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Fantastic Thrift Store Finds Make Memorable Up-cycled and DIY Buys

Updated on September 9, 2012

I love thrifting, antiquing, and do-it-myself projects! Here are some of my most favorite and most memorable finds from over the years (in no particular order)!

What can you do with an old gumball machine?

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Gumball machine filled with marbles.The candy buffet at our wedding.
Gumball machine filled with marbles.
Gumball machine filled with marbles. | Source
The candy buffet at our wedding.
The candy buffet at our wedding. | Source

Antique Blue Carousel BubbleGum GumBall Machine

When I saw this beauty, it was love at first sight. My Husband and I purchased this piece from a local antique store to use at our wedding for our candy bar. We brought it home, disassembled it, and gave it a serious cleaning. My husband also took out a piece of hardware so that our guests could dispense candy without inserting money. For our wedding reception, we filled it with round red cherry sours.

It now sits in our kitchen with marbles inside and everyone always compliments us on it. We were unfruitful with our research to see exactly what year it was, but it will always be special to us. I love that it is royal blue rather than red because it is unexpected and catches your attention. We will never part with it.

What can you do with an old chair?

DIY shabby chic refinished chair
DIY shabby chic refinished chair | Source

Revamped Dining Room Chair

I bought this chair from Goodwill for only $7.00. There was a whole set, and I wished I could have saved and refinished all of them. Using Trisodium Phosphate, sandpaper, paint, and some cute fabric from Hobby Lobby, I turned this chair from weak to chic. This was my first time trying a project like this and I can't believe how easy it was. I was reluctant at first, but if you're going for an aged shabby look it's quite easy to do since it doesn't have to be perfect. Try it yourself! Read my tutorial on Furniture Antiquing and Refinishing and watch this chair transform.

What can you do with a frame without glass?

The outside world as art!
The outside world as art! | Source

Antique Oval Gold-Painted Frame

I bought this at a GoodWill about ten years ago for $1.00 and never knew exactly what to do with it. It was purchased as just a frame and had no backing, glass, or hardware. It has sat on multiple closet shelves with no real place or purpose until last week. My mom came over for a visit and we were watching Friends on television. I commented on how I always loved their framed peephole on their front door and suddenly realized that my new house has a peephole and I have a lovely frame just waiting for a special purpose. I used a small 3M Command hook, so as not damage the wood or paint and voila! I love it so much!

What can you do with an old mirror?

Distressed mirror with wire and beads
Distressed mirror with wire and beads | Source

Baby Blue Shabby Chic Mirror

I bought this mirror from Goodwill for $5.00. The price was well worth it for the nice size of this mirror. In it's original state it was painted a light peach color and had a southwestern vibe to it. Makes sense, since I live in Arizona, but I hated the way it looked and bought it specifically for a DIY project. Using Trisodium Phosphate, paint, and Martha Stewart Crackle paint, I turned it into an aged blue mirror. I hammered a nail (carpet tacks, actually) into each of the four corners and strung wire and fake crafting pearls around the mirror. It came out lovely and looks great in any room of my home. The pictures truly don't capture how unique this piece turned out. This project was featured in my tutorial, How to Give your Furniture a Shabby Chic Look. The steps and techniques I used can be applied to most of your projects.

What can you do with broken neon signs?

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Today-- displayed on top of our refrigerator at homeYesterday-- a pic I snapped at the thrift store with my iPhone to send to my husband at workOur big day-- my DIY project at our head table
Today-- displayed on top of our refrigerator at home
Today-- displayed on top of our refrigerator at home | Source
Yesterday-- a pic I snapped at the thrift store with my iPhone to send to my husband at work
Yesterday-- a pic I snapped at the thrift store with my iPhone to send to my husband at work | Source
Our big day-- my DIY project at our head table
Our big day-- my DIY project at our head table | Source

Recycled Neon Storefront Letters

I found these one morning with my best friend. There were only a few and these were the only "J" and "H" they had. I took it as a sign (My name is Heather and my husband's name is Jason) and purchased them then and there. The neon tubes and some of the tube brackets were busted.

I had no intention of using them as neon lights, so I took all of the hardware and fixtures out and discarded them. Since the fronts/tops of the letters were transparent, I imagined using them for our wedding in some way.

Since our wedding was in an old haunted hotel and took place the weekend before Halloween, I figured maybe fill them with something and use as a decoration. Instead, I ended up turning them into a stained glass piece of art.

I drilled holes to connect the two letters and join them as one piece. Using a black poster board Sharpie and some blue and green candle wax (our wedding colors), I turned it into a faux stained glass art piece. This piece was at our head table at the wedding and now sits on top of our refrigerator in our new home.

Heather Says:

I enjoyed sharing some of my memorable thrift finds with you. Next time you're at the thrift store or flea market, don't simply disregard items in their current state. Imagine what you could turn them in to. I have so much fun revamping old pieces and re-purposing them into something that fits my style or is just plain useful.


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    • That Grrl profile image

      Laura Brown 

      6 years ago from Barrie, Ontario, Canada

      I like repurposing and obsolete technology but none of those interested me. I don't have enough space to start another collection of anything.

    • coffeegginmyrice profile image

      Marites Mabugat-Simbajon 

      6 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      Very interesting, in fact I love shopping at thrift stores weakness! All we need is patience and a good eye to finding treasures. I could spend all day at a thrift store! Nice hub! Voted points!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Such a good movie...Really all of them are great films.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      My wife and I enjoy going into the Thrift Stores in our area. We always find something and many thrift stores pass the profits to charitable organizations such as Meals on Wheels or Hospice. Our purchases not only make us happy but enable benefits to worthy charities.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      7 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I always enjoy going through the vinyls at thrift stores. It's a stroll down memory lane and a blast from the past that guarantees a smile! Great hub!!


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