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8 tips for shopping and scoring vintage Craigslist

You know that moment.
When you are walking through a flea market
and you spot something in the corner of a booth just ahead.

Your palms start to get a little sweaty
Your heart starts to pound and your pace picks up just a bit
because in the corner of that booth just ahead
you found the treasure you have been searching for.

You may gently push past a couple folks in your frantic walk to get there and claim it before anyone else- it happens. And hey- I hear you. I have been there.
As you probably already know... I am a huge fan of vintage. 
From flea markets and tag sales, to thrift stores to classified ads and craigslist.
And while the thrill of the hunt and the unknown treasure you might stumble upon at a flea market is an amazing day- sometimes you are looking for something specific that you haven't bumped into yet-or you don't have a flea market on the calendar anytime soon.
So you shop online. And one of my favorite spots to shop vintage online is Craigslist.
 Some of my most favorite big time LOVE finds-
 have been on Craigslist.

Like this incredible, absolutely perfect for my style
antique  French daybed... 

That HUGE antique pier mirror... I mean, I am obsessed. I have no shame.

Serious love. I searched for those for several years- and then found a pair.

That fireplace in the cottage bedroom.
An absolute treasure.

And that french settee - I found this while we were in the middle of a rain storm and a renovation project and hopped in the car to go pick it up.
And this is kind of like the little settee that could-
 as it made it onto the cover of my book.

And that is just a few of the treasures I have found shopping Craigslist-which in my opinion is a gold mine for vintage and antique treasures.
But something I am asked all the time is how do you find things?  Just search the antique section?
Or what do you search?
Do you go pick them up on your own? 
Do you pay full price?
How do you know it is a good deal?

All great questions and so today I am sharing a few tips for shopping and finding the best vintage out there.

#1. Search the right Keyword

First thing I do is get on Craigslist and start searching. 
I don't search in the 'categories' as much as I do with keywords.  Just like when you Google something- you aren't going to Google 'antiques' to see what comes up and hope you find that table you are looking for- you will google 'antique table' etc. to shop.  So if you have an idea of what you are looking for- search that in addition to doing a broad overall category search for an item. 
And don't forget that oftentimes things are put into the wrong categories. Which is why a specific search is good.

#2. Search Vintage, Antique, Old, etc.

 I tend to use 'Vintage' rather than antique. Most people thing of antiques as older than 1920's-40's ish and so use Vintage when describing something instead. To note- people brand something as 'Vintage' far more often - even things from the 90's though so you have to be careful.  I mean, I guess technically, something from 1990 might be considered Vintage to some- but that isn't what most of us are looking for.  And I like to search 'Vintage' 'Antique' 'old ' etc. with the item attached.
 (settee, cupboard, chest of drawers, etc.)  

#3. Try alternate spellings

I have found some amazing treasures- based on the wrong spelling.  For example- An antique fireplace mantel. I think at least 2 out of the 5 antique mantels that I have found on Craigslist were spelled as 'Mantle'.  So search other spellings too-  you can find some treasures. 

#4. Ask for details when replying

When I contact someone about an ad- I always ask for more details unless they are super explained in the post which is not generally the case. 
Here are the things I want to know:
Are there any issues?
Broken seats, legs, missing parts, etc. All things to know before going to see something.
Age and history?
I personally like to know the age and history of a piece. Was it a family piece? Or where did it come from? How old is it? Etc. 
Smoke Free environment?
I can get over a lot of issues with a piece- but if it has been in a smoking environment for years- probably not going to be able to get over that.  If it is upholstered- a definite no go. 

If wood furniture- possibly. I give it a much closer look than I ever did before because of one piece. That the big French beautiful armoire in the hall- gorgeous. I fell hard for it right away. And when I got it home and started cleaning- I discovered that odd smell was from smoke- and there actually a bit of old tobacco gunk in the grooves. I didn't notice it right away until I was scraping the details and grooves to clean it up and it was enough to make me queasy. 

#4. Is the price flexible? 

Some things I don't even negotiate on... I know, I should anyway,
but sometimes, the price is so more than fair.
A good friend of mine who is an antique dealer is a believer in respecting the seller and the price they are asking- and if it is reasonable- she pays it rather than make a low offer
because she doesn't want to offend anyone.
Of course she does negotiate and you can get some great deals by negotiating- especially if something has been listed for over a week.

#5. Any issues are negotiating points

That said- any issues the piece has are negotiating points.
  Don't dismiss a piece because it needs a little tinkering.
If you have the ability to tinker with it and fix it or know someone who can- use that to your advantage.  Just remember to negotiate with respect and not tell the seller their piece is crappy haha.

#6. Respond with leaving the door open

More than once I have been caught drooling on my keyboard over a piece.
But the price... can't get around it.
And the seller wants more than I am willing to come up to and feel good about. 
What do you do?
Leave the door open. 
Let them know how much you love the piece and if anything changes with the price- to please let you know and leave your phone number. 
If you don't hear from them after a week or two-
email them again and let them know you are still interested.  
I have actually gotten that piece that stole my heart for a price that was in the realm for me on several occasions after just waiting a bit. 

#7. Know when to walk away

I know, quoting country music here- but sometimes those pieces are too damaged, too much work to bring into usability or a new piece that you could probably find less on sale somewhere.
Surprisingly- craigslist isn't just vintage haha. ;)
Of course - it isn't- you can find allllll kinds of stuff there.
And sometimes- it is a new piece.
 I have seen Restoration Hardware, Anthro etc on there- and sometimes those pieces are a steal- and sometimes- not so much.
You might  see something you know you could get at the store for less. 
So just move along and keep looking.

#8. Know your antiques

If you are looking for an antique armoire- know what to look for.
There are some AMAZING reproductions out there- and those are great to bring home too. 
But if you are looking for a legitimate antique and someone is charging a legitimate antique price for something made 15 years ago- you need to know what you are looking at.
 Do your research and learn what to look for- and what to recognize as newer. 

#9. Safety First

Safety first ALWAYS.
 Don't hop in the car at 9pm at night by yourself to go see a must.have piece across town and someones house because it is an AMAZING DEAL and it CANNOT WAIT UNTIL MORNING.
That is NOT a good idea. 
I grew up around law enforcement- my dad and his best friends were all law enforcement
(until my dad decided to go into real estate/building) and with my family in the 'family'-
 Safety always came up.
When I am looking at thing - I generally go with my husband 
or a friend and meet during daylight hours.  I have been known to meet at parking lots at a busy location as well. That is harder with furniture -unless you know you are going to buy it and they are willing to transport. 
Other tips- Carry pepper spray and let someone else know the address of where you are going as well-  just in case.  Also, I don't give out our address and have the seller deliver to the house but some people do that and feel okay about it. I am not one of them haha. 


Seriously. Shopping on Craigslist and at thrift stores is FUN.
The thrill of the hunt and then finding that piece that makes you swoon and knock 5 people over to claim as yours- well there is nothing like that when you are a junker at heart. 
So have fun-peruse your search words often- or set up a search alert- yes- they will email you.
And consider shopping online for those treasures kind of like shopping a flea market.
Just in your jammies and fuzzy slippers on the sofa. 


Hope this helps you find your next treasure!


  1. Thank you so much for your advice! I will definitely give your suggestions a try! I so enjoy your website and book! Might I be presumptuous by asking about the french daybed? Is the fabric original? It is so lovely. Kindest regards!

  2. This was GREAT advice....I have always been leery about Craig’s List but what you have offered is a sensible approach to looking for what I want even, knowing, what “language” to use when searching for an item.!
    Love your your blog and have so enjoyed your book.! I am “over the moon” jealous of the items you have found.! it’s my turn.! ��

  3. Great and generous advice. Thank you.

  4. I am a fan of vintage, Tim calls it old our of date stuff that we don't need, the man doesn't get it, that said this was awesome

  5. The china hutch I’m in the middle painting is a vintage unit I found on Craigslist. I paid full asking price because, A) it was for me, not resale and B) it was the absolute perfect size and style. Not too big, not too small, just right! If I decide to name her, maybe she’ll be Goldilocks!

  6. This is great advice Courtney! Thanks so much! I look at Craig’s list periodically because you mention it but haven’t had much success. Will try try again!❤️

  7. I've always been leary shopping on Craigslist, but with your tips maybe I will give it a try once again. Thank you for your blog.