Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How to Search Craig's List Like An Expert

campaign dresser
// via //
**Before I start today's post, I just wanted to say THANK YOU  for all the emails, comments, messages and even texts that I got after writing yesterday's. While it's a really difficult, wrenching decision either way (I feel like regardless of the choice I make, I'll end up grieving something), it helps so much to know that other people have gone through this or are struggling through it as well. xx **

A couple of months ago, a good friend of mine (you all might remember this post from last fall highlighting his old condo) downsized into the sweetest new condo that I've seen in a long time. Located in Boston's South End neighborhood, the new space is perfect for him -- not too big, not too tiny and in the middle of everything -- but its smaller footprint has meant that he's needed to be quite particular about the pieces he's been able to bring with him/purchase for it. As is often the case when he's looking for something in particular, I received an email outlining what he wanted -- a classic campaign-style dresser with  masculine feel and as much storage as possible -- at a very reasonable price and ASAP (I told you we were good friends). I added his parameters to my secret Craig's List search list and lo and behold, one popped up last week. Let's just say he practically vaulted to the phone to purchase it from the seller. He picked it up last weekend and sent me a picture...


Not the best shot but I think if you can look past the image, you'll see insanely gorgeous grain, beautiful details, real brass hardware and storage for days. I think we can all agree that he got the deal of the century picking it up at roughly half the price of an IKEA bureau.

After patting myself on the back for helping with this little coup, I remembered that I'd assured a reader months ago that I'd do a post on how I search Craig's List for "the good stuff". This was right before our move and my promise to do so got lost in the shuffle. But now that we're settled in (a little), I figured I'd give it a go. Now, I can't reveal all my secrets (I have to have a little bit of an edge!) but here are my top six secrets to finding thrifted gold on Craig's List:

1.) Come up with a relatively open list of search terms: There's no telling what words someone is going to use when listing their vintage treasure. So while you think a chest of drawers should be called a chest of drawers, try also searching terms like:
      • bureau
      • dresser
      • chest of draws (the English major in me can't stand the grammatical error but I've found some gems this way)
      • bedside storage (if you're looking for something small)
      • lots of storage
      • drawers
Or say you're looking for a console table (as I am right now). I definitely search "console"
but I also search (and I can't believe I'm sharing this while actually trying to find something!):
      • sofa table (and then again without "table")
      • hall table ("")
      • entry table ("")
      • library table ("")
2.) Come up with a list of very specific search terms: Yes, I realize that this is exactly the opposite of #1 but while using broad terms lets you search for the items stuck between the good-labeling cracks, being specific ensures that you don't miss out on that very specific something. For example, when I was trying to track down six of these chairs for our dining room...
cesca chair

I definitely searched for "kitchen chairs" in the hopes that someone didn't know what they had but I also search (and ultimately found them) using terms like this:
      • caned chairs (and cane chairs)
      • Cesca chairs (the actual model I was looking for)
      • Breuer (the designer of the Cesca)
      • Bauhaus (the era these chairs came out of)
      • cantilever
3.) Be open-minded & willing to store items ... but only if they're really "right": It's really easy to see something in the pages of a magazine or blog post and just become obsessed with having it for yourself. But in becoming all-consumed, you'll lose out on so many other items with the same "feel" that would, in all likelihood, work better in your space. When you fall for something, ask yourself why you love it so much. Is it the scale? The finish? Or is it more about the way that it works in the whole room? Once you become more open-minded, you can get to the base of why you're so drawn to something and you'll be able to parse out search terms that will help you find just the right thing for you space.

On a related note, please know that things will pop up at the wrong time (you're in the process of moving, don't have room, etc.). But if you stumble upon something that's fantastic (and fantastically affordable) -- that you know you'll never see again and will think about ad nauseam if you don't get it -- I give you my permission to store it.  For example, I bought this vintage map off of Craig's List 2 1/2 years ago...


 I knew I wanted to use it in my son's "big boy" room and I also knew that there was a chance that we'd be moving so I knew that it likely wouldn't get used for awhile. But at $35, it was too good to pass up. So it sat in storage until yesterday when I hung it on his wall. And while the room's nowhere near done, it's already my (and his) favorite part of his space ... totally worth it.
4.) Be willing to drive (or pay someone to drive for you): The likelihood that the thing you fall for is going to be located within a five-minute drive from you is statistically very, very low. Don't get me wrong, it happens ... but not often. When you search, you should *definitely* tick the "search nearby areas" box ... and expect to spend some time and money schlepping an item back. Is it convenient? No. But then, neither is paying triple the amount in order to find it at that super-chic shop on the corner (that will also charge you a hefty delivery fee). Yes, you might spend 3 hours of your Saturday morning and $100 more to pick up that fantastic shelving unit but if you're sure it's right and the price allows for it, then it's worth it. My friend trekked out to the Cape (almost 100 miles away) to get that campaign bureau but he still made out like a bandit and had a little adventure to boot.

If you can't drive/won't drive, etc. please know that there are people who will do it for you (for a fee). I hired someone to pick up this set for me and bring it to our house; and even with the $150 delivery fee, we bought the set, had it delivered and had it all recovered for less than the cost of a single chair. See? Totally worth it.

5.) Search often. But search more often on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday: Once you have a list of search terms, you need to search often. In the past, when I've been on a deadline or looking for something very specific for a client, I'll set up an automatic CL search (I had good luck using this one) but I truly believe that there's nothing better than searching manually. You'll see more, catch more and will be more likely to find the good stuff that way. And knowing when to search most effectively is paramount to being successful without spending your whole day online. Since people start thinking about their weekends on Wednesday, and because they're more likely to be home than out for after-work drinks, I personally thing it's the first good day to search. Same goes for Thursday and Sunday. Friday and Saturday aren't as good because people more often have plans an aren't willing to put in the effort to post. Trust me; you'll save a bunch of time and frustration this way...

6.) Be kind: This one's pretty easy folks; don't be a jerk. That item that you love is filled with someone else's memories. And they're selling it to either clear out space, because they're moving, because they're handling an estate, etc. and they're doing it in the hopes to make some money. Remember that the sellers are people too so:
      • don't be rude via phone or email
      • show up if you say you're going to show up 
      • don't make low-ball offers just for the sake of it. If I think something is overpriced, or if I've been following it and noticed that it hasn't sold, then I'll offer the price that I think is fair (usually 10-20% off). If I fall hard for something that's completely out of reach for me, then I will send the seller a very nice email explaining my love of it, tell them what I can afford and ask them to get in touch with me if they're ever willing to lower the price to that amount. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't but it's worth the effort .. .and everyone appreciated knowing that someone appreciates their stuff.


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  2. Counter height table, white marble top, square, no larger than 48" x 48". black iron or brass legs. ASAP. go.