A Comparison Guide to Buying Furniture in the San Francisco Bay Area: Online vs. Local vs. Renting
Updated: Aug 31
Move Bay Area note:
During the Bay Area's shelter-in-place orders during the Covid-19 pandemic, it's important to practice safety measures relating to social distancing. At this time, we recommend sticking to professional handling and delivery for your furniture needs.
Whether you’re relocating across the globe or moving locally, finding furniture to fit your new rental is the next step in creating a home for yourself. However, unless you are well-versed in interior design or have cash to burn, the process can present some challenges. For example, you may be asking yourself where to buy your furniture, what style do you choose, what does the delivery process look like, and most importantly, how much will this cost? This can be a daunting feat (especially if like most, you’re relocating here for a new job and actually, you know, have to work). So, let’s break it down into manageable steps so the experience is more enjoyable.
In addition to finding our clients their perfect apartment, we at Move Bay Area have also helped numerous people maximize their relocation stipend on furniture costs. So, if you’re looking for the most bang for your buck, here are some of our favorite (local and online) places to shop, and tips and tricks of the trade we’d like to share. Whether you’re an inexperienced designer and need your home furnished in one day or you’ve got an eye for design and seek to customize your new home over time, we hope you find our best practices below helpful. Furniture shopping in the Bay Area can actually be quite fun!
Step 1: Buy the Basics. (Overstock, IKEA)
Step 2: Don’t Forget the Mattress! (Purple, Casper, IKEA, Nest)
Step 3: Make your Place Unique. (Facebook Marketplace/Craigslist, Cost Plus World Market, Alameda Flea Market)
Step 4: Scrap it; Rent your Furniture. (Cort, Brook, Feather, Oliver Space)
Step 1: Buying the Basics. Start with purchasing the essential furniture for daily life: bed frames, dressers, and dining tables. One-stop shops provide convenience.
Don't forget - You can order online and ship furniture directly to your new home.
The Good: Overstock is a one-stop-shop for all of your furniture and household needs. You can buy furniture for every home in your room, including your kitchen! They have a wide selection of styles, offer great deals, and discounts and provide excellent customer service.
The Bad: Unfortunately, you won’t be able to view your items in person since they don’t have a brick-and-mortar showroom. The items also come disassembled so you’ll either have to hire a task rabbit or invite your friends to come help. Also, if you buy less than $50 worth, you’ll have to pay for shipping fees and that’s never fun. Keep in mind: Overstock is an online retailer for individuals with more experience, there’s A LOT to choose from and it can become overwhelming.
Pricing: Overstock is a large online marketplace so pricing will vary depending on the brand. However, they offer furniture at all price points so you’re sure to find items you like.
Shipping: Free shipping on orders over $50, but keep an eye out, sometimes they offer free shipping!
Check for online reviews to verify the quality of each piece of furniture.
Place a larger order to avoid shipping costs.
The Good: One-stop-shop! You can get all of your essentials and more in one marketplace either online or in-store. IKEA offers its shoppers a dedicated showroom (perfect for those who need design inspiration) on the second floor of every location, a large café with great food, and a large warehouse to pick up all your goods. Overall, IKEA is less expensive than many other furniture vendors, even if you pay for shipping and assembly.
The Bad: Items come unassembled so you have to put it together yourself unless you have roommates to help you out! You’re also limited to one or two styles of furniture.
Pricing: Affordable – you can find many different types of furniture and styles to fit all budgets.
Shipping: Free Shipping over $50 and you can also pay a team to assemble your items.
Location: There’s an IKEA showroom and warehouse in Emeryville (East Bay) and Palo Alto (Peninsula).
Take notes and photos of each piece of furniture you like. When exploring their showroom, there’s so much to look at that the line between what you need and what you want is often blurred!
IKEA has started a buy-back option. This is an ideal situation for expats and temporary stays, who likely won’t be keeping their furniture after a year or two.
Fun Fact: You are probably pronouncing IKEA wrong. Instead of emphasizing the first letter and saying "eye-kee-ah," the way the name was intended to be pronounced is apparently "ee-kay-uh.”
For those unable to be there for the coordination and delivery of their furniture, we’ve got you covered! Hiring a relocation consultant, like Move Bay Area, to coordinate all the logistics for you can help ease the tension and stress that comes along with the moving process.
Step 2. Don’t forget to buy your mattress! You spend a third of your life in bed, so don’t take this step lightly.
You can get a high-quality mattress from each of the companies here at affordable prices, and they all deliver. Be sure to do your own research because sleeping preferences differ but here is some general information.
Purple contains a proprietary gel grid. Try at showrooms, local Macy’s or Mattress Firms throughout the Bay Area. You ultimately have to purchase online.
Casper features multiple foam layers and a zoned construction. Try at Target or West Elm, and you can buy in-store.
They offer a selection of foam, latex-blend, and spring mattresses for the price-conscious shopper, and have the most affordable mattresses of the group here. Buy in-store or online.
Nest produces multi-layered mattresses that are accepted as having high-quality materials and construction. Try at three Bay Area locations (San Francisco, Palo Alto, and Albany.)
Step 3: Add to your collection and make the space uniquely yours!
If you’re looking to reduce your environmental footprint, save money, or find that unique piece - used, quality furniture in the Bay Area has an abundance of furniture on these sites! There’s a lot of movement in the Bay Area and everyone can’t take their furniture with them!
The Good: Anyone who is looking to save on the cost of furniture. This furniture often comes assembled and generally at a significantly reduced price. Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist lets you easily adjust the radius for your item searches and find items within a mile or two from you. Often, items are marked down far below their original value and come assembled already.
The Bad: It can be competitive so act fast! Some items sell within hours of going online, much like the Bay Area rental market.
Pricing: Varies, you can buy new unopened items, like new, or DIY projects.
Shipping: No cost, you either pick it up yourself or ask them to deliver it. Note: some sellers tend to use the first-come, first-serve method to be fair.
For Marketplace, don’t use the automated question “is this still available”. Sellers are often inundated with this and your response can easily get lost. Immediately express your interest and state a specific time or day you are interested in picking it up.
If you really like an item, offer $5-$10 more. This can be your competitive edge!
The Good: You can shop in-store or online! Great accent pieces such as colorful tableware, cloths, and decorative items for your kitchen and home
The Bad: You can’t purchase everything here!
Pricing: Reasonable – you can many different types of furniture, styles to fit all budgets
Shipping: Free Shipping over $75
Location: Various Bay Area locations!
They have a lot of coupons and rewards, then you can unsubscribe later after you buy your items.
The Good: Unique antique furniture and decor that has a history! You can’t find some of these items anywhere else.
The Bad: You have to be there early to get the best items.
Pricing: Antiques can be costly, but don't forget, you can always haggle at the flea market!
Shipping: You must take the item home that day using your own vehicle. If you happen to live near the seller, they might deliver it to you.
When/Where: Only the first Sunday of the month at Alameda Naval Base
Come early! The vendors get there at sunrise and as they always say, the early bird gets the worm!
Bring cash, some vendors take online payment such as Venmo or CashApp but it’s best to always be prepared. They also have food and drink vendors so you can shop all day.
Step 4: Rent your furniture and forget about it! If you’re here for a short stay or you don’t want the commitment - save time and stress and have everything delivered to you on move-in, and everything taken away on move-out.
Renting furniture can be a great option if your stay is temporary or if you need your place set up fast. What's great is that all of these options offer a rent-to-own program. This ensures a no hassle, no commitment option for you to keep the pieces you like and return the rest at the end of your rental.
CORT Furniture has an online store and a brick-and-mortar location for all of your furniture needs. They offer free delivery, free pick up, returns and they give you the option to buy your furniture at heavily discounted prices. CORT furniture skews more on the traditional and corporate side, although their selection is expanding.
Brook Furniture Rentals has an online store and great customer service to meet all of your furniture needs. They also offer free returns and exchanges in the first 7 days, so you don’t have to worry about the commitment! Brook furniture skews more on the traditional and corporate side, although their selection is expanding.
Feather is an online marketplace for all of your furniture needs. They offer customizable plans to fit any size apartment or home. All furniture payments go directly towards ownerships so if you decide to keep any items, so you’ll never pay over retail. Feather offers furniture from their own as well as pieces from West Elm and similar retailers, so amateur interior decorators can rejoice!
Oliver space has similar pricing and style options to Feather. They provide customizable plans, provide pre-designed furniture bundles and offer a great rent-to-own program. Oliver Space curates furniture from West Elm and Rove Concepts but also has in-house branded items.