The Self-Proclaimed “Craigslist King” Has One Genius Search Tip for Scoring Great Deals

updated May 15, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

The Small/Cool Experience at Home is bringing 20 trends to life by 20 designers—all in less than 120 square feet. Check out the whole virtual experience online and at @apartmenttherapy on Instagram from May 15-17. Thank you to our sponsors BEHR, Amazon Handmade and Tuft & Needle for making this experience possible.

When you need to decorate an apartment on a budget, you already know you can turn to online resale sites like Craigslist for second-hand furniture. If you’re lucky, you’ll find something cheap and functional. But if you’re good, you can uncover some real high-end gems. Think champagne design at beer prices.

The multi-hyphenate Mikel Welch is an interior designer, host of Quibi’s “Murder House Flip“, and the self-proclaimed “Craigslist King.” During the Small/Cool Experience at Home (live on Instagram!) Welch showed Apartment Therapy readers around his Queens apartment, full of clever DIYs and bargain finds. And he dropped one genius tip to help you navigate any online resale site to find the very best deals: Dumb your search down.

“Search for basic words,” Welch said. Using design-centric keywords might help you find what you’re looking for, but you’re likely to run into sellers who put a high price on their premium furniture, plus plenty of competition from other in-the-know buyers who might outbid you. “Mid-century modern chair? No honey, you can’t put that! They know the value of what they have!”

“It’s about dumbing it down, more or less,” said Welch. “Use keywords the average person would use, not that a designer would use.” It’s as simple as opting for “couch” instead of “sofa,” according to Welch.

Credit: Danie Drankwalter

Here are some other tips Welch shared during his time on the Small/Cool couch:

Add special flair to a party or patio with dollar-store decor.

The dining area Welch designed for the Small/Cool experience features a floral chandelier, turning the idea of a table centerpiece literally upside down. It’s not an everyday type of decor, according to Welch, but a great touch for a special event or even an outdoor space or kids’ room—and it can be done on the cheap. ”I go to the dollar store and I start with a plastic laundry basket, just a round plastic laundry basket,” he said. The basket gets turned over, spray-painted green, then he attaches flowers and greenery (real or faux) with floral wire until the whole thing is covered. “This is a fantasy type of thing, great for a girls brunch or something outside on your patio,” he said. “I could see even a fancy event planner doing this for, like, a wedding.”

Try a semi-DIY project, to make handmade decor more accessible.

If the idea of building an upholstered bench from scratch is overwhelming, take Welch’s cue and outsource part of the work. He made the wooden base of his entryway bench himself, but outsourced the cushion work to a tailor. The whole project came in under $100. He also made wooden barn doors for his space, but hired help on TaskRabbit to have them installed.

When it comes to finding room for projects, you have to get creative.

Welch describes his Queens apartment as “teeny tiny,” so he didn’t think he was going to be able to pull off those custom barn doors he wanted to use to hide away part of his apartment. “Living in New York, I don’t have a shed, I don’t have a garage where I can build things,” Welch says. But when push comes to shove, you make it work. Welch’s solution for a makeshift workbench was laying a giant tarp down in the middle of his living room. “Saw dust went everywhere, but it was worth it,” he says.

You can check out Mikel Welch’s Small/Cool room design, “Hard Lines, Soft Curves,” to shop some of his favorite design finds—and watch the full interview here: