Where to find furniture | part one

It’s very common for readers to leave comments on blogs, Facebook posts, and Instagram feeds asking,

Where on Earth do you find such great pieces of furniture to work with??”

1. They are sometimes not so great when I find them.

2. Craigslist

It’s true that I’ve gotten quite a few pieces at yard sales or flea markets but I find them to be very “hit or miss” and they also have the draw back of being seasonal. Craigslist is always there. I’ve known about CL for a long time, but I think I had kind of the wrong impression. I didn’t think that I’d find quality pieces – but I’ve come to see the error of my thinking. Craigslist furniture can really run the gamut from really lovely antiques for a great bargain, to overvalued garbage. I find the photos to be overwhelmingly bad (really! for goodness sake, people, at least HOLD STILL while you take a photo) – and yet, if you’re careful, you can find fantastic pieces to work on.

Here is an important Craigslist shopping tip:
Don’t be afraid to say, No, Thank You. Even though the seller has taken the time to come and meet you, you’re not obligated to buy the piece. Sometimes those bad online pictures really don’t represent the piece well enough. If there are serious condition issues that you were unaware of, thank the seller kindly for their time and go home. DO ask questions via email or phone ahead of time to do your best to decide if you really want it – but don’t feel obligated to load garbage into your minivan and take it back to your house.
(not that I would know anything about that…)

Having said all of that – Craigslist is a good place to find a great deal an old piece and fix ‘er up!! Here is one of my latest Craigslist buys and the “issues” that the piece had when I got it.


Keep in mind:
“Issues” can range in severity. Some are easy to tackle and some you won’t want to touch. You have to be willing to tackle them (and I’ll talk about that more in my next post) but you also have to be able to tackle them. Do you have the correct tools? The know how?

This dresser had a LOT going AGAINST it.



1. It smelled like cat pee.
2. It had a truly terrible paint job.
3. The paint looked so bad that I was pretty sure there was severe damage to the wood underneath
4. The knobs, though old and pretty, were not original and couldn’t be used on this dresser.
5. The bottom panel in each of the two bottom drawers was totally shot. They were both warped and one had a big hole in it.
6. The veneer at the bottom of the two side panels was heavily damaged.
7. It smelled like cat pee.

Some of these problems are easy fixes and some are a bit more involved. Quite frankly, this is probably one of those times when I should have politely declined to buy the item but I’d already made a huge time commitment to go and get it – so I stuck it out. I mention the smell TWICE not just to make a joke but because a bad smell will usually convince me to run away – speedy quick! In this case I didn’t realize there was a smell until we (me and both kids) were well down the road. By the time I got home I was ready to harvest the glass knobs and leave it on the curb…

Let’s look at the other issues.
Paint? Almost always an easy fix. Paint over or strip. (I stripped it).
Damaged wood? Turned out to be just VERY bumpy paint – I still don’t know why – but the wood underneath was in perfect condition.
Hardware? Easily purchased and replaced.
Damaged veneer? My husband came up with a very clever plan to hide the damage. Required simple tools – not much technical skill. I tackled this on my own.
Replacing drawer bottoms? Was actually pretty tricky – but I had help from my husband and we own LOTS of tools. LOTS.


And then the smell….replacing the drawer bottoms actually took care of most of that problem – and a good cleaning took care of the rest. If that hadn’t worked – first I would have cried…and then I would have tossed the dresser. I will not deal with a stinky piece of furniture.

Once all of the problems were addressed, this little dresser breathed a sigh of relief and got ready for a new life.


Next time: Even if you can do all of the repairs on a run down piece…should you? And I’ll show you how the “cat pee dresser” (that’s what my daughter kept calling it) turned out in the end – repaired, painted (what color??), oiled, new hardware and ready to go!


14 thoughts on “Where to find furniture | part one

  1. Darcy

    Brieda, Thank you for this informative post. I often wonder where to scoop up these amazing pieces too. I wonder if part of it might be geography too though? I live in the Southwest and much of the furniture here is either just that, Southwestern style or ultra modern and bland. The old goodies are few and far between. But, that doesn’t stop me from keeping on checking CL. 🙂 My husband just helped (OK, did most of the work) resuscitate a dresser belonging to my maternal grandma that I thought was a goner. Once it receives a cleaning and some MMSMP in “Tricyle” it will go into the bedroom my two oldest boys will start sharing soon.

    1. breida@breidawithab.com

      Hi Darcy – You know, red is probably my favorite color and I have YET to paint a piece in Tricycle! I don’t know what’s holding me back – would love to see your grandmother’s dresser when you’ve got it finished! Good Luck!

  2. Ann

    Great job!! I love the handy tips too … can’t wait to see the finished piece.

  3. Sharon F.

    Thanks for all the great tips. They’re very helpful. You and your husband are an amazing team!

  4. Tracey

    Lots of great info here. Your question to be answered – “should you?” – really should include a discussion of the cost of the piece on craigslist. I always wonder what pricing structure you experts are looking at. Obviously the answer is different for different end purposes. But if you are going to fix something up and sell it, does it make sense to buy a $150 dresser?

    1. breida@breidawithab.com

      Well, Tracey, that post is already written – and I don’t think I addressed that particular aspect of the question – but it’s an important one.
      It really does depend. If you can buy a dresser for $50 and it takes you a week to prep it for paint does that really make more sense than paying $150 for a piece in nearly perfect condition that will take a fraction of the time to complete? The answer to that question will depend on what kind of price you can get for your pieces…how much time you have to spend on them etc.
      For example – the dresser in this post took a LOT of work – I had to go back to it several times over MANY days and it took time from both me and my husband.
      The piece I did right after this one – I paid about twice as much for it- but I finished the WHOLE PROJECT in one evening AFTER my kids went to bed….(both are dressers, both painted with stained tops).
      See what I mean?

  5. karen@somewhatquirkydesign

    Yes. Removing the drawer bottom is very helpful in getting rid of the smell. I guess it depends on the dresser, but I’ve always found replacing the bottoms really easy. Way easier than systematically trying all the ways people suggest to get rid of smells – which have varying levels of success!

    1. breida@breidawithab.com

      Hi Karen –
      Yeah – I usually refuse to deal with bad smells at all. Yuck.
      Replacing the drawer bottoms could have been really easy…(one of them was actually)but one of them was still glued in really well – and it broke off and had to be chiseled out of the channel… you know – it got messy!

  6. Anne Marie

    My dear sweet great Grammie (who my baby girl is named after) left me her old singer cabinet as well as a 1800s library desk. The top of the desk has bad veneer cracking, particularly on the edges. What ideas would you have for that? Would you even attempt painting it or just refinish? Are there some furniture pieces you just don’t paint?


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