Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How to shop Craig's List like a BOSS

I have purchased sooooo many items from Craig's List recently that I'm starting to consider myself a bit of a pro. As a gesture of good will, I thought I would share some of my techniques with you for scoring fabulous finds at even more fabulous prices. First of all, I want to show you some of the amazing things I've picked up recently....and YES I'm even going to share the prices (because lets be honest. It drives us crazy when people post about how they got a great deal on something and then they don't share the price!)

First up is this lovely Mid-century dresser by Dixie that you may have seen before in the vintage home theater I created a the 2012 Home and Garden Show. This really is a gorgeous piece in almost perfect condition. One huge bummer was when the guy loaded it into my van, top side down, it put a HUGE scratch in the top about 12" long and at least 1/8" deep. I was upset about it for a couple of days since there's no way to replicate the finish so the whole thing was going to have to be sanded and refinished. Then I came up with the idea to just fill the scratch, paint the top black, and call it a day. I love how it turned fact, I think I even like it better this way! Cost? $40 for the dresser. Plus $15 for the paint.

On a side note, the brass lamps (there's another just like it on the opposite end) I got at a thrift store for $10, the Japanese embroidered silk was my dad's that he picked up in Japan back in the 70's that I recently had custom framed for about $300 (the most expensive thing in my dining room by far! haha), and a model from my days as an architecture student that now makes a decent sculptural piece (free! Other than blood, sweat, tears and my sanity)

Also in my dining room is this unique cowhide from Brazil. I like all the spots on it - you don't see too many like this. It's also larger than average. Cost? $75

There was a setback with this in that the previous owner cut it in half with pinking shears (doh!) I tried sewing it back together and about 5" in with bleeding finger tips, gave up. I headed to Lowe's, bought some 4" wide gorilla tape and literally taped the backside together. The hold is super strong and the seam is hardly noticeable. Gotta love lazy-man solutions! cost of tape - $8

This Mid-century dining set is solid wood. Though the chairs desperately need to be reupholstered and the wood refinished, I still consider it an awesome find.The chairs are very unique and have great lines.
Cost? $100 for the table, custom table cover and 4 chairs. Once I got there the guy threw in the matching china cabinet in the background for free.

I am in love with these mid-century orange vinyl chairs (are you noticing a theme yet?) but am torn about what to do with them. I bought a set of 4 for $150. They are in amazing shape - no tears or stains. I'm contemplating getting them reupholstered so that they fit in more with my living room (they were put there as a temporary placeholder but they are the perfect size and shape so I kinda wanna keep them in the living room now) but everyone loves the orange vinyl (including Brian) and I like to keep things original whenever possible. What do you think? Reupholster or try to make the orange work? Daaaaaaang, they are bright!

The same time I bought the chairs, the same guy also had this (actually his whole place was full of mid-century treasures......good thing I only brought so much cash or else I would be bankrupt!) We're not sure how old it is, thinking early 1900's, and we're thinking it was used as a department store display. It is super heavy and about 16" long - it's bigger than it looks from the photo. I paid $100 for this. Not such a great bargain but I fell in love and had to have it. Hey, it's o.k. to splurge every once in awhile....and I still consider that a great price for such a striking piece.

AND since I bought the chairs and the hand sculpture from him, he threw in this cool pitcher and matching shallow dish for free. SCORE!

This table was another great find. It is an original, mint condition Heywood Wakefield table that I picked up for $15. WHAT?! I know.

The lamp also came from Craig's List with another brass one that is even cooler (sorry, no photo of that one! I'll have to get it for another time....)

I paid $60 total for both.

O.k., so here's the part you've all been dying to see; my tips. Here they are:

1. Patience is a virtue. Don't expect to find perfect things right off the bat. I check it about everyday for updates and only find something promising about once a week (this could vary depending upon location). Also, things often look better in photos than in person so don't be too disappointed if when you see it in person it wasn't what you expected. 

2. To go along with #1, Don't give up! Have fun and treat it like a scavenger hunt.

3. Search keywords such as "vintage, antique, mid-century, modern, eames, danish" etc. Depending on what you're looking for. For me, I search a lot for MCM (mid-century modern) and a lot of people put things like "Eames era" or "Eames style" so it helps to search for those words even though it's not actually a product by Eames.

4. Check out the out-of-area search results at the bottom of the page, too. Sometimes I find the coolest things there (closer to Cincy or Columbus.....bigger city = usually better stuff) and it's not that much farther of a drive. It's worth checking out at least.

5. When you actually go to see the item in person, always bring extra cash. More times than not, when I go to pick something up, they have more stuff that they're selling that I love.

6. Don't be afraid to bargain! Just because it's listed at a certain price doesn't mean you can't offer them less. Often times when I see it in person it might have a scratch or ding that didn't show up in the photo so I might offer less because of it. I've never had someone turn my offer down. 

7. Look past (some) imperfections. Sometimes pieces might have a little something wrong but remember, you can easily fill cracks, repaint and change hardware. Look for pieces with great lines and good functionality. Skip the nightstand with a busted drawer, or an ornate chair that needs reupholstering unless you're prepared to pay a pretty penny to get them fixed up.

8. Fail proof items I always look for:
       - long dressers because they're easy to refinish and can be used a ton of different ways.
       - lamps. New lamps can get expensive! Used lamps are easy to update by painting and/or replacing the shades. They're super easy to rewire also.
       - Artwork/original paintings. Sometimes people find paintings in an attic or sell something of a family members. It's a great way to get some beautiful original art for cheap! I always recommend coughing up the extra dough for custom framing. It will make a world of difference.
      - Unique sculpture / oddities. You really never know what you're going to find. Like my weird arm sculpture on my coffee table. What a conversation piece! During parties he/she is always holding something different; a martini glass, cigarettes, money and whatever else guests can fit in his/her hand.

9. Last but not least is safety. Everyone I've ever met from Craig's List has been super friendly but you should still be careful. You never know when you could run into a weirdo. I try to always call and make verbal contact with the person first. Asking them questions and talking to them about the item will give you a better feel for the individual. AND don't go alone! I always make my husband come along with me......although a couple times I've gone by myself during the day but I made sure he at least knew where I was going. I am by no means a paranoid person but you just never know.

10. Get a lucky charm. Seriously, I don't know how he does it but my husband Brian may be even better at the whole Craig's List thing than me. Together we're unstoppable!

Good luck!


  1. i love learning to do anything LIKE a BOSS. thanks laura.

  2. aw such good tips. you have some awesome finds!!! thanks for stopping by today :)

  3. Holy crap, woman. Those are amazing!! And, I, personally, would make the orange work for you! Or, if you're considering reupholstering them, why not an amazing fur textile or velvet. I'm a sucker for both. Definitely boss material here. Thanks for the tips!

    Much Love,