Apartment Living BlogHome DÉcor › 3 Strategies for Updating Thrift Store Finds!

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It is no secret that shopping thrift stores and breathing new life into secondhand items has become a cultural phenomenon. From television shows and books to an endless stream of blog challenges and eye-popping pins, it seems we can’t get enough of turning trash into treasure. If you have a thrift store find you want to make over but don’t know where to start, use these three smart strategies to transform your latest find from awful to awesome! 

Paint It

Paint is often the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to give an item new life! Whether you choose spray paint (recommended for smaller items) or traditional paint (recommended for large items), the possibilities really are endless! Here are a few examples of the transformative power of paint.

These wooden and metals lamps were old, dated and ugly. After some disassembly and a few coats of white and gold spray paint, the lamps fit right into a modern home!

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Don’t overlook classic pieces that are just a bit dated. Paint is almost always the antidote for making large, old furniture look fresh, light, clean and current. In addition to brightening up the color with gray paint, the entire piece was given a lighter and more modern feel by swapping out the included hardware and mirror.

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Paint is also a great way to trick the eye into seeing something that doesn’t exist! If your piece has strange lines, features random details or is not detailed enough, use paint to create a design, faux look or pattern to either camouflage imperfections or completely change the style of the piece. In the green unit below, paint was used to give a boring, mostly solid unit a more interesting look.

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On this blue nightstand, however, paint was used to tone down some of the more ornate details (the gold edging) while highlighting some more attractive elements (the curvy base).

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Cover It

Painting thrift store items is a pretty easy and straightforward process. However, it’s not your only option for making over finds. Depending on your item (and how detailed it is), you can also cover it to provide texture and contrast compared to other items in your home!

This sturdy, clean-lined trunk was a great candidate for a makeover. Instead of a paint treatment, it was wrapped in grasscloth wallpaper to create a stunning focal point for the room. From peel-and-stick and traditional wallpapers to contact paper and vinyl, there are now lots of different mediums you can use to cover thrift store finds!

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Another way to cover up imperfections or change the style of an item is to cover it in fabric. Simply swapping out the fabric on upholstered pieces can instantly give dark and dated ones a fresh new look. Don’t have the confidence to take on upholstery? Look for items that have removable cushions that you can simply wrap in new material … no skills required!

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Fabric doesn’t have to be restricted to upholstery! It is also a great way to cover up worn pieces of furniture that can’t be painted. Simply pick a pattern you love and secure it to your furniture with staples, tape, Velcro, liquid starch or other methods. When you need a change, swap the fabric for something new! Learn more about this fabric update here.

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Reimagine It

Painting or covering up old items will surely give you a thrill, but the real joy in transforming thrifted items comes when you are able to reimagine the piece into something new! These kinds of transformations take some practice, but thanks to the Internet, there is no shortage of ideas to try!

This old oak china buffet was solid, came in a great size and offered a lot of storage. But when there was no need for a china cabinet, it was transformed into a sleek and stylish media console by simply taking the drawers out (and giving it a bright white coat of paint)!

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The same concept was used to reimagine this old nightstand. In addition to removing the small, unusable drawers, the dated base was removed and painted white. With the addition of casters, it was instantly transformed into a compact and movable printer stand.

See this full makeover here!

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Think beyond what you can remove from your thrifted piece and brainstorm what you can add to it instead. Two table legs and a length of plywood placed on top transformed this old dresser into a quaint sewing table. In addition to the functional makeover, the drawers were covered in removable wallpaper to provide pattern without paint.

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Don’t be afraid to really alter your items! Most often, these junky old pieces weren’t expensive, so think creatively in order to make them work perfectly for your home. This old oak table didn’t fit anywhere in the house in its current size and shape. However, a simple slice down the center (and a few new paint jobs) created two console tables that could be used all over the home.

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Making over thrifted items is a fun way to flex your creative muscle while creating truly unique, personal and stylish items for your home. If this type of DIY project is new to you, pick a small item and give one of these suggestions a try. As you gain confidence, experiment with different ideas and methods. Before you know it, you will be ready to audition for the next round of Flea Market Flip!

Need more furniture makeover ideas? Check out these great tips here!

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About :

Hi, I’m Megan…wife to a U.S. Marine and mom to a high-energy baby boy! We are a military family, moving into our 5th home in 8 years! I started this blog as a way to chronicle the various “homes I have made” over the years, as well as to be a resource for ideas, tips, and tricks for making any temporary space a cute, cozy and comfortable home! I hope you’ll stay a minute, take a look around, introduce yourself, and hopefully…find something you like! Have a great day!

Visit The Homes I Have Made



  1. Mike Norman says:
    They look absolutely stunning after the renovation work.
  2. Michele Pisetzner says:
    thank you!!
  3. it looks awesome, I would never have thought all those pieces of furniture were not original! you have a great talent, Megan!
  4. What kind of paint is best? What kind of brush or roller is best?

    Do you always need to sand? I thigh I heard there is paint now in which you don’t have to sand.

    • I prefer high-quality paints (Sherwin Williams ProClassic or Benjamin More Advanced) and a small foam roller. 

      I rarely sand unless I want to keep the wood grain exposued. You can now use all-bonding primer (Zinsser 123 – blue can) is a favorite! Good luck.

  5. Question: what is required to prepping these dressers and buffets before painting? I live in an apartment (ground level with patio) and am interested in doing something to furniture I have had for years.
    • If you want to paint the peice of furniture, sanding is rarely required (unless there is residue or holes that need filling). I would prime with an all-bonding primer (Zinsser is a favorite) and give it a light sanding with a sanding block to remove the primer grit before painting. Once wiped clean, you are good to start painting.
  6. Wow! This was so creative and inspiring.  I can’t wait to move into my own place so I can start thrifting furniture.
  7. Myra Behr says:
    Encouraging, helpful, and great ideas.  THANK YOU!

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