Do you have champagne taste on a beer budget? When my husband and I moved into our fixer upper in Des Moines, IA in 2015, we didn’t have much left in the budget for furniture and decor. But after spending approximately 37 hours on Pinterest pinning my ideal home, I wasn’t going to give up on style easily. That’s when I took to Craigslist and thrifting, knowing that if the piece had great lines it could be updated to look high-end.
Since going through this process in my own home, I’ve been working with friends and clients to update their own thrifty finds. Your aunt’s hand-me-down dresser is the right price (free) but not your style? New knobs and a coat of paint can do wonders. Love your sofa but that fabric isn’t “you” anymore? Reupholster that baby. Take our living room for example.
What about this Craigslist photo taken in someone’s basement inspired me? Well, those lines, of course. They were the right size and shape for room. It was clear, once we saw them in person that they had what you should look for: good bones, great construction, and had been treated well. The sofas were a total of $50 making his one amazing deal. Once we went to pick them up the owner handed me a box of legs she had never attached—score! Next up was fabric. I headed to Fabric.com to find a baby blue linen. Not all linen is created equal so it was important to find one that was a medium to heavy weight that would work specifically for upholstery.
Finally, a friend recommended an upholsterer that was incredibly reasonable for the job. The fabric came out to be $300 and the upholstery was $800, bringing us in for a total of $1150 for two sofas. Upholstery is an art, so make sure you’re looking at samples of past work and any online reviews before pulling the trigger. Look to make sure that they are linking up patterns, for example, to see their skill level.
Here are my top two Craigslist tips: 1. Always take someone with you for a pickup or find a neutral location to exchange for smaller items. 2. Search for common misspellings or variations for the items you are looking for. These simple mistakes made by the seller can help you find a hidden treasure.
Elsewhere in our home, we have furniture that has been given a new life sprinkled throughout.
Our kitchen table was a $25 Craigslist purchase but had a Kool-Aid stain that had soaked deep into the wood. The answer was a lot of sanding a coat of Kilz primer and new yellow paint. Painting a thrifted piece in a bold color can be one of the simplest and biggest changes.
Hanging above it is a glass fixture found at an estate sale for $10. We were able furnish our entire dining nook for about $300 thanks to these thrifty finds. We surrounded them with a set of white, metal chairs that we found online at bizchair.com.
Single pieces like a sofa, table or ottoman are easier to find then a complete set. When we were looking for a set of eight dining chairs, we decided to buy sets of two or four and pair them all together around the table. We purchased each chair for $10 to $15. I looked for chairs that had a similar shape, wood tone, and seat height. We unified them by removing all of their seat pads and reupholstered the cushions all with a simple but graphic houndstooth fabric. The fabric was about $75 for four yards total. I purchased some additional foam padding for $25. Our total cost for the eight chairs was $200. To save on the cost of upholstery, I looked up a tutorial online for DIYing seat cushions. It took a few hours and some wrestling with a staple gun but it was a low-cost way to outfit our dining room. Those chairs have held up during late-night dinner parties and many a work hour.
Once friends and family discovered I had a knack for finding treasures, my services were enlisted for my sister Kate’s new home. Kate had similar budget constraints, with a new home and two children she never thought she’s find the dining room table of her dreams. Then I did some hunting. One of my greatest Craigslist finds to date is this beautiful, custom-made white marble top table for $300.
Kate was on a real gold-kick then and thought the dark base was too heavy for the room. She purchased a jar of Martha Stewart Metallic Paint and in under an hour, she had the perfect table.
The next time you’re lusting after expensive items on Pinterest, keep in mind vintage pieces and hand-me-downs can be given new life with some creativity and elbow grease. Old sofas can be reupholstered, tables and armoires can be painted and chic textiles can improve just about anything.