Should you head to IKEA or the antique shop?

Joe Ley has been selling antiques in Louisville, Kentucky for 43 years, and he's seen his revenue drop 20% in the past year. He also has a bit of an issue with the way people shop for furniture these days:

"Kids today are buying things made of pressed cardboard imported from Thailand instead of aged wood," he told the New York Times. "A lot of young people don't want anything older than a pizza box. But you can't sell that cheap chain-store junk at a yard sale in two or three years, while good furniture holds its value. Good is always good."

As I look to furnish my new condo -- I close on it at the end of May and move in in August -- the Ikea vs. flea market battle has been raging in my head for months. Ikea is clean, neat and easy: I can take a van there, buy everything in one fell swoop and head home to a nice-looking, European-style modern apartment look. Or, for approximately the same amount of money, I can buy inexpensive older pieces at the Brimfield Fair and go for a more rustic look.

The point that Mr. Ley makes -- his curmudgeonly "What's the matter with kids today?" tone aside -- is an important one: Buying older furniture is generally a more financially prudent decision because it will hold its value better than newer pieces. A 150-year-old desk has already depreciated as much as it's likely to, assuming that you take good care of it. A brand new low-end desk from Target or Ikea will be virtually worthless in five years, even if you do take good care of it.

Of course personal style considerations play a big part but from a purely financial angle, the best bet for home decor is to set your budget and then buy everything used. You can even spend more money on antique/collectible furniture and still come out ahead because the furniture will hold its value reasonably well (or even, gasp, appreciate).

What about my condo? I still haven't made up mind. I'll be going to Brimfield with a friend next weekend and if that doesn't work, then I just might have to give Ikea a try.

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