Bargain hunting is a true skill, but doing it with style is another kind of trick altogether. So when Jen Hansard told me that 99% of her home furnishings were bought second-hand from Craigslist, The Salvation Army, and garage sales, I wanted to see more. Naturally, I wanted to show you, too! I hope you enjoy the tour of the Hansard’s brand new home as much as I did. Her reasons why she loves her photo wall absolutely melted my heart. This is a good one, Friends.
Q: Who are the lucky ones living in this home?
A: Me, my husband, Ryan, and our two amazing kids, Jackson (4) and Clare (2). We moved from Southern California to Florida six months ago and sold most of our belongings on Craigslist before we left. So these last few months we have spent a lot of time scouring Craigslist, hitting up garage sales and thrift shops to re-buy the essential pieces of furniture we sold, like beds, our kitchen table, and bookshelves. My husband is a pastor of a new church in town and I am a work-from-home mom; I run Family Sponge and a design agency called Hansard Studio. Needless to say, we are pretty darn busy between our two kids and our three jobs!
Q: How did this home come to be yours? How has it changed since you moved in?
A: It took five months of house hunting, hours in prayer and tears, and God’s perfect timing for us to get this beautiful townhouse in Wesley Chapel, Florida. There were two requirements during the house hunting process: it must have lots of natural light, and it must be within walking distance to Starbucks. If those two things were met, I would have been truly happy living in a double-wide trailer!
Q: Tell us about your thrifting prowess! How did you decide to furnish your home with found and re-purposed objects?
A: My parents led by example, teaching to only buy what you can actually afford. This has become embedded in my DNA! Early on in our marriage, my husband and I learned that we did like nice things, yet we really couldn’t afford them…especially with all the traveling we loved to do. When I became pregnant in 2007, I heard about Craigslist and decided to try it out. We bought our son’s Pottery Barn nursery furniture on it for dirt cheap, and I was an ecstatic pregnant lady. From there on, I had the Craigslist bug and have bought almost every piece of furniture in our home – and our previous four-bedroom home in California – on Craigslist.
My husband was a little concerned at first, and so were my parents. I can see how it seems unsafe and creepy for a young mom to go to a stranger’s house with cash in my hand to buy their used furniture. But I have done it at least 200 times now, and every single person has been warm and lovely. Seriously. The world really is full of wonderful people, and Craigslist allows me to see it all the time. At this point, my husband is 100% on board, and joins me and the kids on most of my Craigslist adventures.
It’s an incredible feeling when you can buy a $1200 designer bed for $250. And the tiny environmental footprint we are leaving is huge; things we buy do not cause more of them to be made. We are literally shopping underground where sales tax and inventory quotas are void.
Q: How would you describe your style? How has it changed since you’ve added kids to the mix?
A: We are pretty eclectic with our style. Maybe that has to do with growing up in the Los Angeles area and moving to Florida. We like things that have personality, and we love things that have a story. Buying furniture second-hand usually covers both the criteria. Most things we buy on Craigslist have a ding or two, which is perfect for a family with young kids. Some people see blemishes like dings and frays as a turn off, but I see it as an excuse to relax.
Q: The most amazing find you’ve found…
A: We bought a vintage red gum ball machine at a garage sale for $2. When we got home and set it up, we discovered that it was filled with quarters. The previous owner forgot to empty it out before selling it! After all was counted, there was $18 in that gum ball machine!
Another good find was a Pottery Barn mahogany sleigh bed with a wood trundle. I bought it for $175 and it was in perfect condition. Absolutely gorgeous. It retailed for $1250 new, so I felt like I won the lottery. Sadly, we had to sell the lovely bed before we moved to Florida, but I did resell it on Craigslist for $550, which was pretty awesome.
Q: Can you share some of your tricks for finding treasures online? I’m so curious about negotiating skills and how you handle it when an item isn’t as wonderful in person as it appeared in photos.
A: Be persistent. If I have a specific piece I want – like a mahogany bookshelf – I will check Craigslist multiple times a day for months at a time. And if I find one and the price is too high, I email the seller and ask if they would take less. Sometimes they say no, and other times they are totally cool with it. Most people just want the furniture out of their house as soon as possible.
I bought a dresser once that looked really cute, but was horribly made. I should have opened every drawer before I bought it, but I didn’t. So I would recommend that you inspect whatever it is you are buying very well. Test it out and make sure you could enjoy using it. If it’s not what you thought, let them know and walk away. I have done that many times since that dresser fiasco.
Q: Tell us about your favorite room in your home.
A: I love our living room with all the photo frames on the wall. Even though it is still a work in progress, I can see the end result in my head and it’s beautiful. I want to be surrounded by happy memories of family and friends, and the photo wall is our way of accomplishing that now that we live 2,600 miles away. We also don’t own a TV, so our living room is our creative family space. We hang out in there and play board games, do puzzles, and make forts.
Q: If you had to purchase something brand new and there was a sky-high budget, what is the one item your home is missing?
A: I love simple southern style molding, and would put it around all the windows, ceilings, baseboards, and chair rails. The house itself is desperately missing personality and I would love to bring that in. Could I also throw in reclaimed barn wood flooring? And a Dutch door? Maybe one day, right?
Q: What has been your favorite DIY project?
A: Definitely our photo wall. I have been collecting the frames at garage sales and thrift stores for the last three years and dreamed about this wall. It’s a space where our kids can begin to understand that our lives are bigger than this very moment. It’s about our great grandparents who sailed from Poland to Ellis Island in hopes of a better life. It’s about our parents who grew up in broken homes and rose above the odds. It’s about our wedding day when we committed our lives to one another and to our future. It’s about my mommy friends in Los Angeles that shaped my view of parenting. These photos say so much more about our family than we can tell our kids in words.
Q: What’s the one item for which you’re on the perpetual hunt?
A: I am always looking for real wood bookshelves! We have tons of books and not enough places to properly store them.
Q: Finish the sentence, please: I wish I had known…
A: I wish I had known that I was going to fall in love with furniture in my late twenties. There was a wonderful woodworking program at our college, and my husband and I both constantly regret that we didn’t stay another two years and do that together. Then I wouldn’t have to scour Craigslist and garage sales for unique, sentimental items. We could just create them ourselves and possibly make a living doing it!
Thank you, Jen! I love your observation that living with second-hand items makes you a more relaxed parent. Such a thoughtful point!
What are your thoughts on thrifting, Friends? Are you a little scared of Craigslist, or has Jen swayed your opinion? I have to say, I find second-hand treasures pretty magical on top of being wonderfully responsible, and the hunt is always a thrill. Do any of you have your own second-hand success stories or flops? I’d love to hear all about them!
P.S. — If you’d like to share your home with us in my Living With Kids series, drop me a note. I’d love to hear from you!