Winning with a Low-Ball Bid:
How I Accidentally Bought a Giant Mantel

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Last Saturday morning started like any other. I woke first while my husband snoozed away in bed, set up camp in my favorite wing back chair with a cup of coffee and my laptop and then started browsing around the internet. A couple of hours later, I had bought a big old mantel and I had to figure out how to get it home. You know, just a normal ol' Saturday. 

Now, it's not as if I just randomly decided to buy a mantel. I've actually been looking for one to give my living room some architectural character for a few months now. So as I was virtually strolling through Architectural Artifacts' 25th Anniversary Auction listings Saturday morning, it was a mantel I was looking for. 

There were a number of mantels listed in this auction but one in particular seemed perfect for my space. It was a basic shape, in good condition and the starting bid was relatively low. Fortified with the energy of a few cups of coffee, I placed the lowest bid I could and assumed there would be no way I'd win it. I guess no one was in the market for mantels last Saturday because my low bid was all it took to win. 

It was only after I won the item that I went back to the listing and saw the measurements. At almost 70 inches wide and over 50 inches tall, this is one huge mantel. A little too big for my space, actually, but it was a little too late for that discovery. My bid had won and I was locked into the purchase. This was my mantel and I had to figure out how to get it home. 

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When I bid on the mantel I assumed that it would fit in the back of my husband's Honda Element. With the back seats removed, we've been able to haul really big items in the back of that trusty little SUV. Before we headed to the auction house, however, I decided to take some measurements just to be on the safe side. Thank goodness for this little bit of foresight. There was no way that mantel was getting in the back of the Element. No way at all. 

That was when the panic set in. I had made an appointment with the auction house to pick up this massive mantel in just a couple of hours and now I didn't have a way to transport it. After spending a few moments riddled with "what have I done?" panic, I jumped online and looked around for short term (and last minute) cargo van rentals. As it turns out, that's a lot easier than I expected. There are a number of local U-Haul locations who offer cargo van rentals for as little as $19.95 for four hours (plus mileage). A few mouse clicks later, I had a cargo van reserved and with time to spare before I had to pick up my mantel. 

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As you can see in the photo above, the cargo van was the perfect size for the mantel. It was easy to load and easy to unload. 

In a funny turn of events, as we were loading the mantel into the cargo van, a man walked up to me and asked if we were driving to Indiana by any chance. No, I said, just to another neighborhood here in Chicago. As it turns out, he had bought something that wouldn't fit in his truck and was in a panic to try to get it home. "Yeah, I know where you're coming from," I said. "Why do you think I rented this van?" Because, you know, I'm sure that's what he wanted to hear.

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On the drive back to our apartment, I was patting myself on the back for thinking quickly. I was also worrying about whether this mantel was actually going to fit in my living room. The good news is that, while it is much larger than I had originally envisioned, it does fit in the space and it's going to be an incredible feature when I'm done with it. The bad news is that, when all was said and done, the truck rental and fuel cost was about the same as the mantel itself. But, hey, you can't win them all.

(Images: Jason Loper

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