When Stephanie Fig spied a 1930s sofa with pink upholstery next to a dumpster one day, she talked a passerby into helping her load the couch into her SUV. Then she hauled it back to her office at Fig House Vintage.
Fig often finds nice items for her shop on the curb, she says. The tigerwood sofa, which she’s selling on Etsy, was good as new after she steam cleaned it, says Fig.
Interested in doing a little trash-to-treasure shopping yourself? Here’s some advice from curb shopping veterans:
1. Troll upscale neighborhoods.
Vicki Rimasse does her best shopping on bulky item pickup days in ritzy neighborhoods. Rimasse’s favorite find was a small, art-deco-style cabinet.
“I’m not sure if it’s a reproduction or a true antique but it’s in beautiful shape,” says Rimasse. “Last year, I found a jewelry armoire that was slightly scratched but otherwise in perfect condition.”
2. Seize the moment.
As Lori Cheek was biking to work one day, she rolled past three garbage bags stuffed with new, men’s Paul Smith clothing.
“I saw the stitching and artistic lining of one of the jackets and knew that was money inside,” says Cheek. “I grabbed what I could throw in my gym bag and another spare bag and took the best pieces home.”
Then Cheek steamed the clothes and sold them for nearly $750 at a local designer consignment store.
3. Have a team on call for heavy items.
Catherine DiPersico’s favorite curb catch was a nine-drawer credenza in otherwise perfect condition.
“This thing was heavy,” says DiPersico, who had to enlist some help. “It took three of us to carry the piece down the block with several rest breaks. I’ve had it for four years now and love it just as much as I did when I first saw it on that curb.”
4. Beware of bed bugs.
Be careful when taking on someone else’s upholstered furniture or rugs. If you must have the item, be sure to have it professionally cleaned.
5. Don’t be embarrassed.
Why should you care if a friend drives by while you’re rummaging through a trash pile? That person won’t be so smug when she’s sipping a glass of wine, sitting on that vintage patio chair you dragged home after your neighbor moved.
6. Shop under cover of darkness.
People like to put out free stuff at night, says Kasey Taylor, who’s found lamps, mirrors and fancy artwork while cruising upscale neighborhoods.
“I was once driving back from the grocery store late at night and came across a beautiful espresso brown dining room table. It’s my home’s current table to this day,” she says.
7. Follow up on good finds.
Carrie Aulenbacher and her husband lugged a solid wood pedestal back to their house once when they found it during an evening stroll.
“Even though the corner was chipped on the bottom, it instantly became a great piece in our home,” says Aulenbacher.
A month later, she noticed the matching pedestal outside the same home and snagged it as well.
8. Sell your finds on Craigslist.
For extra spending money, clean up your finer curb shopping selections and list them on Craigslist for a 100 percent profit.