There I Go Again

By Kate Riley April 14, 2010

There’s really very little reason for me to stalk the furniture department at the local thrift store since my house is already full of pieces I’ve dragged home and refinished.  But I can’t stay away, much to the chagrin of my poor husband.  He can’t even park in our garage because of the half dozen pieces I have yet to turn my attention to.  I can’t help it !  I have some sort of addiction – a crazy soft spot in my heart for rejected objects.  

Today, I couldn’t drive past the parking lot, I just had to pull in.  Some people window shop high end boutiques.  Me?  I get my kicks exploring the furniture department at the thrift store, and dreaming of what things could become.   

Like this headboard.  I would pop out the four inside frames, they are a little too busy for me.  Then I’d do one of two things.  I’d add pretty appliqués to the four remaining sections and paint it distressed cream with a hint of the dark wood showing through in spots.  Or I’d skip the appliqués and go in a different, bolder direction.  Perhaps paint this baby in a semi gloss indigo shade, then attach nailhead trim to the outer framing and place it in a master bedroom up against a wallpapered accent wall and hang a bold metallic starburst mirror above.  So glam !

king headboard


Or this little cabinet.  Someone emailed me the other day about making a wine cabinet, and this is the perfect little candidate.  I would retrofit the bottom with diagonal shelving to hold wine bottles, then attach chrome hanging glass racks to the top.  I’d repaint its damaged surface in black, replace the hardware with some blingy crystal knobs, then add a mirrored tray to the top.  Ready for entertaining !  Trés chic. 

bar cabinet conversion

future bakers rack

Revamped, this skinny cabinet and hutch belongs in a cottage breakfast nook or dining room. 

Look at the paneling along the back, the dentil molding on the top, and the little drawers for silverware. 

Love ! 

I’d remove the shutter doors to create open shelving, then paint the entire piece white or a complimentary color for wherever it was destined.  Perhaps paint the back a different color than the piece itself. 

Or leave it the deep walnut color, the wood tone is nice too ! 

Some modern knobs and lined drawers, and this is a great showcase for ceramic plates or other pottery, objets d’art, or even silver platters.    


This mid century piece is totally fabulous for a modern space.  I might just change the hardware, but I dig the pencil legs, drawers, and mini cabinet in the middle. 

mid century dresser


This is a gorgeous sturdy dresser that would look great in a bedroom.  You could leave it this walnut color and just replace the somewhat dated pulls.  Or go bold and paint it – the paneling is just wonderful. 

paneled dresser


If I brought this home, my husband would first gag, then laugh, then say “What were you thinking?”  Perhaps you’re doing the same.  :-)  First, can I get a collective ‘Eeeewwwww’ on these cushions?  Amen.  Now breathe.  And imagine this.  Toss those cushions out – the faster, the better.  Then paint the frame soft green, bright turquoise, or even crisp navy blue, and replace the cushions with some Dacron wrapped foam and your choice of one of these stylish outdoor fabrics, and guess what?   This would be completely wonderful on a screened porch or in a sunroom. 



I love the sleek legs on this end table – it’s so perfect for magazine storage on the bottom shelf and a stylish lamp on top.  Paint it silver and have a mirror made for the top – you go girl. 

end table


This sassy pair is so fabulous.  I love the bamboo style detail on the wooden legs.  Again, paint those legs and the tray top a high gloss black or a vivid color, then have a mirror made for the tray top, and flank your tailored sofa with them.  

tray tables duet 

Now these are the kinds of pieces that stop me in my tracks.  Oh my word, I love the shape of this desk.  Well, it’s actually a sewing table but it’s hard to tell unless you lift the top.  You could leave it a sewing table or  it could easily be retrofitted into a desk.   Repair the tiny break in the trim and paint it a fabulous off white or buttery cream, and it’s perfect as an office space or as a vanity in a bedroom.  Spray paint the hardware dark bronze, or be brave and paint those pulls antique gold.  

 sewing table desk


So there I go again, scheming what could be done with these sad little rejects on display at the thrift store.  I happen to think they have so much potential.   Thanks for indulging me yet again.  I’m doomed with my addiction.     :-)



  1. Ha ha ha. You need to read my post titled “I Think I’m Past the Stage of Denial”. There’s probably a lot of us out there with this, let’s just say, ‘weakness’. I think it comes down to being able to create fabulous stuff (that would normaly cost a pretty penny) on a dime – it’s just so hard to say ‘NO’.

  2. It would be very hard for me not to buy a few of those furniture pieces you photographed. Ooohhh the potential! Glad I am not the only one who has banished my husband from the garage. All the best, Lori

  3. What wonderful inspiration! My husband and I are looking for a new bureau, and reading how you would turn thrift store pieces around makes me think that’s where we’ll start looking for our “new” furniture!

  4. not pathetic @ all!!! Know whats pathetic? How crazy JEALOUS I am of your thrift stores…I never never never see as many amazing pieces @ my stores!!!!! :)

  5. Thank you for this post. I’m new to reading your wonderful blog and also a newbie to thrift store shopping. I so appreciate posts like this because it helps me to learn what to look for in the pieces I am seeing. I love all the fabulous re-dos I’ve seen here and in the blogosphere, but my brain doesn’t work the same way as yours. I just can’t “see” the potential of a piece. Posts like this help me learn what to look for.

    Thank you so much!

  6. I’m now feeling guilty about all the pieces I’ve passed on to Goodwill that I could have refurbished. Ah well-perhaps I’ve given someone else a thrill over finding treasures to redo!

  7. Love it! Now I don’t feel so crazy for looking at thrift store “junk” the way I do. My problem is that I don’t have a garage (or a basement!)…so most of the treasures I happen upon have to sty at the store. ;) I love how you found a new life for each of those pieces. :)

  8. Amazing potential! My thrift store has NOTHING like this… it’s all just nasty cheap composite wood stuff. I would go crazy in that thrift store!

  9. What great pieces!!! I can only wish our local thrift stores had pieces like these. They never have anything :(

  10. Our garage is sadly in the same shape, but thankfully our thrift store doesn’t usually have the offerings yours has… I could not have passed up those sweet tables with the bamboo legs.

  11. You are making my resolution to stay out of Amvets even harder to keep. I’d grab those sassy bamboo numbers for sure. Just as they are, they’d be great in my newly painted living room. And I’m going to need end tables!

  12. Your furniture re-dos are always so amazing. You truly have an eye for finding great pieces and seeing their potential. It’s amazing what a little paint and hard work can do. I would love to attempt a project like this, but figure I’ll start small. Do you have any tips/pointers for first timers?

  13. I love this post! Sometimes it’s hard for me to see past the obvious, in your face ugliness, to the potential underneath. Thanks!

  14. Aaaaaand I’m broke. I have yet to venture to the Japanese thrift stores, but now I think I must. Without a garage though, I’ll be limited to one piece at a time. DERN SMALL HOUSING!

  15. The eye you see these pieces with is quite unique. I really love some of the ideas you’ve come up with. I have yet to rescue anything in the thrift store but I’m anxious to do at least one this summer :-)

  16. I’m am so glad to see that I am not the only one who does this! My obsession is more with side chairs. I guess because they are just so small, you can’t have too many right? Certain locations of Goodwill have some great finds if you go weekly(they don’t stick around long).

  17. I would be in so much trouble if I had that store near me, I would have gone home with every piece! What kind of a thrift store is it? Also, we are recovering a chair, and I was wondering where to buy that foam that you used for your headboard?

  18. Not pathetic! Visionary :) And think of all the money one could save. Our thrift stores don’t have quite your selection, or maybe I just lack the vision (definitely time, but that is coming…) Thanks for sharing!

  19. I don’t know how you do it all the time. I guess that it is your ‘hobby.’ I am working on ONE piece now and I sure don’t enjoy it like you do. LOL!

  20. I smiled reading your post, as you bare the thrifter’s soul that is in all of us. Judging by the comments, there are quite a few of us afflicted with this condition. Reading your blog, I know you’re extraordinarily efficient with turning these pieces into glamorous things that they become under your attention. It’s a lot of work and requires quite a discipline, but you do it so effortlessly. Love reading about it.

  21. I think you must have the best thrift store in the U.S.!

    I would fall over if I walked into one of the thrift stores around here and found anything close to these great pieces =)

    I am actually off to the thrift store this morning on a mission for wood chairs…wish me luck, I’ll need it!

  22. You seriously have the best thrift store ever. I know I mentioned it before, but you need to check out Life in the Fun Lane. She has made a business out of rehabing furniture. . . and you totally could too. You are talented girl!

  23. Pathetic? No…Now what you should do since your house is full and you love it so much, is start doing them for other people. I mean you do such a beautiful job – you could not only continue doing what you love, but you could make a little money from it. What’s better than that! :)

  24. Oh … you must be my long lost twin…….I am sooooo guilty of this! It’s so much fun and so rewarding. My husband doesn’t get it, though. He winces at the sight of me dragging in yet another reject and says, “honey, we can afford to buy a new one, why don’t you throw that back out on the curb?” I guess I would love to open up a shop since my house is at the brim with “loved” items!

  25. That was GREAT!! I really liked looking at what ‘could’ be done (thru your eyes) THANK YOU so glad I found you again, and follow you

  26. such great finds! i’ve never had luck finding pieces like this. i’ve been searching for a wood rustic headboard for my son’s room and haven’t found anything. you definitely have great ideas!!

  27. “Look! Look with your special eyes!”
    I don’t have the where-wth-all to shop that way; I have trouble seeing through the ugly to an items potential. This post opened up my mind a bit, and I thank you. I’m trying to find a coffee table on Freecycle or Goodwill, so I need to prepare myself for finding hidden potential!

  28. I’ve been really enjoying your blog for the last few days. I wish I had found it earlier!

    I’m so jealous right now after reading this post. I absolutely love shopping thrift stores also. In fact, with a wad of cash in hand, I’d always rather thrift than buy new. But my local stores have NOTHING compared to what yours appear to have!! I mean, I have to REALLY search to find even one good item. Oh well…my hunt continues.

  29. I have a similar obsession. I finally decided to be able to keep revamping items, I would host a sale! I call it Front Porch Finds and it is drawing a pretty large crowd. I do 2 sales a year. Have you ever thought of doing something like that? :) I personally, am more of a garage sale junkie.

  30. Love all of them! Especially the side tables with bamboo legs! Wish I had a bigger house, and a garage! I am determined to slowly replace all my cheap department bought ‘furniture’ with these gorgeous old solid wood pieces, which will give me all the pleasure of refinishing them. You are my hero! And great envy for your thrift store.

  31. Oh my gosh, you have such great ideas— and I totally want that yucky couch!! Come shopping with me!!

  32. I really wished I lived nearer. I have been looking for bamboo tables forever!!! My dining room is really large, and i’ve got a huge old Oriental rug ($100 but worth about $1000) with a dining table, two club chairs in the back corner, and those tables would be so perfect. Thanks for sharing. When I bought my house, my family and friends pretty much had the same reaction. They just couldn’t see what I did. Now, they are in awe.

  33. We’re hoping to move so no furniture for me right now, but hopefully I’ll be browsing soon! You have a great eye, and I have to say that you either have a fantastic thrift store, look at things differently than I would, or maybe a little of both because I never see stuff that great! (or that much of it!)

  34. This is like offering whiskey to a recovering alcoholic! I have a feeling I’ll be walking through the thrift shops downtown today. I too have turned into a total thrift store rat. I too am fond of those, “What the hell are you going to do with THAT?!” looks from my boyfriend. Just check out my sweet pecan chair in our bedroom or our patio set and you’ll get what I mean. Or worse yet, I’ve started bringing home wayward items, like a refrigerator coil and thinking to myself “man, that’d make some sweet decor!” once again getting that familiar look from my boyfriend. I’m glad there is someone out there just as bad as me… except I think you have some jackpot stores and I’m gonna have to drive down CA one of these days and check them out! Here in the valley we have antique stores galore, but not so many thrift shops!

  35. When I lived in Boulder there was this great shop, Good Use, Inc., that did exactly this- refreshed thrifted furniture pieces. I’ll always remember a dresser I saw in the window once- repainted pale yellow and then treated with large, hand-painted daisies here and there across the top, sides, front.

    I can’t get their webpage to open, but there looks like there’s another one too- Joyful Furniture

  36. OH I love that last desk the best! I could see it painted a pretty soft yellow or even pink or tourquoise! FUN FUN!

  37. My friend actually has the wood sofa painted white with pretty blue and white striped cushions! She had the vision more than 7 yrs. ago and I love it! I would have bought that sofa immediately!

  38. This is the best post! I have done a couple pieces in my home but its so hard for me to have a vision for something that needs so much. This is really going to get me started! LOVE IT!

  39. You have fabulous choices at your thrift store! I wish mine had the selection that yours does. But then again, my garage is mostly full too!

  40. Omg! I wish i had friends like you (like me) to go thrifting with … i feel like a LOSER when I go because I don’t think anyone else does this! It is a complete addiction ..

  41. Wow, nice stuff! I need that pair of bamboo legs side table! Do you how much they’re asking for it? :)

  42. I totally do the same thing. Problem is I haven’t found a thrift store in our new town. I am sure there is one must haven’t found it. My husband just knows when I find one well… the garage will no longer be able to be parked in like yours. Those men didn’t know what they were getting into when they married us, huh?

  43. Drool is puddled in my lap. I’m so glad you did a post like this because I’ll have ideas running through my head and then second guess myself. I’m hoping the thrift stores around here have a good furniture section! I drove by one (and would have gone in but it was after hours) and it looked much better than the thrift stores where I used to live. It’s a good thing I don’t have a car right now or you know where I’d be.

  44. I do the EXACT same thing when I see furniture in thrift stores, I run through a list in my head of what I would do to it and then sit there and imagine what it would look like redone. I just don’t have the funds or space to keep buying all the pieces that I want!

  45. Gosh, where do you shop? Our thrift store’s “furniture department” holds a three legged chair, a curtain rod and a broken box spring. I wish there was stuff like that in our place. I would have so much furniture!

  46. Kate,
    I just may make a trip to the SVdP store in Rohnert Park! The thrifts near Sacto just don’t have much furniture worth reclaiming…

  47. Kate, I love that you are able to see the hidden beauty & potential in items that others would turn their noses up at as “dated”. I am a firm believer in recycling and repurposing, especially since many of these old pieces seem to be of better quality materials than the stuff currently out on the market. I have a 1960s/70s corner display cabinet sitting in my garage just begging me to transform it this summer when I can paint outdoors.

  48. i have the same addiction…groan! i can hardly move in my garage and the cars are in the driveway and haven’t seen the inside of the garage in several years. i have stacks of dishes in my basement for mosaics. i have containers of thrift shop stuff clogging my attic. and i work on something almost every day! it is a sad embarrassing addiction!!! haha!!!

  49. Girl—we would be in so much trouble if we were friends! lol Fabulous finds. Honestly, there aren’t many things that I see that can’t imagine making over in some way so I’m never surprised to hear your ideas. They are always great!
    Thanks again for your response! I will let you know how the brass projects turn out.
    Still contemplating that trip to the antique fair on my bday….. :D

  50. I would definitely snatch up that sewing table, and use it as a desk in my bedroom. I am looking for one just like it. Haven’t come across it yet. But there is hope in the upcoming garage sale months. I am also addicted to old becoming new, but it’s so fun isn’t it?

  51. Just so you know, your writing is very engaging and I am 100% on your boat of hopeless thrifting! I too have problems with Goodwills and thrift shops, their contents interest me so much more than any department store and I always find great decor with tons of character. I can’t begin to imagine walking into a thrift store with this many nice pieces all at once, what torture!

  52. The last facial expression I saw on my husband this morning as I was pulling out of the driveway was of him rolling his eyes as he moved two bedside tables into the garage. :o) Fantastic and crazy inexpensive craigslist purchase from yesterday that I couldn’t pass up! Never mind that we have furniture in storage and being used by other family members because we have no space for it.

    Thanks for the idea of the silver paint! I hadn’t thought of that one…. My mind is spinning!

  53. I love going into thrift stores and looking at the old furniture and imagining who they belonged to. How I could fix them up. But I don’t buy them…We don’t have a garage.

  54. Oh, I am such an addict as well. I have “lost dog syndrome” for furniture. I just can’t helo myself. I love that cabinet and the side tables with bamboo legs. The last dresser you showed above the couch is my mom’s dresser! They had the entire set when they first got married, so I have a gard time seeing the potential in that one. :) I think it’s always that way. When you grea up with something it’s hard to imagine it can look updated. I’m glad I’m not alone in my illness.

  55. Hi Kate –

    Had to laugh that your poor husband can’t park his car in the garage because of your thrifting loot. Mine is used to the fact I bring home strays and justs pleads with me not to spray paint his car.

    My best- Diane

  56. I love that mid-century cabinet. I’d buy that in a minute. Exactly what I need for our dining room!

  57. oh that was a super, super fun tour!!!
    I have been driving by a thrift store day after day with my 2 yr old, not ready to go in. In fear of ending up with a boat load of stuff i can’t fit in my car. But that would actually be a good thing! A good thing to know that I found a worthy place to visit and buy good finds!

    I think I am moving on from paper crafts to refinishing furniture! Because of you and this fab blog! Such a more productive and mature switch! So thank you!!! Keep the inspiration coming!!!

  58. Oh I love it when you do posts like this!! I have such a hard time seeing the beauty behind the beast whenever I go to the thrift store, but this helps me think a little more creatively. Love it.

  59. Love this post! And I need your thrift stores-and time to visit them! I’m wanting to turn our screened in porch into an outdoor living area this spring/summer (right now it just has a table and chairs. Can I get an Amen about eating meals outside? Less clean up!) but we are trying to be better spenders, too. Your idea about the couch is perfect! I’m now on the lookout…

  60. You crack me up!!!!! I feel the same way about second hand stores, flea markets, garage sales. ha ha Took my student teacher to the flea market today to look for prom props and she thought i was crazy. She had NEVER ever been to a garage sale even. Anyway, you are too cool! Thanks for all your great ideas and helpful tips!
    terra —

  61. I so would love that buffet and couch. Well, minus the nasty cushions. I wish I had a garage of stuff that needed my attention. As it is, I am only looking at a chair re-do and canopy for my Daughter. I need more projects. They make me happy and are my “ME TIME”.

    Thanks for this post today. Made my blood start boiling in the hopes of finding my next treasure soon!

  62. I never look at an old piece of furniture the same any more, now that I have seen so many before and after pictures of furniture. You have a wonderful thrift store. Great finds. Love & blessings from NC!

  63. I am fairly certain my parents have that exact skinny cabinet hutch and it was my grandma’s before that – behind the shutter doors was probably a swivel platform for a tv (I coudn’t imagine my grandma would have had something like that added.)

    I do really like the idea of painting it white shabby chic style and adding different hardware but I would keep the doors on it and maybe keep some uglier kitchen appliance(s) in it. Though an open plate rack would work quite nicely as well.

  64. Just discovered your blog the other day and I love it. You are really talented. I live up the road from you in Santa Rosa. I used to live in Rohnert Park and visit that St. Vinny’s. I can see that I better get myself down there tomorrow. Hope to see you at the Petaluma Antique Fair.

  65. Kate you most definitely have the ‘eye’! Better yet you can actually DO what you envision! Hope you snag those little bamboo numbers – faux bamboo/bamboo seems to be quite popular these days!

  66. I love it when you write these “idea” posts! They so inspire me to go out and create my own find. Please make this type of post a “regular” type! Thanks! : )

  67. I found a totally gorgeous black headboard today at GW, somewhat similar to the one you found, only smaller. I was going to paint the frames with chalkboard paint, brighten the overall color, write each kids name on a square and use it as a coat and backpack rack. But there was no price and when I flagged the lady down she said she had just rung someone up for it.:( I was so close……

  68. Thanks so much for sharing your ideas! I, too, like to grab real wood furniture when I see it for a screamin’ deal and my sweet husband, knowing this, brings rejects home all the time. However, sometimes I lack the courage to dive in. Thanks for the motivation. Here goes!

  69. OMG I have that same mid century chest in my sons room! I painted it white and painted the handles silver. Couldn’t believe you saw the same one somewhere else!

  70. are we long lost sisters?
    LOL I absolutely love browsing thrift stores too, and furniture in particular (although my husband is not NEARLY as easygoing as yours – I can’t bring home the things “I” love to refinish, there is simply no room to do so.
    I stick to smaller pieces – end tables, lamps, etc, but in an ideal world, I’d be busy sanding and painting big pieces too!

  71. Oh my gosh…you sound just like me…I LOVE thift stores of all kinds and I am also a self professed, notorious trashpicker. The ols woman down the road is moving out and I am pulling my van up every other day filling my garage with projects. So far I have small cottage hutch, secratary desk (sort of French) looking and a fabulous tall cabinet with lots of glass and oodles of potential. Now I have to wait for Spring to refurbish it’s too cold here in the Northeast to paint and I can’t take the fumes indoors! Just found your blog today while perusing kitchen ideas for a Spring renovation…love it…And I envy your massive kitchen!!

  72. I adore these pieces. I wish my local thrift stores had such lovely pieces and at GREAT prices you mention. I bought this little bookshelf($19.99-Goodwill-3ft tall), and going to follow your instructions on “how to paint furniture”. I took it in as my first project. By the way, I just recently purchased alot of decor from Kirklands and all pieces have the dark blue, browns, maroon, yellow colors. But now I want to redo everything. I love the fresh color look you carry on in your home.

  73. The walnut cabinet with the shutter doors is an Ethan Allen piece….I have some like it.

  74. You have got some amazing finds in the Sonoma area! I live in the East Bay. Pleasant Hill/Walnut Creek area and it’s slim pickins!

  75. Centsational, you are SENSATIONAL. Your ideas inspire me. Another poster is right, the cabinet is Ethan Allen, likely Bennington Pine, as is the sofa. I live for Bennington Pine. Solid construction, dovetailed pieces, lasted 40 years and will last 40 more, sometimes good as gold, sometimes ideal to refinish. And your idea for the sofa, is exatly what I have in mind for my 30×12 enclosed porch, refinish some Bennington tables and chairs in a lovely fun color (teal? turquoise? even purple! with crisp white or beige outdoor covered cushions!

  76. Rose, I too have been gifted several pieces from the same ’70s Ethan Allen collection…I am looking for inspiration for a way to update them

  77. Your ideas are so inspiring! I want that desk!! As a military wife, I have to be careful what (and how much) I bring home from the thrift store since we move every few years and there is actually a weight limit to how much we can move (DARN!) But I LONG for the day that we are in one place if for not other reason that to buy these fun pieces and clutter my house with the art I have created! ha ha ha Thank you for such a fun blog on IDEAS for thrift store pieces. I’d love to see more like this! Genevieve

  78. This post was so inspiring to read! Normally I’m drawn to dressers and desks, but you gave me many ideas for other pieces & color combos. I’m ready to hire a sitter and go thrifting for the day! (:

  79. You obviously have much better thrift stores in your area than we do in eastern WA. I’m jealous!

  80. You are not the only one with the ‘affliction’! I love looking at thrift stores, the treasures are still out there! I peruse Craigslist too and have found a few ‘hidden potential’ pieces for my daughter, she is now addicted to thrift stores and CL. I am trying my hand at upholstering a few chairs and later on doing more with my existing collection of furnishings. I am one to gather my pieces first to make sure I have what I need, then the style, line and scale are all what I like, then I refinish to make surfaces somehow talk to one another.

    I used to blog more, but took some time out, now getting back into the swing of things after our big, downsizing, to another state move.

    LOVE your blog and I have your email notifications and love your style and approach to decorating and repurposing ideas and professional results.

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