Rethink Flea Market Finds: 48 Amazing Projects, Hacks, and Revamps
Add monogram letters to vintage tennis rackets to distinguish a storage spot for each family member. Thread yarn through the racket strings to form a letter, and hang one above each cubby area. Mount wall hooks above for added function.
Gather a collection of small antique mirrors to create a graphic wall arrangement. Search flea markets for frames with interesting shapes and pretty details in a similar finish. Hang the grouping above a bar cart for a touch of vintage glamour.
Vintage eggcups, pitchers, and teacups make pretty planters for succulents. Use quick-drying cactus potting mix to prevent the plants from becoming too waterlogged. Stack cake stands on top of each other to form a tower, and arrange a variety of succulents on each tier.
Reimagine a retired porch swing as a different kind of seat. Remove the chains and use pine boards to fashion a base that matches the swing's dimensions. Attach furniture legs to the base with screws, then set the swing on top and fasten together with L brackets. A distressed paint finish gives the new bench age-old charm.
Repurpose vintage tea towels and flour sacks as pillowcases. Stitch the textiles together, leaving an opening on one side. Slip a pillow inside and sew the pillowcase closed. This retro Atlantic City linen towel was the perfect size for a lumbar pillow.
Related: Our Favorite Simple-Sew Pillows
Put fruit boxes to work as entryway storage cubbies. Mount the boxes on the wall with the top opening facing out. Vary the sizes and orientations to accommodate items both big and small. Cut holes in the backs of the boxes for electrical outlets to keep devices juiced up.
Rooted in Time
Vintage timepieces make great houseplant hosts. Use a jigsaw to cut away a section in the top of the clock to create space for planting. Place a plastic pot inside and mount your now-flourishing flea market find on the wall.
Creative Accent Wall
Scour antique shops and flea markets for embroidery hoops in a range of sizes. Attach faux greenery or flowers for a touch of organic texture. Use nails to mount the hoops around your headboard in a layered arrangement. In this bedroom, jute twine loops around each hoop and stretches toward the ceiling where it ties around another nail.
An old desk or dresser can become a beautiful bathroom vanity with a vessel sink, some fresh paint, and a little bit of retrofitting. Follow our tutorial to learn how to make a custom bathroom vanity from old furniture. Then give your flea market find plenty of patina with our tutorial for distressing painted wood.
Rake It In
Use a vintage wood rake to gather accessories in a bedroom, entry, or kitchen. Lop off part of the handle (we cut about 10 inches above the highest metal supports), sand, and suspend on a wall, teeth facing out, to create storage in one clean sweep. To hang, install two metal monkey hooks in the wall, spaced about 1-1/2 inches apart. Then rest one row of the rake’s metal supports on the hooks.
Here’s a recipe for success: Pair a vintage breadboard with a sliced wood bowl to create a rustic planter. Using a chop saw or miter saw, cut the wood bowl in half and glue the halves to the breadboard with waterproof adhesive (such as E6000). Some vintage breadboards have uneven surfaces, so check for holes or gaps in the glue after it has dried overnight. Fill with more adhesive as needed. Let dry and then hang and tuck in air plants or succulents.
Neatly corral a collection of frames with a well-worn horse harness. Mount the harness on the wall using a single-prong robe hook screwed in with wall anchors for strength. Use twine to connect two large picture frames to the harness’s leather straps. Then secure the frames to the wall with picture-hanging strips. Fill in open wall space with smaller frames.
Give your bath (or any room in the house) a storage boost by turning an antique grain sifter into a smart shelving unit. Cut two poplar boards to fit inside as shelves, angling the ends if necessary to fit flush against the inner edges of the sifter. Drill holes into the ends of each shelf board and secure them inside the sifter with drywall screws. Give the shelves a worn, vintage finish using a combination of gray and brown stains. For extra style points, hang the unit from a leather horse harness, attaching it to the sifter with small machine screws secured with nuts.
Whip up a bookend from an antique butter churn and reclaimed wood. Start by removing the lid of the churn from its glass jar. Use a rotary tool with a metal-cutting blade to remove the metal dowel and attached wood paddle piece (cut 2 inches below where they meet the lid). Discard the paddle and repurpose the jar as a vase. Drill a 1/4-inch hole in the center of a piece of reclaimed wood, add a dollop of glue, and slip the top of the churn in place.
Raise The Bar
Craft a clever kitchen or bath towel holder from a pair of industrial ice tongs and a 1x8-inch piece of wood dowel. To secure the dowel, drill 3/8-inch holes about 3/4-inch deep into each dowel end, then fill the holes with epoxy before slipping the prongs inside. Wrap a rubber band around the pivot point of the tongs to hold the tips tightly against the dowel as it dries overnight. When the epoxy is set, stain the dowel if desired. Hang the towel holder from a nail.
Add rich texture to a vintage dresser by lining drawer fronts with a graphic flour sack. To get the sack to lie flat, trim off the hems and sewn edges. Working one drawer at a time from the bottom drawer up, coat each drawer face with decoupage medium. Place the flour sack over the bottom drawer, aligning the edge of the fabric with the bottom of the drawer face. Use a sharp utility knife to cut off excess fabric along the top edge of the drawer. Smooth out any air bubbles, then apply another layer of decoupage medium on top. Repeat this step for each drawer. If your drawers are wider than the flour sack (as ours were), measure and cut fabric from the back of the flour sack to fill the gaps.
Give wooden crates—which are available at swap meets, online flea markets, and even in craft stores—a new point of view as imperfectly perfect shelves. Load the boxes with collections, painting several of the interiors a light hue to better showcase treasures. Arrange the crates on the floor to perfect your layout before you screw the pieces into wall studs.
Turn an old metal cart into the life of the party by stocking it with glassware and bottled drinks. Use old wooden sewing cabinet drawers to sort and hold glasses upright. Employ an old wire locker bin to corral extra drink supplies on the bar cart. And pack a vintage suitcase with cocktail accoutrements. An added bonus: The whole shebang can move to wherever the party's happening—either inside or outside.
Related: Our Favorite Bar Cart Ideas
Create a headboard with global-infused moxie by hanging a tapestry above your bed. For an unexpected twist, use a birch pole—cut to overhang the width of the bed by a few inches—as a rod. Use two smaller birch logs as anchors for the larger branch, securing them in the wall with screws driven in from below at an angle. Set the long pole on top and secure to the anchors with screws. Wrap the pole with felt so the tapestry or fabric won't get snagged. Use simple pins to hold the felt and fabric in place.
On the Side
Stage a mini mudroom in just a few feet of space with a little help from an antique door or shutter. Simply mount the architectural remnant on its side and attach found hooks and hardware to hang bags, jackets, hats, and even Fido's leash. Use clipboards coated in chalkboard paint to label each hanging zone by family member.
Related: Create a Custom Mudroom
Stock up on tole trays at flea markets, thrift stores, and church bazaars—where they're still inexpensive enough to scoop up en masse—to create a colorful gallery wall. Gather four or five trays in different shapes, including some with rounded edges for greater visual impact. Lay out various arrangements on the floor, turning the trays this way and that until you like the layout. Then mount them on the wall—such as above a bed or sofa—with press-on, pull-off hook-and-loop picture hangers.
Bring an antique wire basket into bloom as a window box for potted succulents or other seasonal favorites with a length of rope, a scrap board, and a few nails. Thread the rope through the wire basket, knotting the ends around the wire, to fashion a loop for hanging. Drive two nails halfway into each short end of the scrap wood to create a shelf with pins for easy hanging.
Throw your feet up on a fuzzy homemade ottoman crafted from a vintage round table, 2-inch-thick foam, and faux fur. To make the topper, cut out a circle of faux fur that's 10 inches larger in diameter than the tabletop. Fold the circle's edge over 1½ inches and hand-stitch a hem, stopping 3 inches before the stitches meet. Thread a string through the hem. Cut the foam to the table's diameter and place it on the tabletop; cover with the fur "pouch." Cinch the string at the table base and tie.
Make your own industrial-chic patio table for less than $5. Call an electrical supply company to ask if you can buy (or have) a cable spool. Ours—which was free!—is 2½ feet in diameter; we stained the wood top and base a dark brown for a polished appearance. Dress up the pedestal with decorative paper napkins or paper applied with a decoupage medium.
Use an old door as a welcome sign to extend a warm greeting to friends and family by the front door. Paint the recessed panels with chalkboard-style paint and change the message as the season or the spirit dictates. Hang a teacup or metal creamer from a cup hook or the doorknob to keep chalk close at hand.
Related: Make Your Own Chalkboard-Style Paint
Use an old window screen hung on a vintage door as an open-air display for necklaces and earrings. Just poke drapery hooks into the screen and slip jewels onto the hooks for tangle-free storage. Need to store more? Screw an old table leg into a wood base and attach hooks and knobs to the leg's sides to catch bracelets. Stash additional baubles in a vintage bowl elevated by an overturned tea cup. Secure the cup to the bowl with epoxy.
Revive an heirloom dresser with paint and a stencil. To start, paint the dresser a smoky blue. When the paint is dry, stick FrogTape's Shape Tape to the drawers (we used the scalloped version), spacing the tape strips about 2 inches apart. Then fill in the untaped portions with white paint. Remove the tape when dry. Sand the dresser's edges lightly to mimic natural wear and tear.
Give an old cabinet door a facelift—turn it into a tray by screwing drawer pulls into either end so it's easy to pick up. Rescued from a curbside trash pile, this door now corrals books and a vase of fresh flowers atop an old chicken coop, the ultimate farm-to-table example. The coop was raised to coffee-table height with 4-inch casters, but you could also use bun feet or short table legs (available at home centers).
Savor the hard-won patina of old wooden crates by converting them into stylish furnishings. Turn one on its end—instant end table! Or add a cushioned top to a crate to create a cozy footstool. To fashion the top, glue two layers of foam to a piece of plywood and wrap in a pretty fabric, securing the fabric to the board with a staple gun. Attach wooden stretchers across the crate opening to form a support ledge for the cushion.