How to Make Your House Look Cool and Do Good in Tacoma

December 7, 2018 1 By Sara Kay

You get a bed! You get a couch! You get a table! You get two dining chairs!

These are the humble dreams Hope Furnishings and Northwest Furniture Bank try and make come true for everyone.

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Used furniture stores aren’t easy to find in Tacoma. The gap between showroom-level new and thrift store sketchy is vast, but not as insurmountable as my determination to find affordable things to sit on was. This is how, after much searching, I found myself at the doorstep of Hope Furnishings (117 Puyallup Ave).

Initially I didn’t get it. I heard a bit of something from the friendly sales person about ‘every purchase means new bed’ but I was distracted and didn’t take it in. Our new couch was there in the showroom and it stole my attention away.

Then I visited again when we hosted a 23 people for Thanksgiving and needed more dining chairs. Then I went in repeatedly when we had a home for sale to stage.

Somewhere during those many visits the words Hope Furnishing’s staff were saying finally started to sink in: “For every $100 purchase made in our showroom we can provide a bed to a family in need through the Northwest Furniture Bank.”

By then I was at least half a dozen beds in, and so I decided to find out more. Here’s what everyone in Tacoma ought to know about Hope Furnishings, mattress recycling, and the Northwest Furniture Bank…

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Go shop and feel damn good about it:

Hope Furnishings has a main showroom and lower level filled with an ever-rotating assortment of floor models and gently used furniture. We’re talking everything from dining chairs and ottomans to side tables and patio sets.

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Their stock changes frequently, sometimes hourly. Pieces sold throughout the day leave the showroom, and in their place other items are brought in.

If by chance you don’t find what you’re looking for on your initial visit it’s worth popping by a few more times.

By the way, the next time you’re admiring the furniture at 7 Seas, take note of those little stickers on the coffee tables. Yep, the brewery ordered their stuff through Hope Furnishings.

This is what hundreds of mattresses not in Tacoma’s landfill look like:

Mattress recycling is a gnarly, absolutely necessary process.

The associated facility that sits across the back parking lot from Hope Furnishings started up five years ago. Currently they process an astounding amount of mattresses––over 5,000 a month.

Here are the three big ideas:

  1. Keep mattresses from the retail sector and private homes out of the landfill.
  2. Take in showroom, returned, or otherwise barely used mattress that can go to Northwest Furniture Bank clients.
  3. Provide employment opportunities for people who would otherwise struggle to get work. A number of the people working at this facility have a criminal history and are rebuilding their lives.

When mattresses arrive they’re pulled apart and the materials get sorted. Not everything can be reused, but they do get creative.

For example, the piles of foam eventually go off to a company that makes carpet padding, while those giant plastic mattress bags get turned into Trex Decking.

A house full of furniture served with a side of dignity for the starting price of $75:

Underneath the Hope Furnishings showroom is Northwest Furniture Bank. This is where the real magic happens.

Imagine your house just burned down. Everything you own is gone. You don’t own a bed, a chair, a lamp, or even a spatula to cook with. Or that you’re leaving a domestic violence situation, aging out of the foster care system, are a struggling veteran, or are moving on from homelessness transitional housing to something more permanent.

How do you fill a house from absolute zero?

This is where the Northwest Furniture Bank comes in. Clients get access, by way of referral, from one of the 150 social service agencies in western Washington. For $75 they can receive an entire house of furniture, no matter the family’s size.

Recently a family of 16 was referred. They left with 16 mattresses, a large sectional sofa, two dining room tables, and 16 chairs––all for $75.

For an extra $125 everything can be delivered, which means it’s $200 to entirely start a new life. Half of the clients referred self-pay, while the other half get agency assistance for the fee(s).

_E0T1500Catholic Community Services, which is one of the big referrers, tracks their clients’ progress. They’ve found having furniture in the home reduces the rate of return to homelessness by 50 percent.

Why? Dignity, sense of ownership, and pride.

This is part of that goal of giving everyone at least two chairs. Even someone living alone can invite a friend or family member over and have somewhere for their guest to sit.

Currently 140+ families a month go through the Northwest Furniture Bank. That means they need at least 140 sofas and tables, and many times more than that amount of chairs need to go in one door in order to go out the other.

It takes a lot reach the goal of a place to sit, a place to eat, and a place to sleep for an average of eight families a day. When it comes to all the little things that make a house a home: cups, plates, dish towels, silverware, and beyond, the Furniture Bank’s stock is often depleted by closing time.

Inside the shop area you’ll find volunteers making minor repairs to donated furniture. They’re also experts at IKEA pieces, thanks to the company donating 3-4 pallets of furniture a week.

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I’m not that great at being a hostess. Odds are you’ll never get an invite to my house, but if you were to somehow manage to stop in you’d inevitably rest your butt on pieces from Hope Furnishings. Our current stock includes couches (yes, plural), dining chairs, dressers, and a desk.

Each piece we enjoy and use daily, but it’s not just that. When I look at them I also see the beds that aren’t physically there. Beyond our sofa is someone sleeping off the floor, and through a string of connections is someone pulling out their own chair from their own table each time my son opens his dresser drawer.

The Northwest Furniture Bank needs help to continue to make it all happen, though. Next time you’ve got furniture or household items (there’s a critical need for towels, sheets, cooking utensils, silverware, dishes, pots and pans) with plenty of life still left in them consider donating them here. They also need volunteers (age 14 and up) to sort, stock, and help families in need shop.

Here’s some bonus good news: Now (12/07/18) through next Saturday (12/15/18) Hope Furnishings is offering 30% off their dining tables and chairs. Be sure to check them out on Facebook and Instagram to find out about more sales in the future.

Photos by Sierra Hartman