30 Home Decor Items You Should Always Buy While Thrift Shopping

A round-up of 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 stores for home decor and furniture, I’ve noticed a trend in the typical common staples, the other-man’s-junk-taken-for-granted kind. 

In the beginning of my marriage as a stay-at-home mom, I shopped at the local thrift store to find furniture to paint and resell 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. 

So 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 fun to compile a big list of the best items to look for to find the greatest potential for your home on the cheap, if thrifting doesn’t come easily for you. 

But first, a few tips…

A round-up of 30 of the most common items to buy while thrift shopping that can be transformed into home decor using a few simple changes.

Thrift Shopping Tips for the Best Finds

  • Visit thrift stores often – especially on weekdays 9-5 while most people are at work so it’s less picked over (a quick run in on your lunch break is a good time 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. 

30 Home Decor Items You Should Always Buy While Thrift Shopping:

1. Lamps

They’re some of the easiest home decor items to paint, and 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. 
lamp makeover using brass spray paint

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. 
thrifted light fixture
thrifted light fixture painted with Rub n Buff and frosted glass spray paint

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. Paint it 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 DIY scenic painting using a thrifted frame

thrifted picture frame
thrifted picture frame turned into a painting

4. Mirrors

There never fails to be at least a couple of mirrors in the thrift store every time I shop. Paint the frame or leave it or collect a mix of them to create a gallery wall. Rub n Buff can work wonders on mirror frames to give them an antique look.
must-have thrift store staple : old mirrors
mirrors found while thrift shopping turned into a gallery wall

5. Christmas Villages

All white Christmas villages and Putz houses have become a trend in Christmas decor lately. 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 or on buffet tops or on your mantel.
must-have thrift store staple : old Christmas villages
must-have thrift store staple : old Christmas villages

6. Figurines

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.
must-have thrift store staple : ceramic and porcelain figurines
must-have thrift store staple : old ceramic and porcelain figurines

7. Trays

I constantly see 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 so versatile for setting on coffee tables (for holding TV remotes and books) or centerpieces or using for good ol’ breakfast in bed.
thrifted tray
must-have thrift store staple : old trays

8. Vases

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. You can also attempt this ombre spray paint effect, or marble effect using nail polish. 
what to buy at the thrift store : vase
what to buy at the thrift store : vase

9. Pitchers

Pitchers are great 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. 
thrifting must have : pitcher

10. Suitcases

Every now and then, you can find a really cool, old suitcase. They 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. 
must-have thrift store staple : old suitcases
secondhand suitcase used as a storybook Christmas advent calendar

11. Books

The thrift store I visit usually charges 50 cents for paperbacks and $1.00 for hardbacks. Two or three 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 at thrift stores too. 
must-have thrifting staple : old books

12. Dishes

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, and white is always versatile, but collecting an eclectic mix of vintage patterns can be fun too.
must-have thrifting staple : old dishware

13. Coffee tables

Coffee tables are so easy to transform because you don’t have to worry about broken drawers like dressers have sometimes, and you don’t have to be concerned about bed bugs that might be lurking in upholstered furniture. This DIY faux marble coffee table is one of my favorite ways to transform a table. If you want an ottoman instead, use a coffee table as the base to make one. 
thrifted coffee table before
ottoman made from a coffee table from the thrift store
faux marble coffee table makeover

14. End tables

End tables are great too for the same reason. And you can have all kinds of fun by playing with stencil patterns like on these faux inlay nesting tables.  
thrifting must have : end tables
thrift shopping must have : old end tables

15. Baskets

There are always baskets at the thrift store every time I visit. 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. 
things to buy while thrift shopping : buckets and baskets pictured on outdoor bar

16. Toys

“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.

things to buy while thrift shopping : old dollhouses
thrifted dollhouse 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. 
must-have thrift store staple : old table linens
buy rugs, napkins, and tea towels while thrift shopping for repurposed pillows pillow made from thrifted tea towels pillow made from thrifted napkins

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. 
antique canister found while thrift shopping
DIY candle made from a thrifted canister

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.
old rug
textile art made from an old rug

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.
thrifted sheet music book
gallery wall made from a thrifted sheet music book

21. Headboards

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. 
headboard found thrift shopping
thrifted headboard in guest bedroom

22. Dressers

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. Find tons of furniture painting tips here. 
painted dresser

23. Desks

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. 
writing desk found while thrift shopping
writing desk found while thrift shopping

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. 
remote control holder made from a thrifted cigar box
remote control holder made from a thrifted cigar box

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
Or if a table you love isn’t made of solid wood, build a retrofitted table top to go on top of the base. 
dining table found while thrift shopping
painted dining table found while thrift shopping
thrift store dining table

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. 

DIY cutting boards made from scrap wood

27. Wreaths

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! DIY wreath
thrifted 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. 
christmas tree

29. Candlesticks

They 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. 
candle holders found while thrift shopping
thrift store home decor featuring candle holders and decorative boxes

30. Dishes and Servingware

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. 
thanksgiving table using secondhand thrift store dishes
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?

Frequently Asked Questions

What should you not buy at thrift stores?

Stay away from stuffed animals, car seats, dated baby gear, computers, pet furniture, mattresses, upholstered headboards, vacuums, bedding, or cribs.

What thrift store items resell best for profit?

If you’re looking to make a profit flipping thrift store items, you can sell on eBay, Etsy, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace to help your family earn a little extra income. The best thrift store items to resell are furniture, books, frames, name brand clothing, vinyl albums, LEGO, name-brand clothing, vintage video game console, stereos, and cameras.

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  1. I love flatware, especially tiny forks and knives! Then when our kids come I use them to hold lemon wedges on their salad plates or across the back of their bread plate with a big pat of butter! It’s a family joke as to what utensils are next! Love your style, words, ideas, all!

  2. I look for pet food and water bowls in cute colors and patterns that coordinate with our house colors. I would much rather pay $0.50 for a bowl that I can easily replace than $8-$10 for a brand new pet dish, and single bowls are super easy to find.

    1. It’s actually part of our furniture set that we bought on clearance from a local furniture store. I suggest Home Goods, World Market, IKEA or a thrift store. With the thrift store find or IKEA, you could paint it or add some overlays like the dresser I just did, and really have some fun!

  3. Hi Lauren, I am new to thrifting but I have had soooooo much fun! I started in January after making the only New Year’s promise I have ever kept, to create more storage and to make it attractive. You really nailed it on your list, but there are a couple of other must haves that have proven to be so useful in my goal.
    Mason Jars-I have redone my entire pantry with mason jars, other assorted glass and wicker bins
    Wall shelves-I have 2″-6″ deep and 14″-36″ wide. Once I painted them from their standard white, brown or black, they are lovely additions to several rooms! (By the way, really look at the shelf, not its color! One was a pressed tin shelf someone painted hot pink. I spray painted it copper and it is in my kitchen and looks fabulous!)
    Chests-You can usually get them for $10-$30 and they are so useful! I have a wicker chest at the bottom of my pantry for boxes that I didn’t want to display, one at the foot of my bed that holds bedding and scrap fabric,curtains, etc. and one that is a lane cedar chest that I painted and put ball feet on and upholstered the top to create a storage and seating near front door.
    Flowers-I buy stems, bundles, greenery, seasonal, etc. as I see them, it doesn’t matter what color or size, but I buy what appeals. I put them in a large storage bin (I also bought thrifting, of course!) When I’m ready to change up my arrangements, I just open the bin and have fun
    I know I’m wordy, but I get so excited with all my finds, its hard not to share!

  4. Some stunning ideas and I like how you showed what to do with the finds! I also look for “supplies” such as fabric offcuts, wool and thread, buttons and beads, wood curtain rings, old candles that can be melted and remoulded, jewellery to repurpose, even half-tins of wax or paint. You can also find vintage kitchen items (scale, jug-sieve etc), storage jars, and garden pretties like pots, stands or frames. Old calendars or books often have illustrations that can be framed for instant art, or transferred to wood or fabric.

    1. I love to find shelves and hooks at thrift stores. If you are a veteran thrift store shopper as I am, you can never have too many to display all the great buys we find. Just yesterday I found a great set of cuisinart square .stoneware With 2 luncheon plates, 2 coffee.cups and 2 bowls it is perfect for my husband and I. He likes thrifting too.

  5. Great post! A very comprehensive and familiar list! As I read through it, drinking my morning coffee out of a thrift store mug, I could identify most all items on the list, in my own house! A fun way to start the day! I would add bone china tea cups to my personal list. Another fun thing about thrift store shopping for me is finding a “treasure” for friends or family. It might be a piece that matches their dish set, a mug from their alma mater, or something I know they have been on the lookout for!

    Speaking of the wonders of spray paint, I just used a flat, granite grey color spray paint on a faded resin Celtic cross in my garden. It really perked it up, came out great! Thanks for all your tips and inspiration and fun reads!

  6. Thanks do much for sharing great ideas to make something better out of thrift store bargains. And for sharing best bargains at thrift stores. Our thrift stores here tend to way over price the best goodies but Grand Junction hikes up prices on everything.. Grand Junction has highest prices on medical services in all of CO, was written in paper and on tv news.

    But I keep going to Habitat and Goodwill in hopes of finding that special bargain.
    Happy week

  7. This may fall under dishes, but: Teacups. I use them to hold succulents, make candles, hanging decorations for the garden, or just to add some variety in my china hutch.

  8. These are great ideas. I’m wondering if you would happen to have a list of book titles to look for. I love decorating with books, but I like them to be ones I want to read.

    1. Oh gosh that’s tough! I was an English teacher, so I’m a sucker for the classics. I have a complete works of Shakespeare that I love, and I have a complete works of Edgar Allan Poe that I like to display around Halloween. We have a complete C.S. Lewis collection too that we enjoy.

  9. You really hit the nail on the head with this post! I always look for blue and white porcelain, specifically ginger jars! Another unique staple for me during this season in my life is mismatched vintage china. It will be a special touch at our wedding reception, and at about half the cost of rentals, super budget friendly!

  10. I just LOVE how you display your collected treasures! I am so inspired. Thrifting is fun, fun, fun. My only problem……is that I have an excess of stuff. Either my focus on what to have in my house has changed or I realized that some things that I acquired through the years are probably of no interest to my children and I now need a healthy spurge. I sometimes dream of having a cottage somewhere just to fill it and decorate it! I appreciate your creativity . <3

  11. Great ideas! I just can’t locate any good thrift stores since I relocated. I’m on the hunt though. Thanks

    1. We’re really limited in our area and I’ve only really had success at Habitat Restore and Goodwill. There is one smaller one called Pawsibilities thrift store that benefits the Humane Society that I try to visit every so often too, but I don’t have quite as much success there.

  12. I have SO MANY of these “before” items in my basement! Thank you for inspiring me to do them over before I send them to the the thrift store!

  13. Down pillows! I just toss them in the washer with a bit of bleach or vinegar ( & soap). Dry in dryer with several tennis balls & they come out like new. If you don’t like the cover, pitch it – easy to replace, & much cheaper than buying a “ new” down toss pillow. Usually find them for $2-4.

  14. This is just a general comment on you and all you do. Besides being so creative and speaking to my aesthetic soul…you are one funny gal. Your sense of humor is refreshing, entertaining, and so much like my approach to life, home, and family. Luv you and thanks for brightening my day! ????

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