Rethink Flea Market Finds: 40 Amazing Projects, Hacks, and Revamps
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.
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.
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.
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.
Scour secondhand stores for objects with interesting silhouettes that are up to the supporting role of an end table: Think suitcases, crates, urns, or sewing machine bases. Snagged for $50, this base just needed a glass top, which was cut at a local glass supply store, to shine as a glamorous side table.
Pay tribute to the craftsmanship of reclaimed architectural trim by transforming a remnant into a display ledge. Use metal L brackets screwed into studs to anchor the piece to a wall, and pile on your favorite collectibles.
Brooches, earrings, and other vintage jewelry make fabulous embellishments for one-of-a-kind artwork on your walls. Watch and learn how to add them to DIY art canvases!
Step up your decorating game by lining stair risers with vintage yardsticks. Enjoy hunting and gathering to amass a collection, or look for large lots on eBay—we found some with typos on them and scored them for a song. Use carpenter's glue to attach the sticks to risers; stretch masking tape over the sticks until the glue dries to keep them in place. To impart age to new yardsticks, wipe the young wood down with diluted brown paint or stain.
Give place settings something to twinkle about -- embellish chargers with vintage costume jewelry. Secure a piece or two of jewelry to the top of each charger with hot glue or metal glue. Jewelry items that lie flat work best, so look for pieces with metal backs that can be bent or easily removed with pliers or wire cutters. To complete the setting, use clip-on earrings to prop up place cards.
Don’t let your cork collection gather dust -- let them dazzle in the form of a rustic chandelier instead. Gather three different-size wire wreath forms, twine, paper clips, and a light pendant cord kit. Bend the outer end of each paper clip until it forms a straight line, then push the cork until it’s halfway in and repeat with each paper clip and cork. Slip the coiled part of the paper clips over the wreath forms, layering until the forms are full. Use twine to secure the wreath forms together, then tie the wreaths to the pendant light.
Put a metal lunch pail back to work by converting it into a seed caddy for your garden. When it's time to plant, you'll have everything you need, ready in a portable container.
Art on Tap
Transform a collection of colorful plumbing valves into a 3-D work of art. Arrange the valves in shapes or letters and secure to wood backing with screws. To enhance the valves' historic flavor, suspend the art on reclaimed wooden boards. Or apply the look of age to a new cut of wood with chalk paint for a backdrop that complements your home’s color scheme.
Pair a galvanized-tin tub with an old baby-buggy frame to fashion a playful alfresco entertaining cart. Place the tub inside the bed-frame portion of the buggy, and you're ready to roll. One key: You'll need to find a container that is slightly larger than the frame to ensure the tub won't tip over or fall through. It should fit snugly into the opening --no additional attachments required. Fill the container with ice and beverages, goodie bags, or packaged nibbles, and let guests help themselves.
Dust off penned notes from the past and bring them out into the open. Use a photocopier to enlarge the letters and print the results on pretty paper stock. Form dust jackets for books from the paper and display the wrapped books on tabletops or shelves.
Tired of tall, dark bookshelves? Flip them! Stacked horizontally and sporting a new coat of crisp white paint, these slender shelves now provide display cubbies and a tabletop surface that’s perfect as a drop zone for functional items and a few decorative artifacts. Highlight collectibles in the cubbies by lining the shelves with vintage maps. Add flair by using salvaged corbels as bookends.
Rework architectural salvage into a headboard design. These porch spindles and decorative molding pieces are attached to four painted wooden canvas stretchers, which are available at crafts stores. The peekaboo headboard style is ideal when you have a patterned wall you want to show off.
The Stars Align
Grab a picture frame, line it with a constellation chart, and attach a letter in the center to craft an easy monogram. This letter is made from zinc and nailed to the frame’s backing, but you could use a paper or wooden cutout to achieve the same effect.
Bring the allure of old Hollywood home via vintage film reel cases. Paint the metal lid interiors a favorite hue, add a stenciled embellishment, and hang the lids as wall art or use magnets to make them into mini message boards. Removable adhesive strips easily hold the lightweight lids on the wall.
Tell your family story by hanging small framed pictures and memorabilia bulletin-board style in a large vintage frame. To create the backing, cut a piece of cork (sold in rolls at crafts stores) to fit the frame. Apply spray adhesive to secure the cork to a sturdy piece of corrugated cardboard. Use four flathead tacks to hang each small frame on the corkboard. Glue the flathead portion of the tacks to the back of each frame -- one tack in each corner. Let dry, then push the frame into the cork.
Fashion a showy lamp from a peacock-style Victorian fireplace screen. Wire the brass screen using a lamp kit from a home improvement center and top it with an 11-inch-diameter shade for illuminating results. Love this shade’s map motif? Replicate the look by adhering parts of a map to the shade with spray adhesive. If the map has crease lines or you want to preserve it, make color photocopies instead. At the seams, allow the vertical edges of the map pieces to overlap by 1⁄8 inch.
By the Book
One flea-found illustrated Audubon book is all it takes to create an attention-grabbing wall worth tweeting about. Using either the original pages or color copies, hang by applying a premixed wallpaper paste to the back of each page with a roller. For the best results, place your first set of prints along the ceiling line and work down from there. Make sure each page is straight and sweep a wallpaper smoother over each print to take out any wrinkles before moving on to hang the next illustration.
Crewelwork and needlepoint were once a common pastime for women. But the lovingly created samples were often framed in ways now considered dowdy, which is why you'll find so many pieces in flea markets and secondhand shops. To freshen the handiwork, ditch the frame and work the needlepoint into an accent pillow. Hand-stitch each piece atop an existing pillow or sew the embroidery into a new pillow cover with fabric that coordinates with your home's palette.
Build a translucent table centerpiece by clustering an assortment of crystal and glass oil lamps on a tray. No need to mess with kerosene to light up a room: The lamp openings once designed for wicks are ideally suited for holding a variety of candle sizes, and the decorative wells are great when used as vases.
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 find out 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.