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I used Etsy to decorate my apartment and saw how it beats out Amazon in the home decor department despite longer delivery times

Insider/Hannah Towey

  • When decorating my first NYC apartment, I struggled to find affordable, high-quality home decor. 
  • I ordered products from e-commerce sites Amazon and Etsy and compared the experience. 
  • Despite the longer delivery times, Etsy quickly became my go-to for vintage and unique pieces. 

Growing up, my art-teacher mother was a pro at finding unique pieces to fill our white walls. The centerpiece for her dining room is a slab of wood her students threw paint-soaked cotton balls at. 

So, when it came to decorating my own apartment I knew I wanted something other than Urban Outfitters posters and Ikea furniture, but I didn’t have the budget to go crazy. And unlike my mom, I lacked any serious do-it-yourself chutzpah.

For the first month, I hunted for affordable home decor the old-fashioned way — at flea markets and thrift shops. I was surprised by how expensive the flea market was, with price tags for art pieces ranging from $100 to $500 each. While thrift store prints were less expensive, I didn’t fall in love with anything I found. 

This left me to the overwhelming abyss that is shopping for art on the internet. I eventually Googled “Georgia O’Keefe prints,” one of my favorite artists, and landed on an Etsy seller page called ChristinaArtsDesigns. 

Unlike other e-commerce sites like Amazon, Etsy’s design prominently features the people behind their products. Under the “About” tab, I could see that Christina was a freelance graphic designer with a love for Japanese culture and anime. Her manufacturer, Printful, was located in North Carolina. 

Compared to the mechanical design of Amazon, the humanized layout made me more confident in the quality of Etsy products and the working conditions of the people making it. I could also contact the shop directly if I had any questions and get a response back immediately. 

ChristinaArtsDesigns had a total 75 Georgia O’Keefe prints that came in nine different sizes, priced between $25 and $45 each. After reading through dozens of five-star reviews testifying to the prints’ high quality colors, I was sold. 

One of the three Georgia O'Keefe prints I ordered on Etsy for $34.99 each.One of the three Georgia O’Keefe prints I ordered on Etsy for $34.99 each.

Insider/Hannah Towey

Why Etsy is worth the wait 

Etsy describes itself as “a global online marketplace, where people come together to make, sell, buy, and collect unique items,” focusing on “creative” buyers and sellers. In June, Etsy announced it’s plans to buy the secondhand fashion app Depop for $1.62 billion.

The company outperformed Wall Street estimates for its most recent quarter, continuing to benefit from the home renovation and face mask boom during the pandemic. 

“What it shows is people had to turn to Etsy over the past year, they are choosing to come back even more as we move forward, and we think that’s frankly remarkable,” CEO Josh Silverman told CNBC in November. 

The company charges sellers 20 cents for each product listed and focuses on vintage and handmade goods. Home & Living and Art & Collectibles are the site’s two most popular categories, according to Statista. 

I ordered this "antique brass knob" from Etsy for $4.73 to level-up an old bedside table I repainted.I ordered this “antique brass knob” from Etsy for $4.73 to level-up an old bedside table I repainted.

Insider/Hannah Towey

After my positive experience with the O’Keefe print, I went to Etsy for everything from lamps to brass cabinet knobs.

The only downside was that shipping times ranged from a few days to a few weeks. I ordered my prints on November 30 and received them on Dec 16, which seems like a lifetime if you’re accustomed to Amazon’s one-day shipping.

While I was eager for my order to arrive, I knew wall art could make or break a space. If I was going to stare at these every day, I could pass on the two-day shipping and take comfort in supporting a small-batch independent shop. 

In comparison, I ordered the cheap desk I’m currently writing this article from on Amazon. I rushed the purchase so I could start working from home and immediately regretted it. While it looks nice, it’s shaky and not the right size for the space. 

Despite Amazon’s market dominance, I found the tech giant severely lacked in the home decor department — perhaps one of the few product categories left where shoppers aren’t willing to sacrifice convenience over quality. 

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