The first thing I purchased on Craigslist was Season 2 of the television show Lost. It felt very covert and cryptic and I’m not sure I really appreciated what I had tapped into.
Fast forward to this new “weekend” house in the burbs. (Should have seen my husband’s suburban writing on the wall with this one!) We could barely afford the house and all the requisite maintenance that came along with it, much less fancy decorator furnishings. Ikea certainly helped (natch), but this was really when my Craigslist infatuation began. Just about every room in this house is full of Craigslist and consignment; sometimes the items turn out to be a bust as I was clearly blinded by the low price tag, but more often than not, I love the one-of-a-kind nature of everything.
When looking for objects to buy on Craigslist, I consider a few things.
Depending upon the item, the cost of refurbishing may or may not be worth it. E.g. With chairs/ couches, I typically opt for re-upholstery just because then I know I’m getting rid of the ‘ick’ that has come with the furniture rather than just throwing a slip cover on top. But upholstery is expensive. The bigger the item, the more fabric and the more labor goes into it. A standard arm chair is typically about $400 in my neck of the woods and that doesn’t include the 5-7 yards of fabric required. So your bargain purchase quickly becomes just as expensive as a brand new piece. Might be worth it if the piece is unique, but worth considering.
Here’s a picture of some club chairs I found at a consignment store that I loved because they were a pair and they were modest in size. I found some old coffee bags on eBay and an inexpensive ikat fabric (I’m also obsessed with ikat, btw) and asked our upholsterer to work his magic. He was completely dubious when I brought everything in, but I LOVE how they turned out and they’ve become the focal point of our every-evolving family room. As with MANY of these pics, ignore much of the background. The ratty carpet has since been pulled up and replaced with hardwood, the french doors had just been installed and have since been painted.
2. Size. This seems somewhat obvious, but always ask for dimensions. I purchased a chair once that looked petite and sweet and when I went to pick it up, it was enormous. I was too embarrassed to say anything, so I bought it and ended up reselling it on Craigslist a few months later!
3. Euphemisms and Ikea. Be wary of vague posts about the condition of things or why it’s being sold. “Pictures don’t do justice…” makes me nervous. “Some signs of age…” is another red flag. Also, be fairly familiar with the tell tale signs of Ikea (melamine, simple designs)… not that there’s anything wrong with Ikea, but chances are that you’re not getting a real discount buying Ikea on Craigslist since it’s fairly affordable to begin with; most people will identify it as Ikea, but every once in a while you’ll see an Ikea item that someone’s trying to spin as ‘vintage’ or ‘contemporary.’
4. Quality of photo. This is a little superficial, but if the picture is horrible, it makes me wonder how well the person is representing the item; not only because you can’t really see it, but also because their attention to detail is dubious! Similarly, if the picture is beautiful and furnishings around the picture look like your taste, chances are the item will be something you’re excited about.
5. Think creatively… consider outside furniture for inside, take a chance and tackle those projects you read about online… can a coat of paint integrate it into your space… can a table be upholstered to become an ottoman? I search Craigslist before I walk out my door; it can’t hurt to enter the search terms as you never know whether something really cool will pop up. Below is a pair of rattan porch chairs I purchased off CL for our patio. They’re not technically all-weather, but with some cheapo covers from Amazon, they’ve held up really well. And if in 5 years we need a new pair of chairs, we’ve definitely gotten our money’s worth.
6. Other tips. It’s amazing how people misspell things or mis-categorize things, so every once in a while, I’ll just search through everything that’s been recently listed without searching for anything too specific. (A bureau with “draws” is a very common error on Craigslist!) So are “dinning” tables. And, I never know what other things I might stumble across that I would never even have considered.
I’ll try to add to my Craigslist gallery, but here are just a few more of my CL finds!
All of this Craigslist talk makes me want to go and look for something new! And hopefully one day, you can see the “AFTER” pics for so many of these photos!