Never Found A Craigslist Treasure? This Pro Picker Can Help

We've all seen home tours online and in glossies where people show off impossibly stylish furniture bought off Craigslist for next to nothing. "Oh, this old thing? I got it on Craigslist." Sounds so easy, right? But then, you try it yourself, and end up scrolling through hundreds of postings for dinged Crate & Barrel tables and IKEA cast-offs, with nary a cool vintage piece in sight.
Enter web-shopping savant Ellen Richardson, who has an incredible knack for finding the DMV's coolest furniture, from brass bar carts and teak tables to glamorous lamps and vintage skateboards — all ripe for the picking on Craigslist. Luckily for us, Richardson shares the wealth on her blog, Listed District, where she publishes the listings for the best secondhand scores in the Washington area.
After looking at all the rad furniture that Richardson, a graphic designer, posts on her blog every day, we had to know what Craigslist pieces she's found for her own home. So, we finagled a tour of her amazing Columbia Heights rowhouse, which was restored and designed by her architect boyfriend, Greg Gardner. Gardner opened up the space, brought in tons of natural light, and added custom, built-in touches, while Richardson incorporated midcentury-modern pieces and an Americana flair that reflects the couple's shared Southern roots.
Click through to check out some of Richardson's best-ever Craigslist finds — and take notes, because she's also spilling her tricks of the trade, from favorite keyword searches to how to bargain for a piece once you've found it.
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What made you start Listed District?
"I started the blog because I had to cut myself off from buying stuff when we moved into this house, because there was no room for it with the construction. Two months into not buying anything, I realized I was still constantly looking on Craigslist, and finding things for my friends, and sending 10 items all around to people I knew in D.C. I decided I would post things for other people, and feed my addiction that way. If I can't buy things, I'm going to help my friends find them."

How do you find the things you post?
"I don't look too specifically, and I also don't limit myself. I don't put a price on my searches — I keep them pretty general, and try to have the patience to look through everything. I have certain things that I like: midcentury and industrial things. That's more what I'm drawn to, but even if it's not my taste, I can still recognize that someone else might like it.

Everybody has their keywords they look for. I put in 'midcentury,' 'industrial,' even 'MCM' or 'Danish,' which are a little more specific and a little less expected. Sometimes, people have a habit of misspelling descriptive words really predictably. I have a couple search words, like 'barrister.' I'll search it with the incorrect amount of Rs, because people don't know how to spell it — I've come across a lot of good deals that way."
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So, you were in a sort of Craigslist retirement for a while?
"Yes, I think I've come out. We were searching for an ottoman, and Greg and I had a talk together and decided that we could buy it. I can see myself finding a few more things."

How would you describe your design aesthetic?
"I would say midcentury, historical, anything culturally historical. Greg and I are both from the South, and we have a lot of things with family history. We like anything utilitarian that had a purpose and a story at one time. If our furniture isn't from Craigslist or a vintage store, it's from a member of our family, so I think that we are really influenced by history."

A Barcelona-style chair (found on Craigslist) sits in a sunny reading nook, accessorized with a sheepskin from the Columbia Heights farmers' market and a patriotic pillow.
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Why do you love shopping on Craigslist?
"I love shopping on Craigslist for a lot of reasons. For one thing, the thrill of the hunt gets me every time — when I come across something that I connect with, I can't resist hunting it down and making it my own. Also, I love the uniqueness and randomness of Craigslist items. I feel good knowing that the same items probably can't be found in every condo within a 25-mile radius, which means that my home is crafted to be unique and special to me. And lastly, because it's my own simple way of recycling! I wonder how many things in my house might have ended up in a landfill if I hadn't rescued them and given them a new chance at life?"

What is your favorite Craigslist score?
"My favorite would probably have to be our 8-foot credenza. It was once a part of an architect's desk, which is extremely fitting for our house. Also, the 8-foot length is pretty hard to find, and feels perfectly in scale with the large wall [in the living room]."

Plants love the light in the couple's home. Richardson made the planter by drilling a hole in vintage stoneware found at Miss Pixie's.
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We love the vintage skateboards you found. What other unusual things have you come across?
"I've come across some pretty funny items. Some of my favorites were a 1970s vibrating exercise machine and an already assembled, complete Art Deco bar (for a measley $15,000)."

How can you get a good deal on Craigslist? Do you recommend bargaining?
"I absolutely recommend bargaining, but always use your best judgement. Some sellers are open to it, while some are mortally offended. If you're going to bargain, sometimes it helps to give a reason. For example, I recently came across a Restoration Hardware table that was listed for only $100 less than the same brand-new table online. It's not worth the average person's trouble to pay so close to retail value for something used — not to mention something that they have to pick up on their own."

A custom hickory cabinet showcases the couple's collections of architecture and design books, Gardner's architectural models, flea-market finds, and iron works by Richardson's grandfather.
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What are your favorite D.C. home stores?
I've got a lot, and most are the usual suspects: GoodWood, Modern Mobler, Trohv, Home Rule, Community Forklift, The Brass Knob, Millenium Decorative Arts, and Hunted House, just to name a few."

Are there any chain stores you like to shop?
"I enjoy a good browse through Room & Board, and I love Anthropologie's home section."

WPA National Park screen-print posters from RangerDoug complement Behr paint in Plum Smoke and Rejuvenation's industrial pendant lights.
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What do you love most about where you live?
"I love the uniqueness of the space. I've never seen anything like it in D.C., and best of all, I've witnessed it come together though Greg's hard work and amazing eye for design. If I had to choose one thing, it would probably be the amount of light and general openness — It gives me room to breathe while still feeling relaxed and at home."

What do you wish you could find on Craigslist?
"That's tough. I've been on the losing end of several attempts at snagging a set of vintage Emeco chairs. At this point, it's become a serious mission and a matter of principal."

Another Craigslist find, a streamlined table in the style of Danish designer Grete Jalk, is topped with a chunky West Elm lamp.
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What's the one piece of advice you have for Craigslist hunters?
"Persevere! Finding exactly what you want on Craigslist is absolutely possible, but it usually takes some serious commitment...that may border on obsession. If there's something that you want, my advice is to search often, be prepared to be the first one available for pickup, and don't give up when you don't receive an immediate reply from the seller."

Richardson used Craigslist to find this barrister bookcase, once housed in a NASA office building. Now, the shelves store books, sweaters, and mementos.