How to Use Craigslist to Decorate Your Home

1 How To Use Craigslit Hero

By Anna Smith of Annabode + Co.

Designing your home on a tiny budget can be a stressful, unfulfilling, slow process if you don’t have the right tools in your tool belt (and I mean that both ways!). If you’ve never shopped on Craigslist before, I’m telling you, you are missing out on the single greatest gift to homeowners. Not only have my husband and I have made thousands of dollars selling on Craigslist, by furnishing and renovating our homes with the site we’ve saved just as much—and so have my clients!

If you’ve ever had reservations about using the site, I’m here to put them at rest. With my tips, you’ll be able to use Craigslist safely and effectively to find what you want, when you want it, and at the right price. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about and have never heard of this guy Craig and his “list,” it’s a free site that allows people within a city to sell anything and everything to each other).

2 How to Use Craigslist Chair

Vintage bamboo lounge chair, $40 on Craigslist


  • If you buy something upholstered you’ll bring home bed bugs. If you’re really worried about this, read up on identifying them.
  • Second-hand furniture is gross or junky. Sure, there is junk on Craigslist. But there are also people who take good care of their furniture, and you can find many pieces in near perfect condition.
  • You’ll get chopped up into pieces and thrown in a dumpster if you buy anything on Craigslist. A little extreme, but the world we live in today means safety should never be ignored. It’s all about taking the right precautions! Read on for my safety tips.
  • Everything on Craigslist is old. Wrong again! So many people buy brand-new items that don’t work for their space, and rather than paying for return shipping they post them at a discount.

Now, let’s start with the basics…


Craigslist is not entirely intuitive. It’s free, so no one is behind the scenes making the site easier to use. The only people assigning keywords and categorizing posts are the people actually selling the items, and most of them are not internet retail mavens. This can make finding what you want difficult and time-consuming, (unless you have my tips of course!). The first two are related, and they are:

1. Know your keywords


2. Use the sidebar.

The key to searching Craigslist effectively is to cast a wide net, while still setting parameters so you don’t have to sift through anything unrelated.

3 How to Use Craigslist Cactus

Cactus, $60 on Craigslist; mid-century dining table, $150 on Craigslist

Say you want a new chair for your living room. You’re not quite sure what you want, but you’d prefer something with arms. You’re thinking gray and you’d definitely like a vintage vibe. For the reasons I mentioned above, if you search “vintage gray arm chair” you might get, like, one hit if you’re lucky.

Instead, you need to brainstorm multiple keywords for each descriptive term. Some sellers post really helpful, descriptive titles and others just give the basics. So, for this you might search any of the following: club chair, living room chair, lounge chair, accent chair, vintage chair, arm chair, armchair (Yes, unfortunately those last two will yield different results!).  Or, if you live in a smaller city like me, simply chair.

Since your net is wider with these terms, you’ll want to narrow your results as much as possible. You do this by using the sidebar.

4 How to Use Craigslist sideboard

Danish modern credenza, $100 on Craigslist

First, select only the categories that are relevant to what you’re looking for. In this instance it would be furniture and antiques. Second, select owner unless you really want ads from furniture stores. Third, choose your options accordingly. I always search titles only on my first go around, and I always select has image. Last, set your price limit + 20% (you can bargain later).

Your net may be very wide at this point, but you only have to look through all those listings once, which brings me to my next tip:

3. Search frequently, but wisely.

If you’re really on the hunt, perform a quick search of one or two of those terms every night before bed, or each morning—BUT always select posted today from the sidebar. Instead of 1500 postings to sift through, you’ll have 5-20 and it’ll take two minutes.

4. Download cPro

CPro is an app that allows you to search and post on Craigslist just as you would on the actual site, but it has some great benefits. If you’re looking for something really specific, like a Womb chair knockoff or an Eames piece, the $2.99 upgrade allows you to set alerts for search terms and send you Push notifications when that item gets posted.

5. Search by brand name or designer.

Every so often I run a search for my favorite brands—West Elm, CB2, Knoll etc. as well as mid-century designers like Eames or Saarinen. You can find some steals and some real gems this way! For stores like Crate & Barrel or Room & Board, be sure to leave out the ampersand. Searching Crate & Barrel and Crate and Barrel will alas, again be different.

You can use this kind of search two ways—if you want a genuine West Elm or Eames piece, you’re much more likely to find one with title only selected because the (smart!) Craigslist posters add paragraphs of keywords to the bottoms of their posts in order for buyers to find them. If you’re performing a general search for a brand, you’re going to find a lot of pieces that might be a similar style but are not actually from that store or by that designer.

5 How to Use Craigslist Fridge

Counter depth French door refrigerator, $800 on Craigslist

6. Don’t ignore what’s free!

Did you know there’s an entire section of the site devoted to stuff people are just giving away? This is especially useful for renovators—I just performed a quick search in Denver and found free flooring, an oven, a sliding door, fill dirt, and a hot water heater…and that’s just on the first page! Seriously, use this.

7. Expand your horizons.

You can find anything and everything on Craigslist, not just furniture. I’ve found all my large houseplants this way, as well as mulch, subway tile, lumber, and firewood. If you need it, chances are somebody is selling it.

6 How to Use Craigslist Tree

Fiddle leaf fig, $60 on Craigslist

Now, back to our quest for the perfect chair! Let’s say you’ve found several postings you’re interested in. You’re feeling pumped because there’s one in particular that is all kinds of awesome, and it’s at a great price. Chances are there’s someone else out there who’s found it too. Here’s how to make sure you’re the one walking away with the prize:


8. Reach out like it’s a first date and you’re very, very interested.

Be thorough, but not annoying. If the seller lists both their email and their phone number, reach out both ways. They usually prefer one to the other or check one more frequently (especially if they’re older), and that way you’ll have all your bases covered. Similarly, if you’re emailing them be sure to give them your phone number as well.

It also goes without saying, always be polite and courteous. As a seller, it’s such a breath of fresh air when people communicate like actual human beings and I’ll definitely remember them for it. I might even hold a piece for them, or abandon my first-come-first-serve policy.

Whichever way you communicate with them, say that you’re interested in the item and tell them when you’d be able to come take a look (or conversely, ask when they’d be available). Don’t ask if they’ll take less for it just yet—leave the bargaining for when you’re face to face.

7 How to Use Craigslist Bed

Antique brass twin bed, $40 on Craigslist

9. Don’t commit to a price beforehand.

Don’t say, “I’ll give you $150 for this chair”—unless you’re 100% positive you can’t get it for less.

10. Ask the right questions.

  • What are the dimensions? Both so you can make sure it fits in your space AND in your vehicle.
  • If it’s large or heavy, will they help you load it or do you need to bring someone else?
  • If the posting is for a living room set and you just want the chair, will they sell it to you and at what price?
  • If it’s upholstery, do they have pets? Is it from a smoke-free home? Is the photo an accurate depiction of the color?
  • Ask about defects – Are their stains or rips? Scratches or nicks? Do all the elements still function?

11. Get their phone number.

If you don’t and you get lost, you’ll be driving around in circles.

12. Bring the exact amount, in cash.

No one is going to take your check, or want to give you change.

13. Always, always negotiate!

This is my least favorite part as I hate confrontation of any kind, but one I’ve learned to handle. If you’re standing there, ready and willing to take their piece away, and you offer 10-15% less…unless they’ve had a bunch of other offers, they will probably take that deal. Especially if the post has been listed for longer than 2 weeks. For instance, my fiddle leaf fig was listed at $80 but I got it for $60, my son’s bed was $100 and I actually got it for $40. It adds up over time and it never hurts to ask!

8 How to Use Craigslist Lamp

Mid-century pole lamp, $180 on Craigslist

14. Ask if they have other items for sale.

If they’re selling something you like, chances are they have something else you might like, too. Often there are other things for sale on Craigslist, but my husband has also had many people sell him stuff they weren’t even planning on until he asked.

15. Don’t be afraid to walk away.

This one is pretty important. If the item isn’t what you were expecting, you have zero obligation to buy it. I’ve made the mistake of bringing home things I knew wouldn’t work, just because I felt guilty about the trouble the seller had to go through or how long I had to drive to get there. Sure you may have wasted an hour, but that’s better than wasting your money, too!

9 How to Use Craigslist Dresser

Art Deco dresser, $50 on Craigslist

If you follow all of those tips, your chances of finding that perfect chair will be much, much better. It may seem like a lot at first but the more you use the site, the more these things will become second nature. However, there’s another part of using Craigslist that’s really important to me—and that’s practicing the right safety precautions.


First and foremost, always use your judgement. If you don’t feel safe, leave—or don’t meet the person in the first place. In the end it’s your call. I will say, I’ve yet to be in a situation where I have felt unsafe, but my family and I are diligent about these safety rules:

16. Use the buddy system.

Bring someone else with you. This is probably the most effective way to ensure nothing fishy is going to happen.

17. Have someone check on you.

I always give my husband the address of where I’m going and the time I’m going to be there—I text him when I arrive and he calls me 10 minutes later to make sure I’ve left. At the very least, let someone else know where you’re headed and when.

18. Meet in a public place.

If you don’t feel comfortable entering someone’s home, ask them to meet you at the closest shopping center. Grocery store parking lots are excellent spots because they’re well lit and many are open 24 hours. You can also ask them to bring the piece outside their house. And for heaven’s sake, never enter a storage unit building!

10 How to Use Craigslit Chairs

Antique theater seats, $20 on Craigslist

Finally, don’t forget to use your imagination—Craigslist is great for furniture makeovers, and even the junky pieces can become beautiful with a little elbow grease! I really hope these tips will help you add some serious style to your home while saving you some extra cash—but if you ever need a little extra help, you can always drop me a line.

Thank you, Anna! This is so inspiring! 

Anna Smith wants to live in a world where good design is accessible and affordable for everyone. An interior designer based in Denver, Colorado, she creates modern homes for clients across the country through her firm Annabode + Co. When not buried in swatches and throw pillows, you can find her elbow-deep in renovations at her own fixer-upper. Find out more about working with Anna at

P.S. More home decorating ideas including The 14 Most Stylish Ikea hacks for Kids Rooms + Nurseries and our bar shelves, made from Ikea countertop.

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