8 Vintage Shopping Tips that Bring New Life to Old Pieces


Ever since I can remember I’ve held a passion for thrifting and hunting for unique finds from decades past. You know those oversized coats, perfectly worn vintage band tees, old globes or antique vases you stumble upon that seem to speak right to you? Well, me too. There are a million reasons why I love vintage shopping, partly because it’s therapeutic but mainly because you can find one-of-a-kind treasures to style in and around your modern day decor. I’ve definitely considered the possibility that I was born in the wrong decade, do you ever feel like that?! Either way, I’ve rounded up 8 vintage shopping tips you can use when searching for those old pieces you’re hoping to give a new life to. Are there any pointers you feel I’ve missed? We would love to hear in the comment below – where are your favorite places to score amazing vintage wares?

Know where to shop.
I’m happy to say that the smaller, independently owned vintage and thrift stores are where I usually find the best pieces. Not only are they typically more curated than other secondhand shops, but there is also just a certain romanticism to stumbling upon a quiet, ‘hole-in-the-wall’ vintage store filled to the brim with storied objects. My favorite things to look for in shops like this are “place specific” items, whether that be a vintage souvenir mug from the town you are visiting or an old decorative map of your hometown. If you’re local, some of my favorite spots reside on the Minnehaha Mile, like Turquoise Vintage (show in the photos in this post) and Time Bomb Vintage.

Pick it up!
When thrifting, I always find that picking up and feeling what I’m shopping for gives me a better understanding of it. It’s really hard to reimagine how an old object might look and feel in your own home when its cluttered by other unrelated objects. If a serving platter catches your eye—try picking it up. Bring yourself out of that store and picture yourself in your home entertaining your friends and family with it. Oftentimes this gives me a better sense of what objects will add to my life and what ones I just like because of the interesting color or shape.

A ‘good deal’ does not equal a ‘good buy’.
It’s easy to fall into the habit of extreme bargain shopping when buying secondhand. When you see a vintage wicker chair priced at $15, don’t fall for it. Chances are that the seat is unraveling or that the previous owner’s dog used the legs as a chew toy. There are always going to be extremely cheap pieces with a lot of potential, but many of them are beyond the point of repair. That being said, keep trying and another wicker chair in much better condition will show up. Which brings me to my next point…

It’s a waiting game.
Some days you will walk out with nothing. Other days you will have to call your friend’s aunt’s brother-in-law to pick you up with his pickup truck. The point is, thrifting is a give and take! Pick a few favorite spots around you and visit them frequently—shops like this cycle through inventory pretty quick. Plus, if you go enough, there’s a good chance of befriending an employee and finding when they get new hauls in.

Find a balance between shopping with a purpose and having a curious eye.
Walking into a store like this can be incredibly intimidating if you don’t have any idea what you’re looking for. Set out with a purpose—maybe you’re looking for a new accent coffee table, a few vintage vinyls, or an art deco bar set (or all three!!). But don’t let that limit you; some of the best finds are going to be totally unexpected and surprising. Keep a curious mind and browse a bit after you’ve yay’d or nay’d all of the things you walked in for!

Come prepared.
A tape measure. Pinterest. And hand sanitizer.

Know what you can fix.
I often catch myself with ideas bigger than my toolbox (or tool skills, rather). In other words, be careful with being too ambitious with what you can fix or alter and what you can’t. It’s true that a lot of thrifted finds can have a completely new life after a few easy alterations, like a fresh coat of paint or new hardware. But when it comes to rewiring vintage lamps or completely altering a retro dress, take a minute to think of how feasible the fix is. I’m guilty! I have a large collection of things that I swear I will get to one day. But I’m convinced that this collection will come in handy on a rainy day. Take this tip as you will. ;- )

Finally, have your ‘go-to’ items.
You’ll find that the more you visit these shops, the more you will know what the treasures are. Some of my tried and trues are: furniture, graphic tees, vinyl records, coats/jackets, vintage books, bags, and art.

Images via @huntr.elijah on Instagram


Raquel is a forward-thinking graphic designer and creative with a knack for nuance. When she’s not working, you can probably find her on Google Flights in search of a cheap adventure, experimenting in the kitchen, or gushing at dogs at a local brewery while trying their newest citrus IPA.

 

 

  • I like shopping at estate sales. Sometimes the items are pricey, but sometimes you luck up and the estate sale staff just missed the mark on pricing. Sometimes you find items unmarked and they shoot from the hip and that can work to your advantage.

    My best tip: Look down. Never underestimate what is placed at ground level. I have scored some of my best finds under shelving or under a more expensive piece. Know what you like and keep an eye out for it.

  • Great tips! I’d also add 2 of my own. First make sure to circle the store at least twice and if you can go back to the stores you like to shop at different days of the week or better yet try and find out when they re-stock. I really enjoyed reading about another vintage shoppers tips and tricks. Thanks

  • Your tip on shopping with a purpose is key. I usually shop thrift specifically for clothing, not household (although I have picked up a couple of interesting things in that area too!). Walk in knowing what you want (i.e., white blouse, black vest) or you’ll get overwhelmed. I also like to shop Salvation Army and Goodwill stores, closer to high end towns. The number of designer sweaters and jeans I’ve found (WITH TAGS) would make you drool. 😉