the least snarkler post ever

In Home on February 14, 2015 at 1:22 pm

This has nothing to do with anything I ever write about. But a friend asked for advice about buying used, I mean pre-owned, I mean vintage furniture. Once I wrote it all out, I thought maybe it was helpful to other people. Enjoy:

Craigslist is nice because you can see stuff from home and they usually provide the dimensions so you can measure to see if it will fit before buying. You can also usually barter on the price. Downside: sometimes the seller is far away, and you have to be prepared right then to pick it up in whatever vehicle you can wrangle. Also, with furniture, people usually want you to come to their house rather than load it up themselves to meet you, so be careful and bring someone with you, meet in a public, well-lit place (grocery store parking lots during the day are a good option). Lastly, items on craigslist tend to be overpriced. People’s emotional attachment and skewed sense of their own frugality means they often price things unrealistically (I’ve seen people price IKEA stuff OVER the price of IKEA because “they put it together for you”). However, there are still great deals to be had, even from dealers. PS – some sellers will offer delivery.
Vintage stores tend to be the most expensive – since it’s their specialty, they know the value of items. BUT they will usually price good-quality items that have been made over super-ugly at a good price because their customers tend to not have the imagination to see what could be done with a piece beyond the current ugly. There are also some smaller stores that have to keep their prices competitive with bigger shops, and there’s the possibility of bartering with them.
Goodwill/Salvation Army/St. Vincent de Paul are usually the cheapest options. They don’t have an emotional attachment, and they are non-profits. There are days where everything is half-off… I got that blue chest of drawers for $12.50 because it was half-price day. If you pay at the time, you can usually pick it up within 24 hours so you have time to get help with transport. You can also trust to buy upholstered items from these stores because as non-profits, there are federal guidelines, including the professional cleaning and guarantee of items being free from bedbugs/fleas/etc. However, the selection is limited and varies from store to store. There is a Salvation Army furniture store in Norwood and I can give you some specific locations that are good to go for furniture. In addition, they are less likely to have quality items. There are some gems, but there’s a lot of particle board.
The ReStore stores, which are run by Habitat for Humanity. Around Cincinnati, there are locations in Bond Hill, Hamilton, Cheviot, and Florence. You can see some of their stuff online (and on craigslist) and it’s generally more commercial stuff but there are some really good deals. I got a bathroom cabinet for $20. They are also good for “character” salvage parts that you can add to other plain furniture for interest.
Trader’s World/flea markets: I got an amazing horizontal bookcase for $24 at Trader’s World and if I had the money, I would have gotten a spectacular steamer trunk for $60. You have to wait for spring for these because most of the furniture vendors stay outside.
Side of the road: I have gotten some of my best stuff as roadside pickups, including a chair that is a vintage model by a famous designer – a furniture company recently released a line of reproductions of it and they sell for about $1000. Finding out what day trash day is and doing drive arounds is the easiest window shopping you can do. Cincinnati-wise, Avondale, Clifton, Northside, and Walnut Hills are particularly good for curb pick-ups. Some curb items are also listed on craigslist. Be prepared to get in the car right away, because if they are advertised, they go quickly.
Yard Sales: Again, seasonal, but often advertised on craigslist with some pics of the furniture. They have some of the best deals you’re going to encounter.
The best advice is to be open to what comes to you and let people know what you’re looking for. Some things were gifts from friends (or trades); some were something I found out about from a friend, so let people know you’re looking if they know of someone who has something you need (or if they themselves do). You never know unless you ask!

Back to snark and sparklers next post.

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