Obsolete to Neat! Thrift Store Home Decor Hacks

Kaitlyn Pacheco
Written by Kaitlyn Pacheco
Updated April 19, 2022
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Style your home and save money—ways to refresh and repurpose secondhand decor

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They say that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, and thrift shopping definitely embraces this philosophy. While hunting for secondhand items may not initially sound appealing, many people enjoy the thrill of finding unique items for a bargain, especially home decor. 

What if you could makeover your entire living room without breaking the bank? Thrift stores help you do just that. Most items in them are typically priced at a fraction of what they’d be in retailers.

Also, now that decorating with vintage and antique items is all the rage, especially with maximalist decor and other trendy interior designs, there’s no better time to try it. 

So, if you’re reconsidering thrift stores, here’s everything you need to know (plus cool ideas for upcycling home decor finds).

Thrifting 101: How to Shop for Secondhand Items

woman shopping in thrift store
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Before diving into fundamentals, let’s first eradicate common misconceptions about thrifting. 

To start, it’s not dumpster diving. Thrift stores collect and resell items they deem valuable and in good condition. Due to the whopping 92 million tons of clothes-related waste discarded every year, thrifting is sustainable and environmentally friendly. 

In addition to reducing our carbon footprint, thrifting is very budget-friendly. Thrift stores often sell items for less than half their original value, giving you a bang for your buck if you find something you love. 

There’s always an opportunity to discover unique finds while thrifting, encouraging you to think outside the box and embrace creativity. Best of all, many thrift stores support charities and causes, to which you can contribute.

Now that you’re familiar with the thrifting mindset and benefits, here are a few nuggets of wisdom to consider while you shop.

Tip 1: Keep an Open Mind

Understanding that people typically purge their homes of their timeworn belongings, it’s normal to find items in thrift stores that are chipped, ripped, and scratched. 

Fortunately, a few stitches or a fresh coat of paint can transform almost anything from drab to fab. If you love a good DIY project, this is right up your alley.

Tip 2: Get Familiar With the Inventory

wooden chairs and tables in thrift store
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Depending on where you live or the theme of the store, you may discover that one shop may have more of one type of inventory than another one. 

For example, while there are large chain thrift stores that carry clearance items from popular retailers, a family-owned thrift store or consignment shop may only carry vintage furniture and clothes.

Tip 3: Go Often

Many of the larger chain thrift stores have fast turnover and rotate their stock frequently. So, if nothing caught your eye during the first visit, you may run into a one-of-a-kind item the next time.  

Tip 4: Know Items to Avoid

It’s important to note that certain secondhand items, no matter how well you clean them, are best left on the shelf. The following things can be hazardous to bring home due to the possibility of lead exposure, bug infestation, or faulty wiring: 

  • Old furniture with strong smells 

  • Vintage plug-in appliances 

  • Used mattresses and pillows

As for items with broken or missing pieces, use your best judgment. You can easily hire a local furniture repair specialist to fix a furniture piece, but an item with cracked glass may be unsafe. 

14 Home Decor Items Found in Thrift Stores 

You can find many neat furnishings and accessories while thrifting, making it possible to completely redecorate and furnish your home without breaking the bank.  Here are some common home decor items that are easy to use. 

1. Picture Frames

woman hanging up picture frames
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Picture frames are generally in abundance at thrift stores. The frame aisles also typically include framed pieces of artwork and photography, which you can use as-is or swap out to display personal photos.  

2. Mirrors

mirrors hanging on wall
Photo: ellenauer / Unsplash

In the same aisle as picture frames you may also find mirrors, another decorative element that can hang almost anywhere. Mirrors also make a room appear bigger and brighter. Strategically place one in a small room as a space-enhancing accent. 

3. Books

girl shopping for books
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Is there such a thing as too many books? Thrift stores have tons of them, mostly timeworn hardbacks. Decorating with books can easily add personality and style to a space. Bind books together as a design piece on a table or pair them with photos and figurines as eclectic vignettes.  

4. Vases

Thrift stores usually have plenty of vases, especially vintage ones. The best thing about vases is their versatility: for placing flowers, as an accent piece, as a candle holder, to fill with decorative elements, etc.

5. Tables

Coffee tables, end tables, dining tables—you name the type, thrift stores will have it. Even if they look too old or outdated, tables are easy to paint and refinish. 

6. Lamps

collection of different lamps in a store
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You’ll always find lamps of various shapes and sizes in a thrift store. Pair it with an armchair in the family den or atop a nightstand in a cozy guest bedroom. If you don’t like the lamp’s color, it’s easy to paint or swap out the lampshade.

7. Faux Plants

faux plant in a wooden vase
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Dreaming of a biophilic bedroom makeover but don’t have a green thumb? You’re in luck. It’s common to find a plethora of faux plant styles and sizes while thrifting. 

8. Rugs

Thrift stores are known for housing elegant and antique rugs for affordable prices. A nice Persian or Oriental area rug can spruce up any living space, adding comfort and texture to otherwise bare floors. 

Since thrifted antique rugs are most likely handmade of natural materials, consider hiring a professional rug cleaner in your area to clean it safely and effectively.

9. Dressers

antique cherry dresser
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Sometimes you can find relatively new dressers in thrift stores, such as those scuffed or chipped before making it to the department store. Grab one for a bargain price and strategically paint or angle it in a way to camouflage those marks! 

10. Candlesticks

woman lighting candlesticks
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Candlesticks are almost always on thrift store shelves and can add a rustic, romantic feel to any space. Place them atop a mantel as charming fireplace decor or on a dining table with greenery as a festive centerpiece. 

11. Ornaments

Speaking of festive moods, you’re also likely to come across unique holiday decor at your local thrift store. From vintage tree toppers to embroidered winter wreaths, these preowned ornaments just may bring that nostalgic feeling everyone loves during the holiday season.

12. Dishware

stack of bowls and plates
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Dishware is another highly stocked aisle in thrift stores. You can typically find both decorative and usable dishes there, including coffee mugs and tea sets.

13. Storage Items

shelves full of wicker baskets
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From baskets and crates to jars and vases, it’s easy to thrift various storage accessories. These can make great decorative statement pieces in a room as well as free up space from clutter.

14. Desks

Just like dressers, you can encounter fairly new desks in thrift stores, too. Thrifting for one, as well as other workspace essentials, can help you save money needed for home office upgrades, such as soundproofing costs.

Thrift Flip: Home Decor Upcycle Ideas

person painting antique wooden furniture
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There are occasions when you find something that you really like, but you can’t quite see how you’d incorporate it into your home. In these cases, try a thrift flip! 

Thrift flipping is when you upcycle, or revamp, a thrift purchase into something new. Below are a few home decor items you can repurpose for your space.

Ladder Towel Rack

An old ladder may be too weak to climb but just right for holding small, lightweight items. Lean it in a laundry corner or against a bathroom wall as a rustic-chic rack to hang your towels and other linens.
Photos: Timbicus / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images, ismagilov / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images (left to right)

An old ladder may be too weak to climb but just right for holding small, lightweight items. Lean it in a laundry corner or against a bathroom wall as a rustic-chic rack to hang your towels and other linens. 

Wine Bottle Lamps

chandelier made out of wine bottles
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More often than not, you can find old wine bottles in the glassware section of your local thrift store. You can easily repurpose these into custom DIY lamps. 

Using the wine bottle as the base, you can fill the bottles with fun decorative elements, such as marbles or sand, and purchase a bottle-lamp kit at your local hardware store that provides all of the bulb and lighting essentials for the top.

Rustic Dresser Makeover

If a vintage rustic dresser doesn’t fit your decor style, revamp it. Simply revive the old, dull color with a fresh coat of paint and polish. You can add a few houseplants or figurines on top as decor and aesthetic appeal.
Photos: Francesco Scatena / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images, Stefan Stanisavljevic / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images (left to right)

If a vintage rustic dresser doesn’t fit your decor style, revamp it. Simply revive the old, dull color with a fresh coat of paint and polish. You can add a few houseplants or figurines on top as decor and aesthetic appeal.

Decorative Sweater Pillow Cover

blue knit pillow case on couch
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Are you a pro at sewing? Consider transforming a sweater into a soft and fuzzy pillow cover. Use them on throw pillows to add texture and cozy accents to your couch or bed decor. 

Online Thrift Stores to Buy Home Decor

Of course, not everything you purchase secondhand is in store. In fact, many people who shop online are thrifting without realizing. Here are the top online stores where you can find preowned home decor in good quality.


This global online marketplace focuses on promoting vintage, unique handmade items and craft supplies. You can shop Etsy for home decor, furniture, art, gifts, and many other categories.


From collectibles and cars to clothes and electronics, eBay is also a global online marketplace. Many shoppers can purchase top-brand secondhand items for low prices.


If you prefer buying items locally, Letgo is a free app that connects buyers with sellers in their area. The app promotes secondhand shopping by encouraging owners to sell items they no longer want. 


Finally, Amazon, one of the most well-known and widely used digital marketplaces. Shoppers can find both preowned and new items across a wide range of categories, including handmade home decor, furniture, music, and technology. 

The more you get into thrifting, the more money you can save and apply toward other aspirations for your home, such as renovation costs. Remember, you may not always find something you like, but when you do, rest assured it was worth the bargain.

Thrift Store Home Decor Infographic

Home Decor thrift shopping interior design infographic
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