Affordable Cottage Decor: What to Buy at Thrift Stores

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Rachel Stone

Hi, friend! Do you dream of transforming your home into a cozy, charming cottage without breaking the bank? You’re in the right place! Today I’m sharing some ideas of what to buy at thrift stores, or second-hand online, for cottage style decor. With its unique blend of rustic charm, and vintage flair, cottage style decor is perfectly suited to thrifting. Once you get an idea of what cottage style items you are looking for then thrifting will become much more than a shopping experience, it will become a thrilling treasure hunt!

The Allure of Cottage Style Decor

There’s something undeniably enchanting about cottage style decor… Somehow this personal blend of styles, patterns, and colors feels like a warm, welcoming hug the moment you step inside a home decorated in the cottage style. This style is easy-going as it blends effortlessly with various other decor styles. So, whether you have a soft spot for vintage finds, an eye for rustic charm, or a penchant for floral prints, there’s a place for all in a cottage-styled home. So, let’s embrace the charm of mismatched, yet harmonious decor and dive into the exciting world of thrifting together!

vintage baskets making a beautiful display of quilt fabric

Years ago I pinned a photograph on Pinterest that featured an antique carved wooden shelf. It was styled with plates, books, and a bud vase. I could envision it in the kitchen with spice jars, in the bathroom with various toiletries, etc. When I spotted this similar shelf at the thrift store for about $10 I snatched it up and it beautifully holds my quilt fabric near my sewing area. Now my quilting fabrics are inspiring to look at and easily accessible!

What to Buy at Thrift Stores for Cottage Style Decor

The saying: “You never know what you’ll find” describes the beauty of thrift stores ~ they house a multitude of unique items. When searching for the perfect pieces, look for vintage furniture that exudes rustic charm, old mirrors with ornate frames, dishes with unique patterns, or artwork that catches your eye. Remember, cottage style embraces character, so don’t shy away from items that show bit of patina or history!

many items on display at a thrift store.

One of my personal favorite finds is this marble lamp I spotted on a table between some nick-nacks. It was a bit dirty, and the shade was worn, but I could see the potential. For a couple of years now I’ve been looking for a pair of coordinating alabaster lamps. This one, in the urn or trophy shape, caught my eye and especially the price. It was marked $38! I suspected it had something wrong with it like cracks or ancient wiring… after checking it over and plugging it in, there was nothing wrong, so I bought it. With tax it came to $42! With a little cleaning and a new shade, it now sets the mood in our bedroom, casting a warm, inviting glow.

This score spurred a renewed hunt for a companion alabaster lamp to make a pair to go on either side of our bed. I found this slightly smaller alabaster lamp on eBay for $73. Still, a great price since most Alabaster lamps run about $150 – $200. Now I needed to find a scalloped bell lampshade to match the first lamp…

One of my favorite thrift stores had just the shade I was looking for! It was bell-shaped with a scalloped edge and looked to be the right size. Either way, with my discount it came to only $7.01 and was worth trying out.

two lampshades that were bought at a thrift store

Look at how closely they resemble! Thrifting is amazing… Yes, they are a bit dingy and one has a tear, but for now, they will do and at some point, I’d like to recover them with a matching blue and white print and make my own custom shirred lampshades. One (affordable) step closer to the bedroom I’m envisioning!

Evaluate Thrift Store Finds

Thrifting is not just shopping; it’s an adventure where you get to find and reclaim beautiful pieces of history. The joy you’ll feel when you stumble upon the perfect item is truly unmatched. Once you’ve discovered potential treasures during your thrift shopping spree, it’s essential to take a moment to evaluate their quality. Is the item structurally sound? Does it need any major repairs? Remember, small flaws add character and charm in a cottage style decor, but extensive damage might not be worth the time and money to repair. Knowing the extent of your DIY skill set, and where you’re willing to be stretched, will help you make a good decision.

blue and white vintage dishes

Since I’ve loved blue & white dishes since I was 18 I knew this pair of Salt and pepper shakers would be right at home on our dining table. They were in great condition, just in need of a cleaning, and a good deal at $9!

One great tip I have picked up along the way is to take pictures of items you are unsure about. That way you can “take them home” with you giving you more time to consider where they might work in your home. This is a bit riskier as the item might not be there if you decide to return for ut, but either way, you will have a better idea of the perfect pieces that will tell the story of your home.

Remember, thrifting isn’t about finding perfect items, it’s about finding items perfect for you and your home. Visualizing how an item can be repurposed or transformed for your home is a great skill to hone while thrifting. If you see something and really love it (not just like), chances are you’ll find the perfect spot for it in your home. For more thrifting input, Andrea from Pine and Prospect has created a great guide for thrifting you may enjoy as well.

Creative Ways to Style Your Thrifted Finds

Now comes my favorite part – creatively styling thrifted finds to bring out the best in your cottage style decor!

Originally, I had a French bouiette candlestick lamp on this buffet in our dining room. The lamp was a good height but lacked the visual weight that balanced a piece of furniture like the buffet. This large blue and white chinoiserie lamp immediately caught my eye at the thrift shop and could instantly see it in about three places in our home. This is always a good sign of a useful purchase. Once I got it home (and found a shade from my stash) it looks right at home. Plus I really love the pattern-on-pattern with the blue & white and the wallpaper.

This growing collection of antique English blue transferware is another example of “buy well, buy slowly”. I’ve had the two pitchers for a while now but recently came across the sugar bowl for $38 on Etsy. This was an amazing price and added an interesting shape to the display.

In addition to the blue and white love, I also have a weakness for pretty dishes in general… Spode in many patterns is no exception. Recently I’ve discovered these stunning Copeland Eden dishes with an edging in my favorite green and a quirky pheasant. Wouldn’t a run of these look lovely on the wall?

The key is to remember that cottage style decor thrives on a sense of eclectic yet harmonious combinations. Don’t be afraid to experiment with placement and arrangements. And remember, in the spirit of cottage style decor, perfection lies in imperfection. You’d be amazed at the transformations you can achieve with your thrifted finds! Cottage style decor, with its welcoming mishmash of vintage and rustic elements, perfectly complements the thrill and novelty of thrifting. Each thrift store visit presents an opportunity to find another piece of your home’s evolving puzzle, making your decor journey as exciting as the destination itself.


Remember, in the cottage style, perfection is a myth. Embrace the imperfections, the quirks, and the character of your thrifted finds. They tell a story, and it’s your task to give them a new chapter in your home.

Friend, I encourage you, to embrace the charm of thrifting for your unique cottage style decor. Explore your local thrift stores, and have fun experimenting with your styling. In the end, it’s all about creating a home that’s warm, welcoming, and truly yours. So, let’s keep thrifting, keep styling, and above all, keep creating a home that’s a perfect reflection of the home you want to cultivate.



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Author: Rachel Stone
Rachel is passionate about creating a comfortable and beautiful home for her family. She also loves to share the lessons she is learning with her wonderful audience both on this blog and her YouTube channel.