Decorating with Vintage Finds

After spending down their budget building their dream home, this family scoured demolition sites, junkyards, and secondhand stores to instill instant character into their house.

The Vintage Home

Building this 1,865-square-foot home on a comparatively meager budget meant being creative with everything from resources to decoration. The home's barnlike form gains an industrial edge, tempered with skewed angles and a playful palette of materials: concrete, exposed conduit, corrugated metal, and beams made from bonded wood fiber.

The Style Palette

Neutral furniture provides a good backdrop for the interesting shapes, colors, and textures of vintage finds, which are ecologically and aesthetically pleasing. Salvage shops offer furniture and accessories that run the gamut of interior styles, usually with a local emphasis. Another style tip: In a home with an open floor plan, painting a single wall allows you to add color without worrying about where one hue ends and another begins.

Well-Loved, Not Old

The homeowner found these old cabin doors on eBay, then added the painted diamonds and a coat of varnish. (Be careful to seal anything that might contain lead paint; testing kits are available at hardware stores.)

Smart Sign

This "frozen filets" sign was a roadside find, complete with the wire grid it's attached to. The whole structure was hung on the wall with simple screw-in wall hooks.

The Funny Additions

The whole idea behind this contemporary cottage look is to glorify thrift and elevate everyday objects to the status of art, like these quirky thrift-store dolls. The pine shelves are constructed from dimensional lumber.

Unconventional Uses

Improvisation enlivens the interior at every turn. The kitchen cabinets are old art-supply cupboards from an area middle school. (Turn over a drawer and you can still find wads of gum.) The laminate countertops are trimmed with aluminum carpet-tacking strips, and the graphic backsplash is made from fragments of a vintage sign that fell off the homeowner's truck on the way home from a thrift store.

Bring Your Friends

An old rubber puppet head adorns the kitchen sink, which was purchased for $300 at a salvage shop. When buying a vintage sink, count the holes -- they determine the type of faucet you can use and whether you can have a separate sprayer.

Clever Turn-Around

When a beloved vintage sign fell off the homeowners' truck and shattered on the highway, they had a quick-witted cabinetmaker turn the fragments into a backsplash.

Art Is Everywhere

The homeowner, a high school art teacher, flattened some old silverware and embedded it in liquid acrylic to create this unique dining tabletop. A bull's-eye was painted on the plywood round underneath.

Use It As Is

If you're choosing vintage, don't try to hide the object's past, whether it's the graffiti and gum on old school cabinets or the stenciling on the gym bleachers used here for seating around the dining room table.

Vintage in Action

The homeowner's favorite find is this bedroom door, which they mounted on a track like a barn door. The decal touts Dr. Swett's Early American Root Beer.

Color Solutions

Jolts of red, green, orange, and blue invigorate the rooms without overwhelming them or upstaging the owners' collections. A bold splash of red heats up the master bedroom. When the bargain cast-iron bed proved too short for its mattress, a welder made new side rails for $15. A square of Plexiglas hides the fact that the outlet cover is too small to conceal the junction box.

Through the Looking Glass

A vintage window makes a stylish substitute for a transom in the passageway between the entry hall and the living room. Old windows are easily found and can be used to add architecture where it might be missing, or even to serve as affordable art.

Affordable Art

Like signs, colorful old board games satisfy a love of graphics and are generally affordable. This vintage Chinese checkers board was $5 at a local antiques shop.


See more ideas for vintage decorating.

Every Corner Used

The home office and mini art space is located just outside the master bedroom on the home's second floor. The French door leads to a deck.

A Space Just for Little Ones

This child-size crafts table was fashioned from leftover lumber. Baskets keep art supplies and dress-up accessories organized but close at hand.

Kids Like It Bright

Brightly painted pegboard keeps favorite outfits at hand for convenient playtime.

Humorous Decor

In the second-floor bathroom, a $5 sink rests atop an old school storage cabinet. Letters filling a missing shelf remind users to "brush your teeth." The house derives much of its character from its wealth of details: Old signs, game boards used as artwork, and endearingly quirky collections, such as a bunch of Santas in this bathroom and a collection of Pez candy dispensers in a bedroom.

Tack On Greeters

Vintage paper dolls set against a bright red-painted door welcome guests to the bathroom. The homeowner found the dolls on eBay -- similar ones can still be found on the site for less than $5.

Sweet Talkin' Collectibles

Both homeowners have an affinity for Pez candy dispensers. Together, they have almost every Pez dispenser ever made. Even common items make a collective impression when displayed in a group.

Share the gallery

Better Homes & Gardens may receive compensation when you click through and purchase from links contained on this website.