Thrift Shopping Tips from a Vintage Treasure Hunter

Thrift Shopping Tips from a Vintage Treasure Hunter

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Adrienne Breaux
Jan 5, 2017
This rug was a Craigslist find!
(Image credit: Minette Hand)

Emily Waldman's Austin house is full of treasures—vintage and antique gems she's scoured from many different places. As a true treasure hunter, Goodwills and Craiglist prove to be fertile decor hunting ground for her, as well. Below, Emily shares some of her top tips for vintage treasure hunting.

(Image credit: Minette Hand)

Don't let them know how much you want it:

At thrift shops I am happy to pay $3 for a vase, and most of the ones around these days benefit nonprofits. You just have to develop your sense of value, so that you always know what you're paying is less than it's probably worth.

On craigslist, I absolutely negotiate! I try to always keep it friendly though, and depending on how bad you want the piece, frame it as an option, not as an absolute. I never want to paint myself into a corner where I have to walk away from something I really want on principal! Also when it comes to Craigslist it's good to do some research—I always try and buy things for less than I know I could resell them on there in case the item doesn't work out for you or you change your mind. That's when it's good to know your brands.

(Image credit: Minette Hand)

Don't buy for the win:

I try and frame thrifting as an activity, rather than an outcome, so that you're not disappointed if you don't have results, and you don't convince yourself to buy things you don't need just for the "win." Much more "yoga" than "football."

That being said, sometimes you need to shop with a purpose, and that's when I go more of the Craigslist route, because you can get specific with your searches, and do it over coffee. Approach thrifting with more of a "this might work, let's try it" attitude.

How to zero in on the good stuff while on a hunt:

Look for texture. I always zoom in on metallics, wood items or rattan. Then check if it's the real deal by seeing how well it's made—check the seams, check the furniture joints, look for chipping. I would much rather buy a chipped and scratched piece of furniture made with real wood by someone who cared than a plastic high production piece that's in pristine condition. It also helps to know what is fixable with a new cushion or a fresh coat of paint!

(Image credit: Minette Hand)

What she likes to buy when she thrifts:

Glassware and textiles, or prints when at thrift stores. I am not easily grossed out so it doesn't bother me one bit that someone else might have slept with that blanket, or drank out of my amazing gunmetal champagne flutes previously. That's what washing machines and dishwashers are for, right?!

I always buy folding TV dinner tables, because they are the best all purpose table! Night stand, side table, whatever, and you can just fold up and store if your current iteration doesn't require!

Consider avoiding these things:

I tend to avoid buying big-box retail items, but even then, sometimes it's just more convenient in that it's already assembled. Generally things from big-box stores I avoid, because the quality isn't there.


Thanks Emily! See more of Emily's Austin home in her house tour → This Treasure Hunter Filled a Sixties Home with Fantastic Finds


*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.
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