30 of the most common items to buy while thrift shopping that can be transformed into home decor using a few simple changes.
After a decade of scouring thrift shops for home decor and furniture, I’ve noticed a trend in the typical common staples, the other-man’s-junk-taken-for-granted kind.
Why Decor Shopping at Thrift Stores is Worth It
Great news: thriftcore is on the rise. Believe it or not, thrift aesthetic is an actual decorating style filled with character and one-of-a-kind looks.
In the beginning of my marriage as a stay-at-home mom, I shopped at the local thrift store as a great place to find furniture for painting and reselling to help us pay bills when funds were tight.
Over time, it turned into something less of necessity and more about the thrill of the scavenger hunt for unique pieces that were a great deal.
When I was looking around our house the other day (okay, actually cleaning up a billion LEGOs) thinking about how much of our furniture and wall decor and accents and kitchenware were just a couple of bucks at the local thrift shop, I thought maybe it would be helpful to compile a big list of the best home decor items to look for to find the greatest potential for your home on the cheap, if thrifting doesn’t come easily for you.
It’s a great way to give secondhand items new life and create a beautiful home for the fraction of the cost of decor from a big box store.
How to Find the Best Decor and Furniture to Flip at Thrift Stores
- Visit thrift stores often – especially on weekdays 9-5 while most people are at work so thrifted items are less picked over (a quick run in on your lunch break is a good chance to check thrift store inventory)
- Keep a “Be on the Lookout” list – jot down a few items you need at the moment and keep them in the notepad on your phone so you have some guidance on what to look for
- Get to know the best shopping times at your local store – the more you shop, the more you’ll come to notice a pattern for the best times and days to shop your thrift store. Each store is different and it can be difficult to predict unless you visit often.
- Keep an open mind – Remember that most items can be easily painted so color doesn’t always matter. Think outside the box for things you can repurpose.
- Check online thrift stores – Did you know you can shop many vintage treasures at affordable prices from Goodwill online? It’s usually more expensive than in stores, but it usually has good stuff at still a pretty good deal.
30 Best Home Decor Items to Buy at Thrift Stores
Lamps are some of the easiest home decor items to transform with just a fresh coat of paint.
You can even add texture using this baking soda paint method.
I transformed this table lamp in this bedroom makeover by just applying a coat of flat black spray paint followed by a coat of Rustoleum metallic gold spray paint.
Unique lamps are a great way to reflect you personal style.
2. Light Fixtures
You can chalk paint or spray paint just about any ceiling light fixture or chandelier, including this DIY light fixture makeover using Rub n Buff and a frosted glass spray paint technique.
3. Picture Frames
Picture frames are one of the best decor items to buy at thrift stores, and they’re always in abundance!
Even if a frame has a piece of art in it that isn’t your style, remove it and put in your own.
It’s still way cheaper than buying a frame brand new.
Change the look with a little paint or leave it as-is. And if it’s a little rough, wood filler can patch it right up.
Collect different shapes and sizes to create an eclectic gallery wall. Get creative and even attempt your own art.
There never fails to be at least a couple of mirrors in the thrift store every time I shop. It’s one of the best places to find unique items in a low price range.
Check flea markets for old mirrors or old windows you can repurpose as mirrors too.
Paint the frame or leave it or collect a mix of them. Rub n Buff can work wonders on mirror frames to give them an antique look.
5. Christmas Villages
All white Christmas villages and Putz houses have become a trend in Christmas decor.
Just take an old, cheap set from the thrift store and give it a couple of coats of white spray paint.
Use them in centerpieces in your dining room or on buffet tops or on your mantel.
Figurines are great for spray painting or adding concrete-look craft paint to use as accents in vignettes.
Attach them to wooden blocks, and they can become unique book-ends.
I constantly see good quality trays at the thrift store, even though they’re usually dated or have crazy colors.
It’s usually nothing spray paint can’t fix.
They’re a great option for setting on coffee tables (for holding TV remotes and books) or centerpieces or using for good ol’ breakfast in bed.
If you keep your eyes peeled, you can usually find a few vintage vases while thrifting.
Get creative with ways you can transform them like this DIY hobnail vase using spray paint and half beads.
Tutorial: DIY Hobnail Vase
Pitchers are the best things because they can serve double duty as vases or for use in the kitchen.
I use mine as a watering can on plant watering day.
Every now and then, you can find a really cool, old suitcase.
It’s a great piece because it can add interest to a room but also make great storage. We keep special family photographs in ours.
I love using a vintage suitcase at Christmas to create a storybook Advent calendar for my kids too.
The thrift store I visit usually charges 50 cents for paperbacks and $1.00 for hardbacks.
Two or three vintage books are always good to use as decor risers… but I usually keep my eye out for ones I’ll actually read too.
I’ve scored several coffee table books in the book section at thrift stores too.
I found a set of simple white coffee mugs at the thrift store several years ago, and they’re still my favorite ever, especially for having company over in the cold months when we brew a big pot of coffee.
You can sometimes find matching sets of vintage dishes still in good condition.
White is always versatile, but collecting an eclectic mix of vintage patterns can be fun too.
13. Coffee Tables
Coffee tables are the best items for DIY projects because you don’t have to worry about broken drawers like dressers have sometimes.
And extra good news is you don’t have to be as concerned about bed bugs that might be lurking in upholstered furniture.
This DIY faux marble coffee table was the perfect piece to create from a thrifted table. If you want an ottoman instead, use a coffee table as the base to make one.
14. End Tables
An end table is an amazing find for the same reason. And you can create all kinds of fun ideas by playing with stencil patterns like on these faux inlay nesting tables.
If you find nesting tables, that’s an even bigger score since they can add extra function in a living room.
There are always baskets at the thrift store every time I visit for half the price of ones in antique stores.
We like storing throw blankets, toys, shoes, and whatever other odds and ends throughout the house in baskets.
I incorporated several thrift store baskets and buckets on this makeshift outdoor bar made from a potting bench.
“Santa Claus” shops at the thrift store fairly often around here.
We’ve found a play kitchen, a doll stroller, and even did a thrifted dollhouse makeover.
Tutorial: DIY Dollhouse Thrifted Makeover
17. Table Linens
They typically need a good run through the washing machine and ironing, but there are often cute table runners and placemats at the thrift store, if you’re willing to dig for them.
Think outside the box to repurpose them too like throw pillows made from napkins and placemats.
18. Jars and Canisters
I always keep a lookout for unique cups, canisters, tins, jars, candy dishes, anything that would work well as vessels for DIY candles.
If you have any half-used candles lying around, you can melt down the wax to create entirely new candles out of the canisters without spending much on supplies.
They’re great for craft supply storage too.
19. Old Rugs
Sometimes, a great vintage rug will come along at the thrift store.
They’re great to clean up with some Folex and use anywhere or repurpose damaged rugs by making this DIY textile art.
20. Old Calendars or Sheet Music
Anything that has interesting pages in it can be framed and turned into art!
I took old sheet music and turned it into a Christmas gallery wall in our entryway.
Every single thrift store I visit always has a headboard somewhere.
Clean it up to use as it or you can repurpose it into a bench, sign, or porch swing.
It’s challenging to find a dresser that has all drawers functioning, but when you do, they are the easiest to transform with just a pint of acrylic paint and new hardware.
Tutorial: Beginner’s Guide to Painting Furniture
If you need a home office or homework station in a jif, thrift stores constantly have desks available.
This writing desk makeover was so quick and easy to finish for our guest bedroom.
24. Cigar Boxes
These are one of my favorite things for painting or covering with fabric or contact paper for handy storage on tabletops.
Cigar boxes make the BEST remote control holders on coffee tables.
25. Dining Tables
If you find a solid wood dining table, you’re in luck! Because usually all it needs is a good sanding and some tung oil.
Once it’s cured for 30 days, apply a couple coats of polyurethane for longevity.
This is still one of my favorite ways to finish a wood dining table.
Tutorial: DIY Retrofitted Dining Table Top
26. Cutting Boards
If you love the look of a rustic kitchen, cutting boards are perfect for finding in thrift stores.
Sand them smooth, apply some food grade mineral oil, and you’ve got a beautifully weathered and ready to use cutting board.
Tutorial: DIY Cutting Boards Made from Scrap Wood
A lot of times, you can find a scraggly wreath that needs some love at the thrift store.
Cut blooms and leaves off of any other artificial stems you may already have and hot glue them into the existing frame of the wreath. Add some ribbon, and voila! A DIY wreath.
Tutorial: DIY Eucalyptus & Feather Wreath
28. Seasonal Decor
Keep your eyes peeled for holiday decor in their off-season.
A lot of times, I’ll see a Christmas tree in the thrift store in the middle of summer because someone happened to clean out their attic at that time.
Be flexible with your timing, and jumping on the opportunity will pay off when that holiday rolls back around.
Candle holders just add a little romance to any space.
And if you don’t love the color, spray paint or Rub n Buff will fix them right up.
I’ve found so many pretty platters and serving bowls at thrift stores, that I cut myself off from buying it.
The best part is a mixture of different vintage pieces create a beautifully eclectic tablescape.
There are way more common thrift store finds that I’m forgetting about, I’m sure, but those 30 are my favorites.
Do you have any others that you constantly score? Or thrift shopping tricks you’ve discovered on your own?