An admission: even though I work here, an interior design website alongside a multitude of preternaturally gifted real-life professional interior designers, I still do not understand the new furniture buying process. How does anyone afford it? Did I miss this lesson in school? Are some people just super good at budgeting? Did you buy from a store with financing? Throw purchases on a 0% APR credit card?
Guys, I have a hot take and I’m not ashamed to share it: EVERYTHING IS EXPENSIVE AND I FEEL ANXIOUS WHEN I SEE A WHOLE PAYCHECK LEAVING MY BANK ACCOUNT AT ONCE. Furniture is expensive—and rightfully so, seeing that it’s kinda permanent and we LIVE on it—but I prefer spending my money on Postmates and bills (unfortunately, oftentimes in that order).
Now…in my last post, I walked you through the ins and outs of finding the best-hidden vintage gems without leaving your house. But today, we’re taking it to the next level: I’ve re-furnished my whole home for (“technically”) free and it’s time for me to bestow my best-kept secret upon the masses. Buckle up, because it’s anecdote time.
A few years back, I was really riding the mid-century wave and got a little out of touch with myself and my own interior style. One day I came home from work and realized my apartment was just so RED and had so much WOOD and oh my gosh, why was I 25-years-old with three Persian rugs? And yeah, it looked fine together…but it just felt wrong for me. Has anyone else ever had that? Getting so caught up in the pursuit of an aesthetic that suddenly one day you see your space with fresh eyes and you’re like, “OH NO. I love the ’80s! Why am I buying Chinoiserie tables and ginger jar lamps?!”
I wanted to refresh my entire apartment, so I got to work listing everything on Craigslist. Long story short: it was hard and I didn’t want to do it. There’s so much WORK that goes into selling your own furniture: photographing, listing, uploading the photos, setting the price, negotiating with lowballers, avoiding scam texts from people who want to “send you a check and then send someone to pick it up,” refreshing the listing, coordinating a pickup, transporting the item…ugh.
That’s when I stumbled upon my favorite secret: YOU CAN PAY FOR THINGS BY OFFERING UP YOUR FURNITURE AND DECOR. It is 2019 and folks, bartering is still alive and well!
Y’all know I’m a big fan of selling directly to local vintage shops (and if you don’t, it hurts my feelings that you haven’t read my opus here on how I made money sitting on my couch and sending dealers photos from Craigslist), but you can take it one step further and straight-up TRADE your furniture for their current stock. Here are some step-by-step instructions on how it worked for me, so you can follow in my footsteps:
- I spotted my dream dresser in a local LA vintage shop. It was pink and modern but also weird and kind of hideous (my favorite), so naturally I fell absolutely and irrevocably in love with it. It was SO FAR out of my price range ($2,250, to be exact) that it felt irresponsible to even be looking at it. You know how they tell you not to try on wedding dresses you can’t afford on Say Yes to the Dress? Kind of like that.
- I texted the shop buyer—you can also try sliding into DMs on Instagram or sending an email to the address on the website—a photo of the dresser I had been planning on selling. I knew I could get about $400 for it on Craigslist with some persistence, but knew that with their reach, they’d be able to move it relatively quickly for about $800. I asked if she’d be willing to trade for my dream pink dresser.
- The owner sent a counteroffer: give her my yellow dresser and 400 dollars. Progress!
- I looked around my apartment and spotted an old rug I had planned on selling and sent her the photo. Again, I would have probably made about $600 if I had posted it around, but knew that this retailer would be able to move it quickly for about $1,200.
- We had a deal. The shop owner SENT A TRUCK the same day and her employees picked up my items, carried them downstairs, AND delivered my dream dresser. Overall, negotiations took about 30 minutes over text…and I didn’t have to lift a finger.
This was LIFE-CHANGING FOR ME. I didn’t have to meet a stranger. I didn’t have to send a thousand messages back and forth. There were no delivery fees. I didn’t even have to leave my house! And most importantly, I SPENT NONE MONEY. No dollars! I started using this strategy for everything. My mid-century credenza, some side tables, a leather club chair, and a travertine coffee table were traded in for a huge ’80s laminate buffet, a velvet lavender waterfall bench, and a black-and-white striped sofa. In another case, I negotiated a pair of ’70s chairs down from $1,000 to $300 by throwing in a ton of vintage art and vessels.
Now, there’s not a ton of incentive for any vintage shops to tell you about this seeing that like money is generally the preferred payment type for all goods and services…but there’s a ton of value for business owners in moving inventory and bringing new pieces into the store, for free, without having to head out on a buying trip. And there’s also a kicker: you do need to start out with some vintage pieces in fairly good condition. The bright side? I already wrote a guide on HOW TO DO IT for VERY CHEAP. (Have I plugged my last post enough yet?) This won’t necessarily work with your furniture from CB2 or West Elm…but I don’t even understand how to afford any of those things anyway.
So y’all, next time I walk into my apartment and have a total meltdown (“WHY DOES IT LOOK LIKE TOONTOWN IN HERE?” — me, one day in the future, maybe?), I’ll be able to swap everything. For (basically) free. It’s sustainable, a win-win for both me and my local retailers and I CAN’T BELIEVE NO BLOG EVER TOLD ME ABOUT IT. So now, my friends, please go into the world: next time you want to refresh your home, make it easier on yourself…and your wallet. Reach out to your local shops and offer up your pieces as collateral. Report back with your findings. I hope my life hacks serve you well.