Thrift Stores, Bargain Bins and Flea Markets—Oh My!

Ever wonder how interior designers achieve that magazine-cover look in every room? It’s not with thousands of dollars (though that certainly helps), it’s not with catalogue pieces or Italian fabrics, it’s with two trade-secrets. First it’s how everything ties together and secondly, it’s with memorable objets d’art –those art pieces that stick out yet fit seamlessly fit in and bring a room to the next level. You may be asking yourself where the hell you find those objets d’art if you’re not a curator and you don’t have a cool, extra mil in your back pocket. The answer is at thrift stores, bargain bins and flea markets!

Pictureless Frames


Where to find them: Each city is different but as a general rule of thumb, search for flea markets and thrift stores on Yelp and read reviews. Secondly, visit some local antique shops and ask the owners what markets they frequent. They’ll have insider’s knowledge on your city’s best places to snatch an interesting piece for a deal.

What to look for: There is no science on what you’re looking for; the answer is that you want whatever catches your eye. Make the rounds and see what pops out. Stop and inspect said item and then keep moving. If you’re still thinking about it ten minutes later, it’s most likely a keeper. The biggest piece of advice is – take a risk. If something stood out in your mind because it was weird, but in a good way…a conversation piece or even a piece that stood out and you can’t quite put your finger on it…chances are it will up the ante on your room’s level of interest. It will take your room from paint-by-numbers to cover-of-a-magazine.

What you’ll need: You’re going to need a whole lotta patience. Finding a diamond in the rough doesn't happen on your first trip unless you’re extremely lucky. You’ll probably have to visit more thrift stores, bargain bins and flea markets than you’d want to, but in the end, it’ll be worth it. No one will be able to say your house looks like an Ikea showroom and people will leave your place wondering how you did it. Secondly, bring a camera (not much of a problem these days thanks to smart phones). Take shots of what you like, there may be so much that it becomes hard to navigate – the camera will be your shopping log. On your phone/camera also keep pictures of the space in need of work. You can reference your pictures of the room with your items of interest to stop yourself from buyer’s remorse upon return home.

Putting it all together: Having a hodge-podge of objets d’art can be intimidating—even when you’re the curator! The good news is you have time to get comfortable with your new pieces. Try them out in different spaces. Take photos, take a step back and ask advice. Mix and match, play around and eventually you’ll put the jigsaw together in a way that makes sense to the most important person—you.

This is a guest post from Courtney Lochner. Courtney writes for Glamour Magazine, Société Perrier, Europe From a Backpack Travel Guides, The Budget Fashionista and much more. Based out of Chicago she is is also frequently found in Paris, Krakow or Rio and almost always, with a glass of wine in hand. Follow her @courtneylochner.