Before trashing damaged or old furniture, consider an alternative. Consignment stores offer a showroom setting and a chance to earn a return

My plan today was to continue with tips from the Waialua beach house I recently designed and furnished. But this past week I had an epiphany that I feel compelled to share with you.

We’re so used to receiving furniture on consignment from people who are moving off-island, downsizing, looking for a way to retire their parents’ things or simply redecorating. At Cathy’s Marketplace, more than a dozen amazing pieces came in last week. But among our customers was one who looked around and said, “How do I know what to do with stuff that I no longer want?”

What do you do with old, unwanted furniture?

Obviously if you’re moving, you need to get rid of your things, and get rid of them fast. The paper’s classified section, craigslist, and other websites are an option, but if you don’t want strangers coming to your home, what do you do?


You could donate, but a lot of charities these days don’t take large, bulky items because they don’t have the space for them and they’re difficult to unload.

That’s where consignment comes in. You immediately get something out of your space. And pieces show better displayed in professional settings than they do online or at a garage sale. The negative is you won’t see any money until your piece sells, and that could take a little while. And the more time that goes by, the more your piece is likely to get discounted, because it costs money for a showroom to store your things.

Believe it or not, I’ve also talked people into keeping their pieces. Some complain about the old-fashioned look of their parents’ furniture, but sometimes all it takes is a fresh coat of paint, new fabric or new drawer pulls to breathe in new life.

We don’t want to clutter our landfills, so try looking at all options — selling a piece yourself, consigning or simply updating it— before you end up tossing it.

So at the showroom last week, we took our customer through the steps and gave some advice.

Be realistic about what you have. A quality older piece of furniture that has a stain or a tear can still be of value. But an inexpensive piece with a stain or tear is just an old piece of furniture.


Just like selling a home, if you put a little bit of elbow grease or attention into a piece, it’ll likely help it sell faster.

How to tell if something is worth consigning

Recently we got a vintage McGuire dining set that’s in great condition, but needs updated upholstery. We got some great case pieces by Herman Miller, an iconic furniture maker who’s still in demand today, but they need some TLC. If they were in mint condition, they would be triple the price.

We also got a 15-foot cream-colored sectional sofa that’s in perfect condition. But there’s not a huge market for people looking for such a large piece.

All of these are great and will probably find a good home, but it’s going to take that right buyer.

Our customer chose to consign, so we reviewed the photos she sent, decided what we would take and gave her advice on what to do with her other pieces.


So keep in mind: If you need to a solution for your old furniture, you might want to update and keep a few choice pieces, and find a new home for the rest so that your home can shine.

Cathy Lee is president and designer of Cathy Lee Style and Cathy’s Marketplace, a furniture and accessories showroom with design services at 1110 University Ave. She recently opened reStyle Hawaii, an affordable, style-conscious consignment warehouse with upholstering and repurposing services at 420 Keawe St. To find out more, go to