30 Best Home Decor Items to Buy at Thrift Stores

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. 

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.

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. 

thrifted home decor on a table with thrifted framed art

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. 
thrift store mirrors and art

30 Best Home Decor Items to Buy at Thrift Stores

1. Lamps

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.

Tutorial: Cordless DIY Mini Lamp Using a Thrifted Terracotta Vase

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. 

Guide: Rub n Buff Colors Tried & Tested: Color Guide & Tutorial

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.

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.

Tutorial:  DIY Easy Art for Beginners 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. 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.

Tutorial: Mirror Gallery Wall Using Thrifted Frames

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.

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.

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.

Tutorial: How to Make Texture Paint Using Baking Soda for Endless Decor Crafts

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

7. Trays

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.

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. 

Tutorial: DIY Hobnail Vase

what to buy at the thrift store : vase
what to buy at the thrift store : vase

9. Pitchers

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. 

thrifting must have : pitcher

10. Suitcases

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. 

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 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. 

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 of vintage dishes still in good condition.

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 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. 

thrifted coffee table before
ottoman made from a coffee table from the thrift store
faux marble coffee table makeover

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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. 

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 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. 

things to buy while thrift shopping : buckets and baskets pictured on outdoor bar

16. Baskets

“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

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. 

Tutorial: 3 Items You Can Repurpose Into DIY Throw Pillows

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. 

Tutorial: DIY Candle from a Thrifted Brass Canister

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.

Tutorial: DIY Designer Knock-Off Textile Art from a Recycled Rug

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.

Tutorial: Christmas Wall Decor: Sheet Music Art Gallery Wall

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.

Tutorial: How to Clean Wood Furniture to Make It Look New

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.

Tutorial: Beginner’s Guide to Painting Furniture

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

Tutorial: DIY Retrofitted Dining Table Top

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. 

Tutorial: DIY Cutting Boards Made from Scrap Wood

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! A DIY wreath.

Tutorial: DIY Eucalyptus & Feather 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. 

Guide: 36 Thrifty Christmas Decorating Ideas

christmas tree

29. Candlesticks

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. 

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

30. 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. 

Tutorial: Cheap DIY Thanksgiving Centerpiece Idea With Common Thrifted Finds

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 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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! ????