Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Meghana Venkatesh
In 2016, Facebook launched Marketplace — the site’s version of a more trusted Craigslist — to buy and sell locally. Facebook Marketplace has changed the way people furnish their homes, whether on a strict budget or not. While buying second-hand is normally cheaper, in cities like New York or Los Angeles, Marketplace is also a source for finding high-end vintage pieces or wacky one-of-a-kind gems (like the Austin Powers couch) . To get the most out of the app, we asked interior designers who buy used for their tips on how to shop Facebook Marketplace like a pro.
The advice of the three designers was to browse social networks first. Boz design studio and community, Normal, has over 75,000 followers on Instagram and started as a place where she shared her own apartment journey. Now she shares images of other people’s homes and spaces around the world. “Pictures of other homes people have around the world were initially just a mood board for inspiration,” she says. Boz also joined the growing group people sharing Facebook Marketplace tips on TikTok, creating videos like my Facebook Marketplace finds for this week as an interior designer in LA Using Pinterest to search for different pieces of furniture you like will help you find what you are looking for on Marketplace.
The 27-year-old Turkish designer Lale Boz chose Marketplace to design her space when she moved into her one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. She noticed that “the more I used the app, the more coins it gave me that I would like,” she explained. The algorithm on Marketplace rewards those who browse it the most, similar to TikTok’s For You page. She was able to have a Marketplace feed made up of pieces she liked by scrolling a lot and favoring the pieces and sellers she liked, whether she wanted to buy them for herself or a client, or not at all. If she liked a particular seller, she would go see what else he was selling, sometimes finding he had a plethora of great pieces.
Freelance designer Meghana Venkatesh put it this way: “If you’re always on your phone anyway, or if you already do that for clothes, do that for your furniture too.” You can do it for about ten minutes a day and maybe come up with something really awesome.
A blue Mario Bellini Camaleonda sofa that Boz found on FB Marketplace in LA and purchased for his client.
Photo: Lale Boz
“I would start by looking for an era or a style or even a material,” Venkatesh said. While it’s one thing to search for “dining chairs”, adding a little detail like “1950s” or “metal” would streamline searches and help narrow down your search to find something you love. “Keywords are really important,” said decorating store owner Abigail Price. Abbey. “Think about what the material is – like Burwood or marble. Go to the gist of the item you’re looking for.
Pro Tip: Also reduce the radius in which you search. Make sure you know how you are going to move the piece from place to place and use the zones to your advantage. “You usually know what type of person lives in SoHo, or the West Village, or Greenpoint, so be specific about what you want and search those areas,” Venkatesh said. “Sometimes I see people who have full estate sales in the Upper East and Upper West Sides.”
The Marble Coffee Table Price bought on Facebook Marketplace.
Photo: Abigail Price
In 2018, when Venkatesh was trying to furnish her apartment on a college budget, she took to Marketplace for the first time to look for a new couch. Most of the items in her apartment were in her old dorm, the typical furniture from Ikea and Target, but she knew she wanted a new sofa. At the time, she was into a wacky dollhouse style, so she was looking for a centerpiece. She searched Facebook Marketplace for “curvy sofa” and found a hot pink velvet sofa for under $400, her budget.
When Venkatesh traveled to Cobble Hill to retrieve the couch, she stumbled across a barber shop she thought was the vendor’s house. The saleswoman, a charming lady in her sixties, had wrapped the sofa in the back. With just one friend, Venkatesh managed to bring the couch back to Williamsburg. A little later, she received a message. “Sometimes I’m a little wary of buyers but I’m sorry I didn’t tell you that,” the seller wrote on Messenger. “It’s actually a couch from the Austin Powers set. I got it because I was a set designer. It was the second movie. Just wanted to let you know if you’re interested.
When she sold the sofa a few years later, she was able to raise the price and included this story in the description of the sofa: “It’s New York. You have no idea who is selling you furniture or how long that item will last until it gets to you.
The couch from the Austin Powers shoot
Photo: Meghana Venkatesh
So you have found your part. And then ? “Always negotiate,” Price said. “Usually people always make an offer and are ready to come down.” Unlike a brick-and-mortar vintage store, someone can be selling a high-end piece on Marketplace without even knowing it, giving shoppers more opportunities to snatch up hidden gems.