A House Decorated by Marketplace – and Tips for Thrifting

Of all the bad things to come out of Facebook – the creepy harvesting of our online data, a rise in loneliness, infidelities kindled from long-lost acquaintances, the erosion of individual self-worth through unfavourable comparison, to name just a few – there are also a lot of good things. For example, I re-met my now-husband through Facebook… something I like to remind him of every so often, that lucky guy. And I’m also going to add that the fairly recent invention of Marketplace is another one of those good things to come out of Facebook.

Furniture, homewares, rugs, plants and art… these are the kinds of things being sold on Facebook Marketplace that are often super CHEAP, my friends. Often it’s sold by people who just want to be rid of it, fast, and sometimes they don’t have a true understanding of the worth of what they are offering (I remember seeing a designer-name vintage sideboard marketed as “brown cupboard”).

Another bonus is that when you buy from a person on Facebook Marketplace, you can also see if you have mutual friends in common, thus reducing your chances (hopefully) of being murdered (“Yes, he has a teardrop tattoo and he’s holding a chainsaw in his profile pic, but he’s also friends with Julie from Baskin-Robbins”). In fact Marketplace has so many good things about it that I feel jealous of people moving house or getting a new place, like my sister, because they get to furnish and style their house in the Marketplace era. Like, I remember moving to this house, and looking at ads for secondhand dining tables after going to the newsagent and buying The QUOKKA. Yes, a physical copy of a classifieds ad newspaper, with tiny, succinctly written ads and no pictures, woaaah. Furnishing a home now that there is Marketplace is kind of like getting married but before there was Pinterest and after there was Pinterest, but better than that. I say this after spending pretty much TWO DAYS of my life making little white and milk chocolate milk balls with carefully affixed, painstakingly handmade customised chocolate wax seals for bonbonnieres, simply because I had seen a picture of them on Pinterest and I HAD TO RECREATE THEM, and I don’t think a single person at my wedding appreciated the sheer effort that had gone into these chocolate wax seal balls except my best friend from high school who had flown in for our wedding from London, saw the different-coloured chocolate balls and shrieked, “Does no-one notice that these chocolates have RACIAL CONNOTATIONS.” (This is why we are friends).

Anyway, many of my friends share my Marketplace and thrifting love – but I don’t know anyone more enthusiastic about it than my friend Nelly Reffet of Twinkle and Whistle Interior Design. (In fact, we put together this post on our fave Marketplace finds a while back). Recently Nelly shared photos of this Perth house with me – one I instantly dubbed The Marketplace House, because she and the owners styled it to sell using a LOT of thrifted Marketplace finds. And look how inviting it looks!

RUG LOVING: The rug in the living area is a beautiful Persian-like wool rug, 3m x 2m. “It’s super plush and soft, in pristine condition and it cost $250 – normally it would retail in the thousands,” says Nelly. “It took forever to get though, as the seller was difficult to reach and spoke little English. But it made the purchase almost… exotic!”

Nelly met owners Mark and Jasmin back in 2009, when they first asked Nelly for design help. Mark and Jasmin had recently bought their first home together, an ’80s house in East Cannington in need of a revamp. “Even back in those days, I loved their appetite for non-beigey interiors, and the low budget considerations made me tap into some small but efficient creative tricks to make their house shine without blowing the budget,” says Nelly.

After a full reno and a fair bit of styling, Mark and Jasmin enjoyed many years of happy memories in their sweet light-filled home. However the desire to live closer to the ocean, so the kids (and the dogs!) could roam free on sandy beaches and everyone could enjoy cooler summers, led them to move out of their first home a few years ago.

Nelly’s daughter playing with Mark and Jasmin’s kids, now her friends.

“What was their sanctuary became a rental property, and with that came a few years of sometimes neglectful tenants and inevitable house mishaps,” says Nelly. “In order to simplify their life, Jasmin and Mark decided recently it was time to sell their beloved first home, but unfortunately, the property was not quite ready for it. A fair bit of work was required before the property could be advertised, and with a pretty gloomy-looking market in Perth, they decided to furnish and style the property to maximise its overall attractiveness.”

That was when Mark and Jasmin called Nelly to the rescue again. With a budget worn thin by essential maintenance and repair work, they could not quite invest in buying or hiring new furniture. “Instead, we decided to go in full shoestring mode and source pre-loved furniture and homeware to make their house shine again,” says Nelly. “With the exception of most linen pieces, which were purchased in store, and of some of the decorative items, which are from Mark and Jasmin’s personal collection, almost everything was gathered through Facebook Marketplace, and occasionally from the verge.”

I know some people will ask, why bother furnishing and styling the home at all? – and it’s not an unreasonable question.

Well, home styling, or staging, as it’s called for the real estate market, is about presenting a home to its best – showing people how a house can be lived in; and trying to get them to form an emotional attachment to a home, ideally leading to a sale. Staged homes tend to sell faster (frequently in half the average time) – and for an estimated 7 to 12 percent more than unstyled homes, so the financial benefits can be worth the work and monetary investment put into the styling. And contrary to popular notion, good home staging doesn’t have to be expensive, or just for high-end homes – which is why Perth has seen a big boom in the past ten years in property staging businesses as well as interior designers that offer staging as a service.

Nelly says Jasmin and Mark wanted their house to stand out from an already saturated property market, and colour was one of the ways to go.

“In a very competitive market, we didn’t want another grey-on-grey-on-pastel-colours house,” she says.

“We wanted a place that would be warm and personal enough to feel like a home, but not too individual, as so not to be too personal.

“Many blogs out there and real estate agents too will advise you to remove all personal belongings and to go as neutral as possible to appeal to a wider audience. I beg to disagree with that, at least partially. If you keep a mostly neutral palette on your walls and floors (so potential buyers don’t have to do any work when they move in), you can still have a little bit of fun when styling by using bright or bolder removable items, such as soft furnishings and art.” And the scouring of Marketplace began, to give this modest yet pretty home a facelift.

LIVING ROOM: The yellow sofa and its matching ottoman were $250. “These were the first pieces we bought, and they became the driving factor for the living room design,” says Nelly. “The colour was a bold choice, but the shape is not bulky so the colour doesn’t overpower the room. All other pieces were picked with that yellow couch in mind, i.e. we wanted them to tone it down and let it shine at the same time: we didn’t want strong contrasting colours or too much harsh black or white. The neutrals soften it up, while the rug – because of its texture but also style and colour, grounds the room.”
NEW BED: “The upholstered queen bed in the master bedroom was totally brand new and sold at $250!” says Nelly.

Using Marketplace to style a house often means you need to allow a bit more time to put together than a traditional styling job would, says Nelly. “As you rely on what people put up for sale, it’s not as easy as driving to a showroom and helping yourself to what you like. You have to be patient to find the right piece, quick to contact the seller, and willing, sometimes, to travel a fair distance to collect your goods. You also don’t quite know the actual condition of the item until you see it, unless there are plenty of photos.”

Each item was carefully selected so it would fit the space well, both from a layout and a style perspective. As things tend to sell quickly on Marketplace, it was sometimes frustrating to miss out on a ‘perfect’ item. “But with the high turnover of the platform, we found alternatives within days, and sometimes hours,” says Nelly.

So is it all worth the effort and the risk? Mark and Jasmin felt the cost of the styling to be worth it. “They ended up spending just under $2,000 for styling their three bedroom house – a fraction of the cost of what new furniture would have been,” says Nelly. “Their biggest (unexpected) splurge was a $150 throw bought at Adairs, which was incorrectly placed on a “Sale” shelf… they only found that out at the time of paying, and by then, they liked the throw too much to put it back!” The house sold for $20k over the agent’s initial expectations, after only eight weeks on the market – which Mark and Jasmin considered a win in their suburb and in the current market.

At this point you might be thinking, ‘Ok, so they bought a lot of furniture and then what? They sell the house and they’re stuck with a bunch of stuff they don’t need?’ Two things. One, Mark and Jasmin bought things that they either hoped to use in their new home, or that they could easily re-sell, if required.

Their biggest win: a beautifully soft and plush large Persian rug in as new condition bought from Marketplace for $250. “It would retail at around $1000 at least new in-store,” says Nelly. “Jasmin is looking forward for the house to sell, so she can bring the rug to their home pronto.

“That is one of the advantages of buying second-hand items instead of hiring furniture: the items belong to you! You are free to do what you want with them once the house has sold: sell them again or bring them home.

“Similarly, if the house doesn’t sell in the expected timeframe, you don’t need to extend a hiring contract and incur additional expenses either. It’s maximum flexibility at a limited cost.”

MORE MARKETPLACE: The grey couch was only $180, and was from just around the corner.
BEFORE. The dining room got a small facelift with a light change.

So, if you are thinking of selling your house soon – or even if you just want to revamp your home a little – don’t hesitate to explore Marketplace instead of hitting the shops, advises Nelly. “It can be a fun and rewarding ‘hunting and gathering’ experience, it treads lightly on our planet’s resources, you can find some unique pieces, and save some significant cash in the process. What’s not to love about that?” Maya x


1. Be reactive.
If you see something you like, initiate contact with the seller fast! You can still sort out the logistics a little later. Great scores get snapped up very quickly on Marketplace so the faster you react, the more chances you have to secure the deal. Special brownie points if you offer to pick up immediately or on the day.

2. Be polite and personal.
To make the buying process easier, Facebook has come up with default questions and messages you can send the sellers as a first contact. If you’re really keen on something, try not to use them. Even when communication is digital, being polite and addressing people personally often goes a long way. That doesn’t mean you have to tell your life story though, but starting your message with “Hi” and using the seller’s name may make you stand out in a sea of “Is it available?”

3. Read the ad in full.
As a seller, it is infuriating to receive messages like “where are you located?” when the Marketplace ad clearly says so. Do you have time to answer questions that have already been addressed? I don’t. Most people don’t. Some ads are pretty short (or quasi-inexistent) and others more descriptive. The least you can do if you see an item you like is to read the ad in full and only ask questions that are essential and not already covered. Common sense, huh? But you’d be surprised how many people don’t go past the photo and headline!

4. Don’t mess with collection.
Once again, speed is key on Marketplace. I do not encourage you to go beyond speed limits on the freeway to pick up your bargain, but you don’t want to mess around with collection. Ask the seller when it’s best for them or suggest a day and time, and stick to what’s agreed. If you don’t have a suitable car and struggle to ask a friend for their trailer or ute, hiring one is often inexpensive and fast. Or you could hire an Airtasker or other individuals who hustle as delivery drivers to do the heavy lifting for you.

5. Be open-minded and patient.
The more specific you are, the more narrow your pool will be. So identify your essential criteria (for furniture, measurements are crucial!), and keep some flexibility for the rest, being brand or style, colours or materials.

6. Be patient! The beauty of Marketplace is that it is a big cycle that moves fast. People buy and sell all the time. You just have to be there when opportunity knocks at your digital door.

7. Be safe. Give someone the details of where you are going and when, and ideally bring a friend or your partner to do pick up with you if you’re feeling unsure, especially at night.

You can follow Nelly’s thrifting adventures on Instagram @nelly_reffet or visit her site at Twinkle and Whistle.


Author: Maya Anderson

When Maya Anderson was thinking of a name for her homes and design blog, nothing seemed more fitting than House Nerd. Obsessed with everything to do with houses, renovating and interior design, Maya is a features journalist by training with a background in print and a focus on homes and real estate. She has been renovating her 1970s house since forever, loves dogs and can eat her body weight in dumplings.

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