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Archive for January, 2009

De-lacing

As everyone who peeps in our windows is already aware, our dining room curtains have been up for about three weeks.  They’re handmade, but thanks to Missy’s deft touch with a sewing machine, they look absolutely professional.  Watch out, Sri Lankan 8 year-olds – you’ve got competition.

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Since our kitchen only has one window, we went with cafe curtains for the dining room to bring in more light.  Fortunately, our foundation is tall enough and the windows are set high enough that no one can see over them.  Foiled again, voyeurs – ha ha!

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As Josie mentioned, I’m not too shabby at Craigslist.  That’s a lie – I’m actually the best Craigslister in the octo-county region.  Here’s how I do it – Part I: How To Be an Effective and Morally Sound Craigslist Buyer.

  • Google Reader/RSS feeds – I wrote in a previous comment that if you’re not using RSS to search Craigslist, you’re doing it all wrong.  10 hours later, that advice is still true.  Any and every Craigslist search can have an RSS feed – the link is in the lower right corner of the first page of results.  Set up a Google Reader account and paste the feed’s url in.  Bam – a saved Craigslist search that updates within minutes of a match being posted.
  • Cast a wide net – Once you start putting searches into Google Reader, it’s trivial to add more.  I have about two dozen, from very broad (“Stickley” in every nearby city with its own Craigslist page – since I’d be willing to drive many miles to pick up a Stickley piece) to much narrower (“dresser (vintage | antique | old)” on just my local Craigslist – the vertical bar tells Craigslist to search with OR between the terms instead of the default AND).   I also have a feed for any and every ad that uses the term “quartersawn”, since I’m potentially interested, whether it happens to be lumber posted in Materials or an antique icebox posted in Collectibles.   Since not everyone realizes furniture should be posted in the furniture section (it often shows up in Household, Collectibles, General, Garage Sale and Free – not that you’ll hear me complain about that), I lean toward detailed searches of the entire For Sale section over broad searches in the specific categories.  You run the risk of missing stuff that’s mislabeled or described badly, but that’s a small price to pay for not having to physically do 20+ searches every day.
  • Once you’ve got that red typewriter in your sights, e-mail politely to ask whether it’s still available, plus – and this is key – whether you might be able to look at it during X-Y period on Z day.  Also, as a seller, if I get more than one e-mail at once, the more polite person always, always, always gets first dibs.  Not only because I want to passive-aggressively encourage e-mail courtesy, but because taking the time to send a courteous e-mail is a signal that the buyer is less likely to flake out.  There’s almost nothing more annoying than a buyer who doesn’t show up, so I try to lower my risk through the only signals available to me.  Maybe other sellers don’t think the same way, but if Google Reader pops up something I’m interested in, it costs me next to nothing to type “Hi – I’m interested in your antique teacher’s desk, and if it’s still available, I’d like to stop by to take a look at it this Saturday morning – thanks!” over “is yr desk still available”.  I know which e-mail would get a response from me, if the shoe were on the other foot – or the the red typewriter on the other vintage midcentury modern credenza, as it were.
  • Don’t be afraid to make a lower offer, but don’t be surprised if your lowball e-mail gets ignored.  It helps to know what similar things have been listed at (which is much easier to see with your RSS feed) so that your offer has some justification behind it (see Schelling 1960).  Again, as a seller, I’m more likely to accept an offer like “Your mission style dresser seems to have a few more nicks than a couple others that sold for $100 last week – would you be willing to take $80 for it?” over “Would you take $80?”  And every single e-mail that says “My husband just lost his job and we can only afford $20 for the dresser – I know it’s not much, but like I said, my husband isn’t working right now” gets deleted.  It’s not that I don’t have a heart – it’s just that I’m pretty sure you’re lying to me.  And if you’re not, then you make me too sad to risk seeing you face-to-face.
  • Don’t ask for an address until you’ve expressed some serious, serious interest in the item – to the point of agreeing to a day/time and giving the seller your name and phone number.  I’m wary of e-mails like “interested in the chair – where do you live”  Uh, dude?  Are you planning to rob me, or just ring my doorbell at 5:00 am?  Because either way, I’m less than pleased with you.
  • If you’re headed out to buy something, be like a Boy Scout and sell me overpriced caramel corn be prepared.  For me, this is a pretty low bar – I always have exact change and some bungee cords in the trunk.

That’s it – from finding the Craigslist crap that makes you happy, all the way to not being a sketchy buyer.  Want to thank me?  Post an ad for an affordable antique full-size brass bed frame.  If there’s interest, at some point I’ll post Part II: How to Be a Rightous and Upstanding Craigslist Seller.

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Milwaukee Chair Co, 1914

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You know what?  I’ve been feeling guilty for writing so many furniture posts.  Shouldn’t we be ripping out our downstairs shower?  Or retiling the upstairs bathroom floor?   I owe it to both of my readers, right?  To do something with a crowbar?

But at the end of the day, I can only blog about what’s actually happening, and what’s happening is that I’m the Finest Craigslister in All the Land.  I bought two chairs from the UW law school for a song ($10) this weekend, then immediately flipped them on Craigslist for enough profit to buy a second Milwaukee Chair Company 1914 model for the office.  I just read that the Milwaukee Chair Co supplied the US House and Senate from 1889-1940, which means my butt and Fightin’ Bob LaFollette’s butt are basically equivalent.

The new chair is, in every way, superior to our old chair – it’s in better shape, it has arms, the rocker doesn’t squeak, the seat stays level, and best of all, it’s built from quartersawn oak.  I would like everyone to note – Jane in particular – that this had everything to do with marketing skill and zilch to do with luck.

Until we find a teacher’s desk for the office, the old office chair has been drafted to hold a stack of books.  Building office bookshelves – that’s another home-improvement project I should do.  And tear out the carpet.  Then refinish the floors.  Plus replace the plastic folding door to the closet and cut new casing for the frame.  Sigh – this is why I post about furniture.

UW law school library chairs

UW law school library chairs

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Howdy

Well, moo there, big fella.

Moo.

What makes an entryway great?

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Stickley progress

Everything feels like it’s moving at a glacial pace – given the cold snap we just got through, maybe I’m not far off the mark.  We’re still hoping to prime and paint the dining room, kitchen, bedroom, and upstairs hallway in the next few weeks, which should give us time to paint the kitchen cabinets, take out the soffets, and raise them before spring.  Oh, spring – could you just hurry it up, dude?

But I had a ridiculously busy week at school (for good reason, I think – students ask a lot from the professors they like, right?), and barely got the first layer stripped from the footstool.  The green paint bubbled off like magic, but the white primer is going to pose a challenge.  It’s pretty deep into the grain, which means either (1) the stool wasn’t varnished originally, or (2) the person who painted it sanded first.  The latter would be better for me (since it’s unlikely they would have sanded all the nooks and crannies in the turned legs), but it’s beginning to look like the first is more likely.  I don’t know enough about Stickley Brothers (Albert Stickley’s company) – I wonder if they ever sold painted furniture?

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Craigslist karma

We sold a lamp on Craigslist a couple weeks ago – a faux-antique Shopko job that had been sitting in the canning room since we moved in.   Unfortunately, I got an e-mail later that evening saying it had a short and kept blowing out bulbs.  My fault – I really should have double-checked that it worked – so I offered to mail the woman a refund.

Our karmic Craigslist payback for that honesty has been sitting the garage for a few days, even though I didn’t see it until I got ready to start repainting tonight.  We bought this desk and bench from a couple in the suburbs for $25 – they were remodeling, and a green antique desk didn’t fit the new decor.  Indeed – they so rarely do.  So we strapped it into the trunk, with the intent to paint it cream and put it next to the bed in the guest bedroom.

But then I started sanding off the glossy finish in preparation for priming, and saw the tiiiny little stamp hidden underneath.

The stamp is Stickley Bros, which was the company Albert Stickley founded in Grand Rapids, MI in 1891.  It’s the third-most collectable of the Stickley family’s furniture companies (behind The Big G himself, then L & J.G. Stickley), partially because Albert’s company focused on English-style furniture over Arts & Crafts.   It’s gonna take some work (and a lot of paint-stripper – just the opposite of my original plan) to make it pretty again, but only the most naive expect karma not to demand some sweat.

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Bam! Our first piece of real Stickley furniture!

Hand-cut half-blind dovetails put it pre-1920's, but the size of the center makes me think it's much older

Hand-cut half-blind dovetails put it pre-1920's, but the size of the center makes me think it's much older

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Five dollar….five dollar….five dollar ottomaaaannnnnnnnn!

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And, hey – same fabric as the rocker we recovered.  That’s a nice coinkey-dink, eh?

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