A Thrifting We Will Go

January 30, 2013

Yesterday, I did something I love to do each month and that is to go thrifting.  I set out on my typical round visiting the four thrift stores I ordinarily visit when I’m in the mood since they’re all within 15 miles of my house.  I work fast and I can scour all four in less than two hours. 

I’ve been asked to feature a “what would you do?” tour of thrift stores by some readers, so I’ll take you on yesterday’s adventure and pretend you’re all with me to show you what I look for, what I reject, and the thought process along the way.  Here we go.

When I go thrifting for furniture, I’m looking for something with good quality construction and cool or classic lines.  Hidden adjacent to and among the yucky stuff are diamonds in the rough – I look for those pieces and in them I see potential. 

geometric hutch


With furniture, the first thing I do is give a cool piece like that hutch a good inspection.  Pull the drawers, test the hinges, and check for dovetail joints on the drawers since they are a sign of quality construction.

testing furniture

This one looked really good and was $75 so I considered it a good buy.   I think it would look great painted any classic color, black, white, cream, gray, blue, whatever.

Sometimes I spy pieces that should really be in antique stores but just need a little TLC.  Like this vintage dresser.  Remove the dated mirror, add new knobs and bam, a totally gorgeous addition to your home.

burled wood dresser


I spied a bowfront chest in the window of a favorite store, lovely right?  It looked a little beat up but some Restore-A-Finish may be all you need to bring it back to life

bowfront chest


I loved this cabinet with fretwork detail and I can see it painted a Chinese red with antique brass pulls and a Lucite tray on top with barware above and inside too.

red lacquer paint on cabinet


The colors on this credenza were ghastly but primer and paint can always fix that.  I’d paint it high gloss Kelly green or black or white or navy blue and add brass ring pulls to replace the carved ones and use it as a base for a flat screen television. 



If you have upholstery skills or a willingness to learn, overlook dated fabric and look for classic shapes – these French inspired chairs would look fab repainted or gilded and reupholstered in a fresh geometric – I can see them flanking a Parsons console table.

french style chairs


I was digging these X base tables because they scream ottoman to me – paint the bases black or white or gray then add foam and fabric on top, and place them at the end of your bed. 

x base tables


Thrifting takes a discriminating eye, my theory is look for anything that if repainted or reupholstered, will stand the test of time.  A solid wood curved four poster bed is a great find, how gorgeous would it be painted dramatic black like in this bedroom or this bedroom ?  Avoid anything to dated or beyond repair, and worn or bad fabrics.

headboard and pillow


I pull out linens and rugs a lot, and I’m usually disappointed but sometimes you stumble across something quirky like a hook rug owl which would be cute for a kid’s room, the fruit rug, not so much.

owl and fruit rug


Shoes and clothing are great if you have extra time to browse or try things on.

thrift store shoes

thrift store clothes


Some other things I look for are dishes or silverware – often it’s plated but sometimes you can find mismatched real silver. 



Frames and canvases are a few dollars, sometimes less, but you can spray paint frames and paint over canvases.

frames and canvases


I love old books for their unique covers, bonus points if someone has written notes in them.  Sometimes they’re good literature for bookshelves, and if not you can use their pages for crafts.

old books


I’m a textile junkie so I always look for cool patterns, and dresses are a good place to look if you sew and want to make a unique pillow or tote.

dress fabrics


And just so you know, here are some things I avoid like the plague.

Dated tchotchkes.

ugly tchotchkes


Frumpy poufy sofas.

frumpy sofas


Anything won at a carnival.

carnival st bernard


Tapestry bell lamp shades with feather trim.

tapestry lamp shades


Porcelain doll mannequins in Victorian garb.



Upholstered pieces that could have been a Cosby sweater in a former life.

cosby inspired textiles


And ducks, geese, or anything in the swan family. 

ducks geese swans oh my


But that’s just me.


What did I grab after all my adventures?  Just a few things… I’m a record lover, I grew up on them, I love the sound of the crackle as the needle hits the vinyl.  I like to listen to them as I paint stuff or do housework with our portable record player, so I picked up a few classics for $3 each.

old records

Also what I shall now dub my “coffee house” tote – a gray knit bag for $4 which is the perfect size for my iPad and will fit keys, a few dollars, and my sunglasses when I head downtown to my local coffee shop for relaxation.

gray tote bag


Finally, a killer credenza for the design studio…it will hold files and fabrics and be a great work surface too.  What to do with it?  I’m not sure yet, but I fancy something painted two tone and completely fabulous.  It has dove tail joints, and it’s solid wood with brass pulls and it cost, get this, $40 bucks.  I’m looking forward to giving it a makeover.

forty dollar credenza


For you Northern California and Bay Area locals, my four favorite stops are Sacks on Liberty, Goodwill on Lakeville, the Thrifty Hippy on the Boulevard (all in Petaluma) and the St. Vincent de Paul in Rohnert Park.


*and on a totally random sidenote, I finally watched Episode Five of Downton Abbey yesterday (waaaaahhhhhh *sniffle sigh*) and since I watch it on iTunes I noticed it downloaded the next few episodes ahead of the TV air time so if you’ll forgive me, I will disappear into a Downton Vortex for a few hours until I’ve watched them all.  “Free Bates!” is all I have to say. 




114 Responses to “A Thrifting We Will Go”

  1. Amanda S. says:

    How can you tell if the silverware is solid silver?

  2. Jill says:

    How cool, I went thrifting yesterday too and got some great deals on wall art. My plan is to recycle the frames, glass and mats to display watercolor pictures my Mom painted. Art supply stores charge so much for framing and matting, I’ll probably save myself at least $300. Can’t wait to see what you do with the killer credenza, it would look great in citron! The bowfront chest you saw in the window is very similar to one I’ve had for years and I finally painted it white last weekend and spray painted the handles black. Now it is linen storage for my drawer-challenged kitchen. I purchased it at a great used furniture store in Santa Monica called Wertz Brothers, you should check it out. And yes, Downton Abbey was so sad!!! :(

  3. Jeanna says:

    I love that credenza!! I could see that painted in a nice glossy finish.. so cute, and for $40 bucks what a steal! I wanna go thrifting with you.. That’s a great find!

  4. Melissa says:

    So jealous on your thrift console find. Totally gorgeous. I wish it was that easy to find furniture like that here in my town in Australia.

  5. Ann Ruggles says:

    Thanks so much. I’ve always wondered how you tell treasure from trash.

  6. Charlie says:

    Those lampshades made me laugh out loud. My daughter is so confused as to why I’m laughing at the computer. Ha!

    LOVE the credenza! Amazing find!


  7. Brooke says:

    THANK YOU for this post!! I am dying to go thrifting and fix/paint something for my home, but am a little nervous!!! This was super helpful :)

  8. Suzan G. says:

    Thanks for the great info. I’ve been contemplating hitting a couple of local spots, but I’m a newbie. You sealed the deal for me!

  9. linda iwaszewski says:

    good eye for stuff ! beatles abbey road and wondering how the chairs looked that the st.bernard were sitting on ?

  10. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Linda, they were all scuffed up sadly, if they’d been in better shape I might have bought the rattan chairs myself!

  11. amber P says:

    And I cannot wait to see what you do with that amazing credenza! Score!

  12. Darlene says:

    I volunteer weekly at a large Mission store where people bring their castoffs. It’s so exciting to see some of the beautiful pieces that folks are discarding for one reason or another. Mind you i always go home with some “treasure” that I intend to redo, repaint, or remake. It’s all about thinking outside the box. What a High you get from finding a treasure to work on. Too many ideas, too little time.

  13. Marie Vlasic says:

    Great article, thanks! I’m drooling over that vintage dresser. I’d grab it in a second if I saw it here in Colorado. I love to brag about my thrifting finds, and just finished a 2-part post on how I find the good stuff at thrift stores. I hope you enjoy it! theyearoflivingfabulously.com

    (sorry if I submitted this twice, I’m having web issues today ;-)

  14. cp says:

    Crazy…that hutch matches a dresser and night stands we have in our bedroom (the one in the very first pic on this post). It’s definitely from the same maker and same collection. We got it at a second hand store, not knowing anything about it except it was cool. :)

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