Recycled furniture is a broad category that includes anything that has been repurposed, refinished, or redefined as furniture. There are three basic types: reused, refurbished, and made from scratch. Reused furniture has already had at least one owner. Refurbished furniture has been repaired. Made from scratch is handmade, typically out of unorthodox materials which would otherwise be thrown away.
Furniture from a consignment store, flea market, or thrift store is recycled. It is more commonly known as "used" or "reused" furniture. Many individuals purchase this type of recycled furniture because it is significantly less expensive than new furniture. The quality and condition can range from like new to very bad since the furniture is rarely cleaned or repaired by the seller.
Reused furniture is usually not unique. Most of the pieces will be mass marketed, low quality, and well used. It is possible to find some good pieces at a good price, but it requires a great deal of shopping and some luck. Good pieces sell quickly, and stock is constantly changing, so buyers typically have to return to used furniture stores many times to find pieces they want.
Some individuals repair furniture as a hobby or a business. They find inexpensive but good quality furniture and make repairs or improvements. The furniture they create is called refurbished recycled furniture. It is more unique than reused furniture since the furniture repairperson makes changes that suit his or her individual taste. The resale value of refurbished furniture is higher than that of reused furniture but not as high as new or custom furniture prices.
Made from scratch recycled furniture is the most unique and sometimes the most bizarre recycled furniture of all. Many environmental advocates champion recycled furniture as a way to reduce the amount of garbage sent to landfills. Almost any type of material can be used to create recycled furniture. Since the result is often one-of-a-kind, this type of furniture is often collected as art.
Reclaimed wood is commonly used to create recycled furniture. This is simply wood that was once used for a different purpose, such as building beams or as part of a boat. Very traditional and elegant pieces of furniture can be created from reclaimed wood while remaining in the category of recycled furniture.
Avant-guard designers often use materials not common to furniture building. For instance, one artist created a chair made of hundreds of old compact discs (CDs). Another used the body of a car to create a couch. The furniture maker is only limited by his or her own skill and creativity.
Depending on the maker, materials, and design, made from scratch furniture is valued at a wide range of prices. Well known artists can sell their furniture for as much or more than new custom furniture. Often, recycled furniture is purchased more for aesthetic value than for practical use.