Furnishing Your Home
By Gilda Spitz
A hundred men may make an encampment, but it takes a woman to make a home – Chinese proverb
Whether you’re a man or a woman, it’s often a difficult task to “make a home” if you don’t know where to find the furniture you want, at a price you can afford. Read on for some helpful tips.
Traditional furniture stores
If you’re looking for furniture, it’s fun to spend a few hours in some of the largest and most beautiful furniture showrooms in the GTA. Check out the beautiful new furniture, and see what’s on sale.
The Brick Warehouse, or The Brick, is the largest furniture retailer in Canada, and is known for its catch-phrase “Nobody Beats the Brick.”
This slogan promises a refund of the price difference if within 90 days you find the same furniture item at a lower price anywhere in Canada, or even if The Brick reduces its own price on that item, says Armindo Lopes, Manager of the Brick store in Vaughan. And, says Lopes, unlike some of its competitors, “the Brick starts counting from the date of delivery, not purchase.” The Brick keeps prices low due to their large volume purchases, and even offers special deals, such as free wide-screen TVs, with some purchases.
For more information, go to www.thebrick.com.
Leon’s Furniture is a well-known furniture retailer with a long history in Canada. It was founded by Ablan Leon, a young immigrant to Canada, in 1909, and will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in two years, says Terry Leon, President of the company, and grandson of the founder.
The philosophy of Leon’s is “merchant first”, which means that they always remember that the merchandise is the most important aspect of their business. In keeping with their slogan of “Integrity Pricing”, Leon’s Furniture offers “consistent everyday value and the lowest prices in the market” without fancy gimmicks that may add hidden costs to the price of items, says Leon. He’s proud that Leon’s Furniture was the first in Canada to offer the very popular “Don’t Pay a Cent” event, in which you can purchase your furniture now, and defer payment for an average of 12 to 15 months.
For more information, go to www.leons.ca.
One of most well-known retail furniture stores in the world is IKEA. Founded in 1943 in a little town in Sweden, IKEA has expanded to 29 countries around the world, including 11 stores in Canada.
You can view IKEA furniture in their beautiful catalogues, and then go to the store to pick up your purchases. The price of IKEA furniture is usually quite reasonable, because the price does not include delivery or assembly. So, if you can provide your own transportation, and if you can assemble the furniture yourself, you may be able to save some money, as compared to some other furniture stores. If you do need help with transportation or assembly, IKEA will deliver your furniture for a small fee, and they can recommend an independent assembly service for a reasonable charge.
For more information, go to www.ikea.ca.
Some of the large stores, such as the major department stores, The Brick, and Leon’s Furniture, offer special financing options for people who don’t want to pay the full amount up front.
For example, “Do Not Pay” financing is available at most Brick locations, with approved credit. If you don’t have approved credit in Canada, you can bring a friend or family member with you to co-sign, if you wish, says Lopes. According to Leon, don’t worry if you don’t have a credit history in Canada, which is not as bad as having a bad credit rating – Leon’s Furniture stores will give you the best financing possible, based on your income.
You can also use the “Rent-to-Own” feature, which is available in some furniture and department stores. For example, in some Brick clearance centres, you can pay a monthly fee until the item is completely paid, which is similar to getting traditional financing, says Lopes.
Smaller local furniture stores
Don’t feel that your only choices for purchasing furniture are the big, well-known stores. You can often find good furniture at some of the smaller stores that may be located in your neighbourhood.
To find other furniture stores, check your neighbourhood newspapers, or search web sites such as www.buyitcanada.com/Toronto/Furniture/.
Second-hand and antique stores
If you don’t have a great deal of money to spend on furniture, don’t worry – you still have other options.
If you want to save money, it’s a good idea to consider buying used furniture. You can often save a great deal of money, and still furnish your home with beautiful and useful pieces.
Some used furniture can be extremely valuable, if it is considered an antique. Officially, a piece of furniture is considered to be antique if is more than 100 years old. Often, however, people consider any old piece of furniture to be antique, regardless of its actual age. True antiques are usually very expensive, but if you are very knowledgeable, you can sometimes find hidden treasures.
Thrift stores sell all types of used items, usually including furniture. The furniture is usually donated by citizens and companies to the thrift store, which means that the store can sell it at a very low cost.
According to the web site of the Salvation Army, some thrift operators, such as the Salvation Army, Goodwill, and Big Brothers and Big Sisters, are not-for-profit operators. That means that all the proceeds raised from the sale of merchandise in these stores go back to the charitable work of the organization involved. There are some other profit-oriented thrift operators, like Value Village, who have an association with a local charity, but the majority of the profits from these types of stores goes to the owners or shareholders of these companies.
The Salvation Army Thrift stores are well known for selling clothing and smaller items, but they also sell furniture. All 21 Salvation Army Thrift Stores in the GTA sell furniture, but you can find the largest selection at their locations on Kennedy Road in Scarborough and on Dundas Street East in Mississauga.
The prices for furniture are designed to “fit all price ranges,” says Arlene Boden, Regional Director for Central Ontario Recycling. For example, a couch could be priced anywhere from $20 for a simple piece, up to $200 for a leather sofa. In some stores, you can even arrange for delivery (through an outside provider, not the Salvation Army itself) for a small charge. It’s just “part of the service we provide,” says Boden, because they understand that some of their customers don’t have access to a vehicle.
For more information, go to www.thriftstore.ca/english/ or call 416.425.2111.
Goodwill is another non-profit organization that sells gently-used donated furniture at very reasonable prices. According to their web site, there are seven stores in the Toronto area, and all of them, except the location on Bloor Street, sell furniture, with the largest selection available at the Outlet store on Emblem Court in Scarborough.
According to Kristin Germain, Marketing and Community Development Coordinator for Goodwill of Greater Toronto, Central and Eastern Ontario, you can find “a wide range of furniture and housewares, with each piece priced well below regular retail.” She says that you could furnish a small apartment for as little as $100, depending on your selections, and suggests that you visit often, because merchandise changes on a daily basis.
For more information, go to www.goodwill.on.ca or call 416.362.4711.
Other sources for furniture
Looking for even more ideas about reasonably priced furniture?
Check the classified ads in the newspapers – the large publications like the Toronto Star and The Toronto Sun, and also smaller local newspapers in your neighbourhood.
Try classified listings on the Internet, such as www.cdncc.com/Canada/TorontoClassifieds.asp and www.torontoplace.com/classifieds/classifieds.php.
Try web sites related to your particular ethnic group; for example, classifieds.sulekha.com/Toronto/alllocalities/buy-sell/furniture/79.htm, which specializes in services for people from India.
Garage sales (sometimes called yard sales) are a great source for used furniture at a very reasonable price, particularly furniture for babies and children. Owners are usually willing to sell furniture for a very low price, because they no longer need the items, and are especially interested in clearing them out of the house. Be aware, of course, that any purchase at a garage sale is final – so shop carefully. And be especially careful about baby cribs, because older cribs may not meet current safety regulations established by the Canadian government.
“Lawn shopping” is a slang term to describe a rather unusual, but very inexpensive, way to obtain furniture. Sometimes home owners will simply place unwanted furniture on their lawn before garbage pickup day. If – before the garbage truck comes around – you happen to notice something that you can use, you’re usually welcome to take it. Lawn shopping is particularly common among university students who are living on a tight budget while attending school!