Old items find a burgeoning new audience on the Internet

Sure, you've heard of EBay and Craigslist, but what about V&M; or Fyndes? The market has seen a proliferation of websites selling secondhand furnishings:



Currently listed: One seller is offering this solid-wood Pottery Barn armoire large enough to fit a 42-inch TV. Seller says he purchased it for $2,199. Starting bid: $200.

What to expect: The mother of all resale sites. Inventory is huge -- a plus for some, a minus for others. Not all sellers offer accurate descriptions. A recent search for "Eames" produced nearly 5,000 results, few of which were actually designs by midcentury icons Charles and Ray Eames. Buying at auction can save money, but the process can be time-consuming -- and less than enjoyable.




Currently listed: A 90-inch-long Strut table from the modern design studio Blu Dot. Writes the seller: "Retails for $1,299.00. The frame is powder-coated steel, and the surface has a durable polyurethane finish." Price: $700.

What to expect: Welcome to the jungle. If it's all about the thrill of the hunt and the limitations of a budget, this is the place to find local bargains -- especially if you like catalog castoffs or used mattresses (ewww). Descriptions and photos can be annoyingly incomplete and downright misleading. Many ads are cheap furniture stores offering desperation discounts. Use search terms like "Danish modern" and "midcentury" to filter out the junk.




Currently listed: "Antique imported from India bench. I paid $600, yours for $200 or best offer," writes a seller in Studio City.

What to expect: This free local classifieds site looks like EBay, functions like Craigslist. It's searchable by categories such as "antiques, vintage" and "furniture, decor." (Those categories combined had about 1,500 items listed recently.) It's also searchable by regions, such as downtown, Ventura and South Bay. Photos and prices are displayed gallery style, 18 to a page, and clicking on items leads to concise descriptions with e-mail contacts for sellers and a link to their other listings. A bit of a grab bag but still worth checking out.


1st Dibs


Currently listed: 1960s Gio Ponti armchair manufactured by Cassina and used at the Parco Dei Principi hotel in Rome. Price: $14,500.

What to expect: Gaga for some Gio Ponti? You'll find it at this site, positioned as the place where high-end interior decorators find beautifully restored designer furniture from the nation's elite (some might even say elitist) retailers. Loaded with feature articles and other content, the site can be searched by location, designer and product category. Listings are exhaustively detailed, but some require contacting the dealer directly for prices. (And if you have to ask, you probably can't afford it.)




Currently listed: Midcentury iron mesh bar cart with glass on both levels and original casters. Price: $595.

What to expect: This 3-year-old site represents 120 retailers targeting decorators and collectors. A rival to 1st Dibs, V&M; is smaller and less expensive but no less valuable. The site is designed for those who want to search visually -- looking at thumbnails captioned with prices rather than drop-down menus. Strong in vintage and modern, as its name suggests, V&M; offers furniture and lighting that can be searched by style, era, country of origin and material. Additional pages focus on art, textiles and collectibles, all with descriptions written with expertise.




Currently listed: "Galley Proof Press With Hand Roller c.1890, as Console Table." Price: $1,550.

What to expect: In a setup similar to 1st Dibs and V&M;, about two dozen dealers of antiques and vintage furniture, many of them from the L.A. area, offer their used wares in an "antiques" section that can be filtered by centuries or categories such as seating and carpets/rugs. A recent search yielded nearly 300 rather desirable items in styles such as Victorian, bohemian-ethnic and 1950s modern at fixed prices that start low and run well into the four-figures.




Currently listed: 1960s Marco radio (inoperable) in the shape of a globe. Price: $300.

What to expect: For the time- and cash-strapped modern and contemporary decor shopper, this fledgling site has the populist structure of EBay without the headache of bidding. Anyone can post "for sale" or "wanted" ads for a small fee (free to $12, depending on the type of listing and price of the item). Descriptions by the mostly West Coast sellers tend to be accurate, and fixed, fair prices allow for instant purchases. Stock is a fraction of what's available on EBay and other sites, but most of it is worth a gander.


Former Furniture


Currently listed: Eero Saarinen swivel chairs with his tulip base. Price: $900 for set of three; offers accepted.

What to expect: This site features showroom designs and interior decorators' custom work, as well as the kind of previously owned items one might find at 90210 estate sales. Easy to navigate by category, the sometimes-slim inventory is sold on consignment; nonretailers pay a 40% commission to the site. That can translate to higher prices, but some items feature a "motivated seller" button that allows buyers to haggle.

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