Decorating With Thrift Store Finds

by Diane Henkler on 07/18/2013

If you have been reading my blog for a long time, then you know I like decorating with thrift store finds. The thrill of the hunt – the hunt for decorating treasures that cost only dollars.    The treasures that you can find and transform in your own style by shopping thrift stores, yard sales, and church basement sales gets me excited.

Decorating with Thrift Store Finds and how to find the best stuff.


I am often asked how I always find good stuff.  I hear from my friends and readers –“I go to the thrift store and never find anything”. “It is all junk”.  “ I don’t have a good eye” to “It’s  gross” and “ Can I go shopping with you?”

I have even been told that I should not shop at thrift stores because they are for people that are poor and really need the items.  If I buy it – nothing is left for them.  I responded to that one right away, since that is not the case – most stores use the money made in the store to give to charity.  So when I shop these stores, I am in turn giving to the charity or the non-profit organization that runs the store.


In my area –yard sales are not the best, but I am lucky to live 10 minutes away from the best thrift store ever. It is called 2nd Avenue.  If you have been there – you know why I go at least once a week.

Thrift-Store shopping tips

ReStore in Bucks County, Pa

My other sources are the Habitat for Humanity ReStore and church flea markets.   Church sales are better than a yard sale because there are dozens of people selling their stuff in one place and the prices are truly bargain basement.  The ReStore is the best for finding home improvement items like interior wood doors for $10.  Boxes of white tile for $5.00, and glass blocks for $1.00.

How to make a Reversible-Folding-Screen Using Doors From the Thrift Store

How to Make a Decorative Folding Screen Using Doors From the Thrift Store

I have found a lot of goodies lately and wanted to share my tips on how I end up finding stuff to decorate my home with.

Decorating With Thrift Store Finds:  Tips on How to Find the Good Stuff


Tip No. 1:  Keep your mind open for anything and everything – you may go in looking for a piece of furniture for your dining room, but…

Thrift Store vases

…see a modern and unique glass vase that is only $1.60.

Thrift Store Vase

Modern and unique pairs nicely with old-fashioned hydrangeas on my bedside table.  If I didn’t do a quick stroll around the store last week after looking at the furniture, I would have never seen this vase.


Tip No. 2:  Know your style.  You have to know what you like and don’t like – otherwise everything just looks like junk.

Thrift Store Candle Holders Transformed with Paint

When you know your style – you will know that by removing a part of an item, cleaning it up, or painting it – it will look like something right out of a home decorating catalog.  I used white chalk paint on the base of the candle holders.


Tip No. 3:  The Good Stuff Goes Fast   When thrifting with a group of friends  there is always going to be one item that all of you will reach for immediately when you see it.  This happened to me and my friend when we saw a very Marthaesque looking glass cake stand for $4.90.  I let my friend buy it knowing that eventually another one would come along. It did,  a year later.  It was not exactly the same, but close. I knew if I still wanted one a year later, it was a good buy for $4.90.


My Perfectly Imperfect Table

Tip No. 4:  Lower your expectations – When I am not in the mood or have nothing in mind to buy – that is when I stumble upon good stuff.   These little tables were $6.  I removed the crystals and added pretty paper to the tops and edges.

Thrift Store Shopping tips

Tip No. 5: Shop often – Mark it on your calendar.  I go at least once a week. Find out when they put out new items or get deliveries.   This way you get a better chance of finding something sought after.

tissue boxes at the Thrift store

Tip No. 6:  Look for items that are useful - have good lines and shape. It is also important that they are in good condition and can be cleaned up with soap and water.

Wooden-Tissue-Box from the thrift store

SOLD!  for 90 cents.



Add some pretty paper and you have a chic new tissue box cover.


Tip No. 7Don’t overlook anything – just because the color of the item doesn’t float your boat, or it is just plain ugly.   Remember this little brown table?  I looked past the brown fake wood and the plastic wheels.  I saw a solid piece with a modern vibe.

DIY Chalk paint recipe transformed this thrift store table

 One  Thrift Store Table – 4 ways

A little DIY and I made it mine.  Everything can be changed with paint or by removing or adding something to it.


Tip No. 8:  Don’t Give Up – Keep searching until you find it. It took me a few months of searching before I spotted the simple brass chandelier that I was on the hunt for.

Pottery-Barn-Knock-Off- Outside Chandelier

How to Make a Thrifty Knock-Off Outdoor Chandelier

With some spray paint and  candles it became a beautiful way to light up my deck in style.

How to Line-a-Drawer with book pages

How to Line a Desk Drawer with Book Pages

Tip No. 9:  Look beyond the decorative furnishing aisles – I always look in the book section for books with unique pages. I used the pages of a calligraphy book I bought for 50 cents to line my desk drawer.


Glittered Glass Trees

Tip No. 10:  Shop for seasonal items year round -  To collect all the glass trees I needed to decorate my mantel last Christmas, I looked for the glass trees on every shopping trip I took,  starting about 7 months in advance.  By the time the holidays arrived I had more than enough of the trees to add glitter and candles to decorate my mantel.  If you wait until the holiday or season, you may miss out. 

Bonus Tip:  Edit, Edit, Edit  -  This could be the most important one.   For every thing I bring into the house – one thing or more has to go out. Since I have edited like this, I have found the things that I keep – I really, really love. Editing my stuff has helped me pinpoint my style, too.   I keep a box in the back of my car that I put the unwanted stuff in so when I go to the thrift store I drop the contents off. It is fun sometimes to see stuff that was once mine on the shelves.


What Doesn’t  Make it into My Cart - Upholstered furniture, pillows, electrical  items that have not been tested (lamps – unless of course I am going to be taking the electrical guts out of the item) as well as anything that cannot be thoroughly cleaned.


Thrift Store shopping tips

I spotted this big basket as soon as I walked in the door of 2nd Avenue last week.  I have been looking for one like this for a long time.


A bit pricey at $6.90!  Smile  But….

Thrift Store Shopping tips and tricks

…it is huge!

Can you guess what I am going to use it for?


Click here to see how I turned it into a Christmas tree stand cover.


So now is the time to mark a weekly visit to your local thrift store on your calendar each week.  The thrill of the hunt is Fun!


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{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Melissa @ My Recent Favorite books July 18, 2013 at 7:27 pm

Great ideas!
I love thrift shopping and go as often as possible. =)


2 Kathee July 18, 2013 at 7:52 pm

This is a great article. Thanks for writing.


3 Lisa July 18, 2013 at 7:58 pm

I found you on Pinterest :-)
I think you’re now one of my most favorite blogs! Love your style, tips, ideas and all the inspiration! thanks for sharing.


4 Diane Henkler July 18, 2013 at 11:57 pm

Thanks Lisa – you made my night. XO


5 Carrie July 18, 2013 at 11:56 pm

Love it! Let me know the next time you’re up for a thrift store trip and I’ll meet you there! Or there’s a bunch down by me too– Impact, Liberty, and another ReStore. ;-)


6 Serena @ Thrift Diving July 19, 2013 at 12:03 am

Diane, you forgot to include UNDERWEAR in the list of what not to buy! Ha!

Everything in my house is thrift store makeovers, including my $12 dining table, and my whole thrifted craft room. :)

Thrift Diving


7 Keisha - Cupcake Wishes & Birthday Dreams July 19, 2013 at 12:08 am

I love thrifting…..I used to go all the time with my grandmother as a child. Since I’ve discovered to thrift shops in my neighborhood, I take my daughter with me and we look for cool stuff for my parties & props.


8 Jill July 19, 2013 at 12:28 am

Monday and Tuesday rock for thrifting in our community because people take their leftovers to our local charity thrift stores after weekend yard sales and cleaning frenzies. I love the future home owners earning equity at the Restore. I know you pass an encouraging word their way. Also have you checked out your local library book sale for awesome books and exciting prints? Love your inspirational ideas and thoughts!


9 breida @ July 19, 2013 at 1:07 am

Hey there!
You are going to Haven, right? I’ll see you in a couple weeks?
Here is my question. . . with all that thrift shopping – how do you keep from ending up with too much stuff?? I’m not trying to be cute – I’m dead serious. I’ve been collecting for quite a few years now. . . and I’ve got about as much “stuff” as I can handle. . . I don’t really have room for any new pieces. . .


10 Diane Henkler July 19, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Hi Breida – Yes I am going to Haven. Looking forward to it and seeing you again :)

Even though I go to the thrift store a lot, I do not have a lot of “stuff” around my house. I can’t live with clutter and many of my surfaces, tables, etc are left empty. I used to collect things and had them all around the house until one day it dawned on me – that Life is too short to be the caretaker of the wrong details. From that moment on I streamlined my decor. I only buy what I need or absolutely love. I have two collections – matchbooks and white dishes. The rest went to auction when I purged everything. Some of it – china and tea things – my youngest wanted. It is boxed up with her stuff in my basement for when she moves into a new place in January.

I should add one more tip in the post that states – for every thing I bring into the house – one thing or more has to go out. Since I have edited like this, I have found the things that I keep – I really, really love. Editing my stuff has helped me pinpoint my style, too. I keep a box in the back of my car that I put the unwanted stuff in so when I go to the thrift store I drop the contents off. It is fun sometimes to see stuff that was once mine on the shelves.

See ya in less than 2 weeks :)


11 Beth July 19, 2013 at 8:47 am

Thanks for the tips….I am notorious for passing by something that is in my eyes ugly. next time, I will take a second look before a cast judgement!


12 Rosemary Ford July 19, 2013 at 9:44 am

I love Thrift stores & have gotten many good deals & projects to work on but lost them all during Hurricane Sandy. Time to start again & also hitting Estate & garage sales. Love your website!!!


13 Sheryll & Critters. July 19, 2013 at 9:55 am

We have not had anything in my area till recently and I have my mind set to go to the two I saw while coming home from HD a bit back.

I recommend to everyone to listen to you, because you are the best at seeing the potential in stuff that I sure would not have seen.

I still have a long list of ‘stuff’ I want to copy that you have done. Like that dresser in your guest room and that blue one with the fabulous pulls you made over and so many more….


14 Julie July 19, 2013 at 10:24 am

What a great post! Just have to add my recent find to inspire your readers. A month ago I spied a mid century wall sculpture in perfect condition that I snapped up for 60.00. It is a signed Curtis Jere selling online for over $5,000. I am sure I will never find such an item again!


15 Elizabeth July 19, 2013 at 10:31 am

Did you buy the dresser/buffet under tip #1? That is exactly like what I am looking for to use a buffet/sideboard. If you didn’t buy it, did you take the picture recently? I live in Maryland and could possibly get there this weekend if there is a chance it is still available.


16 Elizabeth July 19, 2013 at 10:49 am

That should have said the sideboard pictured ABOVE tip #1


17 Diane Henkler July 19, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Hi Elizabeth – I loved the sideboard – great size and in good condition. It was $90. The inside was a bit dried out, but easily cleaned up. I took the photos on Wednesday. Here is the phone number to the store so you can find out if it is still there. 215-822-2708


18 Angie S July 19, 2013 at 11:06 am

This is a GREAT post as it really shows that simple effort can pay off big time! As for the big basket – I would guess a blanket holder (aka cat bed!) or for newspapers and magazines? Looking forward to learning the outcome!


19 Cindy July 19, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Hi- I just came across your post via Mrs. Heines Class… I really enjoyed your thoughts on thrifting. I do like to thrift though I don’t always have the vision for what something can become…but I still love to go! My daughter actually manages a thrift store that supports a Christian based recovery program. I think I’ll talk to her about editing…not her strength :) I’m guessing your basket might be for guest towels in the bathroom??


20 Nicole July 19, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Have you ever given something to the thrift store and then repurchased it at a later time :). I enjoy your blog – I ran across it a few months ago and forgot to bookmark it and couldn’t remember what it was called. I found you again today through the painter’s tape series. Yeah!


21 Diane Henkler July 19, 2013 at 5:33 pm

HI Nicole – I have not repurchased any of the stuff I donated, but I do smile when I see them turn up on the shelves :) Thanks for finding me again. The painters series has brought me a lot of new readers. It was a great promotion to be a part of. XO


22 melinda ke July 19, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Diane, I’m jealous that your locations have such a good selection and low prices! From the photos the aisles look clean and organized, too! Every now and then I come across a gem at a great price, but lately the thrift stores here have really upped their prices and a lot of the items are heavily damaged with broken pieces that are beyond my skills of filling and refinishing. Great post, I love seeing how you update your thrift store finds. :)


23 Nana Diana July 19, 2013 at 4:29 pm

What a great post- I, too, can see the potential in most things. I see that you do not purchase pillows at thrift stores. I don’t either and I don’t know why but I have an aversion to them fro some reason. I edit constantly, too. That’s what “saves” me! xo Diana


24 Mary Alice July 19, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Don’t over look buying pillows at the thrift store – if they are down filled. If they are down filled, you’ll be able to remove the down pillow insert from the cover and wash it. Then use this down insert to fill another pillow sham/cover. If you’ve ever priced down pillow inserts, you’ll see what a bargain this is. And since it is machine washable, it perfectly sanitary.


25 Diane Henkler July 20, 2013 at 10:50 am

Hi Mary Alice – thanks for sharing the tip on the down pillows. I never thought about that. You are right – down is expensive – I will have to update my pillow buying strategy from now on.


26 Vikki July 19, 2013 at 9:20 pm

Diane…Love all of your uber cool thrift store finds. My daughter is moving from her very small 1 br apt to a much larger 2br apt and will need some inexpensive furniture, etc. I’m looking forward to hitting Salvation Army and Goodwill to see what I can find. If I need help with my “vision” I will post a picture and beg you to offer suggestions. Yours is one of my best loved blogs. Thanks for all the inspiration. Vikki in VA.


27 Shannon at Madigan Made July 20, 2013 at 6:56 am

Great tips, Diane! It makes me want to hit up 2nd Ave this week! That vase and basket are great finds! Hope you are staying cool this weekend (a thrift store is a great way!)


28 janae July 23, 2013 at 8:22 am

I get it – TOTALLY…it is about the thrill of the hunt for me too!!! LOVE all your examples!!


29 Terri J July 24, 2013 at 10:16 pm

I have decided to downsize from a house to an apartment. After reading this blog though, I am rethinking what to sell and what I can transform into another useful item in my new place – yet to be found. You always give the best advice, show how to repurpose an item just right. I am so glad I found you, and even shared this one on FB.


30 Cindy July 25, 2013 at 7:28 am

I just discovered we have a 2nd Avenue about 30 min from where I live! I’m always looking for new places to thrift so will visit there very soon.


31 Laurel Stephens July 26, 2013 at 9:35 pm

I think your thrift store shopping advice is going to be very valuable for me. I’ve made so many mistakes, and sometimes things I buy turn right around and go back the very next day! I also shared your post on my Friday Finds today. Thanks so much, and have a great weekend!


32 Jennifer August 14, 2013 at 10:27 am

Hello. I clicked on your pin from CleanMama and ended up spending quite a bit of time on your site. I’m hooked. I am wondering what your opinion is about something. You made a good point in this post about how buying from thrift stores, even though you are not poor, helps out the organizations that run them and the communities they serve. How do you feel about buying from thrift stores and remodeling things to sell? I am trying to quit my full time job soon to be a SAHM but will need to try to supplement my husband’s income. I love doing reupholstery, painting, crafting, making old things look new. I have been encouraged to resale some of my projects, and I have sold a few things. I’m curious to know what you and some others might think about the practice of thrifting, remodeling and selling.


33 Diane Henkler August 14, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Hi Jennifer – I say go for it. You paid for the items and the charity was benefited. I think it is a great idea and know many in my area who sell what they buy and make over. Once you get your business up and running, you can donate back something you transformed to the store. They could then sell it for a lot more and you will be giving back in a nice way. On the business side of things, doing this will also help get your name and skills out to the public. I know from my experience if you can reupholster, you can get a lot of business. Best of luck with it. It will be nice to be a SAHM. I was for 20 years and enjoyed being home with my daughters.


34 marcia inman August 25, 2013 at 5:05 pm

love baskets and always looking for unique ways to remake them


35 Marcia Buroker December 6, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Came across your blog on Pinterest and will be following! I go to Goodwill every weekend (there are 2 in the town where my dad lives) and 2 Habitat ReStores nearby. The funny thing is when we moved in our house 3 years ago, I bought mostly new furniture…now it’s being replaced with OLDER, repurposed, much better quality furniture! I do find some things I resell, but mostly it’s just a first time home owner having a great time decorating her home with creative and thrifty decor! Thanks for a great blog!


36 Wanda December 24, 2013 at 10:27 pm

I too love doing DIY stuff
Love what u do


37 Sarah January 26, 2014 at 6:19 pm

I just found your blog. I love all your thrift store finds. Like you, I also am constantly checking my local thrift store for items I can redo!


38 Noreen Steding March 23, 2014 at 10:58 pm

Everything is fabulous! Thanks!


39 Jayne March 31, 2014 at 4:57 pm

I love to find things for my house at the thrift store! So many bargains, and if no one asks, they never know you didn’t spend a fortune. I have to admit, I did buy an upholstered chair at the thrift store and am excited about fixing it and recovering it. Love all your find! Thanks for sharing them and the tips.


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