Not only is thrift-shop decorating inexpensive, it can help you find some fun, hip and funky items none of your friends have. The key is knowing where to look and what kinds of items really are the best bargains.
Making the most of thrift-store purchases
Unlike shopping at a retail store, thrift-store shopping requires a different mentality. When you go to IKEA, you can simply walk to the department where the item you need is kept and choose which style you want. In a thrift store, it doesn't necessarily work that way. Sure, you need to know what furnishings and decorative items you need, but there's no guarantee they'll have it. Additionally, you need to keep your mind open to sudden changes to your game plan or a great opportunity you didn't expect.
You have to look at items from a different perspective and see the hidden potential of what's available. How would it look refinished? Painted? With the legs cut down? Can it be repurposed as a planter or a wall decoration? Maybe it would look great in the living room beside the sofa or on your back patio near the door. Train your eye to see what it can be, rather than what it is. Then, assess the estimated cost of supplies for repair and your creative work to determine whether the result will still be worth it.
Thrift-shop items with potential
Every thrift store has its own personality. Some are better places to find great retro clothing, while others have smokin' deals on books and CDs. But almost all thrift shops will have certain things on the shelves. You just need to be creative about how to use them.
- Tables -- Whether you're looking for patio furniture or something for the kitchen or living room, keep an eye out for the style, shape and size you want. As long as it's in relatively good condition (it's stable and still well constructed or can at least be repaired) a table can always be refinished or painted. It can also be covered with decorative tiles, decoupaged or topped with clear or colored glass. The legs of tall tables can be cut down to make shorter ones.
- Containers -- We can all use more jars, vases, baskets and boxes for storage. Use the container the way it is or paint it and add a pretty ribbon to make it like new.
- Picture frames -- Frames are usually really inexpensive at thrift shops, garage sales and flea markets. Wood frames (and some plastic ones) can be painted and quality metals can usually be polished. They can be decorated with jewels or beads and used for photos or even old postcards or pressed flowers.
- Lamps -- It's easy to walk past a lamp with a torn and tattered shade. But most of the time, the base is in perfectly good condition. Take the shade off to inspect the lamp to see if it's the right fit. You can replace the shade inexpensively.
- Wrought iron -- This once-popular decorative element looks a bit old-fashioned to some. But metal art is all the rage. If you find a wrought-iron piece that's got an interesting shape, don't skip it. Clean it up and paint it silver, gold (or even non-metallic colors) to create an artistic conversational piece for your wall.
- Mirrors -- A mirror is a great decorative element that can add depth and brightness to your home if placed strategically. Some mirrors can be reframed or painted as long as the glass itself is in good condition. Or think about decorating a beat-up frame with shells, jewels and more.
- Chairs -- If a chair ends up in a thrift store, it's usually not looking so good. But if you find one that's still comfy, clean it well and reupholster it with a fresh or fashion-forward material. Doing it yourself can save you tons of cash.
- Unique furniture pieces -- You can often find a host of unique furnishings at a thrift store. A roll-top desk, glass cabinet or old sewing machine table can be refreshed or repurposed.
More cheap tips and bargains
The art of dumpster diving
10 Tips for a successful day of yard sale shopping
Decorating with what you have