How to Shop for Furniture on Instagram | The Strategist
A pair of Ettore Sottsass for Knoll chairs.
Photo: Home Union
Business is booming for the city’s vintage shopkeepers and amateur thrifters who use their Instagram accounts to sell used housewares. We spoke to both shopkeepers and shoppers (who are busier and more exhausted than ever) about how to navigate these unwieldy new virtual flea markets.
First, there are two types of Instagram furniture accounts: Those run by vintage brick and mortar stores that have their own showrooms and e-commerce websites, and those run by people whose businesses only live on Instagram and whose goods are sold from their homes or storage units. In both cases, sellers post photos of their items for sale on Instagram, often labeling the image with information about dimensions, the item’s designer, and prices.
DM to buy. Send a direct message to the seller that you want it. How you pay for the item depends on who you’re buying it from: if it’s from an independent seller, you can count on PayPal or Venmo, while a more established store might use your credit card information on their website or beyond the phone.
The stationary accounts tend to have more coverage. For one, the Dobbin St. Vintage Co-op has nearly 70,000 followers and likely has a comfortably austere marble coffee table ($ 375) like a six-foot-tall decorative pencil ($ 225). Home Union has 152,000 followers and while it’s most popular for its brightly colored Memphis-esque pieces (like a pair of avocado green Ettore Sottsass for Knoll chairs at $ 500 each), it also has a wide selection of mid-century Danish pieces . and postmodern – most recently a 1960s Laurel mushroom lamp ($ 550). Lichen, a shop with two locations in Bushwick, stocks modernist pieces like a Poltronova Stringa sofa. The Lower East Side Coming Soon furniture store usually has a healthy collection of burl and chrome parts (currently a lacquered sideboard à la Milo Baughman). Humble House, followed by costume designer Miyako Bellizzi and candle artist Janie Korn (and has a varied mix – warm pieces of pipe next to a kelly green Wes Anderson-style closet, $ 1,800) and the Somerset House founded by designer Alan Eckstein (currently for sale: an Art Deco lambskin chair valued at $ 1,900; and a pair of cowhide-padded ottomans valued at $ 1,485), both opened in 2020 and have become quick favorites.
But the online stores are good for details. For example, if you want a chair, Designer Onea Engel-Bradley recommends Places & Spaces (@placesandspacesny). “You recently had a vintage Knoll Risom side chair that I just missed,” she says.
For a couch Rose-Romaine, owner of @shopmeroon housewares store, suggests @ re.newfinds. The couches, she says, are “inexpensive” (she currently has her eye on a red-pink leather seat, which retails for $ 350).
For lamps, Home decorator Carrie Carrollo likes @ carpenter.studio: “A week later, a beautiful Michael Taylor-style ecru rotating lamp that was served to me on my IG Explore page was at my home,” she says. (Others recently sold include a pair of Max Blumberg urn lamps, some tall tessellated plaster lamps, and a Memphis-style lamp with ornate brass legs).
For all things pastel, Jennifer Simons, owner of @snugdepot housewares store, contacts @ninefrtn, an online store run by Jonathan Coney).
And if folk is more your style Engel-Bradley suggests @southroadantiques, which stocks things like a framed felt hopscotch game and – recently – a hand-painted decorative miniature airship.
Ask to have the item photographed indoors. “Lots of Instagram sellers take photos of their pieces outside because it makes them look nicer,” says Alison Abrams of Furnish Green in midtown. “A color outside will look completely different in your home with two lamps on either side of the room.” Also ask about damage or stains.
But if it’s a pink velvet sofa, you may not have time. Pieces for sale on Instagram are often only sold minutes – if not seconds – after they are posted. So prepare to be nimble as soon as you get a notification. “You have to jump on blue, green or pink velvet sofas, and the competition for marble coffee tables and Cesca chairs made of sugar cane is always very strong,” says Courtney Wagner from the Dobbin St. Vintage Co-op. “If it’s something you’ve dreamed of, take the leap of faith and buy it unseen.”
Make a plan to bring it home. Most stores expect you to pick them up. Eckstein uses CC Rental (the daily rate for a van is $ 99; a pickup is $ 199). If you’re looking to hire someone to do the hauling for you, try uShip: Simons, as well as Chickees Vintage owner Kathleen Sorbara and Rosemary Home owner Rosemary Blanch. All of them use the website to list the items they want to move, and provide carriers to get their job done. You can then choose the mover based on its listing and previous reviews. Or just use Uber: “I’ll send an Uber to get the lamp, then the lamp will drive back to me – it works really well and no driver ever complains because a lamp is a great passenger,” says Eckstein.
* A version of this article will appear in the February 1, 2021 issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe now!
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