When you need artwork, vases, lamps or even furniture―to get a bigger bang for your buck, go thrifting! Part of the fun is the challenge. You enter a store not knowing what you’ll find, then suddenly, there’s that item you can’t live without. Here are some tips to make the most of your thrift store adventures while avoiding buyer’s remorse.

Let’s start with smaller purchases. They’re low-risk. When a vase or lamp catches your eye, check closely for flaws and cracks. However, spotting an imperfection doesn’t necessarily mean the deal’s off. Often you can you fix a flaw and paint it so it’s good as new. Buying something electric? Most shops have outlets near those items so be sure to check that your item functions―at least while you’re in the store. The good news is when you’re not spending a lot, you’re not risking a lot. You’ll probably “win” some and “lose” some, but that just adds to the fun. Game on, thrift store!


I bought this piece at a local thrift shop for $4.99!  Loved the hardware!

I bought this piece at a local thrift shop for $4.99!  Loved the hardware!

When it comes to buying furniture, you’ll want to pay closer attention and be familiar with the following tips:

-  Bring a tape measure, or better yet, buy an extra one and leave it in your car.

-  Know how much space is available in your vehicle to prevent surprises when trying to    load your new treasure, and keep blankets for padding and tie-down materials handy to reduce hassles and help protect your items.

-  Make sure what you’re buying will fit where you envision it in your home.

-  Carefully check all drawers and doors. If the drawers don’t seem to fit well, it may be just because they’re in the wrong slots. Believe me, this happens more than you might think!

-  If you know a drawer is broken, can it be fixed easily with wood glue or replacing a track or guide? These are all relatively inexpensive fixes which shouldn’t necessarily prevent you from buying a great piece. And make sure to point out the damage and ask if that reduces the price.

This beauty cost me $20!  It turned out so well, we kept it ourselves!

This beauty cost me $20!  It turned out so well, we kept it ourselves!

-  Often you’ll notice doors that are saggy or misaligned, y’know―a little wonky. Again, not necessarily a deal-breaker. It may be as simple as tightening or adjusting hinges that have loosened over time. If you’re not experienced enough to know what’s a minor or major issue, bring along someone who is. Bribe them, if needed. Ice cream and wine work wonders.

-  Check for surface damage. It’s rare to find a piece in perfect condition. Depending on how much elbow grease and time you have to invest, even heavy surface damage can be saved with an electric sander or hand sanding. Watch out for deep bubbling or warping from water damage though. That’s typically not something you can fix. However, if you’re going for a distressed look, you can disguise it to degree. And once you’ve done that, you refer to it as charming.

This piece was $24.99!  I think it turned out beautifully!

This piece was $24.99!  I think it turned out beautifully!

When you’re out thrifting, remember that most pieces you see have been used for a long time. I call this “previously loved.” They will almost certainly show signs of age, but with TLC you can make them beautiful and useful again. I love that these pieces have a history. It makes them interesting to me. It’s the best way I know to get affordable one-of-a-kind quality pieces, many of which are solid wood. It also has the bonus of being environmentally responsible. Reuse, repurpose, redesign, recycle!

So grab a friend, keep these tips in mind, and get thrifting. Enjoy the hunt! If you find something amazing that you transform, please share with us on The Redesign Facebook Page.

Now, what will you do next to love where you live?