Most of the time you really don’t know what you’ll find at a thrift store. I’ve had quite a few comments and emails over the course of this series about my ability to find things – all wondering if somehow the items are unique to me or the area that I live in.
But my goal with this series has always been to encourage you to look at thrift items in new and different ways – to see beyond their current condition or even what they were initially intended for – and not only the things I’ve highlighted.
Here are a few tips I keep in mind when thrift shopping that you may find helpful:
- It’s OK to leave empty-handed – and I often do. View it as a treasure hunt that you take 30 minutes to an hour each week in between other errands where you run in to one or two stores, zero in on the shelves you’re interested in (ie – ignore kid’s toys, sports, or electronics…) and be OK if nothing is there for you that day. Your goal is not to accumulate junk, but to find something really useful to transform for you or someone else.
- Don’t try to see everything in the store at one time (unless you’ve got the whole day to spend – and you’re enjoying it!). Pick clothes one day if you’re looking for a coat or something, and dishes or treasures another.
- Don’t be discouraged if there’s not something – the merchandise changes often.
- It’s best not to go with a hard-and-fast list (I know from experience this only creates disappointments). I know I gave you the top things I look for – but these are items I keep in the back of my head and I have spent years accumulating. For example, I have 5 ironstone/restaurant ware platters and 8 pitchers from thrift stores. Not huge collections and not found all at once – or even within a couple of months.
- Enjoy the hunt as well as the find!
This $1.99 obviously homemade (a-hem) wood plaque is a good example: chances are you will not find something exactly like this – I know I’ve never seen something like this before. You will, however, find wood items that could become plaques – they might be oval, square, or even something like a tray.
Even in it’s rough shape, it reminded me of something with a similar shape I had seen in a Ballard catalog: an outdoor monogramed plaque.
That should be another point: Find inspiration in catalogs, magazines, blogs, and anywhere else you see things you like. This will help you to see the items in a different way.
The first step in transforming this item was to attach pre-carved wood appliques with wood glue and clamps. I’ve had these in a stash for years (waiting for something, who knows what…), but I know they sell similar carved wood pieces at home stores and online catalogs.
Then we cut down the odd “ears” and rounded them into more subtle shapes and painted the whole thing with a coat of white paint.
At this point I was thinking of doing some sort of vintage-y looking paint technique (you know, the kind with a bunch of layers sanded and then glazed and such). But then it came to me that a chalkboard plaque would be nice – I could have a monogram if I wanted, but I could also change it to say “Merry Christmas” and other holiday sayings when appropriate.
Plus, lets be honest – spraying a coat of flat black paint (remember when I discovered it works as well as expensive chalkboard paint?) and calling it good was a whole lot easier. Ha!
After painting, I sanded the edges and carvings to let the white show through and then conditioned the paint with chalk to make writing and erasing easier.
Just a bit of sanding (with a fine sanding block) highlighted the carvings nicely and cause them to pop more than the solid paint would.
Deciding on the chalkboard turned this into a quick project and we were able to hang it up right away after adding wire and eye hooks to the back for hanging.
Now I’m thinking of all the things besides holiday greetings we can write on it:
- Happy Birthday
- Party this way (with an arrow)
- Oh, Happy Day
- and even An Oregon Cottage!
Of course, I’m also thinking that we need a new, black porch light. One thing leads to another…
This is day 28 in our series (you can click on the button to see all the posts in the category). If you’re wondering what’s up, you can read the introduction to 31 Days of Thrift Store Transformations here.