Green Idea: Tips for Buying Used Furniture on Craigslist and Ebay
Jan 11, 2011
I can understand why people have begun to see anything labeled "green" as a trendy way to generate more profits. It's true. Set foot in any home goods store and you'll see loads of stuff labeled "green" or "sustainable" or "eco-friendly." But just because something is made from bamboo or cork doesn't make it green… especially if you didn't need it in the first place. Often the greenest goods are those that are already taking up space on this planet: used stuff.
Because I'm a different sort of interior decorator— selling only my services and not "stuff"— I'm keen on designs that include used pieces or things clients already own. Same goes for my own house, and I've learned a thing or two about procuring the good finds from that online bastion of used furniture: Craigslist. Here's my most recent CL purchase, a 1960s dresser I got for $30 from a lady who was clearing out her mother's house. I got exactly what I wanted, for even less than I was willing to pay. My office is so much more organized!
PHOTO: Diane Kolak, Dwelement Home Design
I'd been combing the listings since summer, looking for a low dresser or buffet to store a wide assortment of things in my home office. I don't like office furniture in a house, and I figured if my needs change later a piece like this would be more adaptable to a new location. My requirements: clean lines, solid construction, large drawers and/or shelves with doors, 60–72 inches wide, elevated on legs to keep a heating vent clear. After about two months of looking, I jumped right on this listing and beat several other people to it according to the seller. I passed up many "almost" options along the way, and it paid off. So here are my tips for finding just what you want on Craigslist. Happy hunting!
How to find and buy what you want on craigslist
Dwelement's Top Eleven Tips (for 1/11/11!)
- Clearly define what you need. Imagine the perfect piece and figure out its qualities that are important.
- Take measurements of your space and set an acceptable range for the piece. Then stick to it.
- Forget about finishes and fabrics. These are easy to change, and sometimes you'll score a good deal because of ugly upholstery or a marred finish.
- Learn to identify quality furniture. Print my handy Dwelement Furniture Quality Checklist and carry it with you. Download the checklist here.
- Frequent your local site as well as others nearby. Try using a third-party site like Search Tempest to search multiple Craigslist sites at once.
- Check multiple categories, misspellings, and as many terms as you can think of. When I was looking for my storage piece, I searched for the following terms: dresser, bureau, chest, buffet, sideboard, credenza, cradenza, crudenza, cabinet. I checked under the categories of Furniture, Antiques, and Household Items. Even then, some sellers write useless titles such as "Furniture for Sale" with minimal or no description, in which case you'll have to browse to find them.
- Act quickly. If an item is priced right, others will beat you to it. For sure.
- Be courteous and communicative. I don't know why, but Craigslist buyers have a reputation for being flaky and rude, so don't do that. Sellers will appreciate it and be more likely to work with you on pricing and logistics.
- Carry cash. It gives you more bargaining power, and no one wants to trust a check from a stranger.
- Be impulsive. Don't hem and haw wondering if it's the right piece, especially if it's dirt cheap. Just buy it. If it doesn't work out, you can always relist it.
- Taking a road trip? Check out local Craigslist sites along your route.
Need some help envisioning a bright new future for a used piece of furniture? Send me a photo and 3-4 sentences about how you want the piece to work, and I may feature it on the blog, Room for Inspiration! —Diane
TAGS: tips how to search find buy on craigslist used furniture revamping vintage old antique dresser bureau chest sideboard buffet credenza tips advice how to identify quality used furniture
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Design Critique: HGTV Dream Home 2011
Jan 02, 2011
I've adjusted to life without cable TV for the last six months. Besides saving money, we're watching better-quality movies and shows via Netflix. Which is to say that I haven't missed HGTV all that much (except Candice Olson, but not her scat theme music). Despite not having the 43-times-daily reminders about the HGTV Dream Home 2011, I did remember that it's always unveiled on January 1, so I took my tour online, which is much better than sitting through the hour-long, sponsor-pandering special anyway. You can get a fly-over even faster with my condensed review below (along with my sponsorship-free opinions, of course), but there are tons of photos and videos available at hgtv.com. This year you can enter twice a day if you also visit their real estate site, FrontDoor.com.
First impressions: I like it exponentially better than the mess that was the 2010 Dream Home. (Read last year's review here.) Before I even made it past the front door I liked that it appears to be a more livable size than past Dream Homes. It's still large at 3,000 square feet, but that continues the downward sizing trend of the last several Dream Homes. It manages to sleep 12 people largely due to the 8-bed "ski dorm" in the daylight basement. (HGTV claims it sleeps 14, but unless people crash on the sofas, I only see room for 12.)
The architecture draws on the Adirondack lodge aesthetic of its location in Stowe, Vermont. It's set into a hill and showcases a view of Mount Mansfield, the highest mountain in Vermont. It also overlooks a road on both sides, but the architect, Paul Robert Rousselle, did a nice job of minimizing that view.
The floorplan is smart. The entrance, garage, and more utilitarian spaces are on the north side, maximizing solar gain from the rooms with southern views. The formal entry and garage entry both access the mudroom and a half bath— perfect for a climate with snow and mud. I like the reclaimed sewer grate they set into the porch floor at the side entrance as a boot scrape.
A bit about the garage— er, "car barn" as HGTV quaintly calls it. It has exposed trusses and weathered siding on the interior walls so yes, it hints at a barn, but let's just call it what it is. For its size it should have more storage options. The orange painted ceiling makes me think "Home Depot" more than "Welcome Home." It's odd that they painted it at all. The fancy chandeliers are a little too cute. But the exterior does integrate nicely with the house, and careful attention was paid to where the snow will slide off the roof, to minimize shoveling.
Enter from the garage to a large mudroom with slate flooring and locker-style cabinetry. The room is also accessible directly from the porch and the formal foyer entrance— a very smart design feature. The room seems oversized, but in the case of a crowd removing snowy gear it's probably just right. The topmost cabinets have limited function because reaching them requires a ladder and they're short but deep. I can't think of anything I'd want to store in them.
The "formal" entry is still decidedly informal, which is perfect for this house and location. I like that they didn't go all grand and fancy with the front door, though I would prefer a window in the door or on the side. The door has a simple rustic design made from reclaimed hemlock planks. The ceiling is really beautiful, clad in yellow birch paneling. The wide planks fit with the modern look and hint at a lodge style without being literal. I also like that there are a lot of long views from the front entrance. To the left is an open stair leading to the daylight basement, and the large living space is ahead. Floor-to-ceiling windows are framed in black, a nice foil to all of the light wood and neutral wall colors.
HGTV calls this the gathering room. It's basically a large living room with multiple seating areas, great views, and a surprisingly understated gas fireplace. Points for efficiency and restraint! The fireplace looks cozy without overtaking the room, and the birch paneling integrates it nicely with the rest of the space. The views are the focal point here, so it's nice that they skipped drapes. The windows feature concealed, remote-controlled solar shades.
The color scheme reflects current trends toward neutral walls, with Sherwin-Williams Incredible White (7028) covering the minimal drywall in the room. It's a good choice: not stark but not competing with the wood, either. Color in the furniture is rich and autumnal. It plays nicely off the wood tones. It looks quite "showroomy," but then, this really is a showroom in this case, for Ethan Allen. I would definitely mix up the furniture here with some midcentury antiques and well-worn leather. I do love the striped wool rug and the welded sculpture hanging over the "annex" area (below).
Speaking of the annex, I'd convert it into a screened porch, post haste. It seems so obvious. The long deck and patio are both exposed to the sun and bugs. If this woodsy place is anything like mine, the mosquitos would render these spaces useless for a few months.
The upper deck somewhat obscures the views from the dining room. And you'd certainly want to look out the window when faced with the terrible furniture in this space. The table is very simple but should be larger for a house that, everywhere else, touts features for hosting a crowd. The chairs are a functional disaster in this room. Those cold metal arms, the spindly becastered bases tangling with every move… ugh. A longer table with armless upholstered parson's chairs or backless stools/benches would have worked so much better for this house. The rug is blah, and the light fixtures contrast too much with the sleek lines in the open kitchen. Redo!
The dining room is completely open to the kitchen, fitting for a casual house. The L-plus-island layout is open at both ends and has good flow. It's outfitted with HGTV's usual sponsored high-end stainless and has the world's tallest exhaust chimney right in the middle of the space. I guess the architect is partially to blame for locking the kitchen in the middle with no exterior walls, but a pop-up side vent would have been so much more appropriate and a lot cheaper. Here's HGTV's caption for the photo below: "The hood, wrapped with timber at the point where it intersects the ceiling, serves as a stainless steel sculpture in the space. The 20-foot column was constructed by a local metal fabricator and assembled on-site over a three-day period." The vent steals the attention away from the beautiful exposed roof structure.
Aside from the overgrown hood, the kitchen is efficient and has some cool features: microwave drawer, warming drawer, wine cooler, concealed "entertainment station" with TV/keyboard/iPod dock, and thick quartz (?) counters. (Apparently they couldn't get a sponsor for the counters because they don't give a source. But we do know the brand of toilet paper in the bathrooms. Handy.) The kitchen could use more color and texture for interest. There's so much stainless, even on the upper cabinets. A hammered copper sink, a space for art, and a quirky Smeg refrigerator would look good here.
Adjacent to the kitchen is a well-trasitioned master suite with its own balcony. The layout is where the goodness stops. The color here (Sherwin-Williams Kirsch Red, 6313) seems to come out of nowhere. It's an uncomfortable jolt after the neutrals in the rest of the space. One closet entrance is tucked into an inconvenient corner crowded with wing chairs and a dog house. A swing-out TV is concealed within a cumbersome mirrored cabinet. They took that bad idea and made it even worse by placing a large bucket of twigs and a tall lamp in front of it. When watching TV becomes work, it might be an indicator that the room is over-designed.
Another bad idea: the grand 17-foot-tall entrance to the bathroom dramatically flanked by drapes. No one is going to draw those drapes. The height and layout draw undue attention to a ho-hum bathroom, and the scale is so off that the fixtures in the bath look like miniatures. The vintage tub is a nice touch, but it can't compete with the sheer volume of this space. Light fixtures seem to have been chosen to soften the hard lines elsewhere, but they just look out of place and cutesy. The whole effect is cold and awkward.
Downstairs, the daylight basement has a nice layout centering on a large entertainment area with kitchenette and media center. It's pretty standard fare. The color scheme seems last-year, and they chose to use a beautiful reclaimed barn door as a decorative piece. Seems they had many opportunities to use it in a functional position.
There's a guest suite at one end that's much better designed than the master suite. I like the idea of pendant lights as bedside lighting, saving space on the tables. This room is comfortable and calm.
At the opposite end is a laundry room and "ski dorm" that sleeps eight, with a bathroom featuring multiple shower and toilet stalls. The setup is functional if you're hosting a lot of children, but it doesn't lend itself too well to a crowd of adults. Nonetheless, it is a smart way to pack a lot of kids into a minimal amount of space. And clearly, HGTV was going for a kid-friendly aesthetic here. The bunks are covered in quilted outdoor fabric designed to be topped with sleeping bags. That's an efficient idea for a guest space. It's a fun room for kids, but I'd rather see the space laid out in a more versatile fashion to suit all ages. A sleeper-car concept with a couple of small, private baths could have worked in the same amount of space.
The dorm bathroom is just that, albeit prettier than most. It's a cool concept for a house that sees a lot of young guests, and they did a nice job designing it for fun and function. I'm digging the photographer's lights as pendants.
Despite my nitpicking, I do really like this house. I think the layout is very smart and the overall look is really appealing and place-appropriate. There's good use of sustainable materials and technology. The low point is definitely the master suite. So yes, I did enter to win, and if I do I'll be sleeping in the guest suite. —Diane
Want to create the look you love in your own house, on your own budget? Check out my eDecor Plans. They're professionally designed, comprehensive decorating plans customized to your space and your style. They are significantly less expensive than hiring an on-site designer. Questions? Just email me.
ALL PHOTOS ©HGTV/Scripps Network
TAGS: hgtv dream home 2011 giveaway contest sweepstakes blog post design critique pictures hgtv dream house 2011 design critique review interior design architecture
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Your Favorite Dwelement Posts of 2010
Dec 31, 2010
On this eve of 2011, here's a look back at Dwelement's most-read blog posts of the past year. Thank you for reading, sharing, linking, following, commenting… and for trusting me with your design dilemmas. Dwelement grew exponentially in 2010, and I'm looking forward to more in 2011!
Room for Inspiration's
Top Ten Most Popular Blog Posts of 2010
So what do you want to see in 2011? Know about a new product my readers might enjoy? If you have an idea for a Dwelement blog post, just email me. But first, pop a bottle of champagne and toast the good people, places, and things you've enjoyed in 2010. Cheers, and Happy New Year! —Diane
TAGS: dwelement room for inspiration diane kolak designer edecor edecorating e-decorating design blog affordable decorating budget interior design ideas
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Outdoors in: Decorating for the holidays using real greens and natural elements
Dec 12, 2010
The view out my window this morning is a snow globe… gorgeous! I can say that because I have nowhere to go today. My cuddly pup is curled at my feet, tea is in hand, and I'm thinking about doing some Christmas decorating today. I don't like to do it too early, or I get tired of it. We just hung the Swedish welcome light in the front window (more on that in a post from last December). And my talented father-in-law has delivered his annual handmade wreath, this year made from delicious-smelling cedar. So I guess it's time.
I need a little inspiration, and I thought you might like some, too, if you haven't already decorated. If you have, send me shots of your creative work, especially if you've used real greens or other natural items in a fresh way. This collection of inspiration photos is all about the fresh smells, lush look, and authenticity of decorating for the holidays with natural elements.
How easy is this? Tie a sprig of holly and a velvet ribbon around the doorknob.
Make a statement in your foyer or on the dining table with branches in a heavy vase. Here, chandelier crystals and gold-painted walnuts make it festive. Try displaying a special ornament collection this way.
A natural tree is a must, but tree stands aren't always pretty and skirts that are large enough to cover can get in the way. Drop your tree stand into a galvanized tub for a casual-rustic look.
A simple and readily available natural item for decorating is fresh cranberries. Fill clear candle holders, freeze them into ice for the champagne bucket, or string them into garland.
Attach pine cones to a grapvine wreath from the craft store. Adding a the unexpected—a leaning frame—gives it more presence.
A long, ornamented branch hung over a dining table gives it instant holiday appeal. Great idea to spiff up the "extra" table when you're feeding a crowd.
You can decorate the tree with real flowers. Baby-food jars ringed with heavy wire and hooked on the end suspend flowers in their own drinking water. Don't forget to replenish when you water the tree.
Happy decorating! Keep it simple, and keep it real. —Diane
TAGS: holiday christmas decorating real fresh natural organic greens wreaths flowers branches pinecones cranberries real christmas tree covering tree stand simple rustic ideas
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What I've been working on…
Dec 05, 2010
I know the blog has been a little thin lately. That's because I've been so busy designing eDecor Plans! Here's a peek at some highlights of plans I've designed in the last month or so. I've put my skills to work on a ranch house in Champaign, Illinois; an old farmhouse in Hudson Valley, New York; a new home in Marquette, Michigan; and a family room in Traverse City. And I'm already busy with the next batch!
Click photos to enlarge.
Ranch Revamp in Illinois
Molly's little rancher had a lot of potential, but it needed a crisp new look and some personality to match that of its owners. The eDecor Plan includes 3 color schemes that all work with the existing vinyl siding and terra cotta shingles. I recommended affordable solutions to add balance and personality and make this house stand out.
ABOVE: The house, before.
ABOVE: Three color plans, all working with the existing tan vinyl siding and reflecting Molly's vibrant personality.
ABOVE: Molly's Inspiration Board incorporating some colorful cottagey elements.
ABOVE: A basic landscaping plan that improves curb appeal and is easier to maintain.
Weekend Farmhouse in Hudson Valley, New York
This vacation home north of New York City has loads of charm. It's ready for a fresh look, though, and Carlos asked me to give him some suggestions before painting and installing new roofing. I gave him the full eDecor treatment with solutions for a drab facade and a timid porch, along with low-maintenance landscaping ideas.
ABOVE: Carlos' 100-year-old farmhouse, before.
ABOVE: Three different color plans, three different design vibes.
ABOVE: Carlos' Inspiration Board incorporates classic farmhouse elements that complement the existing strong points: a beautiful wood door and stone chimney.
ABOVE: The landscaping plan emphasizes native species for easy maintenance. This is a weekend getaway, after all!
Fireplace Focal Point in Marquette, Michigan
Tim and Sheri are building a new home with a spacious great room centered around a grand fireplace. They asked me to focus on this important feature and design a mantel and surround that could display their pottery collection, store wood and fireplace tools, and conceal their TV. I came up with a design that does all that and looks good doing it, with a nod to the room's arched windows. The wood surround with sliding doors and raised tile hearth will soon be constructed. I'll share photos when it's complete!
ABOVE: The two-tone wooden built-ins incorporate storage, display, and a solution for concealing the TV when not in use. A raised hearth and fireplace facade are clad in earthy tile, and recessed lights with glass shelves make the most of pottery to be displayed in the upper recesses. The modernized arch design picks up on a window detail in the great room.
ABOVE: Schematic drawings for the built-ins and soffit with barn door hardware.
Family Space on Old Mission Peninsula
Katie lives in Traverse City, but she wanted an eDecor Plan because she liked the idea of putting the design together herself, on her own schedule. We met at her house, which already looked quite polished. But the family space and dining area next to the freshly remodeled kitchen needed an update. I gave her a color plan that fit her personality and design solutions that worked for her and her two sons. Since she's nearby we had the added benefit of an on-site meeting to look at some samples and discuss the finished plan in person. The plan still carried my flat-rate structure, though, so Katie didn't have to worry about escalating hourly fees. You'll see more detail and get a full downloadable plan for this design soon, but here's a sneak peek.
Need a little design inspiration, a complete room design, or a curb appeal improvement plan? I can help, whether you live nearby or far away. No job is too small, even if you just need to know the best way to arrange your existing furniture. Browse dwelement.com for more information on what I do, or just email me with questions. There's never an obligation. —Diane
TAGS: diane kolak traverse city michigan designer edecor edecorating e-decorating room design interior design decorating dwelement home design llc dwelement.com exterior curb appeal plans ideas fireplace design
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