to look at, but also beautifully constructed. 

Although I didn't love the red accent pillows (which I ended up simply flipping backwards), everything else about the couch caught my eye. 

When I clicked on the Viyet listing for the sofa, I instantly fell in love—it had a beautiful botanical pattern of birds and leaves, and looked more than deep enough for napping or reading. One problem: The listing was for a pair of sofas—and my sunroom could definitely only accommodate one. So I reached out to Viyet and asked if the consignor would consider breaking up the pair. Another request: The listing said that one couch was stained, and I wanted to make sure I bought the clean one. The seller agreed to both conditions, but I still wasn’t quite ready to commit to shelling out the asking price. So I made an offer—another great feature of the site, which allows you to negotiate with sellers. Two days later, my offer was accepted (and, in addition, I had a $100 coupon since I was a first-time buyer). 

This helped offset one of the more painful parts of the process: shipping. Unlike sites like Overstock or Wayfair, shipping is far from free—I had to shell out a few hundred dollars for white-glove, cross-country delivery (the sofa was in California). And then there was the waiting: It took a month for my couch to arrive. And when it did show up, I was disappointed to discover that the cushion had stains on it—not major ones like on the matching couch, but still noticeable. Fortunately, Viyet credited me $100 to cover the cost of cleaning. 

Otherwise, the couch was perfect for my space. And it’s easily the most comfortable piece of furniture in my house. Plus, its unique pattern lends the sunroom a garden-y feel, which is exactly what I wanted in the brightly-lit room. 

So would I do it again? Yes. The whole process was a bit of a hassle—negotiating, shipping costs, waiting—but buying consignment online literally opens the doors of some of the country’s chicest residences, giving access to furniture I could never afford brand new. That, to me, is far more valuable than the instant gratification of a furniture store. 


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