Why I Thrift

By Kate Riley February 25, 2010

Again I found myself stopping by the local St. Vincent de Paul today looking for great pieces of furniture.  This thrift store can be hit and miss, but today, it was a definite hit.  I was just so excited about all of these finds, I had to share.  Call me strange, but scouring a thrift store on a treasure hunt just makes me giddy. 

Look at these two beautiful honey tone dressers – they could be stained darker or painted.  Perhaps given some new modern hardware.  I visualize an asymmetrical art gallery or statement mirrors above them ! 

honey dresser

honey dresser with drawers

I fell in love with this chair !  If it’s still there tomorrow, I might go back for it.  All it needs in new modern fabric and it would be fabulous ! 

cane side chair

I loved this table for $25 dollars.  It would be the perfect candidate for Layla’s dining room table treatment.  You must see her whitewashed distressed table ! 

distressed table


table detail

I’m not wild about knotty pine (except in rustic mountain homes), but these armoires would look amazing if given a great paint treatment.  Black ?  French gray blue ?  They’d be statement pieces when refinished. 

Oh, and yes, I sometimes do take my daughter with me.  This one’s in training ! 

pine armoires


I found these great end tables . . .

end tables


Look at this perfect TV armoire !  You’d pay ten times more in a furniture store. 



Okay, this sideboard stopped me in my tracks.  Perfect lines.  I’ve got absolutely no place to put this, but I LOVE it.  A fresh paint job and some new hardware ?  It would be incredible in a foyer or dining room. 



This simple small desk could easily be freshened with paint and fun knobs to create a mini vanity or even an end table in a bedroom.   Perhaps a subtle harlequin pattern painted on the top ? 

wood vanity table


Oh my, look at this oak china hutch.  Imagine it in black, perhaps with a damask wallpaper background.  That would be so sleek and modern.  LOVE. 

glass door china

Most customers look at me strangely because I audibly gasp whenever I see pieces like this !  Such potential !


This corner end table has two great surfaces, a lower for magazines, and the top to hold a lamp.

corner side table


Speaking of lamps, I always find the most interestingly shaped lamps at thrift stores.  Many are junk, but every now and then you find a diamond in the rough.  I happen to love both of these colored glass bases.  All they need is a modern shade !

glass lamps


How about a little spray paint to cover the brassy metal on this one on the left.  Fill the glass halfway with white sand and float some shells on top for an instant beach scene.  The one on the right could stay copper, but personally I think it would look amazing in a high gloss peacock blue. 

brass lamps


Both of these mini cabinets would make great candidates for a makeover.  They’d be wonderful end tables next to a bed, but also I’d love to convert them into mini bars, with room for glassware and bar supplies inside.  I imagine a beautiful tray on top corralling martini or wine glasses and beautiful glass bottles.  Party perfect !

mini cabinets


If only I had nine lives, or a shop with helpers !  How much I would LOVE to refinish each and every one of these.


In other news, I’m still struggling to get some video footage on the kitchen island paint job, so I’m putting it off to the weekend to work on it then.  Hopefully early next week !  

Also, if you recall all the beautiful personalized stampers available at The Paper Cafe, keep in mind with this discount code (CG15OFF) you can save 15% through March 1st !  

Now, should I go back for that chair ?  I’m thinking maybe so.  :-)


  1. Yes, go back for the chair!!!!

    I can’t believe how many beautiful pieces there are. We don’t have these opportunities where I live. So jealous.

    Loving the chair and the cream french sideboard.

  2. goodness, your Vinnies is about a million times better than mine, I think I’d buy all of those you shot!!

    my local Vinnies is pretty good for lots of things but the furniture has some idiot who thinks he is an antiques dealer pricing it up, those things you showed would all be well up in the $400’s…sad cos now I don’t even bother going to the furniture section that much in there…I kinda whizz through…in fact I went there too and laughed out loud for price tags on some things in the 6 to 7 hundreds…just wonder who buys it


  3. I just did a search on good thrift stores in my area – not much yet. Our Goodwill just opened this fall, so there’s not much in the way of home decor – mostly clothes. I’ll have to find my inner sleuth!

  4. Oh, you should go back for that chair. Or, if I could make it there, I should go for that chair.

    A great store you have there! I must do some more scouting to see if perhaps there’s a good thrift store around here. My old faithful place closed its doors. Some of my friends thought I was nuts for bemoaning a thrift store’s going out of business. They just haven’t seen the light yet!

  5. I love your finds. I was just out yesterday myself at the local salvation army family store. They actually just had a sale and alot of their good stuff was gone. I am always on the hunt too!

    Love your blog,


  6. WOW! You must live near the Holy Grail of thrift stores! Ours never have furniture that nice, and when they do it’s waaaay overpriced. Maybe you could pick up a few furniture projects and send them to me here in Texas?? :)

  7. Awesome finds, I love those end tables. Especially the 2 tiered one. And that chair would be awesome redone.

    Thanks for sharing

  8. That first piece is almost identical to the one I got for $50 at my local GW! I’ve painted it white but I think it needs one more coat to be finished.

    I take my 3 year old daughter to the thrift store with me, too. They’re never too young to learn how to spot a bargain!

  9. That first piece would be amazing turned into a vanity!!! I’ll definitely have to start thrifting once we have our house built by the end of this year hopefully.

  10. What great finds! I wish my thrift store had such good stuff. You have such a gift for spotting potential and visualizing how a piece should be used. Love your site!

  11. I’m still dreaming about it. Painted with a distressed white finish. A beautiful bowl sink. Oil rubbed bronze hardware. Oh…divine!

  12. That sideboard is amazing and I have been looking for something just like it! You have some great pieces at your local thrift store – I haven’t seen anything nearly as nice at mine. Great ideas too, to go along with those great finds.

  13. Love the first dresser and the sideboard, both look like they would make great bathroom cabinets with the sink installed in them…..course thinking they would be to big for my bathroom.

  14. What great finds! I love the first dresser. I am always thrifting, it’s such a rush to find those awesome finds that other people might have passed up. I love it.

  15. Go back for the chair! My word, I’d love to go thrifting with you.

    I looove to go thrifting, but it’s tough with the preschooler and toddler in tow. But like you said, you have to train them young. ;)

    We have a very tiny St. Vincent de Paul…they don’t carry many pieces of furniture. Our Salvation Army usually has the most furniture, but their prices (as well as GW) tend to be inflated, in my opinion. You could have doubled the prices you listed today if those were in my GW. Not the best bargain. But I keep looking because sometimes SA will haggle or offer “Make a Deal Saturdays.” :)

  16. If only our thrift stores were as nice as yours! Some of them are so expensive that it is not worth buying, like $300-$1000. I can only look at your finds and drool!

  17. Wowza! The mother load for sure! How do you restrain yourself?? Those prices are super great..it makes me want to do more bargaining here at my lame-o store! Thanks for sharing them with us!

  18. Wow, thanks for sharing your great finds and your visions for transforming them! It’s great inspiration for my creative thrifting skills. My husband thinks I’m crazy all the time when I drool over “interesting” looking out of date pieces at thrift stores, not seeing the potential of a new paint or finish or fabric update!

  19. You need the chair – it’s begging for a a good home :). I’ve never seen so much awesome funiture at a thrift store…I wonder if there are ones like that by me?

  20. Great finds! Wish we had furniture like that at our thrifts. And you should defenitely go back for the chair…love it!

  21. I just purchased the first dresser off CL. I plan to repaint and add new hardware, question for you…how should I handle the hinges? Should I paint over them or consider replacing them. This is my first revamp….your advice is greatly needed! Thanks…

  22. Thank you for the inspiration. It was nice to hear your vision on things. When I go thrifting I have a hard time envisioning something great. Thanks for the ideas!

  23. I want to be a helper in your shop :)!! I just found your site and love all the tips, photos and fun you share. Thank you.

  24. Go get the chair! How perfect would those dressers be turned into vanities for a bathroom? I wish I was down the street from you and I would go now! What a fantastic thrift store! Do you think you could ship the sideboard to Virginia for me? :)

  25. The golden oak hutch with the detail on the top…. I have its sister currently dismanteld and sanded up ready to be pained red in my basement as we speak. The brother is waiting for its dive into this decade also. Can’t wait to get this added color into my house and the carmel oak of the early 90’s out!

  26. So much love!!! I have been searching for a great dresser for well over a year now. Both of those are incredible. Jeeeeeaaaaaalous!
    And the sideboard and table are amazing. LOVE that sideboard. NEED that sideboard!
    I have been looking for a green lamp like that one pictured as well. I am redoing my front room with a little bit of peacock inspiration. My white hutch has some pretty colored glass vases in it and I think that lamp would be a fabulous piece to tie in.

    I have one of those old school orange glass ball on a chain hanging lamps from our newly-wed days (we had a celery green velvet davenport back then too). That was 8 years ago but we’ve never been able to part with the lamp. I am thinking of putting it in my husbands rustic meets world traveler office.

    That’s it…I need to move to your ‘hood. ;)

    P.S. I’m still drooling over the sideboard!

  27. P.P.S. That chair would look fab in a room right off of the dining room with the table. The corners are similar, as are the legs.

  28. I think you should start a furniture rehab business like Holly at Life in the Fun Lane (have you seen her blog?). Anyway, she is buying tons of stuff just like you found and has started a great business up in Canada reselling all her lovely painted furniture. That way you could justify buying all the great things you see and finding new homes for them. :)

  29. You find such amazing pieces in your thrift stores — I must be looking in the wrong places around here! I second the idea of you doing a furniture rehab business or store — then we could all buy the fabulous stuff you refresh and we don’t have to do any of the work! I need to go to California and learn all your marvelous tricks!

  30. Amazing finds!! Makes me regret every ‘big name store’ purchase I’ve ever made! I have a HUGE southwest style armoire in my lr that is like an elephant in the corner. I’ve been dreaming of the perfect shade…and you nailed it with “French Gray Blue” — can you give me some examples of actual colors?!

  31. remind me, why haven’t you opened a little shop to sell all your refabulous’d furniture?

  32. Being both a) a poor newlywed in a small, outdated apartment, and b) half of a one-income household, I find myself thrifting all. the. time. I frequent St. Vincent de Paul is, the Salvation Army, and both Goodwills. I’ve found some awesome stuff! Someday when we have a garage or a place that can serve as a workshop of sorts (rather than just a carport, hrrm) I would love to buy some bigger pieces and revamp them. You’re a great inspiration, Kate! Keep it up! And, yes, go back for the chair. :]

  33. ok your thrift store is waaay better than ours- we are more miss than hit. I NEED that 1st piece you showed!!! and funny story about that chair you want – I have one almost exactly like that one-but the fabric has some blue in it along with the green-I got it for $5 at a yard sale last year-its quite comfy-but kinda low to the floor. So when ever Im in San Fran I am sooo going to visit your thrift store.

  34. That white sideboard NEEDS me! Or, at least, I need it! LOL!! I’m looking for an old sideboard exactly like that for my dining room. *sigh* None of the thrift stores around here have anything that good. Guess I’ll have to wait to see what the local flea market brings when it starts up again in just over a week!

  35. I am an organizer & found your website through a link from Real Simple, You really have unleashed my creative side that I never knew I had. I love your blog & it has inspired me to possibly start one for my business/passion!!

  36. wow! my thrift store has NEVER had such a yummy and varied assortment of good pieces to choose from! How could one ever decide? i would quick load up that tiered end table and the sideboard i think and bring it home….lovely finds…did you choose one?

  37. I can’t believe all those pieces are in one store!!!!!!!!!!!! the prices are incredible!!! Like many others I wish I could have a thrift store like yours!!

  38. i loved the thrift store post! i’m like you, when I go thrifting, I see endless potential, and wish I had 10 homes to fill and decorate with all the re-vamped goodies!

    i have a degree in film studies, and i do video stuff on the side. I’m happy to help you over email, if you need tips on uploading the video!

  39. Where do you shop at? I am in love with all those piece I am always looking for furniture to redo and I never find anything. I think the pieces you picked up will turn out great.

  40. Oh if only I was 3500 miles away in Cali! I’ve been looking for a dresser EXACTLY like the first one. And the price is perfect too. Unfortunately, our thrift stores haven’t had anything appealing. I need to go during the week. But boy would I love to see what you could do with some of those pieces!

  41. Ok, I give up! I live in Rohnert Park and don’t know where this great thrift store is. I’m looking for a small desk and this looks like the perfect place to look. Would you be willing to disclose the location? Thanks

  42. What city is this shop in? I’m in NorCal too, and I’d love to go get those lamps!

  43. Ah that sideboard is amazing! Exactly what I need for my dining room. Too bad I can’t find it in NY.

    Still owe you an email back. Sorry about that. Waiting on my website to be finished!!!!! Taking way too long.

    Go back for that chair. I turned down a pair of amazing lamps went back the very next day and was told that an antique dealer beat me too it about an hour before and that they had been 30% off. I could have died. Still not over it!

  44. I have so many lamps in my house it looks like an airport runway but still every time I go thrifting I browse the lamps – I love the variety! That’s what I think I enjoy about all the other things I go there for as well. I like the thrill of the hunt and the interesting variety which is so much more than you’d get at a regular store.

  45. Are you kidding me? All of that in ONE thrift store?? Never would that happen here, NEVER. There isn’t that much furniture in ALL the thrift stores combined in this area. Boo, hiss! Those knotty pine armoires are Broyhill and cost a small fortune ten years ago–I should know, I have one almost identical to the one your daughter is in front of! LOL!

    ~ Sarah

  46. woman! you hit the jackpot!!! so many amazing things! and that sideboard would have been shoved into the back of my 4-runner in zero point seven seconds.

  47. Ok, my local thrift shops have NOTHING like this – they only have shitty furniture and ugly frames. Even heirloom white couldn’t save their crap. I must go check out yours next time I’m in yonder lands.

  48. It would be dangerous for me to go to that thrift store! Lots of potential eye candy and I love the white sideboard….now, let me go look in my 3 storage buildings at home and see what “project” I can add to my ever-growing ones at home!


  49. Get that chair!! Run. Get it now. Perfect … I can imagine it in a dozen different fabrics and colours.
    You can’t beat a thrift store for great buys on different and older bits of furniture.
    AND..send me a box of those cookies! We only get “chocolate mint” here. Nothing like the selection you get. Lucky Americans. I’m so jealous!!

  50. WOW! Great stuff. I wish the thrift stores here had such great deals. I live in Southern Alberta Canada. I may need to take a little trip south with a U-haul! Happy Olympic watching.

  51. Katie, I’ve been looking for a chair exactly like this. If you dont buy it, I will drive two hours and pick it up myself. :) So much potential. And that side board, I want it. Where is this thrift store your talking about? I googled the name…came to an address in Alameda. Is that the one?

  52. WOW…now that’s a boatload of awesome pieces…all in one shop?…lucky lucky you! Come by and check out my CASH GIVEAWAY and new PARTY…I think you will like them!


  53. What incredible finds – and all in ONE place! Amazing!

    I’ve already forgotten how I found you (it was a few days ago and late at night!) but I love your blog.

    P.S. Definitely go back for the chair! It has great potential.

  54. Kate,
    That place is amazing! I love so many of those pieces. A couple of them are exactly what I am looking for for my bedroom makeover. I would be gasping out loud with you!
    Thrift stores make me giddy too!

  55. Why can’t I live where you live? I’d give anything to go and get some of those items! How do you find the “good” thrift stores in an area?

  56. I think I need to go thrifting with you! I never have that much luck. You hit the jackpot of thrift stores…I am drooling over that sideboard. I want it!

  57. I have that GOLD chair! I go it for $15 from Craigslist and have been dreaming of a way to make it over. I have no idea how to recover it. So any tips would be great!

  58. WOW that was a definite hit today! I really hope you go back for the chair- would love to see it made new again! I took the advice of another blogger the other day who said “I never drive by a DI (similar to Goodwill) without stopping- in and out in 5 mins.” so as I drove by a GW the other day, I thought what the heck, in and out… and out I came with a mid-century modern chair to re-do for $3.99!!

  59. I never looked at thrift store furniture with a creative eye until I started reading your blog. Now I’m obsessed with it – so much so, my husband gets sick of hearing “that would look GREAT painted!” or “that would be fantastic if I refinished it this way!” :)

    On a side note…..my 2 best friends (we’ve known each other since birth -for real!) are planning a girls only trip for our 50th birthday’s in 2 years. We talked about Italy or Greece but decided on Sonoma. They want to go for the wine and spas. Me? I want to go for the thrift stores! LOL

  60. I really don’t know if I’ve ever commented on here or not! I’ve been reading your blog for awhile now and I really enjoy it. I’m trying to do better with the commenting thing. :)

    You found some great things. That sideboard is amazing! Can’t wait to see what you do with that chair! You are going to get it right? :)

  61. I am so with you, K! I was just finishing up a post about my latest thrift store find and saw your post. Let’s just say, it makes my measly little find pale in comparison to these treasures! I am so jealous of your thrift store options.

  62. So I was so excited about your finds that I rushed out to my nearest thrift store today. There was a dresser there, but the best part of the piece was probably the drawer full of already chewed gum. Blech!! And that was the BEST feature! LOL
    I’ll keep on the hunt!!

  63. Well that was fun. I’m really learning to see things differently. Of course my husband is anti-paint wood, but he wouldn’t care if it was something I thrifted…garage sales are going to be much more fun this year!

  64. Ok-

    I just have to say thanks for posting this post! I love hearing and looking through another’s ears and eyes and just …understanding what you see when your thrifting.
    No. You didn’t buy everything you saw…but photographing it and sharing your thoughts and ideas on some of the pieces… that teaches us that have lost the touch or who may be just getting our feet wet in this sort of thing — how to dream it up.

  65. Ok, I don’t know of ANY thrift stores near our home that have this many pieces of furniture! What are the prices like at this thrift store? Can you share with us a range of prices on some of the furniture pieces? I am so curious!

  66. Swoon! That is the best thrift store trip I’ve ever been on. I’ll be your shop helper! I want to bring it all home and fix it up…like finding a lost scruffy puppy and giving him a bath and a pretty collar. Yes, I want to bring them all home and work magic until they can be beautifully enjoyed in my house or sent to live with a good loving family. =) The potential is riveting!

  67. great finds Kate! I love reading your vision on each piece. I am off to visit my thrift shop, as soon as the weather warms up, so I can work on it in the garage! lol

    I have lots of knotty pine and that exact hutch in my home. ( I use to have more of a country house) but now I have a more modern home. Any tips on painting pine? I am worried about the knots? Or should I just try and sell what I have and start over?

    I have lots of ebony stained maple and cherry in the house now, so the pine…well it isn’t working! LOL


  68. Hi Kate! Do you have a suggestion for a paint that would be the “French Gray Blue” you talked about in this post??

    Thank you!!!!!


  69. You have, hands down, the most amazing thrift store- obviously! I NEVER find things like this around me here in Colorado. I would scoop up a few of those things in a heart beat!!

  70. Is the white sideboard in Petaluma at the St V’s store, if it is I’ll try to get there this weekend. Great piece. And the TV armoire is the same as the one I have in my family room, it is excellent quality and I’ve had it 15 years!

  71. Wow, those are some really amazing finds. $25 for that dining table is a crazy deal.

    Once you start thrifting, it is just *shocking* to go into a retail store and see what they are charging. Gives me the heebie jeebies.

  72. I have a very similar version of that middle dresser. Dummy me! I’ve been thinking of how I could move to dark brown/black in my room and not loose my great dresser (that thing hold AMAZING amounts of clothes!). It is made of Hard Rock Maple – virtually indistructable. All the drawers are solid wood sides and bottoms – you don’t get quality like that these days.

    It just might be getting a painting really soon! I’m imagining brown or black over a red under-coat. Mmmmm.


  73. Holy cow, I want to shop at that store! Our thrift stores are really hit or miss for furniture, mostly miss. That sideboard is to die for!! And, yes, go back for the chair, darling, you know you want it. :)

  74. Great finds! I wish our local thrift shops had treasures. It’s been “miss” here lately. Thanks for sharing though, motivation to get out again soon! :)

    Have a great weekend!

  75. All great finds. You simply must go back for the chair. Oh well, I’m writing this three days later – I hope the chair is now safely in your house.
    I, too, see so much potential in the pine armoire. It would be great in a rustic kitchen, painted of course, housing tableware linens and amazing dishes.

  76. I’m lucky to find one or two cool pieces at my thrift store, wow my heart’s beating fast just seeing all this cool stuff, I hope you got the chair. I wish I lived closer so I could swipe up that dining room table for my new dining room!

  77. Hi just came across your site and have been browsing around some of your entries and just wondering why you selected a WordPress blog dont you find it difficult to do anything with? Been thinking about starting one.

  78. I have never seen a blog show pictures from a thrift shop and then give some good tips or what we could do witht he piece.

    What a great idea!!! I don’t have to “buy everything” ha ha I can just take my camera and come home and drool on what might have been.

    thanks for the tour, love it!

  79. Wow Kate! Thanks for sharing! I just feel like I went shopping with you! So much fun! I’ll have to check out my St Vincent again. It’s been a while since I was there. If I wasn’t painting my bedroom right now I’d go thrifting!

  80. I need to go thrifting with you, what great finds those are. I especially like the white sideboard. I even like it as is with the antique and aged look. I am inspired to go thrift store browsing tomorrow.

  81. These are some fine pieces of furniture. I also make it a habit to go on different thrift store and bargain shops to find some great pieces of affordable price.

  82. Where on earth is your St. Vincent’s? I find nothing of this caliber in the 10-12 thrift stores I visit regularly…count yourself blessed!

  83. Hi there Kate!

    I stumbled across your blog thanks to Pintrest and the desire to refinish our stairs as you two did! I LOVE IT!!! I noticed your “about me” said you live in the Northern Cali area and then you said St. Vincents — which leads me to this comment… I think, we live neck of the woods… We reside in Rocklin, CA ourselves :) You are SUCH an inspiration and I am getting so many incredible ideas thanks to your blog… i hesitate to take chances and do fun things to our lovely home but you are giving me Some terrific ideas :) Thank you!!
    xoxo – Gina

  84. The secret to finding the good stuff is knowing where to shop. I have found in the area where I live that it is better to shop the thrift stores near the ritzier neighborhoods. Rich people throw out good stuff without a thought. Another key is to shop the store whose mission is supported in your area. We have Goodwill, Salvation Army, and Hospice. My local Hospice has the best stuff. Since the people in the area support their mission they get a lot of donations that the others dont. This means that they mark things down quickly to make room for more. I score good stuff and they are able to provide their much needed services.

  85. I love you! I visit your site DAILY! I am sooo inspired and you have helped me tap into my creative juices. I have completed 6 projects this month. Sooo relaxing but I do stay up late at night working on things. You should look into a local television network and start a DIY TV show. I know you’ve been thinking about it:):)

  86. Are you going to start a DIY/tutorial TV show? If you just post the tutorials on Pinterest, it would be a LOT cheaper, and everyone could benefit–not just those who are able to access a particular TV network!!

  87. Holy crap! I would have gone bananas in that store! The french neoclassical sideboard piece is by far my favorite!! How much was it? If you can recall.

    Good luck with your future thrift store shopping!



  88. That’s so funny. I actually have that tv armoire in the picture just below the one of your daughter. We got it at an estate sale for $275. I thought that was a good deal, how much was it going for at the thrift store? I love thrifting too, but haven’t found much furniture wise.

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