From Trash to Treasure: An Expert Furniture Flipper Shares Her Secrets

Charlotte Smith at home.
Charlotte Smith at home. Source: At Charlotte’s House

How do you take something unloved and discarded and bring some character and life to it? That's what often drives Charlotte Smith as she paints, sands, glues, and fixes up and flips furniture and house decor. Some 10 years after she first started blogging, Charlotte has a devoted following that turns to her for inspiration, ideas, and advice on how to tackle DIY projects around the house.

We chatted with Charlotte to get some tips and tricks and learn how PayPal helps when she's buying and selling.

PayPal: Why do you think upcycling and flipping are having a big moment right now?

Charlotte: A few reasons! Between Covid and the supply chain disruptions of the past few years, a lot of people got creative in how they looked at things that were already out in the world. There just weren't new things to buy, so people looked to upcycling.

I also think we're in a place in design where unique, one-of-a-kind spaces are having a moment, and upcycled pieces lend themselves well to that.

Finally, nothing feels better than going through a cluttered storage room, getting rid of things, reclaiming space that you can walk through, and coming out with some extra spending money from that. It's a win-win-win.

Old wooden dresser
Charlotte specializes in taking discarded furniture...

PayPal: Where should someone interested in flipping and upcycling home furniture get started?

Charlotte: Start with things that come in handy! There's fun in starting projects “just because," but if you need a coffee table for your apartment, start there. Just from being on social media, you can tell what's popular, like hanging chairs right now. You'll see the same things come up over and over in interior spaces.

To find the right piece to start working with, look for something sturdy. A cute table or chair that's wobbly and going to fall apart isn't going to work for you. It's always helpful if you can touch the thing and feel it. I always look to see if something is made of wood, not laminate or melamine. There's better value in the resale value for wooden furniture too.

A lot of things come down to personal preference. I tend to love pieces with unique lines, but that may not be what you're looking for. Anything goes! I get asked often, “How do I make this work in my house?” Well, if you love it, that's how you make it work. You put it in your house, and you've done it.

PayPal: How does PayPal help when looking to buy and sell flipped goods?

Charlotte: Few things set off alarms more than someone trying to pay for something in a weird way; a cashier's check, gift cards, that sort of thing. These are red flags for me. And so, when someone offers to pay with PayPal, it's like getting cash. There's no way to fake it.

I'm a mother and a business owner, so I've got a lot of balls in the air. The last thing I need is to be worrying about scams and frauds.

As a seller, I like knowing that PayPal’s Seller Protection helps protect me from losing money to claims and chargebacks. And as a buyer, say I order something that was advertised as vintage, but instead, I get a cheap, mass-produced knock-off. I feel good knowing I’m covered by PayPal’s Purchase Protection. It just makes everything clean and easy. 

Remodeled wooden dresser.
...and turning it into beloved pieces.

 PayPal: Let's talk about haggling, which is something that often gives people pause before selling or buying second-hand goods.

Charlotte: I wouldn't do this in stores with fixed prices, like Goodwill, or higher-end antique shops, but at flea markets, I'll ask, "Is that your best price?” That's a nice way of saying, “Are you open to any sort of negotiation?”

If they are open to things, then I'll usually offer 20% less, more or less. There's never any harm in asking. Of course, if someone's asking for $20 I won't offer $2!

When I'm selling, it depends on how much I like the piece or if I'm selling it just to get rid of it. If I've just listed something, and the first offer is less than asking, then I'll reply, “We've just listed this, so we're going to wait and see, but I'll let you know.” Trust your gut and hold your own.

PayPal: What's one lesson that has stuck with you over the years working on this?

Charlotte: I was asked over, and over, and over, “How do you know how to do this? Where did you learn?” We focus on the finished product, but we forget to recognize or talk about the wobbly middle. So, my answer when people would ask me that was, “I just tried it.”

The minute you commit to just trying something, you commit to learning. Just try it! Get messy, try it, and enjoy the process. These are all things I live, breathe, and believe. 

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