When you sell your farmhouse and almost everything in it and move across the country and buy the house you grew up in….

….here’s a true fact.

There are a lot of empty rooms.

And now you’re probably asking yourself the same question I ask every day.

What’s a girl to do with all those empty rooms and a budget for the new house that she already spent renovating her kitchen?

Hello thrift store shopping.

Nice to meet you.

I’ve spent the last month stalking thrift stores and waiting for things to go on sale and learning more about colored stickers and measuring spaces and finding treasures.

And having SO MUCH FUN.

It’s like a game.

If you want to play, too, here’s what I found along the way and a few of my best thrift store shopping tips.

1. Never judge a hutch by its cover

This hutch was gold.  Seriously.  Gold all over with swirly pieces attached to the top and a cherub face right there in the middle of the top where it dents in.

Seriously.

No one had bought it.

I know you’re shocked.

Oh, good.

Me, too.

It was all alone in the corner of the thrift store just waiting for a friend.

Truth?

I was a little blinded by the color.

I almost walked by it.  But then I took a second look and imagined it white and distressed and without all the swirls and cherub heads and extra pieces.

It still needs handles (hello Hobby Lobby 50% off drawer pulls this week) and a coat of glaze to knock down the white a little.

But we are almost there, my hutch and I.

2.  Have patience

I needed a coffee table for the living room.

I saw this one, but the edges were really damaged and it was still a little too expensive.

So I waited a week.

And another week.

I waited for the color sticker to say 75% off.

And then?

GUESS HOW MUCH I GOT THIS FOR?

$16.00.

Yes, please.

I painted it white and added these crystal knobs.

3.  Measure, measure and oh wait measure

The white distressed hutch at the beginning of the post?

I actually bought it to go here.

But I didn’t measure.

I just eyeballed it and randomly walked it off with my feet.

When it was placed in the hallway, it was too big.

Way too big.

The door to the front room couldn’t even shute.

So I moved the white hutch into the dining room and found this smaller hutch to go in the space.

It’s painted SW Mindful Gray.

Now I have a little yard sale kit.

It has measuring tape and wipes and hand sanitizer and a list of measurements for places I’m trying to find things to fit.

Now I’m ready for the next great find.

4.  Don’t let the style fool you

(total aside:  are you thinking to yourself—girl—get some knobs for this furniture)

This piece was straight out of an episode of the Brady Bunch.

Seriously.

It was orange.

Even my mother-in-law raised an eyebrow when I told her I thought it might work.

The pieces weren’t even together.

They were scattered and orange and a little overwhelming and it wasn’t even my style.

But I checked and it was wood.

Orange, but wood.

I needed something for the bedroom to hold the television that would fill up a wall and come in under budget.

Orange bookcase for the win.

Primer was key here.

Lots and lots of primer to cut the orange color and prevent it from bleeding through.

Then it was painted white and styled with wood beads like these.

Do you have any thrift store tips?

Or something else I should keep in my kit in the car?

If so, can you help a budget shopper out?

I have a few more empty rooms that need a little thrift store. 🙂

Comments

  1. Image for Melanie Melanie

    I know you must have sold or left behind some items that you really loved. Could you explain that process and what it did to you mentally to do that? I love everything and find beauty and potential in everything, so I acquire a lot and have hoarding tendencies. Would you say, perhaps, that you were sad to leave such and such and that you are already "over it". Would love to hear more on this topic!

    1. Image for Jessica Jessica

      Hi Melanie, I'm not KariAnne, but I saw your comment and thought I'd give my two cents worth since I am actually starting a "purging" project this week. For me, it all started when a friend helped me pick up my house (I've been overloaded at work and she wanted to bless me with a Christmas present and happens to be an awesome cleaner). In the process, she made a comment to me about "stuff" (that she said delicately), but I picked up on the fact that maybe I have too many nicknacks and the house is feeling crowded. When I took a step back and looked, I realized there are several things I still love, but others were gifts I felt obligated to keep or items I've had for years that are perhaps starting to wear down a bit. So, I made the decision to clean up and clear out. I am approaching it as if I was staging my house to sell and I am going to ask 1-2 other people who do not have a vested interest in my decor to walk with me through the house and help me look at everything with a critical eye. I am asking for honest (but gentle) feedback and I am committing to purge. That doesn't mean I will go with everything they say because something might be sentimental to me, but I believe that once I start, I'll be glad I did. I wish you all the best as you continue to think on this topic!

      1. Image for laura laura

        five years ago i was downsizing from a home i had lived in for 30 years. as the kids had moved out thankfully most of their stuff went with them! while i couldn't take much in the way of big stuff, the important stuff found homes with my children. i haven't really missed anything. i was off on an adventure! in the same town! i'm finally admitting that this little studio will be"home" for another year or two and will be decorating to suit no one but myself! first time that's ever happened!! good luck on your own adventure!!

  2. Image for Cecilia Cecilia

    Oh! I want to go shopping with you! I love your finds but that first piece? You've made it to die for! What fun to have a new home to shop for. Great tips...measuring and knowing the sizes of your spaces are key!

  3. Image for Mary Mary

    That last one, the orange one, that is quite a transformation. And I can actually imagine it in it's former self. But the power of paint always wins out!! Now can I move to your neck of the woods so I can find some of these great pieces?

    1. Image for KariAnne Wood KariAnne Wood

      Andrea, I was in such a rush I didn't take any before pictures. Kicking myself. That bookcase looked like the Sleestaks from Land of the Lost. Happy day friend! karianne

  4. Image for Nancy Nancy

    I love all of your finds. The distressed hutch is a real looker. One thing I have done before...if I just want a credenza and see one I love as part of the hutch...I ask if they'd be willing to split it up. Sometimes they are and I get it for even less. My second tip is to follow thrift stores on Facebook (if they use it). A lot of times they will post the sticker color sales or new pieces they just got in. Then you know how fast you have to run there to get your dream piece. My best tip? There's always another (fill in the blank). I don't fret about lost pieces. Nancy

  5. Image for Missy Elam Mangum Missy Elam Mangum

    I have a lot of thrift finds that are still projects-in-waiting BECAUSE I want to paint them but am worried that it will take up too much time and will still end up looking like I had no idea what I was doing. How do you do it? Your pieces look amazing!!

  6. Image for Carrie Carrie

    Thrift stores are the best!!! And while I don't have quite the luck you do, (or the vision!!) I love the time spent 'dwelling in possibilities". Rock Star, you are one of a kind. :)

  7. Image for Maureen Maureen

    Make sure to measure from baseboard to baseboard when planning for furniture - that extra few inches of lost space can make a real difference.

  8. Image for elizaveth elizaveth

    I love thrift stores! You always see something one of a kind and each little piece adds character to your home! Love what you have found and what you have done to make them shine!

  9. Image for Marty Oravetz Marty Oravetz

    Isn't it fun to see all these fabulous pieces come to life with a little love. That first hutch is really a beauty for sure.

  10. Image for Donna Otteson Donna Otteson

    I loved this and it came on the exact day I am thrift store shopping. I am sizing down to a 600 sq. Ft. Studio barn apartment. Wow, and all of my furniture is over sized and i’m Thinking I am going to have to down size. So I am off thrift store shopping to see what I might find. Thank you for all the great tips. Donna

  11. Image for Joleen Joleen

    You have such vision and courage! I love your finds and transformations. I have become an avid spray painter of many smaller items, although we did transform a dry sink that had seen about 3 transformations in paint, and a cedar chest that went from scratched and very weary to stunning! I love the power of paint and can't wait for spring to come, when I can get outside and do some spray painting! Thanks for sharing! You are amazing!

  12. Image for beverlee beverlee

    all of it!!!! and what and where those alphabet letter thingies behind the glass....one of my weaknesses......tell me? thank you.

  13. Image for Peg Peg

    You are definitely the thrift store/yard sale/wait for markdowns Queen of the Kingdom of Thistlewood!! I am on bended knee!! Love, love!! xoxo

  14. Image for Linda Miller Linda Miller

    Your pieces look so amazing when you're finished. Do you use a brush, roller, or spray the finish on? I have a hutch that needs paint and I need some advice.

  15. Image for Julia G Julia G

    I love that you included hand sanitizer in your thrifting kit! Made me laugh because there have been times I should of had a bottle with me when out thifting! Love your vision for treasures!

  16. Image for Lyn Lyn

    I have a repurpose story - not necessarily a new purchase - I bought a used large Ethan Allen hutch about 25 years ago for $200. I took 2 pick-up trucks to bring it home. We have used it both in our old home in the dining room, and in our new home in the kitchen - I have a large kitchen. Well, we are doing some redecorating, and getting ready to downsize in a couple of years so I decided to eliminate the colonial look hutch top, paint the buffet base in Sherwin Williams French Moire blue and put on new dark bronze hardware. I can't believe the price something like this would cost retail plus I love the lovely blue color. I figure that $200 investment all those years ago breaks down to $8.00 a year so I'm not too bummed out about eliminating the heavy bulky top. Love what you do!

  17. Image for Kim Kim

    Flashlight .... you need a small flashlight. If you garage/estate sale the lighting isn’t always the best and heaven forbid you not see a treasure. Question: do you spray paint or brush paint the furniture pieces? You “do" white and grey beautifully. ❤️

    1. Image for Meda Meda

      The flashlight on your cell phone works pretty well for this...& then u don’t have to carry another one. 😊👍

  18. Image for Mary in VA Mary in VA

    I've been thrifting for many years, starting with yard sales but now moved on to Goodwill and similar thrift stores. One thing that has really helped me is getting information from the employees - for instance I learned that at Goodwill, the best day to shop is Tuesday (after people have delivered their donations over the weekend, and emloyes have had Monday to get things cleaned, tagged, and on the shelves.). Since then I've done really well at finding great items on Tuesdays. I find that things turn over pretty quickly in my local Goodwills, so if I see something I really want I buy it without waiting for the tag color to come around. At Goodwill, get their "buying card" and their "donation card" so you can earn the 20% on each completed card (4 stamps on either earns the reward). In Richmond there's a thrift that's connected to an inner-city church called "Love of Jesus Thrift" - a great spot for finding furniture (John and Sherry of Young House Love have talked about it often when they were writing their books and wanted inexpensive furniture to paint and recreate. Maybe you could find a place like that in your area. Finally, Habitat for Humanity is a great spot for furniture, doors, windows (decorating ideas there), random sets of tile, etc. All these places have fabulous prices. Of course no brick and mortar store will ever be as well priced as a good old yard sale. Wishing you luck on your future thrifting.

    1. Image for Kddomingue Kddomingue

      Our Habitat for Humanity Restore has always been ridiculously overpriced. I've seen used (fairly new) furniture priced higher than you could purchase it brand new. About the only thing I ever purchase there are paint brushes, lol!

      1. Image for Karen Karen

        our local Habitat for Humanity is a hit or miss. Some cheap Sauder bookcases can be ridiculously overpriced, and yet I was able to get an antique small buffet for $40!

  19. Image for JC at the uncommon pearl JC at the uncommon pearl

    These are fabulous finds! We did something like the first hutch for our dear friend and pastor's wife's church office. It's amazing how those ugly pieces can turn into beauties with just paint. If they have good lines and well built then they meet the possibilities list despite their color. I'm wondering....what painting technic do you find it best to paint your non distressed solid colored pieces, like your SW mindful grey hutch? Brush? Roller? Sprayer? Enjoy your fresh bargains!

  20. Image for susan b susan b

    I bought a cute little dresser that was marked $70. It had 3 nice drawers down the right and a big cabinet on the left (with a shelf inside). I had a filled card which entitled me to a 50% off shopping trip and figured I better drag my husband to check it out (he has the brawn and the truck) I promised to trade it out for a bright yellow pie safe that he has hated for years. When he saw it he said, "there is no way that is going in the house with that terrible paint job - I'll have to re-do it!" Woot - great, I was hoping he'd re-do it! Anyway - circle hole cut in the side - painted black to match kitchen crown molding... greatest cat litter box hider!

  21. Image for Maria Maria

    First of all, be super careful of pieces that may have termites. Yep. I found a beautiful dresser, distressed in a pretty white for my daughter’s bedroom. Sometime later I discovered it had termites 😩. Also, I can NEVER paint furniture with latex paint and get a surface that doesn’t “grab” anything that’s set on top of it. I’ve waited days, weeks even between coats. I’ve tried dusting with baby powder between coats, etc. But nothing has worked to eliminate that thing where items that sit on the surface for any length of time sort of “stick”. Have you found a way to eliminate that ?

    1. Image for Cindy Cindy

      I've had that problem too Maria. I use either chalk paint or Decoart makes a paint called Satin Enamel in multiple colors and it solves the sticky issue!! I wrote a post about it at www.diybeautify.com. Hope that helps!

  22. Image for Sharon Rexroad Sharon Rexroad

    Chocolate. You must add chocolate to your thrifting kit. And those little peanut butter cracker packages. You never know when you need a boost of energy to get you to the next place.

  23. Image for Marisa Franca @ All Our Way Marisa Franca @ All Our Way

    All I can say is you're amazing. I can't wait for you to help me in our next housw. Oh, we don't have it yet. We haven't even sold our present house but I know it's going to be as amazig as you are. Your book is going to be my decorating bible. Have a wonderful day. Hugs!!

  24. Image for sandi magle sandi magle

    Having always had "begged, borrowed, thrifted, and 'stolen' off the curb" furniture. I was very excited when i actually got new sofas ----thirty years ago. Now they need replacing---yes, upgrading fabrics is worth it...but I find myself again, cruising thrift stores. Great job on your choices. IF you cont' have your tape measure with---know the inch spread of your palm -thumb to pinky- for emergency measuring...Besides any thrift store worth their salt has a measuring tape. Fun POST!.

  25. Image for Leslie Watkins Leslie Watkins

    I LOVE them all!! And really? Gold and cherubs? And orange?? I have to step up my vision to see beyond! And yes, I have forgotten the measuring tape and/or the measuring tape and regretted it. Measurements are now in my phone. Keep thrifting! It’s definitely your gift.

  26. Image for MIchelle MIchelle

    I can't tell you how much I love all the pieces and what you've done with them! Wow, what great thrift shopping!! I'm so jelly (that's still a thing, right? - 'jelly' I mean haha).

  27. Image for Charley Charley

    Once again, you are a ROCKSTAR! When I have a new house, I have a binder notebook with those plastic inserts you can slip a piecee of paper or a fabric sample in. Paint swatches, measurements, items you are shopping for. I also put dividers which say which room that section is. It's so much better than a piece of paper or baggie with fabric swatches which can so easily get lost & are sometimes irreplacable. If you want something smaller, use a coupon holder like you find in the $1 section at Target. I keep my receipts in one of these which has shaved years off my life. I totally freak when I can't find a receipt and have to take a credit.

  28. Image for Patricia Patricia

    Great finds. How did you decapitate the angel's head from the top of the hutch? And do you have plans for the head-might fit into your holiday scheme? I use my phone for keeping a lot of home details. Pictures of areas that need tweaking, measurements are kept in my phone 'note file', a flashlight app and of course a calcultor app.

  29. Image for barb barb

    Great post! But I gotta ask, and maybe someone did ask, but do you keep the book covers on for a perfect styled picture or do you remove them? Asking for a friend ;)

    1. Image for KariAnne Wood KariAnne Wood

      Barb, LOL! I just added those book covers! If the book isn't cute, I usually cover it. I've made labels for the books and I've also written the name on the spine with calligraphy. :) Hope this helps! karianne

  30. Image for Jan Jan

    I love thrifting, but my husband had never understood. We have actually had to rent a truck while on vacation to bring my bargains home! Many times... He stressed and stressed about the abundance of furniture I had accumulated. Then finally, my triplets graduated from college. Three homes partly furnished and accessorized! I think he now understands. I have also collected linens and quilts. It’s such a joy to admire the handiwork of others. We’ll be moving soon, and I’m on the lookout for a china cabinet. Cherubs, gold, whatever! I love a challenge.

    1. Image for Sandy Sandy

      This post made me laugh! Last year while on vacation we talked about needing a U-Haul while browsing in a new to us thrift store. We resisted this time, but several years ago he found a law mower at the Salvation Army and managed to get in in our Volvo station wagon along with our luggage and other vacation purchases. I had to smell gas fumes all the way from Reno back to Los Angeles!

  31. Image for Heidi S Heidi S

    Something MMS posted about not too long ago...include in your notes if you need a piece w legs/feet for vents! Of course you can add feet but I suppose some things would look better with/without.

  32. Image for Teresa Gonzales Teresa Gonzales

    Love your ideas! I still have pieces I picked up at yard sales and flea markets from college days (40 years ago). Best ways to find those big pieces!!! Love the way they look in your new old house! BTW received your new book today! Can't wait to read and use it tonight!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  33. Image for Cathy Cathy

    I have found that I needed a screwdriver several times when I have been thrifting to take things apart to fit on my car.

  34. Image for Heidi Strocko Heidi Strocko

    I spent a couple of hours at home measuring the places I needed to fill and everything I know I want/need. Then I sent myself a text with all of the sizes/measurements. I never leave the house without my phone so I always have it😀 The next thing is always find out if your store has certain days of the week where things are an even higher discount. The area Goodwill's in the next city over from mine has the color of the week that was 50% off all week, but on Saturdays it's only $0.99. I scored an awesome side table and painted it for a total cost of $6. I'm also a curbside shopper. I've picked up some amazing Furniture off the side of the road and free is better than just cheap. The best thing is to go to the nicer towns around my city the night before garbage day. I also carry a screwdriver in my garage sale kit. The reason being if I see great knobs on ugly curb furniture I can still take the knobs. Don't forget to check Craigslist. Curb-alerts The last tip I have for you is share! Share with your family and friends what you're looking for so they can keep an eye out for you while they are out. My friends and I always text each other things we see that we think that person might like. Happy hunting!

  35. Image for Barbara Moore Barbara Moore

    Great post, girlfriend! Things are coming along nicely. Sure would love some info on the type of paint you used on these pieces. Look forward to seeing the room reveals!

  36. Image for Mary Anne Russo Mary Anne Russo

    Beautiful pieces! My favorite shopping is thrifty shopping . I am so excited to see what you have done with your new home! I have been following you for a few years and love your blog, stories, and you're decorating style!

  37. Image for Ronda Zalenski Ronda Zalenski

    I just love you! 🌸 you always make me smile!! I LOVE thrifting! Dumpster diving ain’t too bad either.... or curbside pickin’ on BIG GARBAGE DAY. You’re an inspiration!! ❤️ P.S. we would love to see before and afters

  38. Image for MARY-ANN (FROM CANADA!) MARY-ANN (FROM CANADA!)

    KariAnne, what nice pieces you found while you were "thrifting"! They are so gorgeous now that you have painted them! You do such a nice job of finishing these antiques! Love when you share with us! Blessings!

  39. Image for Claudia Albertson Claudia Albertson

    My flea market thrifting caddy has a tape measure, hand sanatizer, a furniture pad, pliers, 2 screwdrivers phillips and flathead and bubble wrap. If I can get them down to a price I’m comfy with I want to make sure I can take it then. Lol. I don’t wanna take any chances. I also have a tie down as a “just in case”.

  40. Image for Trudi Trudi

    In a post of one beautifully refinished piece after another, I've got to ask: what's your favorite paint to use when refinishing furniture? I like Zinsser for primer, but paint is another story. I'm all over the map. Do you brush, roll, or spray most of your pieces? I know that will depend on the piece, but in general, what's your preference? I refinish a lot of thrifted and hand-me-down pieces, but have yet to find a combination I'm REALLY happy with. Hoping to pick your brain. Thanks!

  41. Image for Cathy Cathy

    Your kit needs a camera. I’m old so I still say that. A phone will do😬. In addition to B/A pics take a shot of the spaces you want to put things. On my IPhone I can add text and put the dimensions of said space. My Fella and I are getting ready to retire to Florida/Ohio in a few months so I’m following your blog for hints, tips and ideas! Keep ‘em coming😃

  42. Image for Sue Sue

    Karianne, you're a seriously good shopper to have found such great pieces of furniture already! The china cabinet at the top has such graceful lines -- good bones, so to speak. But to paint it white and then sand off the paint makes it look old and skeletal to me. I know it's part of the shabby chic look, but deliberately making a piece of furniture look battered and worn out seems strange to me when you could just paint it white and have it look better. Nevertheless, I'm really looking forward to seeing how you furnish and decorate your new/old house. You always have such great ideas!

  43. Image for Holly Holly

    Such beautiful pieces you have, I love them!!!! And.... I feel like we are the same person! Seriously! Only you're years and years ahead of me in this adventure of thrift shop purchases, furniture makeovers, all kinds of DIY, etc..... And then, you really had me at "wipes and hand sanitizer" =) I also measured a couple of spaces the other day and set off to find some new treasures, measuring tape and sanitizer wipes in tow! I didn't find any big pieces I was looking for, but I got some great smaller finds!!!

  44. Image for PJ PJ

    Great finds, KariAnne! Thrifting and "curbside shopping" remain my favorite forms of shopping. One thing to add to your kit, if you do not have access to a truck, is a list of the dimensions of your hauling space. I am always surprised at what I can fit into my hatchback.

  45. Image for Holly Holly

    I love thrift store shopping (or charity shop as well call them in England), you just need to open your mind to the possibilities of things & be able to see past their current look to what you could do with them! So many amazing things to be found! Holly from The Art of Being Holly xo

  46. Image for Kristin Kristin

    Karianne: I think I love most of your finds. I say think, because, in too many of your pictures there are only pieces or knobs or corners showing. A great example is your coffee table. I don't see enough of it too even know it's a coffee table! Please help us to help you. Show us a whole picture of the before or after (your choice, obvs) so we can tell our opinion. What I could see is looking great so far! Enjoy your adventure.

  47. Image for Lynn Sause Lynn Sause

    I like to take photos ( it is so easy now to print them at home) You can then write on the picture what is needed whether it is of a space at home, or a piece of furniture. I need visuals. That is why I love your blog and your writing,, Thank you for taking the time to share your life.

  48. Image for Molly Molly

    Thanks for the insight. I have a specific small purse that I use for thrifting. It has a cross-body strap to keep my hands free. (I'm going to add a hook for a water bottle.... that was a great comment from Susan!) Besides the items you mentioned, I also carry - $20.00 in ones and fives; - a strong magnet for checking metals; - a small notebook and pencil. I would frequently see things and think "I could do that" but then forget about it. Now I make notes or a quick sketch as a reminder. A golf pencil or lottery pencil works great because they are small and won't break, leak or freeze like a pen.

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