Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Making Craigslist Your BFF. 8 Do's and Don'ts of Decorating with Craig

Craigslist can conjure up a lot of negative images when you think about it- what with all those Scammers, Creeps and Killers stealing all of the Craigslist headlines!  But I am here to tell you that Craigslist really can be your BFF.  Some of my most treasured furnishings, and the ones that get me the most compliments, came from CL.  With a little savvy, you too can use CL to help make your home resonate with that old + new combination that creates a comfort and style that you just can't get by shopping at a One-Stop design store.  Here are a few Do's and Don'ts to make you a Craigslist pro.

Craigslist 1910 Original Signed Vintage French Political Cartoon

Do:  Take a little time to strategize what you are looking for:
Let's say you are looking for a bedside table.  Before you look on CL, measure the space that you want the piece to go.  First, what are the dimensions that are ideal?  Secondly, what style would you like?  If you have a gigantic 4 poster bed, you can stand to get a stronger side table.  If you have a dainty bed built for a princess, then you will want a smaller and more delicate piece.  Once you have decided what style and size you want,-then you hunt that piece down like a wild animal!  Check CL 3-4 times a day to look for your treasure.  There is no telling when the perfect post will appear, and you want to be the first person to reply.

Don't:  Buy anything without measuring and examining it first:  
When you do find that perfect lamp, and you know exactly where you are going to put it, then you will go to the seller's house to make the transaction.  Just remember, you haven't purchased the lamp...yet.  You have every right to look over the piece to make sure that it's the right fit for your space.  If it's a lamp, take a light bulb and test if it works.  If it's a dresser, then open every drawer to make sure that they slide in and out easily.  If it's a table, then wiggle it a little bit to see that the legs are stable.  CL should be inexpensive, but it doesn't have to be cheap.  If you decide not to buy the piece, do not feel any pressure to do so.  Politely tell the seller that you are sorry, but it is not exactly what you are looking for.  Then, calmly walk to your car, climb in, and peel out of the driveway, never to be seen again.

Craigslist Dresser with New Paint and Hardware

Do:  Buy classic furniture with ugly or outdated hardware: 
Hardware is the jewelry of furniture.  The right hardware can make the piece shine!  As long as the hardware is screwed into the furniture, it's completely removable.  If you are repainting the furniture you buy, you can fill the holes (if necessary) before painting it, and then install the new and fabulous hardware that suits your fancy.  Picking hardware is even more fun than picking paint- there are so many fun options.  If, you are not painting the piece, you will want to make sure that the hardware you choose will fit into the original drill holes.  Remove the existing hardware and measure the size and distance between the drill holes.  Then, you can shop for the perfect replacements.

Don't:  Buy soiled or stained furniture 
There is no telling what kind of germs, bodily fluids, allergens, or even bed bugs that may lurk in that too-good-to-be-true-couch.  And, for Heaven's sake, NO used mattresses!

Do:  Buy upholstered furniture if it's spotless, or if you are having it reupholstered.
There has been a huge resurgence in the popularity of occasional chairs.  The prices can range from $500 to $3000 for a new upholstered side chair.  You can find some of the best antique chairs on CL for under $100!  You can choose your own upholstery fabric (more on this is a future blog), then have the chair completely re-upholstered for you.  You will end up paying $500-$1000 for a custom, gorgeous chair.

Craigslist Antique Footstool, Reupholstered

Don't:  Show up for your purchase without exactly enough CASH in hand to pay for it.  
Craigslist sellers always want cash for their piece, which is quite reasonable if you consider that there are Scammers-a-plenty out there trying to bamboozle people.  So, arrive with the exact amount of cash that you will need to purchase the piece.  Hand your cash to the seller after you have evaluated and measured the item, but before you have your friends Guido and Luigi load it into the car.  You don't want the situation to get AWKWARD!

Do:  Negotiate the price when you first contact the seller:  
Most of the time, items listed on CL are very reasonably priced, and no negotiation is warranted.  However, sometime the seller will ask way more for their dresser, than for the other comparable dressers that are for sale.  The best time to negotiate the price is in your first contact.  If the price is $300, but you only want to spend $200- then politely ask if the seller is willing to come down on price.  You will either get a resounding NO, or the seller will work with you.  Either way, once you agree on the price- that is the price you should pay.

Don't: Flake. 
If you have ever sold anything on Craigslist, it is disappointing to find out how many people don't return phone calls or show up for their appointments to buy your furniture.  So, to keep your CL karma positive, make sure that you always follow up with your sellers- even if you decide to buy something else.

I hope this encourages you to give ole' Craigslist a try the next time you are looking for a classic piece to add to your decor.  Do you have any other suggestions for buying on Craigslist?  Please Share!

Happy Hunting!



  1. I've also had a lot of success with selling stuff on CL in order to finance what I really want. Example: Don't continue living with that side table you got in college that you HATE!!! Sell it on CL and then use that money towards the side table you really want! I see people throw away their unwanted items when they can SELL it in less than a day on CL (if you live in a place like SF). Your trash is another person's treasure!

  2. Great craigslist tips! I occassionally browse without any focus, so it's hard for me to find anything worthwhile. However, since I have sold a few things on there - love your tip on not being a flake since I've had people never return calls or just not show up!