thrifted furniture and home goods

I thoroughly enjoyed Mia's {post} last week about embracing second hand clothing and accessories.  She gave us all some great tips and maybe some new ways to look at outfitting ourselves and our families in thrifted threads.  

In this post, I'm going to offer you some things I've learned over the years about furnishing my home on a dime.  I certainly don't claim to be a professional, and I'm sure many of you have wonderful ideas and strategies too.  Please share!  Here are just a few tidbits I have for you.

...Copy good design!  I am a self diagnosed copycat. Whether you use Pinterest, pages torn out of magazines, or folders on your hard drive to organize images you are drawn to, (I use all three methods) chances are you have collected some pretty amazing ideas.  I love taking an idea and tweaking it just a bit to make it my own.  I always start with thrift stores/garage sales/craigslist for the big furniture pieces.  Let's take a look at one of my inspiration pictures off my computer.

Jenny from{Little Green Notebook} is a very talented designer.  She added arches to her otherwise very basic and inexpensive bookcases.  And though I didn't quite want such a collected look in the way of accessories, (although I love hers) the idea of adding the arches was a perfect starting point and got me excited about doing it.  I started with 4 really big pine bookcases I found for $50 each.

Following Jenny's {tutorial}, here is my copycat design of the bookcases, with some well placed accessories.

95% of every item you see in this room was thrifted or bought second hand.  I combined the look of several design ideas, had a lot of patience to find what I was looking for, and pulled together a combination that reflects my style.

Here is another image I have saved as an idea for my computer chair.  I love everything about it's practicality with a leather seat and upholstered, monogrammed back.  Perfect for the chair that probably gets the most use in the house.

Imagine my delight when I spotted this chair at a local thrift store for $4.99, almost an exact duplicate of the one I'd like to copy.  With a little bit of work, it will look exactly like the image I love.  Done deal.

Thrifted furniture and accessories are one of the best ways to copy any design you love.  As soon as you have some inspiration, the game is on!

...Compile a list of "wants" and have it with you at all times.  If you are like me, there are a myriad of things you are looking for at any given time.  Also, it's very helpful to include the ideal dimensions and a measuring tape if you are looking for furniture.  How many times has the lack of this information been a problem?  You get something home and it is either way too big, or it looks like a toy compared to the other furniture in the room.  Let's learn from the Boy Scouts, and always be prepared.  It's a good motto.  And it could save your marriage. 

 Some of the things I've been looking for lately are items to duplicate the look on the open shelving in {Brooke Gianetti's} kitchen.  I love the worn breadboards, white ironstone pitchers and mugs, and old silver pieces, layered beautifully for a stunning display. 

Since I have a tendency to get carried away with my collections, as I found things I kept them all in the same place so I could keep a handle on what I had.  It didn't take long to gather what I needed, and I was able to cross three "wants" off my list. All of these items were $1 each.  Now I just need the shelves. And the sink. And the marble countertops.

...Don't hesitate.  This is going to be a hard for you if you are super analytical, but it's my job to tell you how to play this game.  If you are at a thrift store and pause in front of something, handle it, then put it back, don't plan on coming back for it.  Thrifting has become a sport, and there are some accomplished athletes out there!  As soon as another shopper picks up on your curiosity in something, they are going to be curious too.  So, if your interest is just a little bit piqued, put it in your cart (or get a tag written up for the big items) and think about it.  You can always change your mind and put it back.  One of the best things I did get because I didn't hesitate was a 9 x 12 ft. sisal rug from Williams Sonoma that I found at Goodwill.  I saw someone looking at it, but she was frustrated because it was so big and bulky that she couldn't handle it easily. As she walked away, I had an employee tag it for me.  It was marked $49.99 but never fear because I had a 20% off coupon with me.  When I looked it up, I discovered it retailed for $899.  I bought it for $40 and had it professionally cleaned for $50.  Not bad.  It's pictured in the photo of my living room with a PB zebra rug layered on top.

...Learn about sale days.  Mia talked about this in her post, and it's really important.  I especially enjoy the 20% off coupons that come via email for Goodwill each month.  They are valid on any purchase over $10 on regular priced merchandise and you can print and use as many as you want all month long.  Also, on Thursday mornings at 9, the tag color of the week goes to $1 at all our local Goodwill stores, and things get crazy!  One Wednesday night I had to run in for something, and I spotted a solid wood, mid century style dresser.  It just happened to be on my list of "wants" for the boys room and it was marked $79.  I was pleased to discover that it had the half off colored tag of the week, which brought it down to $40, but it was closing time, and the next day was $1 day.  You know I did..... I lined up outside the door 30 minutes before the store opened the next morning and staked my claim.  That little baby came home with me for $1.  I'm revamping the middle drawers with some sheet metal, but here is a sneak peek of it after a little bit of work.  It is looking just as industrial as I hoped it might.

...Give furniture a good sniff.  Sorry, but it has to be done.  There have been occasions when I have seen something I love, but when I open the drawers, the smell of 100 year old cigarette smoke wafts out, or it smells like a cat lived inside for 30 years.  Personally, I can't do it.  But all the power to you if you want to tackle such a situation.  Thrift stores generally have a funky smell about them, so sometimes you don't even notice your piece stinks until you get it into your house.  That's why I sniff.  And that's why you should too.

...Accessories to look for.  I have a radar for a few different things.  Silver.  Books.  Dishes.  Baskets/Containers.  Fabric/Linens.  Pictures/Frames.  These are all things that can be found at thrift stores for very little money.  I found 10 yards of striped linen at Goodwill for $3.99 total.  After washing it, I used it to upholster the ($40) couch in front of the arched bookcases. Mia picked up two curtain panels the other day, sewed them together, and backed them with a flat sheet to create a darling duvet cover.  A reader gave us an excellent tip of throwing any soft goods into the dryer for 20 minutes on high heat just to make sure anything live will die before laundering it. 

Baskets and containers come in so handy for organization, whether out on display or corralling like items in closets or pantries.  Here is a sampling of my collection, each one purchased for under $3.

Pictures.  Sometimes I get them because the artwork or print is perfect.

Other times I get them because I love the frame.

And have a vision of what I can turn it in to.

I love books with old and faded covers.  Every thrift store is loaded with books!  If you live near me, I'm going to let you in a little secret because I think I have enough piles of books to last me a lifetime.  There is a thrift store in Tempe called Gracie's. (super close to SAS, the fabric and trim mecca)  They have great books that are usually less than $1.  I have bought dozens from their store and stack them up all over the place.  I picked this sweet little book up at Savers last week for $1.99.  When I got home and looked it up on Ebay, it was priced at $38.99!

...Evolve with the changing trends.  This might be one of my favorite things about shopping for second hand furniture and accessories.  It's really hard to part with the dining room set you bought from Ethan Allen for $4,500 when it has completely gone out of style.  Most husbands get violent at the thought of selling it for a pittance.  It can really cause a strain on a relationship, even if you agree to keep it but want to give the solid mahogany a fresh coat of white paint. (I've never met a man who is in favor of painting over wood) Furnishing your home with thrifted treasures allows you to change any old time you feel like it.  In fact, I usually sell my stuff for more than I paid for it after enjoying it for a few years.  That's called making money ladies.  And our men should be wild about that concept!

...Pack some snacks.  Nothing is fun to do on an empty stomach, and sometimes your stops take longer than anticipated.  I always have a granola bar and a bag of nuts and dried fruit in my bag so that being hungry and grouchy doesn't get in the way of finding a deal.  This may sound silly, but it's not.  Pack a snack. 
...Shop often.  Yes, that's an assignment from me!  Thrift stores get lots of new stuff every single day.   I went to the same Goodwill two days in a row, and the second day I spotted a handsome (real) leather couch.  As soon as I saw the tag marked $29.99, I enthusiastically found the closest worker and had a receipt written up for it.  While he was doing that, I looked it up on the IKEA website to find it priced at $399.99.  I handed over my 20% coupon, and hauled it out of there for $24.00.  It makes the perfect spot to sit and watch kids playing ping pong in our game room downstairs.  It's in pristine condition, and we love it.  One of my greatest finds ever.

So there you have it.  Thrifting according to Jilly, and now I'm ready for a nap!  But hopefully you are ready to shop.  We all have access to some incredible design information and an ever growing ability to feel confident enough to tackle projects on our own.  Thrift stores are the place to start if you want to bring some needed style into your space for very little money.  Find some pictures and start your search.

What kind of amazing, perfect (and inexpensive) thing is out there waiting for you to find today?  If you haven't embraced buying used home furnishings and accessories, now is the time.  Don't get discouraged if you don't find anything you love the first few times you're out. Be patient, shop often, and I can guarantee you'll end up with something spectacular!  I'd love to hear your success stories, and if you have any questions for me, please ask away!

P.S. Don't forget to enter our {giveaway} this month.  Pioneer Woman's newest cookbook, signed by herself and her adorable cowboy husband, "Marlboro Man".  We will pick a winner on Friday


  1. I wish I had thrift stores like yours...everything at mine is overpriced and it is very hard to find treasures!

  2. Some great tips guys, we love second hand furniture too and will be pointing our blog readers to this great article

  3. There are many things which can be includes in the home furniture and also we can use a second handed furniture at our home.We can buy it at some stores at online or offline.

  4. How do you access the 20% off coupons at Goodwill? I looked on their website but didn't see anything? Thanks

  5. Thanks for this post and don't forget to check my blog www.mobilyala.com

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  7. I think that is so nice, when it comes to furniture hope it can make a better place for dreams to come true.

  8. Hey!Thank you so much for your original post! Its was so helpful and I love the way these turned out! Thanks again!
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  9. I shop at Goodwill almost every Monday and Tuesday. People bring their garage sale leftovers in and I've found things you wouldn't believe! In fact I have a set of cool wingback chairs with beautiful sculpted legs that I picked up two weeks apart at a cost of 5 bucks each. I think I now know how Im going to change the fabric! Thank You!

  10. Thanks you for this write, i m enjoyed thanks you, masko

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Mia & Jilly

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