13 April 2008

online design resource: ebay (love it or hate it)

maison21 would like to take a moment to remind everyone of one of his favorite online design resources: the venerable ebay. while not a huge fan of ebay, the corporation, maison21 does love the variety of vintage goods available on ebay, the website, and yes, while he may not like many of their corporate policies, maison21 does enjoy indulging his passion for vintage furniture by selling on ebay, as well. biting the hand that feeds him? you betcha, but paying lots of money for the privilege, too.

recently, mason21 spotted this fabulous vintage baker furniture asian modern credenza and scored it for one of his design clients- for a small fraction of what it would have cost from a resale store. even once shipped, it will be a third the price of similar purchased locally.

now maison21 and his client can take the money they saved by purchasing the credenza on ebay, and spend it elsewhere- like on a glamorous, long and low, white leather m21 custom-designed chesterfield sofa!
now a hint or two for purchasing vintage furniture on ebay:
  1. check the reputation of the seller- if they have feedback that seems suspicious, steer clear. nobody's perfect, so a negative or two is natural (m21 has a couple himself, due to his slower-than-molasses shipping times), but several negatives with the same complaint such as "not as described", "packed poorly" or "never received", are red flags that you'll want to avoid.
  2. read the seller's description of condition carefully- if seller says "refer to photo" and doesn't list any flaws, tread cautiously. worse, if they state that it is the buyer's responsibility to ask condition questions, just stay away.
  3. on the flip side, don't obsess about minor condition issues- a small chip or stain shouldn't be a deal breaker if you love the piece. once it's in a room full of other furniture, you'll never notice minor flaws, anyway. big condition issues, especially those that are structural, are best to be avoided though.
  4. realize that you will have to deal with arranging freight shipping yourself- it can be a little daunting for the first timer, but most companies make it easy with online quotation forms. maison21 has had good luck with plycon- they also do blanket wrap, which is sufficient for most sturdy furniture items (not recommended for fine antiques or delicate items).
  5. don't ship your item via greyhound- it's cheap, but you'll regret not spending the money on a real shipper when your fabulous find arrives damaged.
  6. last, and most important- make sure you have the ability to visualize the size of the piece you are interested in. this is the most common mistake people make when buying online, and it can be a error both costly and heartbreaking. maison21 has made this mistake himself- a glam french 1940's mirror purchased locally for m21's tiny, tiny powder room turned into a 6 foot tall monster, suitable for a 1740's french chateau. luckily, m21 owns a pick-up so he was able to get his monster home, but if he was stuck shipping it, he wouldn't have been a happy camper.
  7. if you can't visualize the size of the piece in your room, draw it out to scale on a floor plan, or find a similar sized piece locally to help judge the scale. you can also literally "draw" out the dimensions of the piece in the exact spot you plan to use it by laying out the dimensions on the floor and/or wall with painter's tape- no surprises when the real thing arrives! while pieces can "read" larger or smaller than their actual size in person and that often can't be predicted from a photo, at least you will know whether or not the size will actually physically fit in your space.
so go take a spin around the antique furniture category on ebay- you'll be amazed at all the pretty things to be found! and if you've already bought a piece of furniture on ebay that you love, share a photo with us, and maison21 will devote a future post to his readers' ebay scores!


Easy and Elegant Life said...

This qualifies as a public service announcement and is very useful. Mrs. E and I had to jump through hoops once to have a library ladder shipped.

Very thoughtful advice, thanks! And I'm jealous of the credenza. One day I will win the lottery and invite my whole blogroll to have at the manse. Save the date.

Suzy said...

I am so amazed with what is available on the US ebay site - so unfair - very few sellers are willing to ship overseas! I so want these:

But I can't even open an account with Ebay because I'm in HK and the english site is only a beta version so far, and the account page is still in Chinese... grrr!

maison21 said...

thanks for stopping by easy- glad to help! and tell you what- i'll help with the redecoration of manse, if you'll help with teh refurbishment of my wardrobe!

suzy- sorry you've had problems with ebay, and i hate to be one of the bad guys, but as a seller, i won't ship overseas, either. i hate dealing with the u.s. postal system, and that's really the only practical way to ship overseas (i ship domestically via dhl- it's cheaper and easier). plus in the past, the expense factor has limited the number of overseas buyers willing to actually pay the shipping costs after they are quoted but i suppose with the dollar so low, that has changed somewhat...

BUT- often when an overseas buyer asks in advance, i will exempt them from my u.s. only bidding policy, so it might serve you to contact the sellers of the items you are interested in- to see if they will do the same. i'm particularly prone to do so when the buyer has excellent feedback and will almost ALWAYS do so if the buyers are willing to make all the shipping arrangements themselves.

speaking of shipping- that darn box hasn't gone out yet, but i promise to get it in the mail this week (even though it involves a trip to the dreaded u.s. post office).

Things That Inspire said...

Great post! I go through ebay phases, and I have not been an ebay phase in a while. I have never purchased furniture through ebay as I tend to like to see something before I buy it. I am never opposed to looking, I go!

Cote de Texas said...

I love Ebay and 1st Dibs. you can buy anything online these days - but you're right, I've made some big mistaks. I'm looking at one mistake right now! measuring is the most important part of the transaction. And I didn't measure this time. oh well - great post and great suggestions!

Thanks for your comments too!!!!!


maison21 said...

thanks for the nice words, inspire and cote de texas!

i def go through ebay phases as well, inspire- all it takes is one bad purchase (or one item that arrives broken) and i'm off it for a little while, and back to buying locally. but, it always pulls me back in...

and cote, i'm glad to know i'm not the only professional to make an ebay boo-boo. we should KNOW better, but sometimes it's so easy to get caught up in the excitement of the auction, that we forget the little details- guess everyone is entitled to a mistake now and then :)- thank goodness it sounds as if both our mistakes were purchased for us, not clients!

thanks for visiting!

Anonymous said...

Good advice Mr.May. Especially the part about visualizing the size. Tim and I need your helping finding a sofa for our "cottage"....I'm in love with huge ass sectionals....but they won't even make it through our front door. Kisses to your vp Mona.

maison21 said...

hey mariana- i'm happy to help- just give me a call.

my first thought is, if your "cottage" is small, and it won't even fit through the front door, is a huge sectional the right answer for your space? email a picture, if you can, and maybe together we could figure out something that works for you...