Buy New or Renew?

Finally! A "cash for clunkers" program for that ugly sofa. The New York Times reports on a trend of buying new furniture at discount by trading in those unloved pieces in exchange for a donating the old furniture to a worthy charity.

The Times quotes Jim Lucas, the director of shopper marketing at the advertising firm Draftfcb in Chicago. "We're seeing lots of trends where people are moving away from conspicuous consumption, to caring about the environment, to 'Do I really want another one?' "

So you have a choice: buy new or renew?

A new fall fabric line from an Ikea-slipcover-maker may turn your plain-old Ikea chair into something a bit less obviously off the showroom floor.

Or did you inherit a sofa that's sturdy and comfortable... but fugly? Its classic chintz not quite working with your minimalism? Nausea-inducing plaid? Have no fear.

One word: slipcovers. So new furniture via a trade-in program or give your old stuff new coats ... what's the better deal?


Fiscally-speaking, trading in your old furniture to purchase new will yield at least one savings: a discount from the retailer. As the Times reports, several companies are offering trade-ins, for things like "outdated entertainment centers to stained ottomans and used mattresses." The article quotes savings in the 10 percent discount range.

Some retailers may even sweeten the deal by offering additional products for free. The Times article reports one woman who got two pillows worth $100 each when she traded in at Dao Engle of New Canaan, Connecticut. It never hurts to ask and see what further discounts might be available.

Also add in the present value of your old furniture as a tax deduction.


Generally speaking a slipcover will be a less expensive choice to update your furniture. The drawback? Still your old furniture.

As Carolynne explains at Back Garage there are many reasons to consider using a slipcover. Highlights include: saving yourself a big reupholstering bill; slip-cover wash-ability (based on your fabric choice, of course); and seasonality switch-out if you like to keep your apartment decor fresh. When you tire of a fabric just swap it out. A simple slipcover can work wonders.

Careful... ready-made slipcovers can end up looking generic or just plain sloppy if they don't fit properly. The good news is that you can usually find one for your exact piece of furniture.

For example, Bemz is a company that makes slipcovers for very popular IKEA furniture. They've just launched their Fall fabric line. This photo shows an IKEA/PS armchair with Stig Lindberg's "Bulbous Ash Brown" slipcover.

Also look for slipcovers that match specific furniture manufacturers at ebay.

If you want a slipcover that is truly unique, choose from two options. Make your own if you have above-novice sewing experience. Or, hire a recommended seamstress to make one for you. One online option, Jennifer's Custom Slipcovers, does custom work starting at $30 for pillow slipcovers or $500 for a small sofa (price does not include the cost of new fabric or shipping).

Details are key: look to ensure fabric design matches at the seams. Don't pay for sloppy stitching.

Also look for handmade slipcovers at etsy.

Either buying new or slipcovering the old... so long, fugly!

via The New York Times, Back Garage
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