Today we are talking about decorating from thrift stores. We will discuss what to look for and other tips on what not to buy. Plus I will show you how to decorate with thrift store finds.
For over 30 years I have been decorating from thrift stores. You might be asking why would I shop at second-hand stores, restores, and so on.
Well, you can find decorations in these stores that no one else has. Thrift store home decor is unique and often customizable. And you can find things for cheap to use for decorations or give it a new look with spray paint. So keep an open mind when you hit your local thrift store and you'll be amazed at the unique pieces you can find.
I have this rule when decorating. Mix old and new, inexpensive and expensive to give a room character without breaking the bank.
Update: As I bring new pieces into my home that are not on my original thrift store list I will add them here. This post has been updated July 29, 2023.
Now that you know my secret let's do some shopping and decorate with vintage thrift store finds. These ideas will help you the next time you go shopping.
This post contains affiliate links, meaning I receive a commission if you purchase using the links below at no extra cost to you. All opinions are all my own.
Decorating from Thrift Stores
To begin here is a list of items to look for when shopping in thrift stores. These are some of my favorite thrift store home decor items:
- Old books
- Vintage Bird Cages
- Fabrics like grain cloth
- Old clocks
- Vintage artwork
- Old windows
- Crocks and pots
- End tables
- Beds or headboards
- China Cabinet
- Dining Tables
- Cutting boards
- Kitchen Scales
- Jar and canisters
- Old bottles
- Architectural pieces
- Table linens
- Light fixtures
- Holiday decor
There are so many things you can look for when thrifting that you can use to decorate. And you can use thrift items for do-it-yourself projects too. Many of the pieces in my home will be items I found while shopping in second-hand stores or garage sales that I transformed to fit my decor style. Thrift store decorating blogs are a great resource for new and fun ideas.
So, keep your eyes open when shopping and look for shapes and think about what they might look like in color or texture that matches your home's design. And also don't rule out antique stores or estate sales. Sometimes I find good deals on vintage pieces there, too.
Now let's get started shopping my home for ideas.
Thrift Store Books
Books are one of the easiest things to find in thrift shops and yard sales. They are versatile when decorating your home, there are so many different ways to use them. And they will come in handy when you need a decoration to be a little higher.
I used vintage books all over my house but here is one example where I show decorating a mantel for spring.
When shopping, if you see a pretty hardback book go ahead and buy it. You will be amazed at how many ways you can decorate with books. In fact, you will see books all through this post as we talk about other thrifted items.
Figurines and Statues from Thrift Stores
You can find so many adorable figurines when shopping at thrift stores. Look past the finish on them and consider spray painting them.
I have had this dog with his basket at my front door for years. He was one of my best finds. There is a spot just for him off to the side.
I love to add decorations to his basket for holidays as I did last autumn when I shared a fall front porch decorating idea. It is fun to decorate for holidays or simply place some flowers inside the basket.
Vintage Bird Cages
Here is one of my favorite vintage finds. This sweet and delicate bird cage was found in a Goodwill in Maine. It's so pretty and the options are endless for holidays, centerpieces and more.
Second-Hand Store Baskets
Baskets are another easy find at thrift stores. They are some of my favorite thrift store home decor. Before using a second hand wicker basket, check out my post on how to clean a wicker basket to give it a fresh start. Like books, baskets are a great piece to use when decorating. They add texture to your home decor which helps make all those solid surfaces feel cozier.
You can use baskets on bookcases, mantels and so much more. If you love your basket but want a different look, check out my post on how to paint a wicker basket. I love hanging wicker baskets around the house, too, as I did here on our mantel.
Baskets are also great to use when decorating for holidays. I normally keep this old picnic basket on the bookcases in our dining room. But for this outdoor Halloween party, I used this basket to transport goods and then placed it on a chair for decorations.
I found this adorable vintage garlic basket at a Goodwill in Maine. You can see how it looks here hanging in my closet I turned into a butler's pantry. If you're interested in learning more about how I did that, check out my post How to Turn a Closet into a Pantry.
Another option is to hang it in the kitchen. What do you think? I'd love to hear which you prefer in the comments!
Vintage Fabric and Linens
One area that I am selective in when shopping in thrift stores is anything that has fabric on it. If I cannot bleach or sterilize it then I won't get it.
However, fabrics and linens are other great pieces to decorate with. I used an old vintage tea time tablecloth on the top of other blankets and tablecloths when we did a tea party picnic with my nieces.
Thrift Store Clocks
Clocks are another easy items to shop for when thrifting and they make wonderful decorations. Here is a photo of my mora clock. This piece came from an antique store in the UK that sent it to a store in America.
The whole story about this mora clock's journey is on my YouTube and on this antique mora clock post. But I wanted to share it to remind you that clocks are easy to decorate in your home. And they are easy to find when thrifting.
If you really want to be unique in your home decor then look for old vintage artwork at thrift stores. Thrift store decorating blogs will also have great ideas on how to decorate with old vintage artwork.
When decorating this antique vintage aesthetic bedroom my daughter found this piece of art in a local store. This store has booths rented by people who sell vintage and new items. There were many great finds that day like this wall decor.
Vintage or thrift shopping centers like these are a great way to shop for your home decor. After we got home we searched the internet and couldn't figure out anything about this piece except a printable you could purchase.
I would say we got a unique piece of art.
Thrift Store Old Windows
Windows are a hit-or-miss thrift store find. If you are looking for an old window to decorate with or to use for a DIY project look around at salvage yards where people drop off construction material.
Decorating with old windows is so much fun. Layer them on your mantel with art or use them for a DIY project like this mirror with shutters.
Flee Market Candleholder
Candleholders can be pretty brass candlestick holders or vintage bottles and bases like we used on our man-in-the-moon Halloween mantel.
You can use candle holders to hold candles simply as a decoration without a candle. They look well staggered on books and sitting next to books.
I love to use them during the holidays in our decorations but they also sit out year-round with my everyday home decor items.
When shopping for used candle holders look at all the places I have mentioned and flea markets.
Vintage Crocks and Pots
I seriously love crocks and pots to decorate with. It seems like thrifting crocks is a hit or miss. Sometimes I find them here and there and then I will go months without seeing one.
Old crocks can be pricey so if you find one at a garage sale for under 15 dollars, go ahead and grab it.
Also, look for galvanized buckets. They make for fun decorations as I did here on our front porch.
Here is one area where you can save and that is lamps. You will find lamps all over, from goodwill to garage sales and co-ops. Like so many thrifted items look past the ugly finish and think about what it will look like painted.
This milk glass lamp we found at a thrift store mall in our town. It didn't have a lampshade so that was the only thing we had to do to it.
Keep in mind when shopping for second-hand lamps to look at the cords carefully. Make sure there is no exposed wiring. I don't recommend using it if the wiring is damaged.
Another great lamp to look for and decorate with is chamber lamps or oil lamps. They also look beautiful as a table centerpiece as I did here on our Thanksgiving table.
Decorating with thrift store mirrors is easy. Look for large and small sizes.
I used this large mirror in our small bedroom to make it feel larger. I simply painted the frame a fresh creamy white color over a dark bronze color so it would match the room better. A little paint can change the whole feel of a piece.
Any furniture is good to look for when thrifting. Here is an end table we used between two chairs in our living room. This table is solid wood with a leather inlay on the top.
Decorating with thrift store benches is so fun. This bench in our entryway is actually a twin bed converted into a bench. I have to be honest and let you know that I rescued it from a friend who was going to trash it because the front feet had rotted but the rest of it was in good condition.
So I brought it home, gave it new feet, and a fresh coat of paint and now it lives in my entryway. It was the perfect piece in the perfect place.
PS: when we talk about chairs remember that the feet I used came from the chair.
If you are handy with tools then consider buying a twin bed and making a bench like this one. Or, if you are lucky, maybe you can find one already made. Thrift store decorating blogs will usually have great information on how to rescue an old bench like this.
Chairs are easy to find at thrift stores but the hard part is finding the number of chairs you will need that are identical. This Windsor chair I saved from the side of the road.
I found two identical chairs but both were wounded. So I took the parts from one chair and repaired the other chair.
Then I painted it with milk paint and now I have the perfect desk chair in our guest room.
I have detailed instructions on how to paint with milk paint if you find a chair you love and want to paint it.
Finding the exact buffet you have envisioned for your home decor can be a challenge to find at thrift stores. But it can be done.
Here is our buffet which has a matching china cabinet. We didn't find ours at a thrift store but instead found it stored away at my mother-in-law's house. It was sitting behind a pile of other storage items in a storeroom.
So you might say shopping at relatives' houses is another form of thrifting. LOL!
China Cabinets and Hutch
This is probably one of my favorite thrift store finds. Years ago when we added to our house I knew I wanted a hutch just like the one in the Andy Griffith show.
I would stop at every thrift store when traveling and one day while driving down to the coast, my daughter and I found this one in a thrift store. It's the perfect example of what you can find with a little patience.
Dining Tables from Used Furniture Stores
We have two dining tables in our house. The one in the buffet photo is thrifted except for the chairs which came from my mother-in-law's house too.
But I wanted to show you this one because you can easily find this style in thrift stores. I see tables all the time and you can put mix-matched chairs with them and benches. Your table doesn't have to have matching dining room chairs.
Also, consider decorating your table with centerpieces, either holiday designs or everyday designs.
Bookcase from Thrift Stores
Bookcases are another great find at thrift stores and also on the Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. You can fill your bookcase with books or decorate them. We did a little of both in my niece's Cottagecore's decorated bedroom.
Decorating with Cutting Boards and Breadboards
You can hang wooden boards for decorations as I did her. I added this metal silhouette to the front to make it more like a piece of art when I was sharing Cottagecore decor ideas.
Also, consider changing out the front decoration with holiday decor like a sprig of pine greenery at Christmas.
Decorating with Vintage Dishes
Dishes are easy to find when second-hand shopping and make for beautiful decorations. These vintage dishes are my grandma's but I find Currier and Ives dishes all the time in used stores.
Also, consider bringing new life to old dishes like this teacup candle I made from an old teacup.
Decorating with Vintage Kitchen Scales
At a vintage shop in Maine I found this beautiful AutoWate kitchen scale that is exactly what I've been looking for. I love how it looks on my hutch with cookbooks and white dishes, it's precisely how I imagined it.
Decorating with pitchers is like decorating with crocks. Finding old handcrafted pitchers is such a treat and they add character to your home decor.
This salt-glazed handcrafted pitcher was found in an antique shop. I paid a little more than I usually would but it was the perfect piece to cozy up my kitchen and hold all my wooden spoons.
I share more photos of this in our kitchen and kitchen zone organizing. You will find other thrift store items to use when organizing.
Another favorite new pitcher is this Ironstone pitcher. Ironstone is pottery that was developed as a cheaper alternative to porcelain but looks more like porcelain than earthenware.
This pitcher I found while thrifting makes the perfect vase for flowers. Another popular type of ironstone is transferware. I hope to collect more transferware soon.
Decorating with Old Vases
Really old vases make great decorations. Look on this shelf in my daughter's room at the tiny little amber glass vase. Little or large vintage vases can hold flowers or stand alone as a decoration.
Thrift Store Jars and Canisters Decorations
When decorating with thrift store items look for jars and canisters for storage or as a decoration like this mason jar filled with buttons.
There are so many things you can place inside jars to add to your home decor. Consider shells, buttons, old letters, and more.
Vintage Bottles to Decorate your Home
There are many ways you can decorate with thrift bottles. You can place them in a set like on this shelf. Fill them with potpourri or convert one to a candle holder.
Simply place a taper candle into the top of the jar. You may have to shave a little off around the bottom and twist it down to make it snug.
Once you have some bottles add them to your bookcases, and end tables and consider placing them on your dining table as a centerpiece.
Tray Decorating from Thrift Stores
Trayscaping is very popular now so add trays to your thrift store shopping list. You can use old trays for picnics as we did on our tea party picnic. Consider using them on coffee tables, your dining table, or as a decoration on your bed after you make it.
If you add one to your bed it will be useful when you get in bed and read. Especially if you don't have room for a nightstand.
They also look good hanging on walls like I did here over our range in our kitchen.
Vintage Architectural Pieces
Decorating with architectural pieces is a great way to add texture and an interesting story to your home decor. Look on the bottom shelf of this bookcase. This piece of decorative trim came from an old city hall that was demolished.
I bought this piece of trim in my favorite antique store in Franklin, North Carolina. City Farmhouse has lots of great finds. Kimberly, the owner, also has several great books on decorating with vintage decor. I share more about her book in my interior design books for beginners.
We have two rooms that have used light fixtures in our house. In our guest bathroom is an early 1900's light that came out of my grandma's house. In our foyer are two matching hanging lights, that I spray painted, that I found at second-hand stores.
The one that belonged to my grandma I had to have rewired because the wiring was not safe. Don't forget to check the wiring and have it replaced if it is damaged.
I do not have much success finding good wreaths in thrift stores. But I do like to find things I can make wreaths out of like this child's bike wheel.
This project was much easier than it looks. Learn more about how to make a bicycle wheel wreath.
As you probably already know, shopping in thrift stores for holiday decorations is a must. I find all kinds of pretty things I can use when decorating at Christmas and other holidays.
On our Christmas tablescape, I used an old toolbox to decorate the table. This centerpiece is so easy and I have all the details in this vintage farmhouse Christmas table post.
Here is another example of using thrift store finds to decorate for Halloween. I used dollar store and thrift store Jack-o'-lanterns for this table. I share this DIY Halloween decoration using Jack-o'-lanterns on the blog also.
If you surf around my blog posts you will find loads and loads more thrift store decorating ideas. Remember thrift store finds will make your decorations look more interesting. You never know what treasures you'll find at your local thrift shop. With a little creativity they are also fun DIY projects and the best part is, most of the time they are cheap. The best things to decorate with are the ones that reflect your own personal style.
Give your home decor more character and add old vintage thrift store items to your decorations. They look so pretty next to new decorations. And don't forget about online thrifting like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist.
Another place I often look for vintage items is Etsy or eBay. Most everything is shipped to you so figure in the shipping when you order. You can see how I use all these treasures at my post Vintage Cottage Style at Summerhill: A Charming Room-by-Room Tour.
Now it is your turn. Do you love thrifting? If so, what are your favorite thrift store finds? Happy shopping!