Craigslist 101 With Capella Kincheloe

[by Brian Patrick Flynn from HGTV's Design Happens]

Unless you’ve spent the past decade on the U.S. space station orbiting Mars, you’ve probably heard of something called Craigslist. Much like outer space or, perhaps, the fictional Land of Oz, it’s a wondrous, dubious place we’re still trying to figure out. Whether you’re hocking hand-me-downs or picking up mid-century sofas for less than a tank of gas, the site can be overwhelming.

Capella Kincheloe

Capella Kincheloe

For the ins and outs of conquering Craigslist, I turned to Atlanta-based interior designer, blogger and Craigslist enthusiast, A Curated Lifestyle’s own Capella Kincheloe. From when to search and what to search for, here’s what she had to say.

BPF: Give us your take on Craigslist in three sentences.
CK: Most of items on Craigslist could use a little TLC—but that provides the opportunity to make the piece your own, with new hardware or a paint job. This is what a lot of antique stores do, so instead of paying their markups & overhead costs, you are buying straight from the source. Typically, people do not know what their pieces are worth or they just want to get them out of the house, so you can find furniture at a fraction of what it is worth.

BPF: Best days to check out the site in regards to new stuff?
CK: To get first dibs, search Craigslist listings at night, since this is when most of the listings go up. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays have more posts than the rest of the week, since listings go up to sell during the weekend.

BPF: What should people keep in mind to make furniture searching more efficient?
CK: When I start a search I always click “has image” & “furniture – by owner” and if you have a budget put that max number is as well – maybe going slightly over to allow for some negotiation. The most common items that appear on the furniture search are sofas & dining tables, but as long as you are patient you can find about anything that you are looking for—and often things that you didn’t even know you wanted.

BPF: How do you deal with items with confusing labels or descriptions? Can a seller’s improper labeling be beneficial?
CK: Search all the different words used for the same item (couch, sofa, love seat) as well as misspellings (dinning, rod iron, automan). Not everyone will have the same idea on colors – your burgundy could be someone else’s wine red. The really good deals are usually when someone has no idea what they have and cannot describe in detail – for example a “Vintage Danish Mod Peter Hvidt Teak Chest” will cost you more than a “Wood Chest.”

BPF: You and I both go designer crazy for Craigslist pieces with great lines that we can rehab into showstoppers. At what point do you find a diamond-in-the-rough to be more of a pain in the @$%# than a great deal?
CK: Make sure the time it takes you to paint or do repairs is worth it. Refinishing the top of a table is easier than replacing chipped veneer. Painting a china hutch is easier than refinishing it if it’s packed with intricate, carved wood details.

BPF: How can you tell if price is negotiable?
CK: When you find something you like, contact the seller immediately by their preferred method and get any additional information you need to make your decision. The next step is making an appointment to view the piece; be on time, come with cash, and bring a vehicle large enough to take the piece at time of sale (unless it is unusually large). Once you decide that you want to buy the piece, ask the seller if the cost is their lowest price; this gives you an idea how much they are willing to budge. If you don’t think the piece is worth the selling cost, offer a price that you think is fair, but be aware that not every seller will negotiate. Most of the time I pay the seller’s price because it is so low already.

BPF: On the flip side, what are some things to keep in mind if you want to sell your own furniture?
CK: When selling: use spell check, add as many keywords as you can to describe your item in the description, but don’t use words that don’t apply just to get more views. Include dimensions, include conditions; use good, well-lit photos from a couple of angles; get close-up images of any damages. Taking a few more minutes on your post will save you time when people come to see your piece, then think it wasn’t represented well online. The more information the better so you aren’t answering a ton of emails. Don’t use capital letters, excessive punctuation or unnecessary adjectives in your titles. The searcher will decide if your 1980′s overstuffed armchair is gorgeous or not. In your post, write “Will remove listing once sold, until then it is still available” – this will reduce “Is this available emails.”

BPF: What are some things people should consider in regards to safety when picking up or showing items?
CK: Don’t give out your address to everyone who emails asking about your post—give landmarks or a nearby intersection. If someone is interested, ask them to call you to get your address and set up an appointment; that way you’ll get more serious responses and can vet the callers. I’ve never been in an uncomfortable or dangerous situation from buying/selling on Craigslist, but always be safe. Have someone go with you to pick up your item or let a friend know the exact address and give them a call confirming you are safe after the pick up. If you’re selling, have another person with you in your home or give a friend all the details of the potential buyer.

Craigslist Before and After Chair

When searching for chairs, Capella suggests focusing on the overall lines and era of the piece. Since Craigslist prices are usually extremely low, painting a piece yourself, then splurging on upholstery is the way to go. By painting this old chair white, then updating it with textural blue fabric, it was reinvented as updated traditional.

Craigslist Chair Find

Although sofas and dining tables seem to be the most popular items sold on Craigslist under “furniture,” Capella says that hidden gems, such as this cane chair, are often mingled into the mix and may be incorrectly titled. By focusing more on the image rather than its description, you’re likely to find something spectacular, which may have been overlooked.

Craigslist Dresser Before and After

Capella’s Atlanta-based firm, CKID found this tall dresser on Craigslist, then gave it a bold new identity by stripping it with sandpaper, adding red paint and new hardware.

Craigslist Dresser Makeover

This low, mid-century dresser was updated with white paint and rehabbed hardware. Something Capella suggests, although obvious, is to ensure you’ve got a vehicle large enough to haul away any Craigslist pieces you head out to see. If you fall in love with it but can’t get it home, it’s likely you’ll lose it to another potential buyer who shows up ready to take it with them immediately.

Check out Capella’s new Atlanta-based project, Design Collective ATL.