Bringing the right antique pieces into your home can be tricky. Thrift and antique shops require a lot of digging to find the treasures. Today I wanted to share a few tips on thrifting and antiquing by sharing what I look for at thrift and antique shops for farmhouse style.
Antiquing and thrifting is one of my favorite activities and about the only shopping I really enjoy (besides fabric shopping of course… that’s not even debatable). I could go for hours through different towns and stores browsing ironstone, crocheted edge pillowcases, solid wood furniture and countless knick knacks. In fact, a running tradition in our family is that my mom and I go shopping on my birthday. Being at the end of November, it normally falls right around Thanksgiving and Black Friday so we take a day and shop. I am not normally one to shop a lot (you know this if you read my Fall Capsule Wardrobe post) but antiquing is an exception. Throughout my time shopping for antiques, I have gathered a few tips for thrifting and antiquing.
I am a lover of all antiques. You may know this if you have read my post about our farmhouse nursery or my first antique haul post. I love to know the history of what I am looking at and love to have items with a history and so much character in my home. It differentiates my home from any one else’s with one of a kind pieces and collections that are curated in such a way that my home looks like no one else’s. Forget the reproduction chippy white “farmhouse” signs with the stained wood frame. We want the real deal over here baby.
I actually was really inspired to share these tips for thrifting and antiquing by an antique (or vintage maybe?) find that I have recently had. I am honestly still shocked that I actually found exactly what I was looking for at a price I was willing to pay because it seemed like such a scary thing to buy as an antique. But we are starting to look for things for our house and since I want plenty of antiques to reflect the historical style of what we are building, I am starting early. Creating this style takes time and a lot of patience while you collect items. I cannot just go to Lowe’s and pick out every light fixture for my house in one purchase and achieve the look I want. I definitely expected this item to be a lot harder to find and I did not expect to get this for our house. But we have purchased a vintage Detroit Jewel Gas Stove for the new farmhouse! We plan to restore it, which I will hopefully share, and pair it with a farmhouse drainboard sink if I can get my hands on one.
I say this because it is not always easy finding antiques, especially when you have your eyes set on a specific item. It takes a time and a lot of digging. It is also not always the most functional or practical. So with that said, today I wanted to share my tips for thrifting and antiquing and what I look for when shopping for these items.
I wanted to talk about antiquing and thrifting separately because they really are two different beasts in my opinion. Antique stores are different than thrift stores and I look for different things at each. The way I shop and what I shop for vary based on this. Here are my tips for thrifting and antiquing.
Tips for Antiquing
What to look for when shopping for antiques?
While yes, you can find true antiques at thrift stores, it is much harder. But I will say if you find the items below at thrift stores, there is a good chance that the person that donated it does not realize what they had and you will get it for much cheaper so it is worth looking!
When shopping for antiques, I look for more specific items. I usually go in with a list in my head because antique stores, at least in my area, have a lot of the same things where a thrift store just has a mix of different things and vary from store to store.
I generally stick to things like furniture, rugs, ironstone and lighting. With these items I am looking for a more specific thing and antique shops have more of a planned and curated selection.
Are antique stores cheaper?
Generally, no. However, there are expensive thrift stores just like there are antique stores so it really is dependent on the store and the area. I will say that antique stores usually have more information and knowledge on what they have and price accordingly.
You may find that a specific antique shop has really good prices while others are more expensive. What I find is that I am paying for convenience. There are thrift stores and even antique stores that are cheaper but I may have to search over several weeks or months for what I am looking for. Or I can go to a store that I know is more expensive but I will probably find exactly what I am looking for right off the bat.
How do you find good stuff when antiquing?
You go in knowing what you are looking for and you find your favorite shops. We have a few favorites that I know have good items. You have to have patience though because it can take time to find just the right pieces. You may have to dig.
I have also found that the more I go antiquing, the more familiar with certain items I get. I know what prices are good for specific items and when I can find something cheaper. I really do think that becoming familiar with the types of items you like is important.
Tips for Thrifting
What should I look for when thrifting?
With thrifting, I like to look for smaller and less specific items. For example, it is very unlikely that I will find true ironstone at a thrift shop. Now I am not ruling it out because there is always a chance but I am not going to spend my time searching thrift shops for ironstone specifically.
I like to look for baskets, furniture, linens, picture frames/mirrors, and kitchen utensils at thrift shops. Things that are just basic items.
Is thrift shopping cheap?
It can be but you will find more expensive shops and cheaper shops, just like with antiques shops. I am pickier about what I will pay for at a thrift shop and I do not like certain thrift shops because they charge too much for the limited items and quality of items they have.
What I Look for at Thrift and Antique Shops
I love to buy baskets for storage and decor. It is a simple way to add decor but make it functional at the same time. Both thrift shops and antique shops usually have a great selection but I have noticed that thrift shops are much cheaper. I use baskets in the pantry, armoires, on built ins and on tables for random storage and organization. I am on the hunt now for a few extra baskets to use for proofing my bread.
One of my favorite basket finds was $15.00 from my favorite antique shop near us. If you look at the price of baskets new, you will not get a decent sized basket for this price. This is a large picnic basket that is in great shape. I have kept it on top of hutches in our old home for storage and plan to do the same in the new farmhouse. It keeps things organized and out of the way, but makes a beautiful statement on an old piece. To me, using baskets in this way adds a country charm to the decor.
If you want a specific type of dish, like ironstone, I would suggest antique stores but I also find these at thrift shops. Beautiful plates make great wall decor. I found my favorite mixing bowl at a thrift shop. Large pitchers make great vases. You can even find smaller dishes to use for making your own beeswax candles. I love to mix everyday functional items with something beautiful so that I can leave it out. This is functional and serves as decor. Less clutter, less money spent and a beautiful home that lends itself naturally towards the farmhouse style. Dishes do just this because they can be used for so many things. I have even seen people use ceramic bowls in glass hutches for organization similar to how you would use a basket.
Furniture is one of the best items to buy secondhand. My favorite pieces to buy are solid wood pieces or raw wood pieces. It is usually cheaper than buying anything new and it is definitely better quality for the price.
We have several items that were found at thrift stores or antique stores but garage sells are also a great place to find antique furniture pieces. A lot of ours were actually passed down through the family. Armoires, dressers, dining tables and chairs are all great pieces to invest in if they are in good shape.
In our last home, most of the furniture was passed down to us or found locally. Our bed frame, side tables and a desk that Keith had built were the only “new” items. My favorite furniture pieces are a few old armoire’s. I plan to use these more as closets in our new house.
I keep my eye out for anything solid or raw wood that is in good shape mostly. Armoire’s, hutches, chairs, tables, anything goes. Now for big items like this I usually have an exact space in mind. I suggest that if you are looking for furniture, keep measurements and spaces listed in your phone so that you know something will work in your home before hauling it or paying for it. I have bought furniture before that just did not work and we had to resell it after.
Linens are one of those things that I always pick up if I find something I like. You can always use them to sew up a new apron, curtains, pillows or anything really.
At thrift stores I look at the sheets and have found so many sheets that I liked the pattern on. I have some in a drawer waiting for a project now.
At antique stores, I generally find things that I already like as it is. Table runners, table cloths, crocheted edge pillowcases (very common and cheap at antique stores), and embroidered napkins are all things I have purchased at antique shops. They are usually easy to find, cheap and are very useful to have when the time comes that I need them. Plus they are just so much nicer than modern things you would find at a store!
Along these lines are also things like blankets and pillows. Some people are more picky about buying these items secondhand but I have never had any issues. I am picky about which ones I buy. Make sure they are in good shape, give them a really good wash or two and they are good to go.
Rugs are similar to pillows and blankets like I talked about above. However, since they cannot be washed I would be much pickier. I have not purchased a rug from either type of store, but I will be looking for the new house.
You can find very thick antique rugs in great shape for decent prices. They may need a good cleaning but I have seen these for much cheaper than buying a new rug!
This is what I am looking for the most right now. I have only found one item but boy is it special. We are starting to collect for the new house and I pretty much look for anything that will work in the house since it takes so much time to find the items that I am wanting. But this is big on my list.
There are so many beautiful light fixtures and they are usually cheaper or the same price as buying something at Lowe’s or Home Depot. Actually, they are usually the same price as the cheapest items new.
My favorite piece I have found is an antique chandelier. It will go in the new house, possibly in the kitchen, and is the most beautiful gold and crystal. I got it for $99.00! I did look at Lowe’s.com to see what new chandeliers would cost and anything similar to what I purchased was about $400.00. Not only did I get something actually antique and not just reproduction, but I got it for a quarter of the price. You just cannot beat this.
Crocks and other vessels
Crocks are harder to find, I will admit. And if you walk into most antique shops, you will gasp at the price they have listed on old crocks. They are VERY expensive and I have never purchased one at a shop. I do have a few though and I will say that I absolutely love mine. They were passed down to me through family but they add country farmhouse style to my porch or cabinets with a flower arrangement inside.
I would suggest checking thrift shops, flea markets, garage sells and facebook marketplace for old crocks. They can still be pricey but I have seen them much cheaper than at an antique shop.
I also love to purchase old mason jars, vases, smaller crocks or any beautiful jar or bowl. They can be used for storage and organization, candle making, or decor on a shelf. Usually inexpensive, but they make a statement that adds the farmhouse style into the details of your home.
This is a very broad category but one of my favorites. You can find some beautiful cutting boards, knives, rolling pins, wooden spoons, silverware, or anything for your kitchen at antique shops and thrift shops both. Cutting boards are usually much cheaper than buying new.
I love to keep these items out in my kitchen for functionality and decor. This is why I love the farmhouse style so much, it makes everyday items the decor. Hang the cutting boards, keep the wooden spoons in an old crock on the counter for easy access when cooking, and hang the apron on a hook. Antique shops and thrift stores offer these beautiful items for a much better price and will make your kitchen one of a kind.
Wall decor is another great thing to find. Mirrors are one of my favorite items. I love wooden framed mirrors and also more ornate style mirrors. I have a few just waiting for their place in the new house.
One of my favorites that I have found is a hand mirror for Ila’s room. It came as a set with a few other pieces but I plan to find a few more hand mirrors to do a gallery wall with.
Picture frames are great to find at thrift shops because they are generally less expensive. Sometimes you can even score an authentic oil painting or needlework in a frame which is amazing but not as easy to find. I love to find frames that I can repurpose for other things.
Hooks, shelves and wall units
Shelves, hooks, and any kind of wall hangings are common at both antique shops and thrift shops. They are great for displaying those everyday items I talked about above. You can find hooks pretty easily and inexpensively to hang cutting boards, aprons or dried herbs on.
I have found a few smaller hanging shelves. One I used in Ila’s nursery at the other house to display some books and a handmade dress.
Now I will say that this is my experience in our area. The more I have shopped for these items, the more I believe we have an okay assortment of antiques near us. I have seen better items at better prices a little further north of us so I know my area is not the best for antique shopping but we certainly have a great collection of shops as well as a great facebook marketplace selection.
My number one tip for thrifting or antiquing is just keep looking and do not be afraid to travel a little bit. Going a few cities over may do you some good when antiquing specifically. But just keep your eyes open and check back at your favorite shops regularly.
This is also not an exhaustive list by any means. I just keep my eyes out for things I truly love. It does not all perfectly match and that is what makes the collected old farmhouse look so special. Buy what you love and you will create a home that could be no one else’s.