Decorating your home? There’s nothing more environmentally friendly than choosing pre-owned goods, especially those that may be seen as trash by others. Look for aging items with lots of texture and character like apothecary cabinets, bins and baskets, bird cages, dressing tables, suitcases, picture frames, shutters, scrap wood, jars and tins. Use these 35 photos as a visual guide to pick out quality vintage pieces at thrift stores, flea markets and yard sales and integrate them into your home.
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Originally designed to store herbs, spices and medical goods in retail stores, apothecary cabinets have many small drawers that can be extremely helpful in organization. Often weathered, giving a hint of their history, these beautiful cabinets can be found in excellent vintage condition from locations all over the world. Reproduction models are also available (but are nowhere near as charming or eco-friendly.) They can be used for the home in so many ways: storing linens and special tableware items in the dining room, arts and craft supplies, baby items and random odds and ends.
Bins & Baskets
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They’re among decorators’ most-loved vintage finds: bins and baskets from times past, typically very sturdy and well-made, often printed with text that tells of their initial use. If you’re lucky, you’ll see metal baskets from old locker rooms, industrial metal bins, milk crates and French mail bins. Naturally, the uses for these bins are practically endless. Slide them onto bookshelves, or use them in place of drawers in dressers. Mount them to the wall. Use them in the bathroom for towels and extra toilet paper. Place them inside open kitchen cabinets or pantries to reduce the look of clutter.
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Bird cages have a certain ‘shabby chic’ aesthetic that some vintage-loving decorators just can’t resist. Many are decorative enough to simply hang empty, or place atop nightstands and book cases. Some place candles or potted plants inside them, turn them into hanging lamps, mount them to walls or remove one side to create a cute little organizer. Get instructions to make the latter at Better Homes and Gardens.
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Why keep dressers hidden away in the bedroom when they have so many uses? Snag one with potential, re-paint it and revamp it into a foyer table, an organizer for tableware in the dining room, a changing table, a television stand or even a bathroom vanity. Look for real, solid wood (not particle board, which can bend and warp) and interesting hardware for maximum visual impact.
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Who knew suitcases had so many purposes? Aside from schlepping around your travel gear, vintage suitcases – especially those a little too worn for their original use – make beautiful and unexpected nightstands and decorative elements when stacked. Just like baskets and bins, they can be placed inside a dresser instead of drawers; have one open on a tabletop to display some of your favorite items.
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The trick to making a gaudy old picture frame chic and modern? Spray paint. Even the busiest frames can be vastly simplified with a coat of paint – try black, white or a high-impact bright like red or turquoise. Weathered wood frames are beautiful as well. Take cues from these inspirational images and use them to display photos in unexpected ways, frame a chalkboard or display jewelry.
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Room screens. Headboards. Wall art. Furniture. Tuck memos, mail, notes or photos into the slots.
Shutters have so much texture, and their mere presence seems to make a room brighter and more welcoming because they provide the illusion of more windows. Another way to use this effect to your advantage – and visually enlarge a room – is to place them on either side of a large mirror.
Jars and Tins
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Vintage jars are so in-demand that they can sometimes sell for up to fifteen dollars each. That’s a big success story for an item that was once thought of as trash. Mason jars, tins and other kinds of glass and metal containers – especially the old blue Ball jars – are a small but dramatic way to bring some vintage flair into a room. They can be hanging lamps, terrariums, vases, planters, soap containers and votive holders. Melt down leftover wax and pour it into an old tin for a double shot of reuse. If you’re in love with the look of those blue jars but can’t find any, try this tutorial by Like a Cup of Tea, which uses glue and food coloring to create the effect.
Weathered Scrap Wood
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Strips of salvaged wood bring so much character into a space, whether used sparingly or applied to an entire wall. Drill 2-inch holes into a scrap wooden post to turn it into a rustic candle holder for your mantle or tabletop. Nail them together into whimsical wall art. Use them to cover the top of an uninspiring table, or create a window valance.