Designer Dilemma: What to Do With a Client’s Old Furniture?

When redecorating means out with the old, in with the new, where exactly should the old go?

If no family members need the pieces, Webb occasionally tries to find a place for them in someone else’s home. “But it feels like being a used car salesman,” she said. So she usually recommends that clients look into selling the pieces, either through upscale local consignment stores (like Sarah Cyrus and Savvy Snoot in Atlanta) or, increasingly, through the online service Viyet.

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Viyet launched in 2013 with the express purpose of selling used designer-grade furniture (it also sells showroom floor models for companies like Baker, Henredon, and Janus et Cie). “We’re focused on the higher end, and want to maintain a curated inventory, with designer brands like Holly Hunt, Baker, and Knoll, and iconic antiques,” says chief executive Elizabeth Brown. “We want to see that you originally paid more than $1,000 for furniture, $500 for lighting, and about $200 for accessories.”

But if a client’s belongings meet those requirements, Viyet has staff in 10 major US cities that will manage the whole process. “We take care of all the legwork involved in listing a product and getting it to the buyer,” says Brown. “We send a curator to the potential consignor’s home to take photos and measurements, do a condition report, and authenticate the brand. We establish pricing for what we think it’s worth, the consignor approves the pricing, and then we put it up for sale on our site. Once it’s sold, we coordinate all the logistics around pickup and delivery.”

An image from decorator Hillary Thomas’s Chairish shop. Many designers turn to online sites like Chairish to sell old furniture.

Photo: Courtesy of Chairish

The seller gets 50 percent of the purchase price, or 60 percent if they consign more than 20 items. Other options for sellers willing to do more of the sales work, in return for a larger portion of the sales price, include Chairish, eBay, and Craigslist.

Caleb Anderson, of the New York interior design firm Drake/Anderson, has sold furniture through Viyet, but he and his partner, Jamie Drake, frequently recommend that clients donate items to charity instead. “The reality is that to sell high-end furniture —not antiques, which are something else—they’re going to get a fraction of the original cost when they sell it,” says Drake. “I always recommend donating it to charity and taking a tax deduction instead. You’ll actually get more bang for your buck and help an organization at the same time.”

Some of their preferred nonprofit organizations that accept furniture to sell at thrift stores include Housing Works in New York and the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons. However, notes Drake, be aware that the Internal Revenue Service requires qualified appraisals for donations totaling more than $5,000 at tax time.

If you’re dealing with fine antiques, “an auction house may be the way to go,” says Drake. “And if you have a whole house you’re clearing out, and really getting rid of everything, an auction house like Doyle can sell everything and do a broom sweep.” Out with the old, indeed.

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