How to make a thrift store like an interior designer

woman shopping in thrift store

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In an age where you can decorate your home with just a few swipes or clicks, second-hand shopping may seem like an outdated business. (The amount of time and research belies today’s emphasis on instant gratification.) But if you’re looking for beautiful, budget-friendly items that speak to your unique sense of style, slow and steady wins the race. “You are on a treasure hunt, but one that requires more of a watchful eye, in my opinion,” says Enrique Crespo, CEO and Founder of Crespo Design Group.

Unlike antiques, which are similar in theory but different in practice, thrift stores celebrate the art of buying second-hand. “When you’re thrift shopping, you may stumble upon an amazing 100-year-old French antique, a vintage piece from the 80s, or an item recently made in West Elm at a deep discount,” says Paige Kontrafouris, interior designer and stylist. . “It’s an open book of what you can find, whereas you know an antique store has very old coins and collectibles from the start.”

Anyone can shop secondhand, but separating your new treasure from someone’s junk can be easier said than done. To help you, Crespo and Kontrafouris share their top tips for shopping second-hand like scientists.

Related: Go Scavenger Hunt At One Of These Epic Flea Markets Across The Country

start small

With so little time and so many items, walking into a thrift store can feel overwhelming. If you’re new to this business, you might want to start with a few smaller parts and put together a shopping tool kit. “When shopping, make sure your list of things you need is easily accessible and includes the dimensions of the particular sizes you’re looking for,” says Kontrafouris. The designer adds that her favorite finds include picture frames, linens, books and storage baskets. Although Crespo buys furniture from thrift stores, he also looks for smaller pieces like glassware and accents for the home. “There are usually a few hidden gems in these categories,” he shares.

Buy local

While the internet is full of wonderful ways to shop thrift from the comfort of your couch, Kontrafouris and Crespo agree that hunting is best done in person. In fact, many of the best providers are hiding in plain sight. “Some of the best places to save money are sometimes the most discreet,” adds Crespo. “Markets and bazaars – while not always featuring antique or designer pieces – have some of the most magnificent items to browse and pick up.”

Make your first stop at your local flea market. Not only is it a treasure trove for amazing finds, but you’ll also be able to check out multiple vendors, allowing you to find something that suits your budget or price.

Do your research

The best – and sometimes the worst – part of bargain shopping is that you really never know what you’re going to find. So how do you know if a coin is valuable or high quality? You may need to do your homework beforehand. “Take the time to move around to different hotspots and study which ones carry what types of items,” Crespo recommends. “If you’re looking for a chic and precious piece, you need to understand which materials are of authentic quality and are unmistakably authentic when you see it.”

But what should burgeoning second-hand buyers do if they fall in love with a piece and haven’t done their research beforehand? Keep your eyes peeled for signs like unique markings, countries of origin, and confirmation that you’re dealing with high-quality materials like wood or porcelain. And if you’re really stumped, go online. “I love using the Google Lens app to quickly find something on the internet if it’s not something I have a ton of knowledge about,” Kontrafouris adds. “It also helps to find items you like in your spare time, so you can learn the unique details about them and know what to look out for.”

Stay organized

Unlike shopping online or at a typical storefront, second-hand shopping has its mysteries. While it’s important to keep an open mind, Crespo encourages you to plan your shopping excursion. “While impulse buying can be a total thrill in the moment, remember that those price tags might haunt you later,” he explains. “Take the time to go to different hotspots and study which ones are carrying what types of items.”

Looking for another way to stay organized? Kontrafouris maintains a permanent parts list. “When I’m shopping, I constantly refer to it,” she says. “One day I might be really looking for a side table and not find it, but later in the week I might be looking for something else again and see the perfect table I was looking for a while ago. week.”

No matter what you are looking for, remember that this business requires trial and error. As Kontrafouris puts it, “A store can have an awful selection five times in a row, but on that sixth time, you can hit hard.” With a little perseverance, you may end up walking away with the decor of your dreams.

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