Guest Post | The 6 Commandments of Craigslist

Today, I want to introduce you to my design soul sister, Ms. Ashley Whiteside of  Whiteside + McCarty.  Ashley hails from Oklahoma City, which like Baltimore, has seen a newfound popularity with millenials based on the affordable housing and emerging design culture.  I have at times thought that Ashley and I share a brain, especially when it comes to how we see all things related to design, decorating, and renovating homes.  We haven't actually met in person, although we will one day(I'm sure of it!).  Crazily enough, we met via a Facebook Group called Being Boss.  The connections you can make via the internet still amaze me!

I could go on and on about how much I adore Ashley and her impeccable style, but one of the things I'm most impressed by is her ability to make any space look like a million bucks on a modest budget.  And what's her secret? Yep, you guessed it, Craigslist!  And lucky us...Ashley is sharing her tried and true tips for navigating the wild world of Craigslist.  You too will be a pro when you're done reading this!

The 6 commandments of craigslist:

How to buy vintage furniture that doesn't look cheap and ruin your life

Photo by michelle leach of @magnoliaadams

Photo by michelle leach of @magnoliaadams

Perhaps the other girls my age were busier having social lives and learning marketable skills, but I was too busy playing house to notice. Does that sound like a nod to a time long since past? It was yesterday. Hi, I’m Ashley, and I’m an interior decorating addict. In my defense, it’s my full-time job, as I am a stylist, home rehabber, and abstract artist.  My career is built on years of practice and legitimately thinking that “Craigslist Expert” might not hurt to list on a resume.  

Seven years of dipping my toes in the buying-junk-from-a-stranger water have led to some absolutely wonderful experiences, truly. While Oklahoma City is seeing some great growth, this big little town has introduced me to friendly people that have no idea what their grandmother’s dresser is worth. My home is now furnished approximately 80% through secondhand sources, predominantly through Craigslist. That’s 4 out 5 items, if you’d like it simplified, and as proud as I am of my sleuthing, even I have to laugh at that. Why go to the trouble, when current retail stores have regular hours and don’t require making arrangements and your mom saw that movie about the Craigslist killer, so…? BECAUSE I DON’T HAVE ALL OF THE DOLLARS. Also, it’s completely true that they don’t make furniture like they used to. Perhaps of chief importance to me is the need for mixing old and new, while incorporating unique, storied elements into a designed space. Oh, and the environment, something, something.

Should you find yourself wanting to parlay into this fantastical world of weirdo opportunities, there are some guidelines you should know. These tips and tricks can help you navigate the actual ins-and-outs of the process, but I can’t help you with your paranoid mother.

1.   YOU SHOULD USE THE APP OR YOU’RE WASTING VALUABLE MINUTES.

I use an application called cPro that allows to me search and categorize pretty easily. There’s a marginal cost for the app compared to the headache that is using the full site on your iPhone. For real, I’m laughing at you if you do that. Once you have the app downloaded, use it to narrow down your hopes and dreams so you are sorting through the least possible amount of riffraff. Note: there will still be riffraff because sometimes another person’s trash is so totally actually trash.

Search options I frequent: a) vintage, b) midcentury, c) retro, d) modern, e) rug, f) dresser. Here’s a fun game — ask my husband how many rugs we’ve owned. Oops!

craigslist app

This isn't an ad for their app, but I'd be a free spokesperson if they asked.  Functional search, ability to save favorites and remember who you've emailed - that's some real handy 2016 space age stuff that's incredibly useful for buying dusty relics from the 70's that belong in Palm Springs or wherever.  Sweet, sweet irony.

2.    ASSESS VALUE BEFORE MAKING ANY CONTACTS WITH A SELLER.

Say you find a rad lucite chair that you’re pretty sure was in Domino Magazine last month, and would look great by your bookshelf. Nonporous surface, good condition, and may just need a wipe down. You can pick up pretty nearby, and are getting it for $20, even though they are $200 new. This scenario is pretty ideal!

What would be a game changer? Not being realistic about costs needed to fix up an item, including drive time, reupholstery, man hours, and the like. Especially if you aren’t sure you love it, don’t waster the seller’s time! Just don’t. Neither of you win if that’s the case. Keep a level head.

This credenza was destined to be our media center. For $30, including the trip to pick it up and paint + stain I already had on hand, this damaged piece got a new life and looks significantly nicer. Compared to the brand new piece I admired from an online retailer that clocked in at $1299, I was happy as a clam.

3.   MAKE A REAL PLAN AND EXPECT IT TO HAVE ALREADY SOLD.

Earlier this year, I found the ultimate Craigslist gold, and knew I was in for a treat. The listing had only been live for ten minutes when I saw it, and immediately called a friend with a truck because I knew this giant shelf wouldn’t fit in our SUV. It took seven phone calls to find someone that was available right away, but I did all of this before contacting the seller because there are no rules that would require him to hold this piece of heaven for me so I wanted to play fair. Of course, it should have sold in that time, for every reason. Maybe because it was Friday night during football season, but the rest of OKC was asleep at the [Craigslist] wheel. I snagged

milo baughman double cantilevered brass etagere

a Milo Baughman Double Cantilevered Brass and Glass Etagere, worth thousands, for, well, let’s just say less. Maybe that’s karma though, as I’ve missed the prize dozens of times before, and that’s just the way it goes. Don’t go in entitled because you’ll always be disappointed.

craigslist finds

LEFT: A set of two Midcentury six-drawer dressers and a mirror for $50.  Needed a cleaning and some vinegar to the cut "old" smell.  I later saw this piece elsewhere for $800! RIGHT: The queen Ikea platform bed + floating nightstands was mostly assembled and looked brand new - $200 for all.  The antique 9x12 rug in my favorite colors? $150

4.    RULES FOR ENGAGEMENT:

  • Take someone with you. Period.

  • Meet in a public space, like the Target parking lot near the entrance.

  • Arrive with cash ready. Offers are ok (unless price is stated to be firm, or if you lowball).

  • Have an exit strategy, and a reason for leaving. Don’t dawdle. Plan this and discuss it with your buddy.

  • Do all four of those things every time or we are in a fight.

5.    WALK AWAY FROM THE DANG THING IF YOU NEED.

Sometimes it isn’t what you expected, and life goes on. Don’t buy it anyway! Beyond reasons of a seller misrepresenting or under representing the facts, you need to be decisive and realistic. Answer honestly: Where is this going? Will I actually fix it up? Do I know how to actually fix it up? Am I sure I really dig this or is it just a popular thing amongst all the cool people I know and pretend to be like? From there, go with your gut, and don’t get stuck with a garage full of projects because that’s serving you NONE.

shopping craigslist like a pro

LEFT: A campaign desk in good shape met a can of Martha's sample paint, for a grand total of $45.  The vintage chair came as pictured for $20.  A little bit of 80's never hurt anyone, I think?  RIGHT: My sweet toddler used this art deco waterfall dresser in her nursery for a while - $50 and weighed more than a grown man.

6.   KNOW THAT CRAIGSLIST ISN’T FOR EVERYONE AND DON’T FEEL GUILTY.    

Different strokes for different folks, and if it doesn’t appeal to you, fine! If you aren’t enjoying it, feel free to leave the goodies there for those of us who are invigorated by the chase.

ashley whiteside

Thanks so much Ashley!  If I thought I was a savvy Craigslist shopper before, I'm truly a pro now! // Ashley Whiteside is the owner of Whiteside Art & Interiors, where she plays Fixer Upper meets Secrets From A Stylist for Oklahoma City, though her collaboration on oversized abstract paintings with her toddler, Nora, is her favorite project to date. Find out more at whitesideandmccarty.com or by following on Instagram: @ashleyswhiteside.