For many, thrift store artwork brings to mind gaudy, dated prints or cheap generic art that has seen better days.
But what if I told you that using vintage art from the thrift store is one of my favorite ways to decorate the walls in my own home?
For sure, thrift stores and flea markets are full of older art pieces that aren’t particularly special and don’t have much to offer. But if you’re willing to dig, you can actually find amazing art pieces that will add unique character and charm to your home.
Today I am sharing 15 different ideas for how you can decorate your home with thrift store artwork. I hope this guide inspires you to try using vintage art to create your own space full of personality, all while saving money!
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Why Decorate Your Walls with Vintage Art?
Recently a friend visited and said that she loves coming to my home because there are so many interesting things to see. Little tidbits of unique finds scattered around, decor pieces that tell a story and create character.
There are many reasons why I love to decorate with vintage or thrifted art, let’s run through them.
- The Unique Factor: If you’re truly looking to create a home with charm and personality, you should skip the basic same-old wall art that’s available at every big box store and instead hunt for some used pieces that fit your style. Vintage artwork is one of the easiest ways to create a curated look for your home that shows off your individual taste.
- Cost-Effective: Shopping for vintage home decor can save you lots of money! Rather than paying inflated retail prices for new mass-produced art, you can find decor for a fraction of that cost at the thrift store or flea market–if you’re patient enough to hunt for it.
- Better Quality & Craftsmanship: Tired of the inexpensive plastic frames or cheap wood signs you see on store shelves? Why not look instead for a real vintage oil painting with a solid wood frame? Most vintage items are going to be higher quality than items that are currently being made.
- Helps the Environment: One of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint is use up items that already exist. So much great art is already out there, we don’t need any more to be made! You can feel good about your decision to decorate your walls with thrifted art, it’s a small step towards reducing waste.
- The Thrill of the Hunt: Decorating with vintage art requires patience–it may take some time to find just the right thing. But the hunting is part of the fun for me, it’s like digging up a treasure when you finally find the perfect wall accent.
Where Can You Find Good Vintage Art?
If you’re new to thrifting or hunting for used treasures, I’m here to help! This way of shopping may seem strange at first, but it’s not so different than heading to your regular new retail shop. Follow along and in no time you’ll be a regular thrifting genius.
- Thrift Stores: These types of stores are the obvious place to start. You honestly never know what may be at your local thrift store. Even better, if you can find a thrift store in an older area of town, head there! The donations given to those stores tend to include more vintage items than thrift stores located in newer suburbs.
- Antique Malls: These locations feature a variety of vendors who have set up goods in divided booth spaces. Every mall or market is different though, some feature high-end true antiques while others sell what I like to call decorative junk. If you find a mall that fits your aesthetic, check back often as vendors bring in new items almost daily. Also in these places, prices are often negotiable–if you see something priced too high, ask the front desk if the vendor has a better price.
- Outdoor Flea Markets: 10 years ago I purchased an original oil painting from a German artist for $20 from a vendor set up in a field. True story 🙂 Often markets like this happen monthly, or 2-3 times a year. They can be a bit tougher to find, so ask vintage-loving locals if they have any regular markets they attend. You can also search at FleaMapket.com to see outdoor flea markets in your area. When you head out to one, be sure to bring cash and a cart to haul your treasures.
- Garage Sales: I honestly have not found many great vintage art pieces at garage sales. But if you live in an older, more established area, they could be worth visiting. Again, you just never know when you will come across your next great art find!
- Online Shops: If you aren’t able to get out and hunt or have something very specific you’re looking for, shopping for vintage art online can be helpful. A great place to start is Etsy, where you can search through thousands of small shops offering their wares. Smaller independent online boutique stores also exist, a few I recommend would be ThriftyWhitney.com, FlippingVintage.com, and my own, LostandFoundVintageShop.com
Ideas for Decorating with Thrift Store Artwork
Now that you have a vision for decorating your walls with vintage art and know where to look for it, let’s get going with the inspiration!
Accent Other Wall Decor or Add Height
Next to my front door, I have an old ladder that belonged to my husband’s grandfather hanging on a small side wall. I also hung some flow blue plates to frame each side of my doorway. There was an awkward open spot above the ladder, so I added a pretty piece of vintage art. It not only filled in the spot but added more color and interest.
Combine Multiple Sizes of New and Old Art
The large wall in my living room called for a large piece of art to fill it. While the big floral art is a newer piece, I actually found it at a thrift store for less than $15! I added two pieces of vintage art to the side to balance out the arrangement and make it more pleasing to the eye.
Feel free to mix and match old and new art for an interesting wall collage.
Frame a Television with Thrifted Art
Decorating around a television is always a bit challenging. How do you add a little style and class to that giant black rectangle? Try framing your flat screen with a few vintage art pieces for a little touch of design style.
Layer Vintage Prints on a Mantel
Several years ago I purchased a large vintage mirror from a garage sale to hang above my mantel. I love the way a mirror reflects light and helps brighten up a room, but I wanted to add more color to my mantel space.
I stacked up a few different pieces of framed art against the mirror for added color and visual interest. And for a bonus, I can switch them out with the seasons if I want to change up the accent colors!
Hang a Matching Art Set to Frame a Doorway
My grandmother passed down this set of Shakespearean prints to me when I was first married. I’ve hung them in a variety of places over the years, but in this house, they frame a doorway that leads from our living room into the back hallway. A lot of times art is only hung over furniture pieces, but you can hang vintage art on any open walls in you have!
Add Thin Artwork to Small Walls
We have a back wall of windows in our kitchen, and instead of adding curtains to the windows I used art to help frame them.
I found this pair of amateur paintings at a garage sale and they are the perfect size for this half wall. They also add a nice little pop of color and brightness.
Hang Artwork Over a Doorway
Also in my kitchen, I hung this vintage framed print over the doorway that leads to our hall. The space over a doorway is always a bit awkward, so why not fill it with pretty artwork?
This piece pulls in the blues from the wall color (Sherwin Williams Silver Strand) and contrasts with the white cabinetry for a pretty focal point that draws your eyes upward.
Using Artwork As a Window
A lot of people have windows over their kitchen sink, but sadly I don’t! I decided I was tired of looking at just the blank tile, so using a stick on command hook, I hung a pretty mountain scene painting I found at a flea market.
This painting was less than $15, so it won’t be a big deal if it gets splashed a bit. Another benefit of inexpensive, used art!
Use Thrifted Artwork on Shelves for a Colorful Backdrop
I love using artwork on open shelving! Rather than just stacking books or knick-knacks, try standing pieces of vintage art on the back of a few shelves and then display your pretties in front. This is a great way to add even more charm and character to your open shelving displays.
Make a Statement in the Entryway with a Vintage Oil Painting
Remember my favorite flea market art find I told you about earlier? This is it–isn’t it gorgeous! I have it hanging here in my entryway above an antique cabinet. I love the colors and touch of class it adds, and visitors always see it right when they come in.
I often pull individual colors out from the painting and use them as inspiration to add other decorative touches as the seasons change–greens and blues for spring and summer, reds for fall and the holidays.
Frame a Large Window with a Thrifted Art Set
The ceiling in my dining room-turned- front office is extra high, which means the room often feels a little bare. The big walls next to my arched window were a little blah, until I found this pair of botanical prints at the thrift store.
Curious to know what they cost? Only $5 each! And they were in excellent condition.
So for a steal of a price I was able to frame my tall window and add a little more color and design to these large, blank walls.
Create a Gallery on an Open Wall
I enjoy these vintage botanical prints that have floral arrangements for every month of the year. I collected them for a period of time and found all the ones I have at either flea markets or garage sales.
This blank wall in our living room needed a little something, so I hung four of them in a grid pattern to fill the space. You could try something similar with prints like these or a collection of other prints that have similar size and subject matter.
Hang a Used Oil Painting Over a Bed
When working on my master bedroom makeover, I was stuck for a while on what to hang over our bed. I wanted a pretty piece of art but wasn’t sure exactly what subject matter to look for.
When I saw this painting of the ocean at sunset in a local antique mall, I knew it would be perfect! Not only do I love the ocean, but the orange and yellows were the perfect color contrast to the light blues in the space.
This was definitely an example of how being patient with decorating your walls paid off!
Repaint Frames of Thrift Store Art to Match your Style
I found these 2 pieces of framed art at my local thrift store and was immediately drawn to their subject matter. The prints are of 2 castles in southern Germany that I visited while in Europe for a semester of college. Looking at them immediately brought back all my fond memories of my travels, so I knew I wanted to hang them somewhere in my home.
The price was right (at $5 a print), but the frames were damaged and darker than what I wanted, so I painted them to match more of my current style. A little touch of dark brown wax over a light neutral paint color gave the frames the wood look I was going for.
These now hang in my bedroom and make me smile every time I see them!
Start a Collection to Accent a Hallway
My friends who watch my YouTube videos are already familiar with my love of vintage Last Supper Prints. I currently have 19 of them, and have been gathering them for the past 12 years.
When we moved into this house 5 years ago, I decided that our one long, boring hallway needed some life. So all (but 2) of my Last Supper prints hang there.
Whenever guests are over, they so enjoy looking at them all and they’re quite the topic of conversation!
I love the idea of hanging a collection of related prints all together in one space. If Last Supper prints aren’t your thing, why not collect vintage floral arrangements, or landscape paintings, maybe seascapes or vintage paint by numbers?
The power and beauty of a collection though comes from seeing it all displayed together. So pick your favorite subject matter and start accenting your own boring hallway with a vintage art collection!
Whether you’re scouring thrift stores or picking through antique malls, I hope you’ve been inspired to grab that next piece of pretty vintage art and bring it home to your space. Not only is thrifted art one of the easiest ways to add a unique charm to your home, it’s also a a budget-friendly way to decorate! Thanks for joining me today, and here’s to homes that look less ordinary and more full of personality and collected style.