For seasoned shoppers, Etsy’s massive marketplace is merely a treasure trove of possibilities. But for those with a little less experience (and patience) in the art of finding things, it’s important not to dive into a search without the Etsy shopping tips of the pros on hand. After all, there’s a good chance you’re going to be met with 100-plus pages of vintage artwork or floral throw pillows — going into the abyss with at least a few tricks up your sleeve is the only way to ensure you don’t burn out before you even start.
Let’s be real, though: The dig is worth it, even for those who don’t really enjoy the process. In fact, it’s become a go-to source of designers for many categories. Shaolin Low of Studio Shaolin tells TZR the site is great for finding wallpaper and kitchen rugs; Sarah Stacey of Sarah Stacey Interior Design uses Etsy to source many small furniture finds; and both Becky Shea of Becky Shea Design and Killy Scheer of Scheer & Co. love it for its wide range of cabinet hardware.
“Etsy makers are super creative, offer competitive pricing, provide excellent customer service, and lead times are generally great, which is saying a lot these days!” Scheer tells TZR. “I find lots of unique products that aren't as easily accessible on the market without a ton of work and searching.”
Still, with all those options, Etsy can be tricky to shop — not only because it’s hard to know where to start, but because the site has its own unique features and quirks that sometimes present challenges to newcomers. So, TZR asked several designers to spill the shopping secrets they rely on when digging for amazing Etsy finds. Continue on for the insider advice they shared to help make your next virtual shopping trip a breeze.
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Unless you’re open-minded about the product you want, Shea suggests including lots of details in your search to help narrow things down. For example: “Be specific if you're on the hunt for something from a certain time period,” she says. “If you're looking for a chair from a specific decade, I'd include the year into the search.”
Suss Out Sellers
Scheer says, in her experience, finding great pieces begins with identifying sellers you can count on, which does take time. That said, she’s relied on a few tricks over the years to help her pinpoint people she likes working with.
“Reach out to sellers and ask tons of questions — where a piece is from, how old it is, how it's made, what the finishes are, if you can see samples, if they can hold an item for you while you consider it, measure for it, etc. This also gives you a good feel for their communication style and if they'll be easy to work with, now and in the future,” she explains. “I find that the responsive sellers — ones with whom you can easily connect, are available to answer questions in a timely manner, and are open to custom orders — are the ones that I keep going back to.”
Focus On Small Pieces
Though Etsy is certainly a favorite of many designers, it also has its downsides — specifically, that shipping is sometimes expensive and difficult, and return policies are tricky and sometimes non-existent. Therefore, both Stacey and Low recommend avoiding large furniture purchases — and if you do decide you want to order something big, make sure you’re committed to it.
“I tend to purchase pieces that I know 100% I want and would be okay with if it wasn't perfect in some way,” says Low. “Every store owner is really great if you have defects or issues with pieces, but otherwise, it's hard to return some items if you just don't like it.”
Thanks to the many small businesses and artists who make up the platform, Etsy has become a well-loved source for custom products for many designers. “You can make everything custom on Etsy. Seriously,” says Low. “I would say 100% of the time I've reached out to a seller to customize or change something, they can do it.”
Scheer especially loves it for pillows, she says. “Custom pillows are expensive and we often only need a small amount of fabric to create them, but almost all designer fabric comes with order minimums that make the overall cost prohibitive. But a handful of Etsy shops stock the fabric we need and already produce pillows at a much more reasonable cost than we can, between the products themselves, the labor, and the time it takes to coordinate.”
Track Your Favorites
Etsy regulars know that finding several favorite shops or items is inevitable — and if you’re looking for something in particular, you’ll want to keep track of them all. Low’s advice? “I ‘like’ all of the shops I always follow and ‘like’ the items too so that when they go on sale or are running out, I'm notified.”
Prepare To Dig
Yes, all of these tips can help in simplifying your search. But at the end of the day, it is Etsy — so you need to be prepared to put in some work. “Just dig and dig!” says Stacey. “I go through every page and look up multiple search terms. It's actually quite fun and if you have the time, just keep looking until you find the perfect fit. The possibilities are endless!”