Sunday, August 26, 2012

Craigslist 101

Craigslist is a goldmine, if you know how to use it.  I feel like I am about to reveal some sort of secret that once out will deplete my precious online resource, but I have decided to spill it anyhow to show you that design can be affordable if you are willing to put in a little time and elbow grease.

I’m assuming if you are at all online savvy and found your way to my blog that you are familiar with the concept of Craigslist.  It’s a free online listing service where you can post items for sale, amongst other services.  But let’s just stick to the “For Sale” section shall we?

I am constantly scouring Craigslist when I have a “project” idea in mind, meaning I search sometimes two or three times a day.  This may sound time consuming, but if you have figured out your search parameters then it helps narrow down the field and search time.

In the past we have scored the following with the help of Craigslist:

My husband’s (former) car from Las Vegas.

My car from Denver.

My husband’s new car from Kansas City.

This Steelcase office chair for $5 in Omaha that I reupholstered.

This butcher block counter top for $60 in Omaha that I refinished.

Recently (as in the last year) I have been on the hunt for a mid-century modern style dresser for our bedroom.  In past months I would search for dressers maybe once a week, but always came in a little too late.  Either I would hesitate and think about it for a few days, or I was calling several days after the dresser was posted.  This lead to heartbreak on many occasions as the “perfect” dresser was already gone.  But the magic of Craigslist is that another “perfect” dresser always comes along, something that my husband had to frequently remind me of.

One particular incident a few weeks ago finally pushed me to search every day until I had my dresser.  The dresser was $40, gorgeous, and I had a time set after work with the seller to buy it.  While at work I received a “SOLD IT!” email from the seller…I was more than disappointed, I was mad.

From that day on I searched nearly every day for the following:  “dresser” in “Furniture by owner” with image.

Last week I found two promising specimens.  One was a Broyhill Brasilia dresser listed for $575.  This may seem like a lot for an old dresser, but this line often sells for over $1000 on EBay.  I tried convincing the husband, and myself, that this was the perfect investment piece dresser.  Thankfully, he didn’t cave and kindly reminded me that I will find another more affordable dresser that I would love.

A few days after my heartbreak I spotted another potential dresser listed for $150.  Based on the pictures it was difficult to tell if this was indeed “the dresser”.  But I didn’t waste any time and I emailed the seller that I was interested.  I heard back right away, arranged a time on Thursday night to look at the dresser, and then I wasn’t able to make it.  But miracle of miracles, the seller emailed me on Friday and said the dresser was mine for $50 if I could pick it up that night.  So with the help of our good friend Dan and his truck, we finally have our mid-century dresser.

Isn’t it a beaut?  It has a few scratches and water marks from cups, but with a little refinishing I think it will really shine!

For those of you novice Craigslisters I would offer the following tips:

1)  Figure out key words for your search terms.  I searched “dresser” but also, “midcentury” “mid-century” “mid century” and “Danish”. 
2)  Limit your search to posts containing an image.  With no picture, you really have little clue of what you are getting yourself into and will likely waste your time going to look at it.

3)  Search for “by owner”.  This eliminates all of the dealers out there selling those awful 7 piece furniture sets.  They always include popular search phrases in their descriptions so they will pop up with almost any search you perform.

4)  Don’t let bad photos fool you.  You are not looking for perfection.  Look instead for good bones (i.e. solid wood, dovetail joints, functioning drawers).  Minor imperfections can be fixed.

5)  Act immediately.  Send an email or call if there is a phone number listed.  Don’t offer to purchase the piece, but say that you would like to arrange a time to stop buy and take a look.  You can always back out once you see it in person.

6)  If the posting is vague, ask additional questions or for more pictures.  Depending on the item and the price he seller may be more or less inclined to answer your questions or provide pictures.  If the item is selling for $10, they probably just want to get rid of it and won’t bother answering.

7)  If you are traveling out of town and have been looking for a particular item (i.e. car) search Craigslist in that city before heading there.  Often you can arrange a day and time before heading there and find out where the item is located if you are unfamiliar with the city.

8)  Do your research.  If you are looking for something antique Google it to see what they typically sell for on EBay or other sites.  Use this to your advantage when haggling a price if the item is overpriced.  A lot of items are overpriced on Craigslist, which people eventually realize when their stuff doesn’t sell.

9)  Use imperfections to your advantage when deciding on a price.  Point out to the seller that you will have to do some refinishing.

10)  Carry the right amount of cash with you, but separate out enough for just your starting offer.  Don’t pull out a wad in front of the seller, but then only offer them half. 

Now I admit that I am HORRIBLE at haggling prices.  The Broyhill Brasilia dresser?  I totally would have paid the $575 they were initially asking since I saw that they commonly sell for twice that amount.  Luckily with the dresser we came home with I didn’t even have to haggle.  The seller dropped the price on his own by $100 and $50 was a fair price, no haggling needed there.

My husband on the other hand is never afraid of negotiating a good deal.  I think with me I’m just afraid of offending the seller?  Or maybe I just hate confrontation?  Either way, it makes me uncomfortable.  But that is something that I will continue to work on with my future Craigslist ventures.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Presidential Inspiration

 Being that it is an election year I find it rather fitting that my most recent source of interior design inspiration comes from a former president.  He currently resides in our basement.

Yes my friends, I am speaking of the infamous Nixon bowling photo.  In case you are unfamiliar with this masterpiece allow me to introduce you.

This photo was taken during President Nixon’s term in office in 1970 in the Old Executive Office Bowling Alley.  It was made famous by the movie “The Big Lebowski” where The Dude, an avid bowler, has this photo in a sort of shrine sitting above his bar where he concocts his White Russians.

Since this is my husband’s all-time-favorite movie, I decided to buy this poster as a Christmas gift for him a few years back knowing that I would have to hang it in our house.  At first, I cringed a little putting it up on our wall.  But I can honestly say that I have grown fond of Mr. President over the last few years.  So much so, that I realized recently I want to design the basement around him.

I had an epiphany the other week.  This picture is perfect.  It has exactly what I am looking for in a “loungy basement”.  Allow me to explain to you skeptics.

The color combination is perfect:  brown, gray, and indigo with pops of red.  I already have the brown, gray and red going on in the basement, but I feel like it was missing something.  Indigo blue.  This is the perfect slightly unexpected accent color.

I am also totally digging the loungy late 1960’s vibe that this photo exudes.  The red chair = perfection!  And I cannot say enough about the awesome graphic wallpaper in the background.

I can tell you now that this does not mean that I will install a bowling alley, hang blue pattered wallpaper and buy a red chair to match the one in the photo.  This is purely for inspiration.  Here is how I plan on incorporating a little more Nixon in our basement:

1)      Find Mid-Century style furniture pieces.
2)      Use bold graphic patterns.
3)      Keep the gray paint and deep brown wood tones we currently have but add more pops of red and indigo blue.
4)      Keep it fun and kind of quirky.  Let’s face it.  This is an entertainment room.  It is supposed to be a fun and relaxing area.  I don’t want people to feel like they can’t put their feet up and have a good time.

So what do you think?  Am I crazy?  Can you picture it like I can?  We will see how my Nixon vision evolves in the coming year.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Going Vertical

I did it again.  I gutted another poorly designed closet in our 70-year-old house.  As I have mentioned before old homes notoriously have small closets.  Not only are they small, but they in no way take advantage of the tiny amount of space allotted to them in the first place.  Since our master bedroom closet overhaul last year I have been dying to get my hands on our disaster of a “coat closet”.

Technically, our house does not have an official coat closet.  I installed coat hooks by our front door, which we use to rotate our regularly worn seasonal items.   

To store the rest of our coats, jackets, hats, gloves, boots, and bags we took over our guest bedroom closet since it is located on the first floor of our home.  Over the last four years it has started to look a little something like this…

Horrible.  Not only is it difficult to find a matching pair of gloves, all of our many bags, backpacks and boots have melded into one giant pile on the floor making it impossible to find what you are looking for.

A few weeks back the organizing bug hit me again.  I was trying to clean our living room and could not find the space to shove yet another backpack into the closet.  I had enough!  So the closet purging began.  This is everything that it contained.

After the purge, I began to take inventory of what we had, what we could move to other locations in the house, and what we could donate.  We decided that we wanted this closet to only contain the following:

Picnic Items

I took measurements after the purge of the closet, as well as some of the items I knew we needed to make room for.  Using Paint I created a rough diagram so I could explain my vision to the hubby and get the final approval.

After getting his input and blessing I got to the fun part…the demolition!  I knew this closet would likely be constructed the same way as our master, so I collected the necessary tools:  gloves, sturdy shoes, a pry-bar, and a large hammer.

The closet had boards nailed around the perimeter with hooks and the rod attached.  Using the pry-bar I loosened up the boards from the wall and removed any remaining nails with a pair of pliers.

After all of the shelves and boards were removed I started spackling to create a slightly smoother surface. 

I like to use the DAP Drydex Dry Time Indicator spackle.  It goes on pink and then turns white when it is dry.  Once everything was white, I lightly sanded over the spackle to smooth everything out.  I was not going for perfection here, as this is a closet after all.  Another little tip, have your shop vac in one hand and the sanding paper in the other.  This cuts down on the dust floating around to all areas of your house.  Trust me…it gets everywhere!

After the sanding was complete I started cutting in with the paint.  I decided to go with a muted turquoise, “Yucca Plant” from Martha Stewart’s line at Home Depot, the same color I had used for the kitchen pantry.  Luckily I had enough left over so I didn’t have to buy paint, always a good thing!

While the paint was drying I took a trip over to Lowes to pick up the necessary closet supplies.  I got a closet rod and mounting brackets, a melamine shelf which I had cut in two to size, four shelf brackets and a longer pull chain for the light.  The total for all of the supplies came in just under $40.

Once home, I started hanging the closet rod and the shelves.  I always use the heavy-duty anchor screws anytime I have to mount anything on our walls.  We have the old plaster and lathe walls, which makes it nearly impossible to find the studs using our stud finder.  So far, we have had really good luck using this method and everything is staying put.

Winston, "helping" as always.

 After all of the hardware and shelves were in place, I started reintroducing our items into the closet.  We did pare down some of our coats and jackets, as well as a few bags.  Here is the final product!

The first row contains all of our boots and I left room in case any taller boots join in in the future. 

For the next row I used these three IKEA PJAS baskets I picked up on my last trip up to Minnesota.  I filled these with winter hats, gloves, and baseball caps. 

The third row contains all of our various bags, backpacks, laptop cases, and picnic items.  I had thought about hanging hooks around the wall of the closet for bags, but quickly realized we would run out of hooks.  This shelf is just the perfect size for all of our bags and the shelf height makes them easily accessible.

The final row is obviously our coats and jackets as well as our IKEA Komplement scarf hanger.

I am really happy with the outcome.  I like to take advantage of the vertical space in closets as much as possible and it worked really well to just move the closet rod up in this case.  

My mom already asked if we could reach the closet rod.  Thankfully I am just tall enough at 5’4’’ to hang any coats.  Any future vertically challenged homeowners might have to lower the rod, or get one of those handy reaching sticks they have in department stores.  I always thought it would be fun to own one of those.

Thanks for stopping by!  Hopefully as work eases up in the near future I will have time for more projects and more posts!