One of first items ever sold on eBay, back in 1995, was a broken laser pointer for $14.83 USD. When eBay founder and broken laser pointer dealer Pierre Omidyar asked the winning bidder why he purchased said item, the buyer replied: “I’m a collector of broken laser pointers.”
For the digital optimist (how easy that position must have been in ’95), the moral of the story is that there is a market for everyone and everything, and thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever to connect. In 2017, there is perhaps no better example of this than Craigslist, where there are surly broken laser pointers, free mattresses, mismatched Tupperware, and worn Ikea couches—most (amazingly) destined for a new home. But in that endless scroll are also real design finds: an Issey Miyake pendant light, an Artek Alvar Aalto pine screen divider, an authentic Eero Aarnio Tipi chair—all of which have been recently featured on the website Craigsbest.
The site—technically a Tumblr account—compiles posts from Vancouver’s Craigslist furniture listings (as well as plants) with a focus on good, authentic designs in a range of prices. Nothing is owned by Craigsbest; instead, the site operates as a curated selection of Craigslist’s most prime goods, providing links back to the original postings. It’s the kind of site where 20-somethings on a budget can find alternatives to Ikea shelving units, and also where design junkies can fill gaps in their collections.
The operation is run by Vancouver design aficionados, Craigslist enthusiasts, and best friends Patrick Campbell and RJ Hunt. “We’re both only children, we both have a love for tattoos, and we both love collecting,” Hunt says, lounging at his South Granville apartment, ice cubes clinking in his vodka soda. “For about a year, we had a Facebook thread going back and forth of just stuff that we had found on Craigslist, and there was just no way that we could buy it all. But there was a lot of cool stuff and we thought we had a good eye.” The site is updated just about every day and is truly a labour of love for the two friends; they make no commercial gain from the project. “We love sifting through Craigslist, we find that to be enjoyable—but a lot of people don’t,” Campbell adds. “So we thought, at the minimum, we could help out a select group of friends and acquaintances find cool stuff.”
The site leans heavily towards clean, mid-century pieces, often from big-name designers like Eames and Le Corbusier, reflecting the guys’ tastes. “I grew up watching old movies with my parents, and we’d spend a lot of time in Palm Springs, so I was just immersed in that kind of mid-century environment since I was a kid,” says Campbell, who is a studio assistant for fellow archive delver Geoffrey Farmer. “I ended up going to art school and studying photography, but furniture was always my passion. So I just self-taught: bought books, frequented a lot of thrift shops and antique shops, and familiarized myself with different designers and different movements.” Hunt’s tastes evolved from a similar personal interest: growing up in Alberta, he frequented estate sales and antique shops with his family.
Authenticity is important to Hunt and Campbell, and their learned eyes help identify items and names that the local layman may not immediately recognize. “There’s not a lot of design history in Vancouver—a lot of people don’t know what they have, so things get listed pretty weird. You can find some smokin’ deals just because the knowledge of design isn’t really here,” Campbell says. One notable hot deal? Two MR Chairs by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for $800 (they would normally sell for upwards of $2,000.) Hunt and Campbell kept those for themselves.
The site has become a hit in the city, garnering a not-too-shabby 7,000 hits a month and an unplanned word-of-mouth campaign that has taken off. “We’ve definitely noticed the momentum, it keeps growing day by day,” Hunt says. That momentum is helped by their modest but dedicated following on Instagram. The humorous captions, which range from sweet to salty, bring in Hunt and Campbell’s personal lives: self-deprecating muses on 20- or 30-something life in Vancouver. It’s a melange of expensive hip restaurants, late nights out, and salaries below the living wage—they’re both cringe-worthy and relatable. But to the Craigsbest boys, they also serve a higher, more conceptual purpose. “A lot of people find design unapproachable, and the captions are a good way to make people laugh and feel more comfortable,” Campbell explains. “A lot of design can be stuffy, so it can be nice to just kind of poke fun.” This writer has seen it work: at a recent dinner at one such happening restaurant, full of said 20- and 30-something creatives perusing through the Craigsbest Instagram, guests could be heard gasping and laughing. One woman even proclaimed, “I want that chair.”
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