Living With Kids: Jen Hansard

Bargain hunting is a true skill, but doing it with style is another kind of trick altogether. So when Jen Hansard told me that 99% of her home furnishings were bought second-hand from Craigslist, The Salvation Army, and garage sales, I wanted to see more. Naturally, I wanted to show you, too! I hope you enjoy the tour of the Hansard’s brand new home as much as I did. Her reasons why she loves her photo wall absolutely melted my heart. This is a good one, Friends.

Hello there. This is the home of me, my husband, Ryan, and our two amazing kids, Jackson (4) and Clare (2). We moved from Southern California to Florida six months ago and sold most of our belongings on Craigslist before we left. So these last few months we have spent a lot of time scouring Craigslist, hitting up garage sales and thrift shops to re-buy the essential pieces of furniture we sold, like beds, our kitchen table, and bookshelves. My husband is a pastor of a new church in town and I am a work-from-home mom; I run a design agency. Needless to say, we are pretty darn busy between our two kids and our jobs!

It took five months of house hunting, hours in prayer and tears, and God’s perfect timing for us to get this beautiful townhouse in Wesley Chapel, Florida. There were two requirements during the house hunting process: it must have lots of natural light, and it must be within walking distance to Starbucks. If those two things were met, I would have been truly happy living in a double-wide trailer!

I’m big on thrifting. My parents led by example, teaching to only buy what you can actually afford. This has become embedded in my DNA! Early on in our marriage, my husband and I learned that we did like nice things, yet we really couldn’t afford them… especially with all the traveling we loved to do. When I became pregnant in 2007, I heard about Craigslist and decided to try it out. We bought our son’s Pottery Barn nursery furniture on it for dirt cheap, and I was an ecstatic pregnant lady. From there on, I had the Craigslist bug and have bought almost every piece of furniture in our home — and our previous four-bedroom home in California — on Craigslist.

My husband was a little concerned at first, and so were my parents. I can see how it seems unsafe and creepy for a young mom to go to a stranger’s house with cash in my hand to buy their used furniture. But I have done it at least 200 times now, and every single person has been warm and lovely. Seriously. The world really is full of wonderful people, and Craigslist allows me to see it all the time. At this point, my husband is 100% on board, and joins me and the kids on most of my Craigslist adventures.

It’s an incredible feeling when you can buy a $1200 designer bed for $250. And the tiny environmental footprint we are leaving is huge; things we buy do not cause more of them to be made. We are literally shopping underground where sales tax and inventory quotas are void.

We are pretty eclectic with our style. Maybe that has to do with growing up in the Los Angeles area and moving to Florida. We like things that have personality, and we love things that have a story. Buying furniture second-hand usually covers both the criteria. Most things we buy on Craigslist have a ding or two, which is perfect for a family with young kids. Some people see blemishes like dings and frays as a turn off, but I see it as an excuse to relax.

The most amazing thing we’ve found? We bought a vintage red gum ball machine at a garage sale for $2. When we got home and set it up, we discovered that it was filled with quarters. The previous owner forgot to empty it out before selling it! After all was counted, there was $18 in that gum ball machine!

Another good find was a Pottery Barn mahogany sleigh bed with a wood trundle. I bought it for $175 and it was in perfect condition. Absolutely gorgeous. It retailed for $1250 new, so I felt like I won the lottery. Sadly, we had to sell the lovely bed before we moved to Florida, but I did resell it on Craigslist for $550, which was pretty awesome.

My Craigslist tips and tricks are: Be persistent. If I have a specific piece I want — like a mahogany bookshelf — I will check Craigslist multiple times a day for months at a time. And if I find one and the price is too high, I email the seller and ask if they would take less. Sometimes they say no, and other times they are totally cool with it. Most people just want the furniture out of their house as soon as possible.

I bought a dresser once that looked really cute, but was horribly made. I should have opened every drawer before I bought it, but I didn’t. So I would recommend that you inspect whatever it is you are buying very well. Test it out and make sure you could enjoy using it. If it’s not what you thought, let them know and walk away. I have done that many times since that dresser fiasco.

I love our living room with all the photo frames on the wall. Even though it is still a work in progress, I can see the end result in my head and it’s beautiful. I want to be surrounded by happy memories of family and friends, and the photo wall is our way of accomplishing that now that we live 2,600 miles away. We also don’t own a TV, so our living room is our creative family space. We hang out in there and play board games, do puzzles, and make forts.

I love simple southern style molding, and would put it around all the windows, ceilings, baseboards, and chair rails. The house itself is desperately missing personality and I would love to bring that in. Could I also throw in reclaimed barn wood flooring? And a Dutch door? Maybe one day, right?

My favorite DIY project so far is definitely our photo wall. I have been collecting the frames at garage sales and thrift stores for the last three years and dreamed about this wall. It’s a space where our kids can begin to understand that our lives are bigger than this very moment. It’s about our great grandparents who sailed from Poland to Ellis Island in hopes of a better life. It’s about our parents who grew up in broken homes and rose above the odds. It’s about our wedding day when we committed our lives to one another and to our future. It’s about my mommy friends in Los Angeles that shaped my view of parenting. These photos say so much more about our family than we can tell our kids in words.

And I am always looking for real wood bookshelves! We have tons of books and not enough places to properly store them.

I wish I had known that I was going to fall in love with furniture in my late twenties. There was a wonderful woodworking program at our college, and my husband and I both constantly regret that we didn’t stay another two years and do that together. Then I wouldn’t have to scour Craigslist and garage sales for unique, sentimental items. We could just create them ourselves and possibly make a living doing it!


Thank you, Jen! I love your observation that living with second-hand items makes you a more relaxed parent. Such a thoughtful point!

What are your thoughts on thrifting, Friends? Are you a little scared of Craigslist, or has Jen swayed your opinion? I have to say, I find second-hand treasures pretty magical on top of being wonderfully responsible, and the hunt is always a thrill. Do any of you have your own second-hand success stories or flops? I’d love to hear all about them!

49 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Jen Hansard”

  1. Nice home tour! And I love the story behind the photo wall. One question I had, was why did they sell everything in the move? Just curious as we did two cross country moves and ended up taking our furniture and sometimes I wish we hadn’t!

    1. Hi Laura. We moved from California to Florida to start a church with our friends— so we have been on a very limited budget (no one covered the cost of our move, and when we got to Florida, we didn’t have a job with a salary lined up.)

      So we had to move across country the cheapest way we could. And that involved buying a trailer on Craigslist that we could tow behind our F-150 (that we manage to fit a family of 4 in). We fit as much as we could in the trailer— but it wasn’t much. Just our books, clothes, our bed, blue couch, washer and dryer, a crib and an old armoire from my husband’s grandfather. Everything else we sold or gave to dear friends.

      It was a little sad, yet also very freeing to simplify our life down to one trailer.

  2. Great house tour and inspiring interview! I love the patience and perseverance that Jen has on her furniture quests.

    Oh, and woo hoo that this featured home is in Florida! We love it here! Gabby, have you ever considered Florida as a future home for the Blair family? It is quite an adventurous place to live :-)!

    We found a vintage typewriter on Craig’s List last year. The price was right and the seller was a joy to work with.

  3. Love this one! I am a frequent seller on Craig’s List but less often the buyer. It takes a commitment and time that I haven’t been able to apply to it. I hope to remedy that, though, and I do love the thought of giving a piece of furniture a second (or third or…) life.

    1. I feel like buying is the easier part. I have sold items and a lot of times people flake and I am left waiting around. You should give it a shot Mary— bet you could score some beautiful stuff in Boston!

  4. Lovely post and more lovely place to live. I’m very happy that kids from the little age getting close to handmade, even if it’s retouching the old stuff.
    I hope one day I’ll be able to make something like this … well, let’s start with the first – getting our own house :))
    Thank you for some ideas !

  5. We’ve had a variety of experiences with Craigslist here in Florida. If you’re serious about finding building materials to give your home more character, you should check out Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore. They have locations all over Florida (and throughout the country). You can get everything from kitchen sinks to crown moulding to furniture.

    1. I have been to Habitat for Humanity Restore out in Brooksville and had some fun. We got a old telephone table there (still need to refinish). I love places like this! Thanks Amy.

    2. Amy–thanks for this comment. I’ve ridden past the ReStore in my town several times but thought it was only stuff like lumber and plumbing pipes. I’ll make a note to check it out.

    1. Jealous. I have been scouring Craigslist for one of those!!! My friend got one on Craigslist that came from the New York Central library. There are some incredible pieces floating around on Craigslist!

  6. love this tour and series, thank you for sharing. i buy a ton from thrift stores and craigslist. i actually found my husband on craigslist. we dated for four years and just married last friday…so, yeah, you could say i like to find things on craigslist. :)

      1. ha! we should!! come to think of it we also bought our first car together off of craigslist…a toyota landcruiser…i loved it!

  7. We got our living room decor from Craigslist: bought a huge vintage ornate-scroll mirror that I spraypainted turquoise (hangs over our fireplace). Bought a crackle-glazed turquoise midcentury lamp, and our coffee table (was never used). Besides the incentive to cut costs, Craigslist pickups allowed me to meet families at very different places in life (middle-aged couple who were clearing out items from a deceased mother’s home. Another was a family with young kids about to move.) Each seemed happy to know that their discards were going to be enjoyed in a home with a young kid.

    One recent cautionary experience was buying a weathered picnic table set. It was dirt cheap but I have a little compact car and ended up paying alot more than than the table fee to rent a U-Haul. I appreciated the owner throwing in some extra adirondack chairs. Then it took two weekends to scrub the chairs clean and paint them in bold fun colors I picked out with my six year old. (She chose dark purple, and I got grass green). After she painted one chair it was endearing to see her take pride in transforming something for the family to enjoy.

    1. You are right up my alley with these kind of adventures! I would love to see how the pieces turned out— email me so I can be super jealous. (Just kidding on the jealousy).

  8. Oh I have a million successes and flops….the hunt is DEFINITELY the thrill. This past weekend I stumbled upon some pink and black marble topped end tables that made me cry they were so fabulous.

    As far as CL…after years of going it alone and having people into my home as if I’d known them for years, I have heard too many terrible stories lately and am being more cautious. Always go with my husband and always have my stuff in my garage so that nobody comes inside the house.

    Lovely lovely home! Welcome to South Florida, it takes a bit to adjust, but I’ve been here 13 years now and wouldn’t live anywhere else. And boy do we need more churches, so God Bless your husband and family.

    1. Thank you so much Lauren for the warm welcome! You just made me laugh out loud with the fact that you cried when you saw the tables. I have been in your same shoes— I went to buy a crib for my second baby and I asked them if they had anything else they wanted to sell. Turns out they had beautiful pillows and lamps from Pottery Barn (brand new with tags!!!!). And I got them all for dirt cheap— definitely brings tears of joy!

  9. I am a thriftaholic and NOTHING is off limits! Clothing (I sell vintage online), housewares, furniture….my home is an eclectic mix of new and old and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

    Thank you for such a beautiful home tour and interview!
    I wish them the best of luck in their new endeavors!

    1. I would love to get more into clothing. We buy random clothes at the Salvation Army and second hand boutiques— but I never really know what I am doing. I am sure there is a whole system to getting great things. Would you care to share some tips with me? I would love to venture into the second-hand clothing world more.

  10. on craigslist….i am actually a bit not sure of it. have a bookcase (100% oak, by the way, Jen) and wanting to get rid of it desperately. i don’t want to do craigslist and i feel so stuck. just not sure about the safety of it. i don’t think Jen has swayed me. :(

    1. If only you lived in the Tampa Bay Area….I would take it off your hands.

      Why don’t you try taking it to a consignment store? They will sell it for you and you get 50% of the profit?

  11. We moved to California for just a year. We bought all our furniture on craigslist, with the exception of mattresses that we bought at a very inexpensive store new. I started looking at Craigslist the moment wheels were down in California. It took about a month to find everything.

    The best find was a Victorian loveseat with carved wood and tufted upholstery.

    When we left we sold all our furniture, except the Victorian loveseat on Craigs list. People buying were college age students, young families, families like ourselves moving, or high-schools and colleges that were looking for furniture for a stage productions.

    One thing I could not easily find on craiglist for a reasonable price at the time was shelves. I made shelves out of red bricks (purchased from the lumber yard) and boards covered with burlap. When we moved a year later, I put the red bricks on Craigslist. 50 of them. The funny thing is I had probably 200 emails or calls about the 50 bricks. Everyone wanted them!

    1. It’s funny the things that people gobble up. We listed tiles that we removed from our California house on Craigslist (they had grout on them, some were broken, etc) and we had about 200 emails as well.

  12. I can definitely relate to Jen’s sentiment about loving nice things but not being able to afford them. Being married to a medical guy who has been in training the last million years, I’ve had to be savvy about stretching our cash, and I have found amazing things at the thrift store and on CL. Garage Sales are truly my favorite–usually the prices are very low and it is a true Saturday morning pasttime in my neighborhood in Connecticut. Great way to get to know the neighbors! Now, I much prefer the look of old, original furtniture to the cookie cutter Pottery Barn stuff.

      1. I think you are right Emily. East coast has such cool, old stuff and everyone does garage sales. They start them on Fridays out here and go a lllll weekend. In LA it was only on Saturdays.

  13. Lovely home- I too have purchase most of our furniture on CL or simply found it on the curb- some cities are better than others for curbside finds- Toronto where I’m originally from happens to rock for curbside finds- we’re in the US now on the west coast and I’m not getting as many amazing finds.

  14. What a beautiful place! I want to live there. I’ve always turned my nose up at garage sales and Craigslist but have recently had a change of heart for the same reason as Jen: I like nice things but I can’t really afford it. A friend of mine on the east coast regularly dumpster dives and picks up abandoned furniture on the side of the road, repurposes it, and sells it on Craigslist and bought a Louis Vuitton bag all from her dumpster dives. I’ve never had a bedside table and have started my search with Craigslist. Jen has inspired me to try harder!

  15. I am a huge fan of Craigslist, but after a horrific experience with bedbugs I am much more cautious about ANYTHING that I buy second hand. I believe it is vital for those who want to start thrifting to know what to look for and thoroughly inspect every inch of a piece of furniture for bugs before buying it and bringing it home. (Our infestation actually started with the gal who was renting our home before us, and no one realized it was a problem until after we’d moved in and the bugs had settled themselves nicely into every nook and cranny of our kids’ bunk beds.)

    I’m a pretty clean person, and we don’t have a lot of clutter, so it was easy for them to treat our home, but it was still a nightmarish year because those little critters are incredibly hard to kill. Unfortunately bedbugs infestations in the U.S. are on the rise, and it is an incredibly draining ordeal (both emotionally and physically) to deal with the problem, so it is definitely something that people need to know about when they go to use Craigslist or bargain-hunt at garage sales.

    1. Oh my gosh! That sounds horrible! I have never had an ordeal like that on Craigslist.
      Closest thing for me was when I bought Legos on eBay. I opened the box and it reeeeeked of cigarette smoke. There was even ashes in the Legos. I was appalled and traumatized. So now I always ask if the items come from a smoke free/pet free home (I just don’t want to deal with that kind of thing).

  16. I agree, I LOVE craigslist. and thrift stores. and estate sales. I sell more than I buy on craiglsist. I do take precautions–talk with the person on the phone before they come over, don’t give out my address til my husband will be here too, ect. Never had a problem either…

  17. I absolutely love anyone who can shop second hand and make a home look like it’s been so professionally decorated as this one. It’s tasteful, comfortable and modern looking as well as functional and homey.
    I really believe it is a gift and blessing to have that creativity and “artsy” eye. Wish I had a smidge of it, but that was not one of my gifts unfortunately.
    Well done.

  18. I loved this post. I recently made a similar move with my family from Nashville to Portland. We also chose to sell most of our furnishings which I don’t regret at all. It’s nice to see Jen’s home looking so put beautifully put together. It gives me something to look forward too!

  19. This sounds so fun! I can’t wait to try my hand at CL-ing my new home when I move in with my fiancee! Here in Portland (OR) we have Freecycle, where people actually GIVE away their stuff for free! Less furniture, more handy items. My friend actually found a pasta maker (super expensive in stores) for free! I’m wondering if you have that set up in Florida or in other places around the country?

  20. What beautiful and inspiring post. You were right about her photo wall.

    I love to thrift. I am not so much a craigslister. I like actually being in the stores, hearing conversations, people ho-humming about a find and whether or not to add it to the cart. I like the challenge of finding/searching for beautiful or sentimental objects and things amongst so much stuff.

  21. I think this was my favorite home in this series yet! It looks so much more doable (yet still incredibly stylish) than the rest. Gabby, I’d love to see more like this!

    And I have to say I LOVED that they don’t have a TV. We don’t have one either and I think a lot of times people are totally taken aback by that, but I loved what Jen said about it turning the living room into their family creative space, because that’s exactly what happens.

  22. Thank you for this house tour! I love it! My family is very thrifty, buying most of what we need from Craigslist, thrift stores, and accepting hand me downs for everything from clothes to art to dishes! It is so nice to see a beautiful home within our reach. I am always inspired by the Living with Kids series, but this home especially. Yay!

  23. I love everything about this post — especially the photo wall! I love thrifting and “garage sailing” but always for items I can carry myself. Any tips for moving those larger pieces from one place to the next? That’s where I always get hung up.

  24. This has been my favorite home tour so far on Design Mom. Jenn and I both have that same type of boldness toward strangers.

    I, too, love Craigslist, garage sales, and thrift stores. I just posted my second set of moving boxes in the free section and a 1988 pendulum clock as of today and yesterday, respectively. In February, I plan to look for tables, sideboards, and shelving on Craigslist, as well as art.

    After awhile of not finding anything on those three sources, I go to local antique stores or local restored-antiques shops and look there, but their prices are more expensive just because of the term “antique”.

  25. I can’t believe you are living in Wesley Chapel – I feel like no one has ever heard of my little town! It’s a great place to live for sure. I loved your home tour, so many great finds! I really wish my husband was more open to the idea of secondhand furniture, there are so many great deals out there!

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