Upcycle Your Home: Decorating with Craigslist, Ebay and More
Decorate on the Cheap with Craigslist, Ebay and Garage Sale Finds
As I mentioned in my profile, one of my passions is decorating my home - on the cheap. When we first moved to our 4 bedroom home from a 1 bedroom apartment we had practically no furniture, and very little idea how to go about getting some - economically. We thought that Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel were the only games in town and promptly set about spending our entire furniture budget...on two rooms.
After that we lived with empty rooms until we slowly figured out the upcycling / recycling game. Luckily I have an extremely handy and talented husband who is amazing with sandpaper and spray paint, and even more talented at fitting almost anything I can find into the trunk of our small car.
On this page I will share many of our projects with you, as well as give some tips on how YOU can find amazing steals and deals online too!
Buying Furniture on Craigslist
The best place to find used couches, dining room sets and other large furniture
I really wanted a dining room set. Really really wanted one. But everything I liked - when purchased with chairs and a china cabinet - was in the $5,000-$10,000 range. (Oh yeah, did I mention that I have expensive tastes?).
I tried looking on Ebay, but once shipping was factored in there were no real deals to be found. I soon realized that the best places to score used furniture was either garage sales or Craigslist - since all the sellers were in close proximity and we could pick it up ourselves.
Once I got the idea to find a dining room set on Craigslist it became almost an obsession. I searched new listings every morning and every night, and as many times as I could during the day. My co-workers would make fun of me because I was always searching. And did I mention I was working as an hourly contractor? Yeah, definitely obsessed.
Here are some tips for searching for a table or other furniture on Craigslist:
- Search in the "Antiques" section if you must, but just know that people who are listing their furniture as "Antique" think it is worth something and want a premium for it. You won't find the best deals listed in this category. Try to learn the keywords around the style of furniture you like and then search the entire site for those terms. I searched a broad range of styles as I was looking for either a danish modern set or a midcentury reproduction of a more classic style. Ultimately, I found my table listed in the "Furniture " category even though it was a classic set from the 1940s. It belonged to the seller's grandmother and she just wanted to get it out of her garage so she could park her car in there, and she let it go for $200 - for a table, 3 leaves, and 6 chairs.
- Don't be put-off by bad seat upholstery on a dining room chair. The seat of a dining room chair is one of the easiest things to redo, and the best way to add some pizzaz to an old, tired dining room set. Ours had ugly ancient red velvet seats and are now covered in aqua zebra stripe fabric for a completely new look.
-Don't be afraid to ask for pictures - or more pictures. Surprisingly, many Craigslist sellers post ads with no pictures. I have no idea what they are thinking, but if their listing comes up when you search your keywords don't be afraid to ask for a picture. I did this on a free listing for a child's desk, and when it turned out to be a turn-of-the-century schoolhouse chair with attached desk - exactly what I was looking for - I pounced on it.
Make sure you negotiate I have never sold anything on Craigslist where the buyer did not ask for a discount at the door. And I never buy something without doing the same. (Well, except for the free items.) When I went to see my future dining room table the seller wanted $250, and I snagged it for $200. Don't be afraid to ask for a better price.
Here's a little anecdote to my rule about not searching the "Antiques" section only when looking for antiques. I once clicked on a listing for an "old small black dresser" for $20 and when I opened the ad I saw a picture of one of these Dorothy Draper chests which retails now for around $2000. It had been posted several days earlier and when they got back to me it had already been sold. But until I heard back from them I had my heart pounding in my chest. Oh well. Now I look at ALL the listings.
Local Used Furniture Blogs
Amazing finds for a small premium
Another great options for used furniture finds are local furniture blogs. These sites are created by individuals and organizations that find salvaged furniture and resell it online. Many of them are focused around a specific furniture style or era - like Mid Century Modern - and others have a wide range of styles at great price points.
When I was searching for a credenza for my living room I searched these sites until I lucked out and found my Broyhill Brasillia console for a steal on furnishgreen.com(pictured at above).
Below is a list of my local furniture blogs in the New York/New Jersey area. Search out and bookmark your own local sites and be sure to check them regularly. Items are usually updated regularly and great pieces go quickly. Happy hunting!
Furnish Green: Based in New York City, these guys will hold a piece and allow you to come check it out, and also offer delivery for a small fee. Great finds at great prices if you know what you are looking for. I scored my Broyhill Brasilia Credenza here for a steal.
Circa60: Focused on cool retro mid century modern pieces it is a pleasure to peruse this blog. Updated frequently, but the best pieces go fast here.
Re*Pop: Also focused heavily on Mid Century pieces, this site has a huge selection. The prices are not cheap, but if you have your heart set on a specific look you may very well find it in their large inventory.
Housing Works Auctions: The online auctions on this site raise money to support HIV Advocacy and Homelessness. This is where New Yorkers go to get rid of their "junk" when they move apartments, and by junk, I mean some amazing and potentially valuable pieces of furniture and home decor.
Ebay - Best for Smaller Home Décor Items
Find framed art, milk glass, syroco and blenko here for a steal
While you may be able to score some furniture on Ebay at a great price, shipping from a seller across the country could break your budget. However, I have had lots of success buying smaller home décor pieces on Ebay. Here are some of the categories I love to shop on that online auction site.
I aspire to one day own a piece of art that cost more than it cost me to frame it. But until that day, I search for framed prints on ebay. If you have a favorite artist and have searched other online art stores you know that a reproduction print is cheap...but the frame can be 10 times the cost of the artwork.
On ebay I frequently search terms like "Framed Chagall" or "Framed Picasso" and have been able to score inexpensive prints already framed at a fraction of what it would cost me to order the same print new and get it framed.
Some of my best finds include the Picasso to the right which I scored for about $60 (including shipping!).
Depression Era Milk Glass:
After I found my dining room china cabinet for a steal at a local used furniture shop I decided that I wanted to fill it with white milk glass for a monochromatic look. Ebay was the place for this. Since there is a huge selection of milk glass on ebay, my technique was to do a search for "milkglass (bowl, vase, etc)" and then sort by which auctions were ending shortly. I only bid on items with no other bids - minutes before the auction was about to end. This way I scored many pieces for $1 or even $0.01! Unfortunately, shipping was usually several times that amount, but with the new post office flat rate boxes I was still able to spend less than I would have in a thrift shop or antique shop where the pieces run $20-$40, plus ebay has a much better selection.
Syrco is a brand name for a type of home décor made popular in the 60s and 70s. You have probably seen decorative carved mirrors and sconces and then been surprised by their lightness - because instead of being made from wood - they are made from a light weight resin. Recently these pieces have become popular again as many decorators have resorted to spray painting them to inject some new life and color. In the previous picture of my china cabinet, you can see my resin sconces which were once had a gold finish and are now spray painted white to match my milk glass collection. I also scored a pair of Syroco "Tree of Life" pieces (right) which are adorable and hanging in my family room. It is easy to find great pieces like these for great prices on ebay.
Garage Sales - Unexpected Finds in Every Category
My Vintage Magnetic Framed Chalkboard
I had seen several examples of vintage mirror frames being transformed into chalkboards or even magnetic chalkboards. After spending countless hours looking for a suitable vintage mirror to transform, I happened upon this one at a garage sale. Even better, it was a former co-worker's garage sale and we scored this mirror for a mere $15.
I was told that this mirror was a Victorian vanity mirror which would have been used in a bathroom, and the lip at the bottom would have held a woman's lipstick or comb. It is now perfect for a piece of chalk.
There are plenty of online tutorials for how to transform a mirror to a chalkboard, so I am not going to go into the step by step here. I will just say that it is SO worth it to go the extra step and make it a magnetic chalkboard because it is great to be able to stick something on there with a magnet - especially since our stainless fridge won't take magnets. Check out the best tutorial we found here.
Here's the finished product