The Best Décor to Buy at Thrift Stores – What to Look for at Thrift Stores
I am SO excited about this post! Thrifting is my absolute favorite. And it’s my sister and I’s favorite thing to do together. We could thrift every day if it wasn’t for kids and husbands and limits on funds. Our excitement for the thrift is REAL.
Our mom got us started when we were really young. She was addicted to thrift stores and yard sales. Back then, it was different and better. People had yard sales to purge. Things went for a quarter or fifty cents every day. Now, people expect to make 50% (or more) of the retail price and thrift stores have caught on to the fact that thrifting is more popular than ever, resulting in higher prices. Annoying isn’t it?? Still, you can often score great deals on awesome home decor if you shop regularly and know what to look for.
[The photos in this post are a little all over the place. I dug up photos of a few of my favorite thrifted finds from the last couple years]
Here are the top items I look for when shopping at thrift stores:
I love me some clocks. For proof, check out my NYE Dining Room post HERE where I gathered my collection for a NYE clock vignette.
You can find really cool vintage clocks for a couple bucks or less at thrift stores. How could you say no to them?
Greenery is so expensive at craft and home décor stores. I rarely find nice, realistic looking greenery at thrift stores so it’s a real treat when I do. Even though you won’t score on greenery too often, be sure to always check the faux plant section when thrifting.
When you do come across an awesome batch of greens, it will make your day. Just look at these olive branches and the little olive topiary I found.
Best believe I was clicking my heels in the parking lot after buying these.
Everything on this shelf was thrifted with the exception of the concrete bird and the citronella candle. I probably spent less than $30 for everything.
[About this shelf, let me brag for a moment on my hunny. He made it for me when we were dating. I had seen a similar one at Pottery Barn that I loved. He recreated it surprised me with it one night. I have had it all over the house but now it sits out on our screened porch.]
3. WHITE CERAMICS.
No need to go into detail here. We’re all on the same page. White ceramics are everything right now. I love finding pitchers, cake stands, platters, bowls. I’ll take it all. This also includes ironstone and transferware too.
4. OLD BOOKS.
I don’t know about in your area, but for me I’ve had the best luck at estate sales and garage/yard sales when it comes to old books. However, I always check the thrift store book section when I’m there and have found a few gems.
Old books don’t have to be an interesting read or some valuable rare edition in order to make great décor. Personally, I have zero interest in actually reading them. I’m no literary arts major. In fact, I bombed English because it required me to read and write, two of my least favorite things (yet here I am blogging?).
Anyway, look for old, hard covered books with aged pages. If the covers aren’t great or don’t go with your color scheme, you can display them with the pages facing out and the spine facing the wall. Or you can completely remove the covers and tie a little ribbon or twine around the books like these:
My personal favorites are books with green or blue covers and also old hymnals.
I’m sure you always see a ton of baskets every time you step into the thrift store. Most are uninteresting and the wrong size/shape for my liking.
I look for large round baskets that I can use to hold pillows and blankets or to hold potted plants. I also look for more shallow baskets that can be used as trays or to hang on the wall. One of my favorite basket finds is my umbrella stand. It definitely wasn’t something I had been looking for, but the moment I laid eyes on it, I was in love.
I usually avoid baskets with a single handle in the middle as I never find a use for those. If you collect baskets and find an awesome single handle for your collection, go for it!
6. FRAMES, ART, MIRRORS.
Oh my gosh. This is a big one. I have found some of the coolest pieces of art at thrift stores. So many times I have found paintings that don’t exactly go with my décor but they are so awesome and cheap that I buy them anyway… Then I hoard them in my stash for 5 years… before eventually taking them back to the thrift store where they can find a new loving home and actually be used. It’s a cycle. (I’ve also been known to hoard cool embroidery art that I never display.)
the pink pillow and large painting were thrift store finds
Mirrors are a great item to get at thrift stores too. You’ll save so much money on them if you buy them used and you’ll find some really cool unique mirrors you can’t find anywhere else.
Look for empty frames while thrifting also.
Don’t forget you can always paint a frame if it doesn’t exactly flow with your home. The most important thing is the style and size of the frame. Thrift stores very often have beautiful ornate or vintage mirrors and frames that only need a little TLC.
Also, don’t forget the possibility of making a chalkboard with a cool frame.
If a piece of art is not your taste but it has an interesting frame, BUY IT.
My love for linens runs deep. If my sister is reading this, she’s rolling her eyes right now. We have an inside thing about my unhealthy obsession with linens. My favorites are ones with blue in the patterns or solid white with embroidery.
You can regularly find beautiful vintage linens at thrift stores as well as contemporary neutral pieces. I look for tablecloths, table runners, napkins, placemats, curtains, bedskirts, random pieces of vintage fabric, and throw blankets.
Have you seen the cost of new throws and afghans? Yeah no. That doesn’t work for me. I’ve found way too many lovely throws at thrift stores for $2 for me to ever consider paying full retail price. Take them home and wash them in hot water. You’ll be fine.
8. WOOD THINGS
This is a pretty generic category. For me, this includes old rolling pins, cutting boards, and old wooden boxes and crates. I also briefly browse for wooden things that I can makeover. Things like coat hooks, mail organizers, etc.
9. MISC. DECOR.
I am always, always also on the lookout for these small inexpensive things when thrifting:
- Old glass bottles
- Candle holders
- Brass items including candle holders
10. SILVER THINGS.
In a recent Instagram post I talked about my long time love of silver platters. I pick these up when I find them at low prices. I also look for old silverware, and anything else silver I can find at a good price.
11. LAMPS AND LIGHT FIXTURES.
I have seen some pretty nice lamps at thrift store. One of my all time favorites was a pair a milk glass wall sconces I saw at AmVets. They were only $5 for the pair but I passed them up because I had no place for them. My heart still aches a little every time I think of those beauties.
Most overhead light fixtures you’ll encounter at thrift stores will be out-of-style 90s fixtures. Every now and then you’ll stumble upon a cool vintage piece or a piece you can makeover. I once took a basic gold chandelier, spray painted it flat black, removed the wiring and parts that held the light bulbs and replaced them with candles to make an outdoor chandelier for our screened porch. It was so cheap and easy and I loved the end result.
When looking at light fixtures, check to see that all the wires are there and they appear to be safe. Then use your imagination to see how it could look with a little love. You might just find the perfect chandelier for under $10.
Also look for lamp shades. Shades can be pricey when purchased new. If you’re lucky enough to find a nice looking shade in the right size, you’re looking at only a couple bucks at a thrift store.
I love, love, love shopping the seasonal section of thrift stores. So many of my favorite Christmas decorations are thrift store finds and mostly purchased during the summer. Usually seasonal décor is priced way low year around, but especially in off-season.
I feel I need to mention furniture because it is probably the main thing people go to thrift stores searching for. I used to search for furniture when I went thrifting, but the prices have gone up so much, most things are overpriced. I find better deals when I’m patient and wait for furniture pieces to show up on Craigslist. I also have a pretty well furnished house now and no longer flip furniture to sell. I do still glance at the furniture at thrift stores just in case though.
14. NON-DECOR ITEMS.
This is sort of an extra I’m including that’s totally unrelated to home decor but it’s something that excites me when thrifting so I just have to share! Vintage t-shirts and sweatshirts!
My sis and I both love vintage t-shirts and sweatshirts. This might be the one thing we actually fight over when we’re thrifting together. She’s much better at digging and finding them than I am so she usually gets first dibs. We both love the soft, worn feel of an old t-shirt. And the vintage graphics are pretty cool. We’ve found several old baseball team shirts, a 1990s Nascar sweatshirt, a super old Gold’s Gym sweatshirt, a shirt that said “where’s the beef,” and so many more.
I’ve seen shirts like these on Etsy. People love this stuff right now, though a lot of people aren’t willing to do the digging at thrift stores to find it.
Also, I sometimes peak at the shoes and have found several nice pairs including my Steve Madden quilted slip on sneaks, Toms, Keds, Converse, and a great pair of vintage leather flats that actually look like some that are really trendy now except better because they are legit vintage 🙂 (oh, and THEY WERE $.25!)
15. PARTY SUPPLIES/CRAFTS.
Another thing my sister and I love doing together is planning and hosting parties/showers. When we have a party in the works, we scour thrift stores for items we can use in any way whether it be costumes, décor, etc.
For my baby shower, the sis did a vintage tea party theme. She used mini wicker bassinets we found years ago at a thrift store along with mismatched china, and crocheted table linens. A lot of these items belonged to mom, but she filled in with things from thrift stores for an amazingly beautiful yet affordable shower.
As for the craft supplies, I like buying embroidery hoops, floral foam, moss, stamps, and thank you cards.
I just threw a lot at you. You likely won’t remember all of these things the next time you’re thrifting. I suggest creating a list in your phone notes that includes your favorite items from this post and/or a list of items you know you need for completing an area in your home. Reference it before walking into the thrift store so you won’t feel overwhelmed by the mounds of junk that’ll be there. I always have a running list of items I’m on the hunt for and projects I plan to tackle in the near future.
What do you think of this list? Did I forget anything? What are your favorite items to buy from thrift stores? I wanna know! Leave me a comment below or let’s connect on Instagram.