Decorating Ideas for Vintage Finds | Midwest Living

Decorating Ideas for Vintage Finds

Quirky flea-market finds become interesting decorating opportunities when you put your imagination to work. Repurpose antiques, collectibles and architectural salvage for one-of-a-kind decor.
  • Color a collection

    What a little spray paint can do! Choose a single standout hue to turn a jumbled collection of garage sale finds into a unified display for a wall, mantel or shelf.

    Start with a group of related (but not necessarily matching) items. You could use a pile of old brass candlesticks, a menagerie of kitschy animal figures or a stack of tarnished trays. Our pick: a variety of dinged-up kitchen gear from antiques and thrift stores. Remove dirt and dust with a damp cloth. Spray on primer, then apply the final color with a light back and forth motion for even coverage. You may need a couple coats for rich, uniform color. (We used Krylon indoor/outdoor Cherry Red paint in gloss,

  • Fill a room

    In this Minnesota living room, bargain chipped-paint furniture brings low-maintenance style, while one-of-a-kind finds take on new, fun uses: An enamel casserole dish becomes a flower pot; a 1950s salon hair dryer gets new life as a floor lamp; patchwork feed sacks cover a pillow on the sofa. Upholstering vintage iron patio chairs with red-and-white feed sacks makes them indoor-ready. 

  • Shutter display

    Hang shutters horizontally to display photos, postcards or letters. Use double-stick tape to hold items in place if needed.

  • Suitcase stack

    Create an unusual bedside table from a stack of vintage suitcases. Place on an inexpensive crate or stand for extra height.

  • Family photo holder

    A salvaged postcard holder becomes an instant display area for family photos. A fun way to organize: Fill each column with photos from a different year or event.


  • Door decor

    The old door leaning against a wall is a versatile vintage find because its back side is an awesome blue color. Depending on the time of year, the Illinois homeowner flips the door over for a new look.

  • Coffee mug holder

    A retro battery rack snagged for $30 at a flea market becomes a clever holder for a collection of thrift-store coffee mugs.

  • Mantel headboard

    A weathered mantel gets new life as an eyecatching headboard—and a display shelf for mementoes. 

  • Letter display

    Old handwritten letters are strung across an empty frame with jute twine to create a pretty vintage vignette.

  • Vintage finds for a bathroom

    A soda pop cooler becomes a colorful and creative sink. For unusual molding, this Minnesota homeowner applied yardsticks above corrugated steel wainscoting. To coordinate with the sink, she mixed red and green sticks.

  • Display and organize

    Mason jars, milk bottles and other glass containers take a charming turn as vases—or places to corral paper clips, rubber bands, pens or pencils.


  • Shutter decor

    Salvaged shutters add interest and texture to walls. Simply prop behind furniture, or secure to walls.

  • Create a centerpiece

    Not sure what to do with your quirky collectibles? This homeowner’s old lightbulbs, in varying colors and shapes, create a striking focal point for the dining room table.


  • Vintage shelves

    Weathered planks serve as display ledges for vintage finds. Muted colors unite the varied collectibles. 

  • Doorknob decor

    Glass, marble or metal doorknobs make fun clothes or curtain hooks.

    Another idea for doorknobs: Turn them into a picture holder. Attach two or three to a wall and prop a picture frame between the knobs and the wall.

  • Window wall art

    An old barn window becomes intriguing wall art. The reproduction chair upholstered in feed sacks adds to the vintage appeal.

  • Timeless accents

    Old pocket watches from a flea market provide a tabletop accent. 

  • Wine holders

    Use old canning jars to serve wine.

  • Serene blue

    In this serene blue master bedroom, an old window stands in for art above the bed, and a vintage chest adds pretty color on the nightstand.

  • Mail stop

    A salvaged porch railing serves as an attractive—and useful—mail stop. Sort correspondence by slats rather than stacking it in piles. 

  • Under glass

    One way to display unusual finds such as these vintage lightbulbs: Put them under a glass bell top or cloche.

  • Simple vintage art

    Old photos—on a clipboard or hung with clothespins—are easy wall decor.

  • Button up

    Old buttons become works of art when hung on wall displays. Consider grouping by color, shape or material.

  • Water filter

    A vintage water filter fills a nook in this dining area.

  • Candle holders

    A meat grinder cleverly holds a candle for an entertaining tabletop. At an outdoor party, try attaching the grinders along a buffet-table edge. Deep-fryer baskets with pillar candles inside make great luminarias!

  • Fireplace fillers

    Create a playful fireplace display with old globes, as these Ohio homeowners did. Glue holds the globes in place.

  • Fun and games

    Old board games make colorful wall art—and who cares if some of the pieces are missing?

  • Sports theme

    Grouping sports collectibles in one room increases their stylish impact. Arrows in a thermos are an everlasting alternative to flowers in a vase. 

  • Kitchen space saver

    Instead of piling fruits in a basket, save counter space by suspending an old grocery scale from a ceiling hook.

  • Recycled storage

    Hard-sided suitcases store files on a shelving unit.

  • Bottle opener

    Put a vintage bottle opener to good use by attaching it to a kitchen table—preferably a vintage one!

  • Stylish crates

    Add drawer pulls to inexpensive wooden crates to make them easier to pull out from shelves. 

  • Clever caddy

    A metal caddy scored at a thrift shop holds canning jars that keep everyday forks, knives and spoons handy.

  • Outdoor wall art

    Salvaged items—including grates, grills and picture frames—look perfect on weathered outdoor walls. 

    For more ideas on using recycled or salvaged items in your garden, click on the link below.

  • Pretty and practical

    Vintage hard-sided suitcases tucked beneath a bedroom side table are pretty and practical. They hold linens and clothes. 

  • Retro camp style

    Late ’50s boy-theme curtains inspired this room. A totem pole lamp and a throw covered with vacation pennants create classic camp style. 

  • Desktop organizer

    This flea-market find—a sugar mold—makes a perfect workspace organizer. It's deep enough to store scissors, a hole punch and other office necessities.

  • Dresser dress-up

    Favorite items are grouped on the dresser: a vintage fur collar, a glass jar full of perfume jars and an old tiara.

  • Farmers' finds

    An apple-picker's pouch hangs around to gather magazines.

    More ideas for farm tools: A pitchfork attached to the wall pitches in as an easy coatrack; a rake head becomes a hanger for small garden tools.

  • Repurpose toolboxes

    Small toolboxes can hold spice jarslarger ones can control desk clutter.


  • A different kind of light

    Distinctive ceiling light fixtures turned upside down work as candleholders.

  • Side table grate

    A metal heating grate serves as a garden side table when placed on top of an urn.


  • Bread box vase

    A tin bread box makes a unique vase or plant pot (just line it so it doesn't rust—and punch a drain hole).


  • Repurposed silverware

    Tarnished silverware becomes a clever decoration on the framework of a lampshade. 

  • Creative uses for old toys

    Leave the expensive toys to collectors; the ones that still work cost hundreds. Instead, think how broken-down toys can serve as conversation-starters. Tin dump trucks, for instance, can be home base for the remote control.

    Other toy ideas: Game pieces, such as dominoes, poker chips or checkers, give small magnets playful personality when you glue them together; vintage dollhouses make interesting bookcases.

  • Put workshop tools to work

    Vintage wooden molds make stylish dresser-top organizers. Another idea for a workshop tool: A wood carpenter's level as a narrow photo ledge.

  • Group collectibles

    Grouping collections maximizes impact. Here, glass containers show flatware prettily, but you can also try old pots, pitchers, baskets, trays, and bowls to corral and display.

  • Plate holder

    A curly building corbel becomes a plate display piece.


  • Book helpers

    Wood pulleys pair up as clever bookends.

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