Tips for Trolling Craigslist

In recent years myriad websites have emerged selling curated pre-owned furniture. While these sites have fabulous pieces and are so easy to navigate, my tried and true favorite place to find serious bargains is still Craigslist. Friends complain that CL (as we veterans call it) feels too daunting to tackle. That's true, it is still a pretty heavy DIY buying experience and, as such, requires a game plan. Here are some of our tips on how to find a piece you’ll love.

1. BE FOCUSED. Know what you’re looking for. If you don’t have a clear idea of what you’re looking for, you’ll make yourself crazy by wading through the muck to find the diamond. Find your inspiration elsewhere — blogs, magazines, 1stDibs, The Highboy, One Kings Lane —  and then be targeted in your search.

2. LOOK AT THE BONES. The finish/fabric of a piece is easy to change - you're looking for great lines, unique shapes, good bones. The idea is to find a piece with high potential and then revitalize it to make it uniquely yours. Search for a canvas, not a finished work of art. You’ll need to invest in the revitalization process so factor that into your budget.

3. SEARCH OUTSIDE THE BOX. Get creative with your search terms. One piece can be described many ways: side tables, accent tables, end tables, night stands. And think of all the ways to describe the style you’re looking for (Danish, mid century, mid-century, Scandinavian, 1950s, etc)

ADVANCED KEYS: Use the | key (usually found on the same key as the back slash “ \ “) to search for similar keywords. For example: curved sofa | curved couch | curved loveseat. Use closed quotation marks to search for a specific term, for example “Hans Wagner”. Use the minus key “ - “ to exclude words from your search.

4. TRY A TIERED SEARCH. Start very specific in your search terms. If you’re not finding what you’re looking for then broaden and generalize your search.

5. CL FUNCTIONALITY. Craigslist has improved its search functionality in recent years. It’s still pretty low tech but these functions can make a big difference in narrowing your search.

Best tips for shopping for vintage furniture on Craigslist

6. KEEP A LIST. Capture your favorite finds in a document as you go along. You think you’ll remember which ones you liked but you won’t.

7. DIMENSIONS. Make sure the piece is going to fit in your space and that the scale is what you want before inquiring about or driving to see a piece.

8. PHOTOS. An image of the piece is good but sometimes not enough, you may need to travel to a few places to see a piece in person. Always go with someone - there is a low probability of the seller being a sociopath…but why risk it? Besides, having two people can help your negotiating strategy and you may need a hand moving the piece.

9. PASS. It’s okay to say “no thank you” after you’ve viewed the piece. You’re not obliged to buy - that’s one of the benefits of shopping on Craigslist. Unless you KNOW you want it, don’t commit to purchasing anything before you see it in person.

10. PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE. It’s going to take time to find a great piece. But if you think of the search as part of the journey (and the story) it won’t feel like a burden!

Already found a great piece on Craigslist? Let us help you transform it into showstopper! Get the process started here

To entice you a bit, here's a smattering of some fantastic finds on Craigslist.