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I am doing two posts on buying and selling items on consignment. The first was from the perspective of a consignment store owner with tips about selling your items. This is the second and it includes tips from someone who frequents consignment shops often and is on buying items.

Bonnie Flamm is a residential interior designer who frequents a consignment store in Newport Beach, California, on a weekly basis. She believes that by shopping at consignment stores you find the best deals and the most unusual items. She purchases items for her clients, but also the majority of her own home furniture comes from consignment stores.

Bonnie has been shopping in consignment stores for the past ten years and there are four consignment stores that she frequents regularly. She advises that value and uniqueness go hand-in-hand when it comes to consignment stores, but you must have vision as they are typically overcrowded.

Karla: What sorts of items do you normally find in consignment stores?
Bonnie: Consignment stores can feature a wide variety of items, ranging from books and clothing to designer furniture and genuine works of art. The consignment stores of yester-year were full of outdated, worn out stuff. But the beauty of some of today’s consignment stores is that they get a lot of brand new, designer quality furniture; furniture from houses that were “staged” by interior designers in order to sell; and unique, one-of-a-kind finds, including art work and sculptures. I myself bought a beautiful real bronze statue of a little girl reading a book who sits outside my front door on a bench. I paid $500 for her, which would have been an easy $1,500 if I had paid retail.

Karla: What was your best find ever?
Bonnie: In 2002 I was in a consignment store doing my usual browsing when I happened upon a very unusual and stunning dining room table that just happened to be the perfect size for my own dining room. When I inquired about it, I was told by the store owner that it was actually a stained hide and, just as interestingly, it had just come from country singer LeAnn Rimes’ home. She had just gotten married and had moved east (something I fact-checked later.) For some reason she decided not to take her furniture with her even though it was all brand new, so she put it on consignment. I bought it for $1,000 – which was $200 less than it was priced.

Several months later, I was in a design showroom and saw a side table made out of that exact same, distinctive hide. The showroom manager said that it did have a companion dining room table and she showed me the catalogue it came from. Sure enough, there was my new dining room table and it turns out that it was quite a steal as it retailed for $6,000!

Karla: How do you find a really great consignment store? What is it about the one in Newport Beach that makes it your favorite?
Bonnie: A quick internet search should provide your readers with some Consignment stores in their area. Once you find them, several weekly visits are needed to see if they offer quality and uniqueness. The quantity of the items for sale is also relevant because while the stores are full and you need to look, sometimes even hunt, you should not feel overwhelmed with “stuff”.

The one I go to in Newport Beach is my favorite for two reasons. First, because they consistently get unusual items and second because they get a lot of brand new furniture items from a wide variety of design sources and manufacturers.

Karla: Are there things you should not buy from a consignment store?
Bonnie: I would be wary of buying lighting from a consignment store unless they have the same kind of “test drive” policy that the one I go to has. At the Home Consignment Center in Newport Beach, you can take an item home for two days. If you find that it doesn’t work out, you can return it without any kind of re-stocking fee.

Karla: Are there certain brand names you look for with your clients in mind?
Bonnie: I do not look for brand name items per se, but you can find some very famous brand named furniture from Consignment stores, and the picture I sent you is an example of the kind of quality you can expect to find at a really good Consignment Center.

Karla: Any other juicy tips you would like to share with Simple Living Family readers?
Bonnie: Yes, do not be afraid to ask for a price reduction. It is expected, since the name of the game at a Consignment center is to move as much inventory as possible in as short of a time as possible. That typically means that after a two-week stay, most items can be bought at a discount of 10% or even 20%. But do not ever wait on an item just to get a further price reduction because the chances are that it will have been sold.

For more information about Bonnie or her business, please see her website at www.bonniejoydesigns.com.

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