I'm also a sucker for 'pieces' (sorry, poncey fashion/interiors mag speak!) with a story, and preferably not one that goes 'pesticides, sweat-shop, container ship, shopfloor, bin'. A chair doesn't have to be a Chippendale to be valuable - anything that fulfils my interest in social history can have a place. And hey, even if a charity shop buy is neither top quality, particularly old nor historically interesting - at the very least it will be cheap, benefiting someone other than a huge retailer, and a valid form of recycling.
Don't worry though, sadly I'm not yet one of those people who populate Sunday supplements and the interiors pages of glossy magazines. Unless you're an interior designer, work in a salvage yard or are fortunate enough to live right next to a great flea market, the accumulation of an individual look is likely to be a long process. It's all very well trying not to buy new, but if you've just moved into a flat it can be a long time with no furniture if you're waiting for the perfect chest of drawers. This is one of the reasons Ikea does so well. Most of our boys' bedroom furniture (the eldest is not yet 6), bought new and out of necessity, came from some 'pine warehouse' type place on the outer reaches of a retail park, and is made of pine (well, duh) and chipboard. The drawers are already bowing under the strain of keeping a few pairs of pyjamas tidy.
Furniture is a bit daunting though, and less readily available in the local charity shops. Smaller accessories and kitchenalia are easier to come across, assuming you can pick them out of the dross. For Christmas my aunt and uncle bought me three different sized plates to add to a collection I've started. I imagine they hunted them down at an antique shop, but it's still worth a look in the charity shops. I bought my first piece of 'Homemaker' china at a carboot sale from a lovely old couple who had received the set as a wedding present back in 1957. Most had broken over the years, and they were amused to discover it was now considered a design classic. Homemaker was cheap and cheerful back then - but massively popular and sold in Woolworth's from 1958 right up until 1970. I love the fact that its quintessentially 50's designs (Ercol kidney tables, spindly legged furniture) and monochrome palette now look completely at home in my modern black and white kitchen.