“Chic,” “modern,” and “on-trend” may not be the first words that come to mind when you think about your local thrift stores. But with a little creativity and inspiration, you might just be able to transform your living space into something that is just that. If you know what to look out for, many of the trendy home items you’ve drooled over in magazines are available at a low cost to you and at no cost to the environment when purchased second hand.
When my husband and I purchased our first home together several years ago, we moved in owning little more than a few basic pieces of furniture. My husband had owned his previous home as a bachelor for many years prior and had acquired only the dreaded “bachelor furniture and decor.” I had rented apartments and spaces with roommates over the years prior and had basically nothing of my own to move in. I knew I wanted our new home in St. Augustine Beach to have a coastal and relaxing vibe but feared decorating an entire house from scratch was going to be a challenge.
In order to keep the costs down, I started mixing the more expensive decor with less expensive, up-cycled thrift shop items and found along the way that those items I’d hunted for and put the extra work into meant much more to me and brought more joy than the ones I’d simply purchased from retail stores.
So If you’re looking to go greener or simply want to save a few bucks while transforming your space, I have a few tips and tricks that will hopefully help get you started. The first thing that really helped me start out was to create a clear vision of what I wanted each room to look like. Think about what styles you like, what colors appeal to you, and the functionality of each room you are focusing on. Browsing home magazines or online stores such as West Elm, Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, and Pottery Barn might help you to identify what you’re drawn to. Right now Bohemian style living spaces are popular, featuring warm colors like terracotta, wicker, macrame items, and indoor plants. Modern farmhouse decor, clean and minimal decor, as well as “beachy” and coastal living spaces, are also on-trend. From there, pinning your ideas on a board such as Pinterest is helpful before setting out to acquire your furniture and decor.
Next, check out A Local’s Guide to Thrift Stores in St. Augustine for a list of places to hunt for treasures. You can also look on Facebook Marketplace or tour your neighborhood’s garage sales. I’ve put together a list of some of the best items to look for below, but be sure to keep your eyes open for other unique and unexpected finds along the way.
Wicker baskets are a-plenty at most thrift stores. they work great in your space, especially if you’re going for a more bohemian or farmhouse vibe. Baskets are a stylish storage solution for kids toys. They look good with indoor plants as a plant pot holder or to store throw pillows and blankets in the living room. You can spruce up an old basket with paint or by adding tassels or fringe. Check out this video tutorial for some amazing basket transformations.
Oversized cushions to recover
Most thrift stores are packed with mismatched and out-of-style cushions. Oversized cushions are a great find if you can find two or more of the same size. You can easily recover them with fabric using simple hand-stitching, a sewing machine, or even just fabric glue. Think about adding tassels, pom-poms to the covers to add more flair. Try Hobby Lobby for a large selection of fabrics and trims locally. If you don’t want to try recovering the cushions yourself, you can buy inexpensive cushion covers, like these ones I have in my own living room from Amazon, and just use the inner cushions to save money on buying a whole cushion new.
Mismatched Picture Frames
Another item thrift stores are overflowing with are mismatched picture frames. Pairing mismatched frames in different sizes and shapes can make for an interesting gallery wall. If you prefer a more uniform look you could paint the frames in all one color using chalk paint or wood stain. I revamped this ornate (once cherry-wood) picture frame below by painting it in white chalk paint to give it a shabby-chic feel, in-keeping with my overall theme for our master bedroom. Another great way to transform a large picture frame or mirror is by painting a few coats of black chalkboard paint directly onto the glass to make a decorative chalkboard for the kids or memo board for the kitchen. I hung the one below next to my daughter’s play kitchen to write her menu of the day!
I’ve upcycled a number of smaller furniture pieces in our home. When it came to decorating the master bedroom I wanted a more vintage and “shabby chic” look with light and airy furniture, lace, and some florals, without making it too feminine! Our dark cherry bed frame and side tables were both thrift finds but needed sprucing up and made an already dark room too dark for my taste. I decided to paint the bed frame white with Amy Howard One-Step Paint in Ballet White and added some ornate embellishments from Michaels with wood glue to give it a more classic feel. I upcycled the bedside tables with light blue paint and decoupaged them with floral napkins to bring in the floral element I envisioned!
I also recently found this vintage secretary desk, which was a perfect space-saving solution to allow me to have a corner for my laptop and a craft area. I up-cycled it with (you guessed it) more white chalk paint!
Trays, Glassware and Other Random Decorative Pieces
Other easy to up-cycle pieces to look out for include trays, like this wooden one I re-painted and made into a centerpiece for the coffee table, glassware, particularly mason jars, which make fantastic flower vases or can hold battery-powered twinkle lights. I personally like to look out for glassware in different shades of green and blue, which remind me of sea-glass and contribute to the “beachy feel” I’m trying to stick with.
I found this oversized clock at a yard sale and transformed it from its former dark and scratched up wood with white paint. You can find all sorts of unique and unusual trinkets that will fit your style if you take the time to look and keep your overall vision in mind.
I hope this post gives you some ideas and inspiration to not only decorate your space on a budget but to find ways to save some of these discarded treasures from ending up in the landfill.