There’s nothing more cathartic than wandering around a thrift shop aimlessly. No list or purpose, just meandering to see if something interesting pops up. I usually come home with one weird and wonderful piece. I then joyfully move my treasure around from room to room for weeks until I find the perfect spot. Leisurely thrift shopping is a hobby. Practical thrift shopping is a skill.
In the vast array of bins, shelves, and racks it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I’ve learned many lessons in thrifting décor throughout the years. For practical purposes, there are some things that I’m always keeping an eye out for. These gems will save you a ton of money and are often better quality than buying from a big box store.
Pull up a chair and let me share….
In my fancier days, I’ve splurged on beautiful high-quality wine glasses. While I love the sophistication of a delicate glass, let’s be honest, they break by just looking at them. I keep a small collection of adult glasses for dinner parties, but for a casual drink, thrifted glasses are perfect.
The key is to find glasses that are thicker and heavy. I really enjoy an etched glass wine glass because they’re eclectic and solid as hell. There’s a charm to the look of a tablescape set with etched wine glasses. Like your Grandma is throwing a shindig and there’s casserole and chardonnay for everyone!
If you’re dedicated to a thinner glass, I see you, keep an eye out for crystal. Sometimes you get lucky. If you can snag a set, wonderful. If not, mismatched can look cool too.
Décor & Art books
If you like to change up your décor often, I highly recommend collecting décor and art books. These little treasure chests are full of inspiration for your next refresh. Art, architecture, floral, and even beautiful cookbooks can offer new and interesting ideas. I’ve bought many over the years and often pull them off the shelves. My kids love flipping through them to look at the big colorful pictures too.
Older books can indeed feel a bit tired, but many are timeless. You’ll know as soon as you flip through them.
Framing is super expensive, and there’s no shortage of framed art available in thrift stores. Most frames are left behind because the colour or finish on the frames are dated. You can easily fix that problem of with a bit of paint from the hardware store. If the finish is weird, talk to the paint person at the store. They’re sure to have a solution for you.
I don’t recommend storing small frames if you don’t need them, simply because they’re easy to pick up when you do. The big, high-quality, frames however are worth it. By ‘quality’ I mean frames that are solid structures and made from a solid material like wood.
Vintage Quilts & Rugs
These babies are the holy grail for décor thrifters. Its rare, but I’ve found them in small shops in smaller towns.
Rugs must to be top quality to stand up to wear and tear. The best are made of a natural material, and they can often be expensive. Wool rugs are amazing because they’re soft, easy to clean, and super durable. I’ve inherited two wool rugs that are over 20 years old and they’re still in perfect condition. You can even put a wool rug outside! They’ll fade but will stay in good condition.
Alternative synthetic rugs don’t hold up in high traffic areas, and cleaning them is a pain. There’s a lot of information out there about the eco-friendliness of rugs. That’s for another post, but buying a rug made of natural material vs synthetic is a good start.
If you find a natural fiber second hand rug that you like – buy buy buy!
A hand-made quilt can add boatloads of charm to a room. A sweet little quilt on top of a duvet or layered with thinner blankets makes the whole room more interesting. I’m completely fascinated by the craftsmanship of handmade quilts as well. The quilting is as unique as handwriting. As if the maker wrote you a letter, in décor.
If you’re a bit weirded out by secondhand bedding, you can also hang them on the wall to make an eclectic art piece. This can look very cool above a bed or dresser in a bedroom.
Once I discovered thrifted curtains I vowed to never go back. If I had the budget I would choose custom curtains in every room every time, but until that day comes, I’m loving the thrifted option. There are endless options available, and mostly in great condition. The key here is that they must, and I repeat, must, be the right length for your window. This means that you might need to hem. If you don’t sew, you can take them to a regular tailor who can take them up for very little money. The only exception would be if they’re intentionally long which is a whole different story. In that case the right length is the wrong length. You know what I mean.
If you find beautiful curtains but don’t need them right now, still buy them! When a room needs a refresh, you’ll be happy to have them. As with everything in the thrifting world, make sure to wash them well as soon as you bring them home.
I would absolutely love to hear about your favorite thrift finds. What am I missing? What do you get super excited about? I need to know!
Thanks for reading,