Wednesday, March 14, 2012

how to thrift.

For those that regularly read my blog, it should be no surprise that I like to thrift shop. A lot. There's something about searching through a sea of random junk sale items and finding that one piece of treasure filled with potential. Wondering what the heck I'm talking about? Here are some tips.

1. look at the light
A lamp is a very easy way to add some character and personality to a room. However, I don't know what happened between now and 1974 but the days of detailed, handcrafted lamps seem to be over. At least in my price range.

The trick to finding good lamps is to ignore the tarnished brass, 70's coloring and lamp shade. Focus on the shape and detailing only. Like these.

Awesomely textured with a simple, slender shape. Leave it clear and paint the brass an oil rubbed bronze or spray a bright or metallic color to show off the texture even more. Finish it off with a white drum shade from Target.

If I were able to switch out the overhead lighting in my apartment, I would have bought this immediately. No, not the sassy leopard number that's hogging most of the attention. The tall, copper and glass chandy right next to it. Either polish the copper with Bar Keepers Friend or try painting it red or yellow for a subtle pop of color. Then, replace the bulbs with a more modern shape to finish the look. Love, love, love.

I love colored glass and brass lamps. Add in some leaf-like detailing and I start to drool. Honestly for this, I'd probably just polish the brass and add a white drum shade to it. In fact, I'm probably going back for this little gem as soon as I get paid this Friday. Fingers crossed it's still there!

P.S. The yellow floral lamp in the background is kind of fun for a bedroom dresser.

Last but not least, there's this little number. PERFECT if paired with two more similar styled chandys, unevenly hung in a cluster. I'd put this arrangement above a bar in the kitchen or even dining room table for something different. Man I need to be in a place that let's me change overhead lighting...

2. accessorize with character
Accessories are probably some of my favorite things to discover while thrifting. You'd be surprised at the number of fabulous pieces are shoved in corners, stacked on top of each other and even set on the floor. I tend to look for pieces with ornate detailing, an interesting shape or obviously can't be found anywhere else. Look for pieces that can fill a shelf, bookcase or even tabletop. Practical or impractical, look for the pieces that you can't stop thinking about. Here are some I found (but did not buy, DAD) on my latest excursion.

3. always scout the furniture
Furniture continues to and will forever be the diamond in the rough of the thrift store. Homes are getting bigger, people are growing smarter and HGTV is now jam-packed with DIY television series that show you just how "easy it is" to refinish and/or restore things that you already own. Sigh. This makes it T-O-U-G-H to find pieces that are 1) reasonably priced and 2) worth enduring the battle of trying to fit it in your car.

That said, follow the lamp rules and only focus on the shape and detailing. Then, trust your gut. If you love it, buy it right then and there because chances are it'll be snatched up before you're able to head back. While I don't exactly need any more furniture, I can't help but look. Just in case :)

I've always wanted one of these tables. I love them in the middle of a foyer or as an over-sized side table. The finish on this is spectacular - a true move-in ready piece. 

I cannot get over how adorbs this chair is. Perfect for extra seating in a family room, a sitting area in the bedroom or even a desk chair. I even like the black finish with this style - just reupholster and you're all set.

This I kind of love as a garden center. The recessed tabletop makes it perfect for potting and amount of storage can hold tons of terra cotta, top soil and tools. I'd paint it a soft green or blue, distress the heck out of it and then position somewhere outside that could use a little personality.

I'm not normally a fan of floor screens but I was immediately drawn to the upholstery nail detailing and the way it was positioned to almost look like a headboard. A great idea for something different.

4. be cheap
Thanks to all of those HGTV DIY television series, I think thrift store owners have become a lot more aware of how much things could actually cost. At the same time, don't be fooled by how much something should actually cost. Give yourself a budget to work with before you even step foot in a thrift store prioritize purchases based on level of need or want. If something seems over-priced and it's on your "nice to have" list, you may want to wait it out and see if the store drops the price. On the flip side, if it's on your "need to have" list, be prepared to pay a little extra.

Another way to keep your spending down is by paying attention to the thrift store's sale days. Places like Goodwill and St. Vincent DePaul often have a monthly calendar you can take that lists when their 50% off days are, etc. Other thrift stores have offers and sale announcements on their FaceBook page or featured in an email newsletter. Map out your shopping by these sale days and make an entire day out of it.

Here are a couple of not-so-cheap pieces I would have swiped up had they been just a tad less expensive.

I'm so obsessed with this magazine rack I have dreams about it. But it was $35!! If it were $20, it would've already been sprayed white with my records laying in it. Needless to say, I'm going back this weekend to see if it's still there. Ugh.

This was just a small milk glass tray that was maybe 6-7" in diameter. See that price tag? $12.00. Moving on...

This would be absolutely amazing on a drink cart or bar. The tray. The copper tumblers. Gorgeous. But gorgeous enough to pay $77 for the set?

Set of 3 silver and bamboo candlesticks. $18 each. Too much for me to pay for a table accessory. 

Love the shape and the green glass, but this guy was teeny tiny. So small, it was impossible for me to justify forking out the $14.00 for it.

Bottom line, thrift stores are great places to find tons of home goodies. As long as you're up for the hunt, ok with being disappointed once or twice and are willing to get out there and check them out.


  1. hey there! i just found your blog when i googled "cincinnati thrifting". i love following other thrifters :) would you spray paint the brass on the first lamp? i really love the idea, but i wouldn't know how to cover the clear part so it didn't get paint on it. also, that swan is awesome. i woulda swiped that in a sec! so happy i found you! ally @ fever thrift

  2. Hi Ally,
    Thanks so much for your comment! For spray painting lamps, I use blue painters tape and either newspaper or scrap paper to cover the large parts. First, tape around the edge of the brass pieces so that everything you want to spray paint it outlined. Then, use some newspaper or scrap paper to cover the base of the lamp and the cord to avoid any spray getting on the rest of it. Then, secure the paper cover with more tape to completely seal off what you don't want to paint. After that, make sure to keep the can 6-8 inches away from the lamp and apply even, thin coats until fully covered. Can't wait to hear how it turned out and thanks again for the kind words!