Saturday, August 3, 2013

Five Tips for Buying Furniture on Craigslist

I came across this meme a while ago on Pinterest....

And I found it relatable, but also something to disprove.  I mean, sure, if your taste ranges towards Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware and fabulous antiques.... and you're in your twenties.... and have an average job for someone in my age bracket.... no, you totally can't buy that stuff.  Buying a Pottery Barn lamp new would be something that I would have to really budget in.  As much as I love a gorgeous faux industrial piece, I love eating, going out, and paying bills on time more.

However, as pretty much any stylist will say on a blog or Bravo/E! television show, you do not need to have much money to have great style.  And I don't think that you have to have a lot of money to prove that you have great taste.  There are so many resources for furniture and decor on the cheap, one of which is Craigslist.

I know that Craigslist can be synonymous with benign things like curb alerts for free firewood and more horrifying things like murderers luring in victims with shady hookups, but seriously, you can find some awesome furniture if you are willing and patient enough to sift through everything.  Over the past few years, I have found some really awesome pieces, from an English roll arm sofa (for FREE!) to a canvas and wood deck set (also FREE!), on Craigslist.

To help anybody starting out who may be wary about turning to the CL (as I fondly call it), I've put together my top five tips for buying furniture off of Craigslist:

1) Be patient.  You're not going to go online one day and furnish your apartment or house with some recent postings.  I mean, you can.... but it will look like shit.  If you want to find something great or something in particular, you have to be patient.  A great couch is not going to show up immediately, but it should within a month.  In the meantime, you will see some awful couches that have had dogs chew at them for years.  Don't.  Don't.  Even if it's free.  Something beautiful, vintage, and perhaps even well cared for will come along.  Just because you're poor doesn't mean you have settle.  Remember that most people in America have way too much stuff and somewhere, someone would really, really like to get rid of something that you want to make room for something new that they want.

2) Be vigilant, convenient, and speedy.  The good stuff goes quick.  In this case, do what works for you, whether that is checking the website on your computer daily or (in may case) having the app on your phone.  I think it helps to search the "all for sale" for a set of specific terms, like "couch", "sofa", "settee", etc.   The good stuff will go very quickly.  I emailed the seller (or giver, rather, since it was free) about five minutes after they posted the couch and offered to pick it up the next day.  They had other people contact them; I was simply the first and could get a couch out immediately.  Previously, I had contacted a seller about a gorgeous vintage loveseat.  The problem that arose was that he was in Richmond and I was in Norfolk (an hour and a half away).  Initially, he was able to deliver the couch, but the next day, he got a local offer.  It was disheartening, but completely understandable.  As someone who has also sold furniture on Craigslist, I know I'm more inclined to give preference to someone who can get my furniture out as quickly as possible.  If there is something you really want, be on the lookout and have a plan for picking it up as soon as you can.

3) Be wary.  There are creepers.  This should go without saying, but ALWAYS BRING A WINGMAN, preferably an intimidating one.  I consider myself a feminist and I believe that women can do almost everything that men can do... except intimidate rather threatening gentleman with ill intent.  To be fair, I also think that not every man can intimidate a creeper either.  I have the advantage of having husband in the Navy who like to work out and is familiar enough with my Craigslist searching ways that he will come with me to pick up items (even something as small as a lamp) wearing ripped up jeans and a sloppy white tank top, which has become trashy costume of sorts that exposes some hot tattooed arms.  In cases when he's been out of town, I've asked friends' husbands, boyfriends, or some of my husband's buddies to come with me.  It may feel like you're imposing at first, but trust me, your friends care about your safety and will probably be mad if you go meet a stranger alone after a brief email or text exchange.

4) Know your limits.  Before you commit to buy something, know what you can and cannot fix.  You're buying something used, but there is a lot of variance as to how used it may be.  For me, this means that I am ready to reupholster a tight back or tight seat chair, but I know that I can't reupholster a couch (nor am I interested in paying a reupholstery shop for that).  I would never purchase a couch or loveseat that had terrible fabric on it for this reason, but I will buy pretty much any dining chair as long as it is structurally sound.

5) See the potential. This tip really goes hand in hand with the previous one.  Again, you are buying something USED.  Sometimes you can find amazing pieces that have been well cared for, but don't write something off because it's the wrong color, has a bad fabric (and is a piece you feel comfortable refinishing) , or has a few nicks and scuffs.  These small things are fixable and can save you a lot in comparison to buying something new.  There are so many great tutorials for refinishing furniture on Pinterest and in the blog world.  You can fix much more that you think you can.

I hope these tips have encouraged you to think outside the retail realm and to look towards Craigslist for furniture and decor needs.  Buying used is great for your wallet, great for the planet, and great for your creativity.  Have you bought or redone something used lately?  Do you have any tips to share? 

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