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Thrift store furniture tips from the pros

Have only $20 in your pocket? Meet women who use thrift store and garage sale furniture to decorate for less. These thrifty decorators show off their favorite pieces and share tips on finding great buys.

Want to decorate on a small budget? Look for thrift store and garage sale treasures. We talked to thrifting mavens to get expert tips and tricks. Read up and get moving — a hidden gem is out there just waiting for you to find it.

Learn how to spot potential

 Virginia cupboard with blackboard doors

Newlywed Virginia is a pro when it comes to using thrift store furniture to create stylish, upscale decor. Her home is decorated primarily in shades of cream and pale metallics. How does she find thrift store furniture in the right colors? She doesn’t. Instead, she searches for quality and shape. “Don’t be discouraged by the current color or look of an item,” says Virginia. “Old furniture can be painted or stained. Small decor items can be spray painted. Old chairs can be painted and reupholstered. Just look for items that have a great shape, regardless of their current state!” Read more of Virginia’s thrifting tips at LiveLoveDIY.

Be a resourceful shopper

Becky's chair before

Becky's chair after

Beckie is a frugal-minded expert at finding deals on furniture to rehab. She recommends discovering all of the options in your area, from thrift store to garage sales, as well as private Facebook swap groups and Craigslist. “Don’t be afraid to shop curbside,” Beckie says. “I have found more amazing pieces on the side of the road in my town than any store. See if you area has large trash pick-up day, and then drive by that area and see if there is anything good.” Beckie suggests haggling at garage sales. “Always be gracious and make sure you have exact cash on hand,” she says. See Beckie’s rehab projects at Infarrantly Creative.

Check out the construction of furniture

Rebecca's hutch before

Rebecca's hutch after

Rebecca is a mom of five who loves repainting used furniture. She cautions that not all furniture is made the same. “If it wobbles, do you have the ability to fix it? If it’s not solid wood, is that going to be a problem? While some things are changeable, oftentimes it’s cheaper in the long run to skip the falling-apart bargain and choose another piece that’s only a few dollars more, but is built to last,” says Rebecca. She points out that getting a distressed look is easier if you find furniture with lots of details and texture. “Trying to get that perfectly imperfect look on a clean-lined, smooth surface is more challenging,” she says. Learn more about Rebecca’s projects at Older and Wisor.

More tips from the pros

  • “Always haggle at garage sales, as people usually just want to get rid of their stuff.” — Virginia
  • “Be willing to walk away if the price isn’t in your budget. There is always a better deal out there.” — Beckie
  • “With Craigslist, you can see photos and quickly find things you love without ever leaving home.” — Rebecca
  • “I have the best luck in the thrift stores in nice areas.” — Virginia
  • “Always double check the size. Before you even think about looking for a piece of furniture, measure.” — Rebecca

More budget decorating

Thrift shop decorating
Upcycle your own living room furniture
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Photo credits: Virginia from LiveLoveDIY, Beckie from Infarrantly Creative, Rebecca from Older and Wisor

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