April 9, 2013

My Top 10 Thrift Store Shopping Tips: How To Decorate on a Budget

If there's one thing I love, it's saving money by decorating my  old 1970's fixer upper with thrifty finds.
 You don't have to spend wads of cash to create a stylish home. In fact, you can create a really stylish home with thrift store junk. You just have to get creative and think outside of the box. 


Top 10 Thrift Store Shopping Tips: How To Decorate on a Budget. Such great ideas!

 


I've decorated most of my home with stuff I've found at thrift stores, and I've saved dumptrucks full of money doing so.

Picture me behind the wheel of a dumptruck and let's all have a good laugh.

So, today I'm sharing my top 10 thrift store shopping tips to help you create a stylish home on a budget.
There are some real nuggets of thrifty-wisdom in here, and I hope you'll find it useful.
Also, there may or may not be an ALF reference.
You'll just have to wait and see.
Let's get started.


#1. Look For Colorful Accessories:

When it comes to accessorizing your house, it's all about waiting for the right pieces and collecting things over time. 


Top 10 Thrift Store Shopping Tips: How To Decorate on a Budget



When we were married I received a full set of nice basic white plates and bowls from our wedding registry. Once I had the basics, I began the real fun of searching for colorful mugs and accessories to add to my kitchen. Most of the additional items I needed I found at a thrift store, and I've ended up with a much cooler collection of dishes than I would have if I had bought everything new. Here's a peek at my kitchen cabinet so you can see what I'm talking about.
Check out the crazy way I updated my kitchen here.


Top 10 Thrift Store Shopping Tips: How To Decorate on a Budget


About half of its contents are new, and the other half are thrifties. The chevron mugs, cat mug, and blue glasses came from Target.  The silver cup, gold mugs, beige mugs, yellow mug, and blue paisley mugs all came from thrift stores. And you would never know unless I told you.

 I guess now we're besties since you know all my secrets.

My most recent addition to the mug cabinet came from the thrift store just this week. Two awesome gold mugs for 75 cents each. I've seen gold mugs all over retail stores lately, as gold seems to have come back into style like a stampeding bull, and they definitely cost more than 75 cents. 


Top 10 Thrift Store Shopping Tips: How To Decorate on a Budget



#2. Keep An Open Mind:

 Have an idea of the things you need, but be willing to adjust your plan if you find something amazing.
For example, a few weeks ago, I went looking for end tables and came home with a brassy lantern. Sometimes you don't find what you're looking for, but instead find something else that you can use. I love repurposing old outdated chandeliers, and knew the minute I saw this one that I could make it amazing. You can see the makeover of the below lantern here. It's still one of my favorites.


Top 10 Thrift Store Shopping Tips: How To Decorate on a Budget


#3. Don't Be A Hoarder:

When you love thrifting as much as I do, it's a really slippery slope to finding out that your relative has nominated you to be on Hoarders. So, before you buy something at a thrift store, make sure it's something you need.  Just because it's a great deal doesn't mean you should take it home and hoard it in your garage for 2 decades.
Like this bike.
My heart told me I desperately needed it,
but my brain said 'Virginia, you haven't been on bike in a decade. Plus, the tire is flat.'.


Top 10 Thrift Store Shopping Tips: How To Decorate on a Budget

So, I left Baby Boo II behind.

That is a reference to my amazing yet weird little brother who named his baby blue pickup truck 'Baby Boo'.

#4. Go Often & Be Patient:

 I don't strike gold with every trip to the thrift store. In fact, sometimes I don't even strike a tin can. It just depends.
So, if all you see is this weird ALF lamp:


Top 10 Thrift Store Shopping Tips: How To Decorate on a Budget

Just politely run in the opposite direction and know that today wasn't your day.

It will happen. You will eventually find something un-ALF-like.
You just have to keep trying.
If at first you don't succeed, thrift, thrift again.

#5. Look For Quality Furniture:

Some thrift stores are bone-dry when it comes to furniture. Others are like juicy turkeys.
Because turkeys always have the finest furnishings. 

I have the best luck finding good furniture when I visit the thrift stores near the nice parts of town. However, even in the 'good' stores, you will still find tons of useless junk. You have to know what to look for. Look for pieces that have good lines, are in good condition, and can be easily be refinished/repurposed. I like to look for solid wood pieces with a good shape.
(Some of my fave finds can be seen here, here, and here.)


Top 10 Thrift Store Shopping Tips: How To Decorate on a Budget


All of the above pieces I found in one day at one thrift store. This same store had no furniture a week earlier.

For example, the below wardrobe would be a great addition to any home. You could just paint it and swap the hardware. 
A little paint and hardware goes a long way, as demonstrated here.

Or you could just leave it alone if you like that color wood. However, this goes back to #3 for me. I didn't really need it, and had nowhere to put it, so I left it behind.


Top 10 Thrift Store Shopping Tips: How To Decorate on a Budget

This next item I found that day and I loved. I was actually there looking for a media cabinet to replace my current one, and this would have been perfect. However, upon further inspection, it was part of a set and they wouldn't sell it separately. Meanies.

Top 10 Thrift Store Shopping Tips: How To Decorate on a Budget

It was being sold with this badboy, another cool hutch, but still not something I needed. So, I had to walk away. 
We'll meet again, little media cabinet.

Top 10 Thrift Store Shopping Tips: How To Decorate on a Budget

 And one more...my absolute favorite of the day was this headboard. I've got all the headboards I need (like the one I painstakingly crafted from a dropcloth here), but boy, did I do a double take. Do you see the one in the very back? It was really tall and solid wood. And not a ding on it. I had to fight my hoarder tendencies with all I had.


A great tip when it comes to thrift store furniture. Don't be turned-off by a wood tone you don't like. You can always paint it or stain it a different color. Both of the below pieces were found at a thrift store and painted. And both were hideous when I found them.

Like my thrift store desk turned bedroom vanity table. (Seen here.)

Top 10 Thrift Store Shopping Tips: How To Decorate on a Budget




or my bedroom dresser.
You've gotta go see the before picture here. It was so ugly before.


Top 10 Thrift Store Shopping Tips: How To Decorate on a Budget


#6. Look For Classic Pieces:
 Like an ironstone pitcher.


Top 10 Thrift Store Shopping Tips: How To Decorate on a Budget


Or an ornate gold mirror.



Top 10 Thrift Store Shopping Tips: How To Decorate on a Budget

I left the ironstone behind, but purchased the mirror. For $7, it's been such a solid investment. 

This mirror has officially rocked it in two different room makeovers...seen here and here.

#7. Think Re-purpose, Re-purpose, Re-purpose:

 See beyond what's there. See a chair with lovely bones, but hate the upholstery? If the chair is the right price, and has only the seat and back cushion upholstered, chances are you can reupholster it yourself. I do it all the time. It's not very hard at all.
I found every single one of the below chairs at thrift stores and reupholstered them. 
(See all 10 here).


Top 10 Thrift Store Shopping Tips: How To Decorate on a Budget

Last time I was there, I saw these two chairs. They had great bones and really gross upholstery. If I didn't already have tons of chairs at home, I totally would have worked my magic on these. 

There's so many things you could do to spruce up these chairs. I think I would paint the frame a really bold glossy color, remove the button tufting and upholster in a large-scale pattern fabric.

Top 10 Thrift Store Shopping Tips: How To Decorate on a Budget


I updated my latest chair by painting the legs white and upholstering it in a bold green pattern. 
If you've ever struggled with those pesky corners when trying to upholster a chair, check this trick out.

Upholstery Tips & Tricks | LiveLoveDIY


#8. Think Spray Paint:

When thrifting, keep spray paint in mind. If you like the shape of something, you can always spray paint it. This applies to lamps, art, accessories, small furniture, and well...just about anything.




See 10 creative ways to use spray paint here.

One of my fave things to spray paint from thrift stores is old lamps. It's so easy. Just spray paint the base and change the lampshade. 

This is a thrift store lamp I totally transformed recently. 

And I highly recommend checking out it's original lampshade.





and here are two I just brought home from my last visit. They were absolutely hideous, but they were $4 each and I can assure you they look much better now



Top 10 Thrift Store Shopping Tips: How To Decorate on a Budget

The lamp's former owner totally put a bird on it.




And I can assure you I took the bird off it.


Also keep in mind you can paint just about anything by hand, too. Like this junky old wood tray that I painted with black and white stripes and now use as a jewelry tray. 
Easy stripe tutorial here.



#9. Know Your Thrift Store:

 Ask the employees when they get new stuff and when the sale days are. I find the best stuff on Tuesdays and Thursdays, because that's when my favorite store puts out new stuff. Every store is different. 
Also, know where the best stuff can be found inside the store. My favorite store is huge, and I usually beeline to certain places when I first get there. Like the art wall. That's where I find really great mirrors and sometimes cool art.


Top 10 Thrift Store Shopping Tips: How To Decorate on a Budget

You have to think creatively. I saw this boat painting (which reminds me of this print that I found at this store years ago) and loved it. Had I bought it, I would have taken out the canvas, cut it smaller and framed it in a matted white frame. It would be really cool as part of a gallery wall in my hallway.


Top 10 Thrift Store Shopping Tips: How To Decorate on a Budget


#10. Save Money on Frames:

I buy most of my frames at thrift stores and spray paint them. I save tons of money this way. Sure, I could just go to a normal store and pay $10+ a frame, but why do that when I can get a thrift store frame for a buck? I look for frames with nice detail and with a nice mat. Then, I spray paint the frame AND the mat.
Take for example my DIY sequin art.


Top 10 Thrift Store Shopping Tips: How To Decorate on a Budget



When I brought it home from the thrift store, it was a big hot mess of 1990's magenta and forrest green. 



And now, just as a bonus for making it to the end of the longest post ever written...

I'll give ya one more!

#11. Make Vignettes:

When it comes to accessories, sometimes it helps to narrow down your selection by pairing items together somewhere on a table or shelf and seeing how they look when grouped with other things. 



Top 10 Thrift Store Shopping Tips: How To Decorate on a Budget

Making vignettes is really helpful in preventing #3 when it comes to purchasing chotskies at a thrift store. Because no one wants to be that guy who ends up on Hoarders: Buried Alive Under His Chotskies.

Alright, ya'll. That's all for today. 
For more thrift store talk, you can check out my 10 thrift store shopping secrets here




'Til next time!

 

Top 10 Thrift Store Shopping Tips! Shows how to create a really stylish home on a small budget! Great ideas!





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52 comments:

  1. You forgot #12 - Invite Virginia to come do your thrifting for you!

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    1. LOL! I love that, Sarah! That is the OFFICIAL #12! :)

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    2. Good, when will you be in Nor Cal? :)

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  2. This post is amazing! I love going to Good Will, but I always forget the furniture! I'm there for dishes 9 times out of 10. Thanks so much for all the great tips and reminding me what's possible with a little work and a whole lot less money than retail!

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    1. You're so very welcome, Julie! Glad I could give you some ideas!

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  3. I loved this. You made me giggle over the bird. Thanks for your wonderful ideas!

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  4. Fabulous tips! I can just imagine you cutting up a boat picture ... hmmm

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  5. I LOL'ed at "some more nice legs" you are too funny.

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    1. HA! DeeDee you totally win the prize for being the first reader to notice that!! :)

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  6. Great post! You would be so much fun to go thrift shopping with! :) I usually go by myself.

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    1. Thanks Julie! I do, too! I would totally enlist you as my thrifty partner! :)

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  7. We need to go thrifting together. Do you want to come to Texas or should I pack up my toddlers and invade your light colored clean home? That's what I thought, Texas it is.

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  8. Those lamps look exactly like the gross lamps we had growing up ... minus the navy banding ... and the bird. *yak*

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  9. This is another awesome list just as the TOP 10 Home Improvement Ideas!
    Love this one as well!

    Love, Midsommarflicka

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  10. I'm working on #3. Working on it HARD!

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  11. Thank you for a great post! I like the way you think!

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  12. Great post! I have decorated my home with mostly thrift store items too!

    retrospendthrift.com

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  13. Hey, I own that wardrobe piece in my home...and I am sooo tempted to paint the heck of of it this summer! It's over 13 years old...looks brand new, but I am getting tired of the plain-jane of it all! :) Love your blog and your designing!

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  14. I just had a stroke of good luck at my favorite store yesterday. Can't wait to get started on my new china cabinet. She is going to be so pretty. Loved your tip about asking what days they put stuff out.

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  15. Oh my!!! Every one of these ideas is even better than the next...and the photos are fantastic!!! Thanks for this big, fat dose of inspiration!!!

    - Jess
    Sparkles and Crafts

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  16. I love your post! And your whole blog actually :) your fun, humorous tone is so awesome. I keep it light myself, "irreverent diy"? I am your newest follower and big(est??) fan haha! Come say hi sometime! :)
    Alyssa
    myclevernest.com

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  17. Thank you Virginia for the amazing thrifting post! Lots of useful info to inspire me AND help me from ending up on hoarders!! I love your blog!

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  18. All right, Now I'm just going to HAVE to know which stores are your favorite. I don't even know how to find good thrift stores.

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  19. Come shopping with me! You have an amazing talent. Sometimes, I will admit, I wonder if I am slipping down that steep slope to hoarderville when I thrift. Yikes!

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  20. Great tips! I have to say I am a little shocked you took the bird off the lamp... Portland is probably shaking its head in shame now. :) I love shopping at thrift stores and I recently have been posting about what I find, now I can take your tips and bring them to the store with me!

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  21. You are now my new favorite Blogger as I, too, share a love of fat cats :)

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  22. I've been poking around your blog for the last hour and love all your creative ideas. As a former editor (and complete grammar freak), "chotskies" is actually spelled "tchotchkes." Sorry. I couldn't help myself. Now I need to go finish spray painting my lamp I started 6 months again. Procrastination is the biggest hurdle for my DIY projects. I need your energy to get it done!

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  23. Super love your blog! Found u on Pinterest and now Im following u on bloglovin!!!

    This is awesome, I just got married recently and moved in to his apartment and boy that place really need a makeover! I need to find a way how to do it in low budget and tadaaa I found you (and some GREAT ideas)!!! Thanks :D

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  24. Love all your ideas - being on a budget can get you down sometimes but these awesome ideas are really helpful! You won a new follower :)

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  25. I just found your blog through I heart organizing. I'm already hooked!

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  26. You just made my DIY house reno dreams come true!! I am heading in to my local Value Village and Salvation Army thrift store ASAP to find some inspiration!
    Thanks for sharing the genius ideas.

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  27. Wish you could come to my home in Australia and I can take you 'op-shopping' - which is what we call it here! :) love your site - just stumbled across it! :)

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  28. Now you have really put me in the mood for a trip to the thrift store! These tips are so true!
    Sara

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  29. I can totally relate to this. I have to be very firm with myself or I'll come home with a ton of "just in case" items. My rule is that if I have no immediate need for it (unless it's really awesome) it doesn't come home with me. Outside of shopping, I even have the occasional hard time throwing things away - "gosh, that's a really nice box, I should save it for...." *eyeroll* On a general note, I haven't seem them all but your site really stands out for the usefulness and quality of your DIY projects!

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  30. Wow!!!! I am soooo glad I came across you on Pinterest!!! Your stuff is amazing!! I just got started redecorating and am obsessed with DIY techniques and thrift store shopping!! Thank you!!!!!

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  31. You are a DIY genius! Truly inspirational.

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  32. Where can I find a thrift shop in winston salem, nc. Looking for furniture for guest room.

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  33. I'm new to your blog but I could read it for hours. You make me think I'm super woman and can makeover EVERYTHING!! I'm not so sure my husband thinks the same! I am wondering if you have a list of your favorite thrift stores? Thanks for the inspiration!

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  34. I absolutely LOVE your blog!! I've been glued to this site for the past 2 days. I nearly peed when you described your old kitchen light fixture as a boob! LMAO!! Ha ha, that's exactly what they look like...boob...LOL!

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  35. I just discovered your blog, and I'm in love! I can't wait to explore more. The thrifting Gods are definitely on your side;)

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  36. I am in love. I am stealing every idea you come up with. Don't hate, I have no taste of my own so...thanks in advance.

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  37. Just moved into a new city and a new house. Found my way here via Pinterest as I'll soon me on the hunt for my own thrift store finds. Your tips are going to be a solid reference. I can't wait to explore the rest of your blog.

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  38. This makes me want to go to a thrift store like right now! Great tips! I have a new house to furnish and plan on spending a lot of time in the thrift stores!!!

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  39. I love how you have re-imagined so many of the items to make them beautiful! These tips are genius. Thank you!!

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  40. I love the reference to Alf....but I do sort of like that lamp :) A real conversation starter! My next thrift store search will be for a kitchen table and chairs to redo!

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  41. Love all of your ideas. Come to the Hudson Valley..Woodstock Area and we can shop..shop..shop. Karen

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  42. Not sure exactly how I ended up here but that's how the internet works sometimes and today I'm so glad it did! I love your site and your sense of humor which is so much like mine. :) I will be sticking around I have some old furniture and stuff that I now believe I can transform all by myself thanks to you!

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  43. Great post, I love all your tips, as well as the humour which you injected in the subject - brilliant! Also, as a big fan of thrift store shopping I couldn't agree more about not being a hoarder; it is so easy to be seduced into what seems like a cool purchase at the store and then to realize at home one has no idea what to do with the item! Thanks for sharing!

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  44. Thanks for the tips Virginia - I have re-pinned. Now where did you go to cursive write your name in print? Thanks, Deborah

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Thanks so much for leaving a comment!! I do the hammer dance every time I read one.