Our front entry got an instant upgrade last week. That's because I finally ditched our beat-up old console table and replaced it with a new one that I picked up at a bargain price because it was a floor sample, too imperfect to sell for full retail.


It's got a couple dings on it, but it's still way better than the one we had, with a finish that had cracked and peeled away in strips, as though a giant had raked his fingernails across it.

But the old table quickly found a new home -- in the apartment of our 22-year-old daughter. She and her roommate were as happy to get it as I'd been happy to get rid of it. When the roomie carried it inside, a guy who helped her maneuver it through the door even commented that it was "a nice piece." 

Really? It had looked nice enough when I bought it, about 25 years ago, when we were newlyweds. But it was so cheap at the time, and so damaged and dated looking now, that I never considered it an heirloom. Still, it's real solid wood, which is more than can be said for a lot of new furniture today.

Our daughter wants to strip and refinish it, to get rid of the scratches and give it a more stylish espresso color. I explained the process to her, what she'd need and how to do it. When I said goodbye to her, my eye fell on the two little accent tables that I'd refinished myself when I was her age. They were somebody's cast-offs, bought for a buck each at a garage sale. Yet they still have a place in my family room, and they still look good.

There's an awful lot of good-looking used furniture out there. My daughter and her roommate have beem pleasantly surprised by the offerings at local consignment stores and thrift shops. A couple years ago, I toured a new Parade home (pictured above) that had been completely furnished with secondhand stuff from the warehouse of Bridging, a program that helps families in need set up households. 

If you have used furniture that you'd like to find a new home for, there are lots of options. Bridging (www.bridging.org) is one; it accepts "quality gently used furniture." The Hope Chest (www.hopechest.us), a foundation that helps breast-cancer patients and their families, also accepts "upscale" furniture donations for sale in its consignment shops. The Arc, a nonprofit that serves people with developmental disabilities, accepts "select furniture with manager approval" at its Value Village thrift stores (www.arcsvaluevillage.org). 

What do you do with furniture that's past its prime or no longer useful to you? Do you refinish or reupholster it? Sell it? Donate it?  Or hand it down to your kids?