I get it. You love vintage styles. There’s a look or a style that just makes your heart sing and you want your home to feel like a little vintage sanctuary. However…you’re on a budget and you can’t afford to drop buckets of cash to make your house a dream. Here are my favorite places to find vintage home decor on a budget from a vintage shop owner!
Not only do I want to help you find where to shop for vintage decor, but I want to share some tips on how to make the deal and how to put your pieces together.
As a vintage shop owner, I’ve spent a lot of time and money hunting down the perfect pieces to add to my Etsy shop or to sell at in-person events as Milk Glass Home Vintage. Through this process, I’ve definitely made some great purchases and some not-so-great ones.
Fortunately, you get to learn from my mistakes to find the right vintage pieces to create a cozy home.
Do your part for your budget and the planet
Did you know that secondhand items are more sustainable than new ones?
They’re also typically less expensive and better made than new items.
Hunting for vintage finds will help you develop the perfect look for your home, save money, and reduce your waste!
Where to find vintage home decor on a budget
Most of us know the places we can go to find second-hand pieces, but there are new websites and programs out there to help us narrow down our searches!
The locations below are the best bet for grabbing unique finds on a budget.
- Facebook Marketplace
- Garage sale
- Estate sale
- Thrift store
- Flea market
- Antique stores
- Antique malls
- Vintage shows
- Buy Nothing Group
- Etsy shops
My favorite spots to find vintage home decor on a budget
Of this short list, my favorites are Facebook Marketplace and garage sales.
People on Facebook Marketplace are already online and could have easily Googled the piece they’re selling to know its full value. This means smaller pieces are often not quite as great of a value.
It is, however, ideal for antique furniture.
At garage sales and estate sales, you’re able to find a lot of pieces at the same time. If your sense of style matches that of the seller, you’re on a goldmine.
Check Facebook Marketplace for garage sale listings and zoom into the photos. I always try to see the items and I always look for a price tag. This helps me see if there’s enough to make it worth a trip and the price tag helps me see if they’re reasonable.
It only takes 2-3 good items for me to decide a garage sale is worth a visit, but that sounds easier than it really is!
My new favorite spot for vintage picking
Online estate sale auction sites!
I avoided these forever because I didn’t want to baby an auction listing only to be outbid at the last second. (When this does happen, I internally glare at the person who outbid me when I go to pick up!)
Even with those frustrations, I’ve found that not a lot of people really bid at these events, especially in towns that are harder to get to.
I typically shop these more for my shop versus decorating my home, but there are some incredible deals to be had on MaxSold and AuctionNinja!
21 tips to find the best vintage home decor on a budget
Knowing where to shop isn’t the same as assembling a cohesive style. I’ll be honest here – I have no design training. However, I’ve rearranged and redecorated my spaces so much trying to nail a look.
I’ve finally found practices that help me arrange my vintage finds without breaking the bank.
In this list, I want to help you:
- Know what to look for
- Get the best deals
- Assemble and nail your look
1. Clarify your style
In the beginning stages of my journey, I was a bit more haphazard with my purchases. I’d just buy whichever vintage pieces I liked and try to put it all together. This resulted in me spending a lot of time confused about why a room wasn’t coming together and a big box of not-quite-right items for the thrift store.
Spend a little time identifying your vintage style.
- Which pieces really grab your attention?
- How do you want to feel in a space?
- Do you prefer an eclectic look or something more specific?
Honestly, you might want to spend a little time on Pinterest (be careful not to get sucked in!) looking up home decor styles. This can help you get a sense of which spaces you prefer so you can emulate that in your own home.
After thinking about it for a long time, I realized that my dream decor is in primitive style. I love really old, functional-looking pieces with wear and patina. This means wood, glass, stone, stoneware, natural colors, and textures, etc. This makes it much easier to shop as I can look for pieces that are very simple and rustic.
2. Make a list
If you’re trying to stick to a tight budget, you need a list. This will help you control your spending and focus on the pieces you really need.
There will be so many tempting items when you get out looking for vintage decor…it’s best to have a plan for things you need. Otherwise, you’ll blow your budget pretty quickly on things you don’t need.
3. Shop for 2-3 items at a time
Don’t expect to find everything on your list in one shopping trip. I prefer to decorate my home gradually. I’ll find a piece of furniture, get a sense of how it fills the space, and then add to it over time.
4. Pay more for vintage charm
It’s rare to find pieces with true vintage charm. If you see a piece that just screams your style…it’s worth an investment.
Sometimes these are small, inexpensive pieces like vintage glass but other times it’s committing to a larger piece.
If most of your room is solid basics, those special hard-to-find pieces will take your design to the next level.
Check your local antique market or favorite Etsy shop for those extra special pieces or find a way to repurpose something out-of-the-ordinary in a new way.
5. Bring cash
Especially if you’re shopping at in-person events, bring cash. Cash is king. There are no processing fees and the vendor or seller can use it immediately.
Bringing cash also forces you to stick to a budget and be mindful of your purchases.
Also, the old “Well, I’ve got $15 left…” tactic can be a great way to close a sale, too.
6. Barter and bundle
When you’re shopping in person at flea markets, yard sales, or even on Facebook Marketplace, the prices are always a conversation.
Try asking if there’s any way they could take a lower price and don’t be afraid to counter their offer.
My favorite tip is to bundle up multiple items and make an offer on the lot.
Especially if you’ve found a seller with a style you like, you’ll probably like multiple pieces there. They’re happy to move a lot of items at once and they can often tell when you appreciate their stuff.
Start a pile, collect your items, and then negotiate.
7. Become a regular
Although thrift stores can be hit or miss, they can also be a gold mine.
I visit my favorite thrift store typically once per week to see which new pieces come in. I’m fortunate to have one near me that has given me so many high-quality vintage pieces for bottom-of-the-barrel prices.
There’s even an antique mall near me that typically prices close to retail, so I skipped it for a while. The past two times I’ve gone, I’ve found some excellent pieces that sold very well and quickly!
If you’re actively decorating your home and you found a place with just the right vintage items, go back every couple of weeks.
8. Think creatively
This idea made the biggest shift for me. Instead of focusing on needing an exact, specific piece, I think more generally now.
“I’m looking for something to serve as a storage or display piece beneath a cabinet.”
“I’m looking for some vintage dishware to display in my hutch.”
“I’d love some amber glass to fill this shelf.”
Instead of a specific type of hutch, be open to other options that are the right size and shape. With a little paint, you can turn ho-hum pieces into your new favorites.
There’s also something to be said about waiting for specific pieces. Real statement pieces can be worth the wait!
9. Listen to your gut
When you find unique pieces in good condition, it’s easy to want them all. Budgets are limits and that means we need to pause and think through those purchases.
Would you rather go home with one item you truly love or 10 items that seem okay?
When I feel like I have a lot of items to consider, I imagine driving away from the sale or store without them.
- Which piece would I miss?
- Which one sticks out in my mind the most?
- Do I have a plan for where these items will go?
It’s okay to leave some items behind (yes, really!). Only spend your money on the pieces you feel really drawn to, can afford, and know where to display.
10. Play off your current design
So I know I recommended you take a look at Pinterest to identify your style, but the real art comes when you find a style that fits your current home.
Don’t worry about doing this perfectly, but if your house has a really distinct style or colors, choose pieces that blend with that.
Otherwise, your room will feel confusing and the design won’t sit right with you.
Don’t be afraid to change kitchen cabinet hardware or repaint your light fixtures to make your space feel more you!
11. Mix new and old pieces
I love vintage pieces and would love it if every single item in my home was an antique. However…that’s not likely.
Most homes, even the most carefully curated ones, blend old and new.
It’s totally okay to mix-and-match styles and timelines. I currently have 70s glass pieces displayed next to 120-year-old crocks. That’s good!
In a real farmhouse, you’d expect to see pieces collected by different generations. This sort of collection feels natural. If everything is too perfect or matchy-matchy, it makes the design feel a little less authentic.
There are many modern pieces that look the part and cost much less than authentic vintage pieces. By saving on some pieces, it can make it easier to afford more expensive ones.
12. Add height
In art, there’s the idea of the golden triangle. In paintings or photographs, the subject matter usually forms a triangle. The other objects form diagonal lines to direct the eye to the subject.
This is visually appealing and is something practiced around the world.
Apply this principle in your own home by adding height. I like to have one part of a display taller than the rest. The other pieces will serve to direct the eye to that higher point.
13. Stack and layer
A beautiful stoneware bowl is lovely just as it is, but you’ll take it to the next level if you set it on some vintage milk glass platters.
By layering in ironstone plates or platters, you’ll create visual interest, texture, and height.
Once you invest in your staple pieces, hit the thrift store for a handful of vintage plates or boxes for stacking and layering.
14. Play with baskets and fabrics
As a basket weaver, I love incorporating baskets into my design. They add so much texture and are gorgeous for displaying your special pieces.
Don’t forget fabrics! They can also add a lot of texture and warmth, especially to vintage designs. Layer your vintage plates on a folded napkin or tablecloth. Fill your vintage (or new) baskets with a folded quilt or lace.
15. Create vignettes
Vignettes are little scenes that capture visual attention.
For beginners, it’s as simple as asking what items would look nice together. Play with adding height and stacking and layering pieces in the tips above. Add different colors and textures and see how those go together.
A good vignette invites you to look at it over and over again. It’s a space you don’t want to tweak or fix because it looks just right. These moments really make you feel something!
To create a vignette, choose the items that will add height like vintage mirrors, candlesticks, or a cool vintage plate in a plate stand.
Then, choose items that are a little shorter than the tallest items. Find some shorter pieces of different widths, colors, and textures. Play with these items until your eye likes the new look.
Most importantly: trust that you can decide when something looks good!
16. Be a little picky
There’s a balance between being open-minded and picky when you shop for vintage decor on a budget. There are so very many options out there…it’s easy to be overwhelmed and want to say yes to more things than you can afford or display in your home.
Remember the list and also listen to your gut.
If there’s a piece that’s calling to you and you can’t let it go, see if there’s a way to work with it in your current list. Sometimes I need to revamp my plan along the way based on the pieces I find.
When this happens, I usually end up slashing a bunch of other things off my list because this one-perfect-find fills the purpose of several others.
But also…sometimes a beautiful piece just won’t work. It’s the wrong style, the wrong price, the wrong size…If it’s not going to work, it’s not going to work. Move on and let someone else have it.
17. Ask for hand-me-downs
The very best vintage finds are actually hand-me-downs and family heirlooms. Even if they’re not perfectly your style, you can usually style them in a way that works.
These pieces are usually free and come with loads of character, history, and sentimental value. Those sorts of items make a space even more meaningful.
Ask a family member for any pieces they can spare. You can even post on Facebook that you’re looking for vintage furniture, etc. and you’ll be surprised at how many people have items to let go of.
Nobody likes this tip because it’s the opposite of instant gratification. Sometimes, the piece you’re dreaming of just isn’t available in your area right now.
You can rush and find something as an alternative, or you can wait for the right piece to come your way.
It’s been really helpful to decorate my home gradually as I find the perfect piece and I’m much happier with the statement pieces I’ve collected.
I do the same thing when I’m buying new items. These are the questions I ask myself before buying new.
19. Get your hands dirty (but don’t overcommit)
Lots of people underestimate their old vintage items because they have an ugly finish or some wear and tear. Dirty furniture is often underpriced because the owner no longer sees its worth.
I recently had someone sell me a gorgeous table with layers of chippy paint for $10 and they advised me to just sand it all off. No thanks!
Some pieces truly just need a little soapy water. Other times, they do benefit from staining or painting. New farmhouse cabinet pulls can make a world of difference!
We once bought a 70s hutch that we wanted to bring into our more farmhouse-style home.
We coated the veneer with Kilz, painted it green, removed some of the moldings to make it less dated, and updated the hardware.
This Facebook Marketplace flip is now a focal point in our home and is the perfect way to display my family heirlooms and favorite finds.
20. Ditch the rules
Don’t restrict furniture to one room or another. We have a dresser in our kitchen and a kitchen cart in our bathroom!
You can also use spaces in your home differently than intended. We live in a builder-grade house that would benefit from a few updates. We have a kitchen island with a large overhang and we played with having kitchen stools there.
One day, I moved my 1930s possum belly table under this overhang. The possum belly table was too wide and short to work well in the other spot in my kitchen.
It’s an unusual setup but it took my entire kitchen to the next level. It’s a stunning display piece for my collection of crocks and mixing bowls and brings a ton of charm to a pretty ordinary room.
21. Don’t be afraid of handmade, artisanal pieces
One of my favorite ways to truly make my house unique to me is to incorporate contemporary pieces handmade by artists and artisans.
Even if these prices cost a little more sometimes, they’re so worth it. First of all, you’re directly supporting an artist (and their work could become valuable in the future). Plus, you will definitely not find these pieces at Home Goods or Target!
I ordered a few pieces on Etsy from FollysomePrints, including this block print of a midwestern farmhouse.
As the granddaughter of a Wisconsin farmer who has miles of memories driving past and admiring old farmhouses, this piece was absolutely worth the price.
I also ordered some of her handprinted napkins to turn into wall hangings!
Have fun finding vintage decor on a budget
There’s really so much to be said about decorating with vintage furniture and sticking to a budget.
It takes time and self-reflection to identify your style. Once you know what you like, this becomes so much easier.
One last piece of advice
The most important thing is to follow (and refine) your instincts. If you get a sense that something will look good in a space, try it! Just like anything else, design is a skill you can refine and improve over time.
Have fun visiting your antique shops and yard sales! You’re sure to find some great deals to cultivate a unique vintage look that works for you.