Monday, March 28, 2011

New-to-Us Sofas AND Craigslist Furniture Buying Tips

I have been meaning to post pics of our new-to-us sofas forever.

That is almost as long as it took for me to make a decision about what to buy.  I went around to all the furniture stores in the area, and got thoroughly depressed by the cost vs. attractiveness of what I saw. I don't have anything inherently against spending money for furniture, but I want to really like it if I am going to pay more than I spent for a year's worth of college tuition on a couple of sofas.  It wasn't helping that I had a pretty narrow idea of what I wanted: a formal sofa with turned legs for the living room, and a big, squishy, slip covered sofa for our family room.  Both these styles are more commonly found in higher-end establishments.  As usual, I wanted a high-end look on a low-end budget.
I was trying to replace our family room sofa 

and our living room sofa.  

Both had seen better days--the living room sofa was a $30 thrift store find covered by a $30 steal of a slipcover, and the family room sofa was a bicast leather sofa that had cracked, then been picked at by my sweet but mildly destructive children until it looked like this:
 {{Shudder}}.  Not pretty.

After combing all the furniture stores, I finally decided I do not have the fiscal stomach for buying new furniture.  So I started looking on Craigslist seriously, and within a couple weeks I had found two sofas.  Both were in great shape, and were really close to the ideal sofas I had in my head.

Here is my new living room sofa (boy and plastic golf ball shown to give you an idea of the scale of the pieces ;) ): 

 It is an Ethan Allan sofa--currently on their website for about $2,000.  I got it for $100.  The woman who sold it had a black lab who liked to sit on it, and she was sick of trying to remove black pet hair from a white sofa.  I think I will eventually make slipcovers for it (and maybe stain the turned legs which are a little light for my taste), but in the meantime, I washed all the cushion covers and down cushion wraps in hot, vacuumed it thoroughly and sprayed the heck out of it with Lysol.  I think it looks great in my living room.

Now for the family room sofa:
This is a Crate and Barrel down-filled slip covered sofa that has been discontinued on their website.  From the looks of things, it would have been between $1500 and $2500 new.  I bought it for $250.  The lighting in this picture is terrible, but the fabric is a sage-ish green chenille.  It is great because it is long enough that four people (five if they are little people) can sit on the sofa at the same time.  This one was in awesome shape.  I vacuumed and Lysol-ed it and it was ready to rumble.

There are some things I've learned over my years of buying furniture off Craigslist and the like that really make the process go more smoothly.  I'm sure most of you die-hard Craigslisters have lots of wisdom to share, but for what they're worth, here are my tips:

  • Measure your space--doors, space for the wanted piece, etc.  There are not usually returns when you buy something from someone on Craigslist.
  • Ask as many questions up front as possible.  Once you've driven to some one's house, you tend to be very invested in buying the piece.  You may have reservations once you see it, but feel pressured to get it anyway, if only to justify your time expenditure.  The more you know ahead of time, the fewer surprises.  Some examples of things to find out are: Smoking household? How old?  Any defects? Who was it made by?  Why are they selling it?
  • Make sure to be courteous to the seller.  Even when you are grilling them about their item, be tactful and kind, i.e. "Could I ask you a few questions about the piece you are selling?"
  • Do your research.  Look up the manufacturer of the piece you are considering.  Does it have a good reputation?  I eliminated several sofa options this way.  Of course if the price is low enough, you may be willing to take a chance--but it is better to know what you are getting up front.
  • Take a buddy with you when you go to see the item, both for safety's sake and to help you stuff your item in your vehicle.  Also bring directions or a GPS, the seller's phone number, a tape measure/your house measurements and some rope (to tie down your trunk or hatch just in case).
  • Plan on paying in cash.  If it is a large sum, I often check out the piece and the situation first to make sure I'm interested before I go get the money from my ATM.  Usually, if it is under $100, I'll just bring the money with me.
So what about everybody else?  Do you have any tips to make Craigslisting easier?  Or have you scored a furniture steal lately?  Inquiring minds want to know... :)

I'm linking up with:


  1. You have found some great sofas. I'm on the hunt for one now. I love the first one. Good tips also. Only thing I would add would be to trust your gut. If it seems like a scam or sketchy in any way, it's better safe than sorry. This goes for buying and selling.

  2. I would also add: check for bedbugs! I have heard a few nightmare stories and now I will not buy any 2nd hand upholstered pieces - though looks like you lucked out!

  3. Wow! Nice score! Congratulations :) looks fab

  4. oooh, those look great - I especially like the chenille sofa. We have a chenille sofa and it still looks great after seven years and four children!! Impressive as not much else has lasted the distance!!


  5. Awesome, awesome finds. I've been scouring craigslist, too, in search of a sofa for our bonus room. I'd almost given up hope, but your post has energized me to keep up the search a bit longer!

    PS - thanks for stopping by my blog to leave a comment. If you're not a follower already, I would love to have you!

  6. Another tip for those looking to buy furniture from Craigslist but don't have access to a truck. Check out they will send a driver with a pickup truck or van to help you buy and move your new furniture.

  7. I love the blog. Great post. It is very true, people must learn how to learn before they can learn. lol i know it sounds funny but its very true. . .
    oversized leather sofas

  8. Great Post, I just love the sofa info you've share..


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