Mar 28, 2013

25 sources for vintage home decor,
part two.

it turns out i have a lot to say about buying used! after giving you my general tips on thrifting and listing five obvious sources to find vintage items...i'm here with the second installment of:

first, a recap of the Obvious Sources:
1. goodwill / salvation army
2. consignment shops
3. thrift stores / resale shops
4. antique shops
5. flea markets

...now, let's continue!

Around the Neighborhood

6. garage sales / moving sales

a) if you're a serious shopper, check newspaper listings and craigslist for garage sale ads. you can coordinate a route based on location.

b) i'm not that organized usually. i tend to just see a sign and stop. keep your eyes peeled for notices posted on lawns, telephone poles, etc. they're usually easy to spot. if a sign is not obvious, then definitely stop because chances are good other people missed it. more for you!

c) same principle as goodwill: you'll find nicer stuff (but likely with higher prices) in the more well-to-do neighborhoods...and chances of scoring beautiful vintage furniture are higher at sales given by senior citizens (whether in well-to-do neighborhoods or not).

d) the best are block sales or multi-family sales: there's a large variety of items and you're more likely to score.

e) go early for the best selection. put on your boxing gloves. kidding. by "early," i mean right when the sale starts -- not an hour early. 

f) the converse: there will be less to choose from, but a better chance of a bargain, the later you go. at the end of the day, most owners simply donate whatever's left over -- so they'll be willing to sell for cheap just to get something.

g) bring cash, cash, cash. try to have lots of small bills. keep separate small bundles in different locations (front pockets, back pockets, handbag, socks, whatever) so you're not pulling out a huge wad of singles. this way, you can use it as a (fair and reasonable) bargaining tool: "i'll give you $7 for this, it's all i have..." and pull out the cash from one of your pockets, leaving the rest hidden for other sales.

h) i find it harder to bargain at garage sales because i always imagine the item i want to buy has some personal history with the family and i don't want to offend them. is it just me?

i) i think garage sales are best for tools, children's clothes, and toys.

you can find toooons more garage sale thrifting tips here!

7. church resale shops and/or rummage sales

a) items are donated by members of the church and community.

b) though a church resale shop i go to claims to receive new items every week, their turnover rate is much, much lower than a standard thrift shop.

c) the shops i go to are open just a few days a week. they close early (let's say by about 4p), but have one day when they stay open later (7p-ish).

d) at the ones i've been to, you aren't allowed to bring purses or bags into the store (to deter theft).

e) there are "safe" areas where each shopper can set down items they want to buy without fear they'll be put back on the shelves.

f) there seems to be a large variety of items, but not a great number of any one thing. this isn't a great place to find furniture. there are usually only one or two pieces, if any.

g) in my experience, church thrift stores are cash or check only.

h) the resale shops i've been to are associated with schools or have schools on their property. i'm not sure if this is just a coincidence. 

i) i haven't been to a rummage sale yet, but i imagine it's for churches without dedicated space for a store. i think the concept is the same.

8. library used bookstores / used book sales

a) books and other media are donated by members of the community. the library is also able to get rid of excess stock and obsolete books.

b) a library's used bookstore is an incredibly economical source for decorative and vintage books. besides displaying as is, try flipping through older books for interesting pictures you can cut out and frame.

c) used bookstores are also an excellent source for children's books. framing vivid artwork found on the pages of children's books is a cheap and easy (and nostalgic!) way to add whimsical decor to your kid's room!

so many great lines from this book! i've got a used copy i'm planning to frame a few pages from.

d) check the reference section: a book with diagrams of different plants or airplanes or wrenches or deer (etc, etc, etc) can be made into an impressive gallery wall.

e) the shop i go to is cash only. most books are $1 each.

f) i haven't been to a used book sale. i assume it's for libraries without a storefront. here's a short article with some good tips!

9. restaurant/store closing sales

admittedly, i've only been to one store going-out-of-business sale and most of the fixtures and decor were already gone. but i did score an adorable pair of toddler-sized saucony sneakers for K!
      ...he outgrew them just a few months later...sigh.

read some great tips about the dangers of liquidation sales here!

10. estate sales

a) after a person passes, the family can opt to hold an estate sale to unload the person's possessions.

b) because estate sales are usually for older people, they are an excellent source of older furniture and pieces of art.

c) show up early. when i say early, i mean before the sale starts.

d) as i mentioned in my general thrifting tips, make sure to bring a large bag in with you. how sad it would be to lose out on an item, simply because your hands were too full.

e) it's a bit surreal, walking into a home and knowing anything and everything is up for grabs. pay special attention to rugs, tables, wall decor, curtains -- items you would normally ignore at a traditional store.

f) make a beeline for the items you're interested in. maybe it was a piece that caught your eye in the ad. maybe you collect pyrex and you want to check if there's any dishes you can add to your stash. go there first.

g) even if you're not looking for something in particular, walk quickly through the whole house and scan for anything that jumps out at you, anything you love. then go back to the beginning and take your time.

h) open drawers and doors -- don't be afraid to dig.

i) outside stuff is usually up for grabs too! check out patio sets, barbecues, garden statues, etc.

j) the sales i've been to are run by companies. there are usually tons of employees milling about the house in easy-to-spot shirts.

k) similar to consignment stores in that professionals are researching items before offering them to the public. prices are fair -- don't expect any deals of the century.

l) ...but you can get much better deals if you buy a lot. don't be afraid to negotiate at the cash register.

m) if the sale is run by a company, they should accept credit cards. bring cash just in case.

n) estate sales usually last two days. prices are cut at least 50% by the end of the second day. wait until then to buy if you think an item you're interested in may not sell. don't be heartbroken if it's gone.

read more estate sale tips here.

11. auctions

i've never been to an auction...and don't believe i'd ever have the guts to participate in one! but, you can read a very informative write-up about them here.

12. salvaged wood/fixture warehouses
(includes habitat for humanity reStore)

a) these warehouses stock mostly building supplies, some of it unused. we saw the mother lode of white subway tile in one -- always a classic choice!

b) it's a salvaged wood bonanza if you're handy. fish is gearing up to build a dining room table with salvaged wood this summer!

c) even if you're not handy, there are quite a few lighting fixtures, knobs, tile, vanities, toilets...

d) everything is priced 50-90% off retail.

e) sadly, i have no experience with reStore - i wish we had one close by! they take donations of gently used furniture, building materials, and appliances then sell them to the public at 30-70% off retail.

13. coin/collectible/"we buy gold"-type stores

sure, their main focus may be nickels and dimes, but the few i've been into also have a good selection of statues, paper epherma, signs, and model cars. it never hurts to check!
      you can also find jewelry there...if you like to decorate your home with gems!

14. family and friends

let the ones you love know to check with you before they throw anything out...especially if you're the type of person that can see often overlooked potential!

story behind the chair: my grandmother thrifted it from goodwill herself! she recovered the cushions and made it all pretty...then didn't have room for it when she moved. since i told i wanted it if she ever decided to get rid of it...it's MINE, all mine! muahahahaha...

15. previous homeowners

check your basement, attic, crawlspace, and any other storage areas. the sellers of our home were required to clean the house our before we moved in, but we were still left with a brand new espresso machine (too bad we already had one...), a small wine rack (currently holding rolled-up hand towels in our upstairs bathroom!), and an old wooden ladder, to name a few.

we recently discovered this giant road board in the basement,
much to K's delight!

what was i drawing all those chalk villages for last summer??!

...aaand that sums it up for today! we are over halfway through this sourcelist for vintage home decor.

have you shopped any places on today's list?

interested in my thrifting series?
      - 25 sources for vintage home decor: part onepart twopart three
      - keep up with my thrifting buys on instagram @meandering_mari!

* mari
Minted's Limited Edition Art Prints


  1. You have to try auctions! You find them on auction zip.com. I was so intimidated to go, but someone had told me about them who said they got an incredible piece for $1 and I had to see it for myself. I have been to a few now and found some real incredible deals.

    1. I would LOVE to go to one, but aaaaahhh, I don't know if I could actually bid! I'm so intimidated...how do you even understand the auctioneer?? I'm so nervous I'd accidentally buy something for a million dollars because I sneezed at the wrong moment!

  2. You really don't miss anything. I would have totally forgot to mention previous homeowners and HELLO we have some great pieces that ours left behind ( a brand new futon, loft table, and some cute Land of the Nod curtains!)I have the best luck with resale and garage sales. Did a few estate sales last summer and wasn't impressed. Then again I was consumed with the whole idea of "death" while we were walking thru the house......like I kept thinking "if we died suddenly what would I want to hide before people came rummaging thru?" Haha!

    1. haha! that's probably more than a little distracting! i love estate sales, though i've only been to a few. maybe i just got lucky? i seem to be more disappointed by garage sales. or maybe i just don't get there early enough. :)


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