Using vintage or antique pieces with new grounds a home. If everything in a home is new, it feels like a model home, it has no soul. If you use all old pieces, if feels like you live in a garage sale. The beauty is in the mix.
First, Let me tell you the tale of a little Craigslist kismet. When my grandmother passed away a little over 3 years ago, the family gathered and divided up her things. My husband and I were still relatively new homeowners with lots of room to upgrade in the furniture department. We took nearly everything that was offered to us, but I was very aware of not wanting to be perceived as “grabby”. At some point, anything without a home was sold to this great vintage store called Decade. There were a few things that, in retrospect, I wished I had expressed an interest in. About 18 months later I found a posting on Craigslist for a green metal cabinet, not just any cabinet, the green metal cabinet that stood in my grandmothers bathroom for at least 30 years. I became a woman possessed to get that cabinet back. I emailed the owner, she missed the first appointment for me to look at it, I called and emailed her again (trying to not sound too looney). When we finally met, my husband said I definitely didn’t use my best poker face, no need to try and barter, she knew she had a taker at nearly any price. So…happily sitting in our guest bedroom sits the $50 metal cabinet that could have been mine for free.
Whenever I need something for my house, Craigslist is one of the first places I look. Many times, I use this resource for clients, as well, when searching for unique inexpensive furniture. It is like the worlds largest Goodwill or garage sale, you are going to have to sift through a lot of crap, but occasionally you will find a gem.
Here are some tips I have assembled in my experience in shopping on Craigslist.
1) When searching, immediately check the “has image” box. I am not going to waste my time driving to look at something that is described as great, amazing, in perfect shape, etc., but the seller couldn’t be bothered to take a photo. There is probably a reason.
2) If they don’t post dimensions, email and ask. Again, nothing like making arrangements to see something only to get there and it is much smaller or larger than you had expected. A waste of your time, as well as the sellers.
3) Search for multiple names for a piece. I was looking for a Midcentury Modern credenza to hold the TV in our living room. I spent months looking under credenza, buffet, cabinet, etc. I came close to spending a significant amount of money on one at a vintage store. I also had my eye on one at Crate and Barrel, finally I found exactly what I was looking for $75 on Craigslist. The seller was so nice, again we didn’t even bother to negotiate on the price. Here is a photo of my find. It has more than enough storage, is the perfect scale, and a really nice quality.
When I told the family we purchased it from what I had planned for it, I could see that they were a bit jealous that they hadn’t thought of that use before. The terms I search for on a semi regular basis are: midcentury, vintage, retro, rustic, pair (a pair of anything is worth a second look), french, and industrial – there are probably more, those are just of the top of my head.
4) Don’t believe the pedigree given in the description. Everything was designed by someone, so the term “designer” doesn’t really mean anything in this context. A seller will say anything is from Pottery Barn, when it is clearly not. To my knowledge, Pottery Barn has never made a futon or a papasan chair!
5) Evaluate whether you are going to have the item reupholstered. The local upholsterer I use generally charges $75 per yard of fabric used (plus the cost of fabric) = between 10 and 15 yards of fabric for a standard sofa – adds up quickly huh? The quality of the construction of vintage and antique pieces may offset or come close to offsetting the cost of getting it reupholstered. Reupholstering isn’t required, though. We sit on used furniture all the time in hotel lobbies, restaurants, airports, at friends homes, etc. Sometimes you are buying formal living room furniture that has been under plastic slipcovers for the past 25 years. However it should be noted, that as foam ages, it dries out and crumbles making for a really uncomfortable sit. Also, the color palette and construction techniques of fabric have changed over the years. The furniture piece might really benefit from a redo. If you aren’t planning on reupholstering, you will have to go with your gut on the skeevie-ness of a piece.
I found this great article that explains how to determine the elements of quality in upholstered furniture:
Finally, here are a few great items I found yesterday on the Denver Craigslist. If you click on the photo, it will take you to the listing.
Have you purchased anything on Craigslist? Do you have any good stories or nightmares? Any tips to add?
Sorry for the wordy post, I will be back in the next few days with pretty photos and a heck of a lot less words!