College students moving into their first dorm and others striking out on their own often look to Ikea for lower-cost, put-it-together-yourself furniture. As part of their initiation, they must enter a labyrinth designed by Lewis Carroll and Satan. • Consider instead a growing number of "gently used" furniture outlets in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties for sturdier, sometimes even vintage, pieces. • Here are some bay area stores with a vast collection of quality used chairs, tables and bookshelves. No assembly or gnarly mazes required.
Design Buy Consign @ Vintage Post Marketplace
5206 N Florida Ave., Tampa; (813) 239-1000; designbuyconsigntampa.com
When the U.S. Postal Service closed its Mayberry, USA-style post office in Seminole Heights, Melissa Clements bought the 9,000-square-foot building and transformed it into Vintage Post Marketplace. It features local furniture sellers, repurposing furniture designers and other artisans. Clements' nephew Russell Treadway, 28, helps run the store and uses found materials to construct Mad Max-esque furniture pieces (his work will be featured in the new Fuzzy's Taco Shop opening in Brandon). The complex includes the Design Buy Consign store showroom in the back. Clements offers a pretty good selection in the back at prices that are not as high as pieces we've found at other stylish resale boutiques. (Not as cheap as thrift, but less than high-end consignment shops.) Treadway says that they can sell attractive pieces at lower prices than other consignment resellers because he and his aunt turn over a massive inventory weekly. Every 30 days a piece stays in the store, it's marked down another 10 percent. "The more it's marked down, the faster we need to get rid of it," Treadway said. Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday.
Colonial Furniture & Mattress
4190 54th Ave. N, St. Petersburg; (727) 323-8395; colonialfurnitureinc.com
Colonial Furniture & Mattress is more than 20 years strong in St. Pete's Tyrone area. Owner Sergio Serrano, 26, injected some younger sensibilities when he took it over seven years ago, and business has steadily improved. "We actually get college students furnishing their whole dorm with less than $250 with delivery and labor, which makes everything easier for them due to their busy schedule," Serrano says. "Our prices are really affordable, especially when they buy in bundle — then the prices go even cheaper." Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Closed Sunday.
Deja Vu Home Furnishings Consignment
1601 34th St. N, St. Petersburg; (727) 328-8630; dejavuconsignmentfurniture.com
If you're looking for something a little higher-end or with a name brand, Deja Vu is huge. You could easily spend the afternoon there; the space is clean and never too cluttered. Sometimes you even forget you're in a used furniture store. Prices, however, are not negotiable. Owner Vikki Griffin converted a used-car lot into the store about 13 years ago. Over the years, she has come across a number of strays and has taken on pets owned by elderly customers who either died or moved to assisted-living facilities. She currently has three African grey parrots, three cockatoos and Cleo, a gray and brown tabby she found in the dumpster. Animal House comes out to check up on the animals and groom them from time to time. If you're looking for something a little exotic, antique or higher end, then remember Deja Vu. Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Saturday.
Consignment Furniture Showroom (two locations)
6130 Central Ave., St Petersburg; (727) 347-3982; and 1111 Court St., Clearwater; (727) 447-0926 consignment-furniture.com
Customers have made numerous positive comments online about the friendliness of the service at Consignment Furniture Showroom. The staff works with customers, and prices are negotiable. Delivery trucks, staffed by the store, are available Monday-Friday. The store also offers layaway service. Open 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Closed Sunday.