May 28, 2014

Upcycling Using Thrift Store or Flea Market Finds

Karen Cooper

One of my favorite things to do is go to our local thrift store and find pieces that need some TLC. I love seeing the potential in them and transforming them into something new and beautiful. I’m going to first show you an example of something I upcycled from my local thrift store and then, at the end of the post, give you my top tips for shopping at thrift stores and flea markets.

For example, I saw this rusty, industrial-looking cart in my local thrift store:

industrial-cart-bar-before - upcycling - Mohawk Homescapes

I knew it was going to be a perfect bar cart.

industrial-cart-bar - upcycling- Mohawk Homescapes

So, I brought this cart home and first gave it a good cleaning and sanded some of the rust off the top and legs. To clean it, I just used some mild dish soap and water. To sand the shelves, I used 150-grit sandpaper, then went back over it with 220-grit sandpaper (you can use sandpaper or an orbital sander).

I taped off the legs to spray paint the shelves. At first, I thought I’d leave the legs with some rust and wear on them.

industrial-cart-cleaned - upcycling- Mohawk Homescapes

But, as you can see in the picture below, the legs looked dingy once the shelves were shiny and new-looking with the red glossy paint.

I decided to start over. I took the cart apart this time.

industrial-cart-bar - upcycling- Mohawk Homescapes

industrial-cart-bar - taken-apart  - upcycling- Mohawk Homescapes

I scrubbed the legs (again) and all the screws and wheels in soap and water.

industrial-cart-bar - cleaning-parts  - upcycling- Mohawk Homescapes

After a good cleaning, I spray painted the legs of the cart with gloss spray paint in antique white. That was the closest color to the original legs’ color.

industrial-cart-bar - legs before and after - upcycling- Mohawk Homescapes

I then painted the top shelf of the cart with chalkboard paint.

industrial-cart-bar - chalkboard-top - upcycling- Mohawk Homescapes

I just taped off the area and applied two coats of chalkboard paint. I put the cart back together and now I have a fun, functional, upcycled bar cart!

industrial-cart-bar - upcycling- Mohawk Homescapes

industrial-cart-bar - top view - upcycling - Mohawk Homescapes

I love the chalkboard top! And the bottom two shelves provide the perfect storage for bar accessories.

industrial-cart-bar - far view - upcycling - Mohawk Homescapes

From dingy little industrial cart:

industrial-cart-bar - before - upcycling - Mohawk Homescapes

To the perfect bar:

industrial-cart-bar - top - upcycling - Mohawk Homescapes

Here are my top tips for choosing pieces to upcycle from a thrift store or flea market:

1. Look past the dirt.

Most of the pieces at a thrift store and flea markets have seen better days. They have dust, dirt, rust, and who knows what on them. Try to look past that and see the bones of the piece. You can always clean it up later.

And a related point: if you are going to repaint or refinish a piece, factor in that cost to the cost of the piece, so you know what it’s actually going to cost you, in total.

2. Look at the bones.

Look for pieces with good bones. Research the brands that have withstood the test of time. Look for dovetail joints on wooden drawers in dressers and desks. Make sure the piece is solid; the rest is usually cosmetic and can be changed.

3. Buy with a purpose.

I am guilty of this, I admit, but don’t just buy something because it has a certain brand-name or because you saw it in a magazine or on Pinterest. Only buy it if you love it. If it’s going to go in your home, you should love it.

4. Bring cash when shopping.

This is especially true for flea markets. Not all thrift stores or flea markets take credit cards. Be prepared to pay cash for your items.

5. Take it home.

Once you’ve found a treasure, be prepared to take it home with you. Some markets have delivery available, but thrift stores generally do not. Make sure you have a way to get your treasures home.

Do you shop at thrift stores or flea markets? What was your favorite find? Leave a comment and tell us below!

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