February 8th, 2013
If you’re like most people, when you buy a home, you quickly become cash poor. But you desire to decorate with furniture and photos and prints to make it look lived in.
Thrift stores can provide a great venue for finding furniture, housewares, and even picture frames. (Not to mention finding fun vintage clothing at a fraction of the price.)
As the saying goes, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. But there’s often a lot of stuff you may consider junk. Try to take the mindset of a process. Go regularly and find a piece at a time.
You’re not really that interested in a mustard green velvet stool. But look beyond the fabric at the gorgeous oak. You can easily replace the fabric (or have it professionally done) to match your current home.
That bookcase could be stripped and stained or repainted using fun new paints like crackle or speckle.
Ok, it may be insanely busy with the women going through the clothes right away, but you can slip over to the home wares section and browse the new stuff. Go in at off hours when you can.
It may look like a full set of china, but make sure that there’s not a bunch of chipped or cracked plates near the bottom. It may be ok for $2.50, but that’s a choice you’ll want to make.
Yeah, you’ll give up some time, but you get some of the first picks of what comes in.
Thrifting secret #1: Shop in the suburbs. Actually, shop near “Grandma neighborhoods.” You know, the places that were happening for families in 1970. City thrift stores are little more than IKEA outlets. By shopping in “Grandma neighborhoods,” you’re more likely to come across genuine old-school furniture of a higher caliber. Plus, there’s less competition for the goods.
Thrifting secret #2: Watch for discount days. Goodwill stores usually have a “color of the day” deal, where certain price tags automatically get a 50% discount.
Thrifting secret #3: Don’t go near anything upholstered. It’s tempting, but it’s too risky in the era of bed bugs. Stick to wood furniture, which can be thoroughly cleaned and more easily scrutinized. Disinfect everything. Plus, wood furniture can be refinished or repainted.
Thrifting secret #3a: Look for dovetailing. This is an easy way to tell if the wood dresser you’re considering is of a higher quality. Simply take out a drawer and see if it has dovetailing. This type of joinery is hard to replicate on a mass scale, indicating that some level of craftsmanship was involved in the production.
Thrifting secret #4: Go early. This is doubly true on weekends, when bargain hunters are out in full force. While most thrift stores restock during the day, you’re guaranteed a fresh selection of merchandise when you arrive right when the shop opens.
Thrifting secret #5: Look in the kitchen section. This is, hands-down, my favorite tip. There are more genuine vintage sets of china lingering in the aisles of thrift stores than there are bridal registries in America. They usually cost less than what you’d pay for a single tea cup in a new set.
Thrifting secret #6: Be realistic. This is coming from an editor who is practically steeped in DIY: You probably won’t restore a seriously down-at-its-heels piece of furniture. Similarly, you definitely won’t sell that ugly but vintage midcentury modern decorative vase on eBay. Who has the time?
Have you ever found a gem while garage sale-ing or thrift store shopping?