I’m no Leona when it comes to design, style, knowledge, verve…I could go on. But I DO know a bargain when I see one. I decided to hop onto eBay and see what bargains lurk there, being as though I’m searching just now for a pair of nice chairs and some occasional tables. Searching on eBay this way can be tedious, yes, but remember: all the professionals do it too!
First, the chairs. Searching for “bergère” used to offer up some great finds but now everyone’s onto it. You can’t find a nice pair of bergères for a decent price anymore. So instead, I searched “pair chairs”. This time I got over 400 “hits”, and then – as at Loehmann’s or TJMaxx – I had to pick through the morass to find the jewels. Here’s my first cut; the prices underneath reflect the starting bids unless otherwise noted:
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Now for the tables. I’m looking both for single tables and pairs, and when I typed “side table” I got 4,365 hits. Too many and mostly not what I’m looking for anyway. So I refined the search by choosing only the 738 items categorized as Antiques>Furniture. Here’s what I got:
There are a few things to bear in mind when shopping for household bargains this way, however. The first, most obvious hurdle is that because you can’t ogle – or touch – the pieces in person you’ll have to be very careful about measuring the destination in your space against the measurements provided for the piece. I have a friend who finds cushions in her home and puts them together in the room destination to approximate the size of items she’s considering. I use newspaper. The point is that, like at Loehmann’s, just because something’s a bargain doesn’t mean you should buy it if it doesn’t fit or isn’t flattering!
While we’re on the subject of fit, another important thing to keep in mind is that when buying furniture on eBay it’s helpful to have a local discount fabric store AND an upholsterer you trust and who makes it easy. My upholsterer is someone I’d definitely have a cup of tea with any time – he’s adorable. But he’s also willing to pick up and deliver anything, and he’ll go to the fabric store on the way. His prices are exceedingly reasonable and he does great work.
The final considerations with eBay bargain hunting have to do with calculating in shipping fees and evaluating the seller. To ensure you’re really getting a bargain, you’ll need to add in the shipping charges when determining your top bid. Some sellers offer flat shipping fees; some ship only via Greyhound for station pick-up; some require the buyer to make her/his own arrangements. Whatever the terms, the fees involved can be substantial, so calculate them up front before starting to bid. Regarding ease and comfort of buying, my policy is to shop only with top-rated sellers, and to check buyer comments before bidding.
It just takes a little time and research, but you too can find great pieces for your home online. You’re helping the environment – “reduce, reuse, recycle” – and joining the ranks of proud design aficionados everywhere who are loath to pay retail.