Let Loose In a Thrift Store: How To Shop Vintage

No one wants their home to be boring and predictable, but how do you speak your coolness to the world without going broke doing it? Shopping vintage. If you’re unsure how to step into a thrift store, take my hand now.

32 comments

Let’s just go ahead and say that yesterday’s journey to the thrift store was a massive success. Me and my brother, who is quickly becoming my main thrift shopping companion, almost lost our minds walking through aisles of untold treasures. Actually, they aren’t treasures untold because I’m about to tell you all (show you all) some of the beautiful things we found.

Our primary reason for thrifting yesterday was to find some furniture pieces that we might show some loving care to and resell. Resell because although we both love the thrill of finding beautiful and cool vintage pieces, my house simply can’t hold it all. So we figure that the best of both worlds would be to search out cool pieces, spruce them up if needed, and try to find them a loving home.

When it comes to thrift shopping, people are often unsure of what to buy. You see the thing all dusty and outdoors and you have to imagine it cleaned up and in your home. That can be challenging for some people. I’m here to help. Along with showing you what I purchased, I’ll give you some tips on how to make your own thrift shopping more fruitful.

So first, let’s head to the furniture section.

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Although we didn’t buy this table, which I’m sort of regretting, someone should! The gold velvet seats are in great condition. The wood is beautiful and also in great condition. It could be left untouched. But if you’d like to modernize a piece like this, I would recommend giving the table and chairs a coat of white paint and keeping the original cushions. A pale grey could also be an unexpected option to pair with the gold.

Tip: I always look for chairs that don’t require too much reupholstering. That helps to keep the cost and frustration levels down. The cushions on these chairs are simple squares, so it wouldn’t be difficult to just swap out fabric.

Some chairs will require a lot more work. Such as these 1980s gems that I PROMISE will be coming back in style sooner or later. Mark my words.

 

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Unless you want to make a bold statement about your love of the 80s, stay away. Yes, you could change out the fabric, but you’ll spend a decent amount of money buying lots of fabric and a decent amount of time changing it out.   

Also stay away from fabric covered chairs like these.

 

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Of course, you can always buy slipcovers and disguise them altogether. 

Stuff that’s really unpopular and won’t sell quickly can always be haggled down in price.

This dining set is coming home for a remodel. She might not look like much now, but I’ve got something in mind. I’m thinking vintage style garden party.

 

 

Vintage dining table and chairs
Bonus: This table, like a lot of old dining tables, comes with a leaf that expands it into a longer oval. More people for the dinner party!

I’ve been lately loving the black, white and forest green color scheme, and this may be just the dining set to try it out on. Here’s an inspiration photo that I found on Pinterest.

green and white dining room What do you think? Would you buy something like this for your home? Notice that when I’m shopping around for furniture pieces, I’m looking more at the lines. Are they interesting? Are there cool details in it that can be brought out?

Tip: If you tend to have a difficult time reimagining a piece of furniture, picture the piece you see as all white. Now add your favorite color to the seats.

Try it with the table and chairs above. Which color would you add to the white? Fuchsia? Turquoise? Yellow?

Tip: Remember that everything that comes together doesn’t have to stay together. And buying pieces separately can often lead to unexpected combinations.

For instance, I have a thing for swivel chairs. Yesterday I happened to be in swivel chair heaven; however, none of the chairs came with a table. But just picture a simple round dining table mimicking the curves of these chairs. It won’t be too difficult to find one.

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These were far too beautiful to pass up!
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Coral colored swivel chairs? Yes, please!

These coral chairs were found off in a corner with a bunch of screws on them which I removed them right away because rain plus metal equals rust stains on your furniture.

These next set of chairs are quite grimy, but besides that the fabric is in great condition. They need cleaning and the wooden arms need to be restained. Hipster office space anyone?

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Swivel chairs with arms and high backs. Not something I’ve seen often.
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Can you get more vintage than these cut out backs and yellow piping? Nope.

I’m even considering combining the two coral chairs with two cream ones around a dining table. Maybe two high-backed chairs at both ends. I don’t quite know yet. I’m still in the deciding/creative phase. But my point is to keep an open mind. Any time you approach something with an open mind you’ll find that your design is more reflective of who you are and will be more interesting to others.

Especially when it comes to vintage pieces, seeing the beauty behind the dustiness can be the difference between you grabbing a unique piece with great potential and someone else walking past it.

Although my brother and I rarely disagree on what we like, we did on this one.

Vintage brown leather and wood chair. iwannabealady
I think it only needs some polish and a bit of stain. Did you notice that under the seat cushion is also leather? Yup.

 

Outside of furniture, we went looking for accessories for the home. Although I am terrible at remembering to add jewelry to my looks, I never cease to add them to my home. I love being surrounded by beautiful objects.

I want to build a nice bar cart eventually, and this is my first piece for it!

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I wonder is different shapes are ideal for different liquors? I’ll have to look into it. But I can already imagine something golden brown and fragrant being poured from this bottle. Oh, so excited!

I found some brass and silver candlesticks to add to my collection.

 

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I may or may not sell these. Although different from my usual style, they open up some cool Jazz Age possibilities. The Great Gatsby anyone?
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You can see different levels of tarnished brass here. You could let them continue to darken or shine them up for a glamourous look.

Check out this vintage brass napkin holder. It’s so heavy! If you aren’t into napkin holders, how about keeping it on your desk to hold envelopes? Again, keep an open mind. Beautiful objects can be versatile.

Vintage brass napkin holder. iwannabealady

Looks like I stole grandma’s lamp. It’s about a foot and a half tall, and it’s adorable.

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My mother always taught me to look for things that are heavy, especially heavier than I expected. And that’s exactly what happened when I picked up this picture frame. I can already picture it on someone’s country cottage fireplace mantle.

 

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And this tiny little container. I’m not sure of the original purpose of it, but I’m using it to hold a single flower stem.

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And finally, I bought this… I’m not sure what it is.

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It’s hand forged, quite tarnished. I think it can be used as a teapot with loose leaf tea. Do I know for sure? No. Do I love it? Yes. Will it be a showstopper at my next dinner party? Uh, hell yeah.

So what are the takeaways.

  1. Look for pieces that have interesting or simple lines.
  2. Look for pieces that are constructed well.
  3. Heavy objects are good, except for china like plates and cups.
  4. Mentally paint over furniture in a neutral color to see it’s potential as a creative canvas.
  5. Remember that grouped pieces don’t have to stay together in the end.
  6. Consider some new uses for things. That pretty cup may not match your kitchen, but it may make a nice flower vase in your living room.
  7. The less upholstery, the less work.
  8. Look for chairs with simple cushions. All you’ll need is new fabric and a staple gun.
  9. Look past a little dust.
  10. Build collections of things. Small grouped items often have more impact than a single item.
  11. Only buy things that you feel really drawn to. Everything is so inexpensive that you may end up with a house full of random stuff you only kind of like.
  12. Negotiate the price of everything. Start with a 50% discount. They’ll say yes or move up a little in price. Chances are you’ll still end up saving.
  13. Rainy days drive patrons away and employees are more eager to sell. When everyone leaves, you come in.
  14. Real wood is always better than particle board.
  15. Knowing what style or mood you want your house to convey will help you to narrow down options.
  16. Do the unexpected.

Bonus Tip: Look for things that are unusual. Pieces that make people stop and take an interest. Pieces that might have a story to tell. It’s often these little things that make our houses feel more like home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

32 comments on “Let Loose In a Thrift Store: How To Shop Vintage”

      1. The town I live in leaves much to be desired in the thrift store department (okay fine, in most departments 😛 ). I think if we were thrift shopping in another city, I would be more inclined.

        I remember liking the thrift stores when I lived in Santa Barbara–maybe I should peek through on my next visit…

        Liked by 1 person

  1. If I ever saw anyone painting a gorgeous wooden table like the one in your first pic and those beautiful chairs, I’d have to get my evil genius gun out to them. I was married to a carpenter, and have an appreciation for the natural. Wood that has been lovingly milled, turned and hand crafted into something so gorgeous, then waxed and polished to perfection, to be ruined by a couple of coats of paint is tantamount to sacrilege. I would never forgive someone who did that. As for the decanter, yes, there are different shaped ones for different whiskeys and cognacs. The one in your photo is gorgeous, and really should hold a sweet, amber coloured cognac. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can totally understand your feelings about the wood. It’s really a great color and in beautiful condition. One thing I love about older pieces is that they used real hard wood. The color of that particular table is so golden and gorgeous.

      It’s funny, the decanter had dried liquor in it when I bought it. It was exactly like what you describe, sweet smelling and amber colored 😃

      Liked by 1 person

  2. ‘Look past the dust’ – that possibly says it best. All that beauty waiting to be unleashed upon the senses!

    The crystal decanter and the teapot are both stunning. The teapot is a centrepiece. Reminds me of my mother’s Omani teapot which is smaller but as beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s really lovely that you remember your grandmother’s teapot. My grandmother lived in Haiti and I remember fondly wooden bowls and hammered metal. You just reminded me of that.

      The decanter and teapot are definitely at the top of my favorites yesterday. I also found a beautiful vintage camera and some retro speakers for my record player.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hee hee no my mother’s teapot 😛 You had more than a haul! I am yet to locate some lovely stores nearby. I hope to at least to get to some in NYC though given at the amount of stuff we have accumulated over the years, I am forever trying to find them a place in this apartment. You have a house so I spy lots of space!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. You take thrift shopping very seriously. I respect that. I am somewhat impulsive when it comes to these things, but I mostly look for clothes rather than furniture. Maybe if we get that house, Rory and I will take a leaf from your book and comb thrift stores for some proper furniture (we have none at the moment 😀 )
    Also, is this the post that took you three hours to write? 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my goodness, yeah, I take it seriously bro 😎 My dream is for someone to pay me to decorate their house for them! Fly me over to New Zealand and we’ll get started. Thrift store most things. And this is is the one 🙄

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha, I would love you to decorate our place, you have a good eye. I don’t think I could afford the ticket to NZ for you, not if we buy this house 😂 I could settle for messaging you and the girls pics of the house and things we find and are thinking about bringing in though 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  4. This post is perfection! You’re so good at thrifting too- I love all the things you picked out and took photos of (: thanks for the tips and I can’t wait to see what you do with these xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, thank you so much! It’s so nice to hear you liked it. I’ve gotten better over the years through trial and error. Lots! So I think it’ll be cool to give others some inspiration. I can’t wait to show them either! Thanks again

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re so welcome (: when I moved into the basement of my parents house a few years back, they wanted to make it sort of like an apartment for me. We went to Habitat for Humanity’s Re-sale store to find a table (cause my mom already had a beautiful slab of wood to use as the top) to use the legs from! She made something really cool for me and even let me take it with us when my boyfriend and I moved into our apartment this June (:

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Wow, that’s so cool. I love moms who can fabricate things. My mom sewed. It was a great idea to go find some solid legs and use your beautiful top. You’ll be passing it on to your children in the future? 😀

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Yes! She’s an amazing seamstress too (: she’s made me “new” pillows by finding fabric she likes more and covering the ugly pillows you get for free when you buy a couch haha I even have one that she stitched my name into in different colored threads. It’s something I really cherish. I’m hoping I can pass down the table- if she doesn’t steal it back cause I know she loves it too

            Liked by 1 person

  5. Love your guide. Here in the UK, they do not move on prices, I have tried, and the charity shops/thrift shops here are sometimes more expensive than buying the piece at new. We have one in the next village that thinks that it is Lacroix, and charges exorbitant prices for things that have been donated to it, for example, a 70 vase was £60, it was nothing out of the ordinary and had no stamp to say it was something of a collectors item, just cheap 70 tat, but still the £60 stayed. I enquired about it, the shopkeeper rubbing his hands could not give any details from it apart from it was 70’s, then why the high price, “oh it’s worth more than that” he replied, so I asked if it is so expensive who was the maker, to which his hands stopped rubbing and he said he had no idea. I told him politely that he was a thief and no one would buy it. It has been in the window for a long time, and I guess for a long time to come. The rest of the world must be a lot more generous in their haggling that the tight fisted Brits.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow that is so unfortunate! He’s not even an antiques dealer and he’s acting like he’s got the Mona Lisa in his hands! I would’ve been quite disappointed going to England and expecting to pick up some cool vintage pieces. Maybe I’ll find a bowl that I can afford! Yes, I think the rest of the world is giving away old stuff a lot more generously. Loosen that fist, England! I appreciate your comment, Mr. Knitter.

      Liked by 1 person

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