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Paint It! Easy Thrift Store Makeovers for Beginners

If you love to see before-and-after makeovers but are not sure how to do it, you are in the right place. Today, you will learn easy paint ideas that will completely transform a cheap thrift store find. A simple new paint job can update tired and unwanted decor into stylish home accents. Learn some of my best thrifting tips, and you will be able to turn thrifted items into useable home décor that you will proudly display.

Thrift store finds - old mirror and wall shelf transformed with chalk paint.
Easy paint ideas for thrift store shelves and mirrors.

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Thrifting With The Gals

Welcome to THRIFTING WITH THE GALS! We are a group of Instagram friends from different parts of the country. We connected on Instagram and shared a love for thrift stores, flea markets, yard sales, antique shops, and all things vintage.

Today on Thrifting with the Gals, we are so excited to have Robyn from Robyn’s French Nest and Emily from The Thrifted Table with us! In addition, all the regular thrifting friends from around the country are sharing their Thrifting Tips and Adventures with you. Be sure to see all the links at the end of this post.

What Is The Easiest Paint To Use For Updates?

One of the top questions before beginning a project is what paint and what technique should I use? The easiest paint to use for updates depends on the item you are working on. As you become more familiar with the painting techniques, you will instinctively understand which paint to use for the best paint job. However, here are are things to consider.

Advantages of Spray Paint

When possible, I like to use spray paint. It’s quick and easy. It works best for intricate pieces that you plan to paint in one single color, such as metal or iron pieces.

Spray paint also works well for large pieces such as vases, bowls, and planters.

There are so many options available in spray paint, such as metal finishes, textured finishes, and stone finishes, plus rust protection and more.

I’ve enjoyed using chalk paint over the years because of its matte finish. However, now you can purchase spray paints with a chalky finish. I have used Krylon Chalky Fishish Classic White for many projects.

Advantages of Painting With A Brush

The biggest advantage of painting with a brush is control. You can paint multiple colors on one piece and have better control of the coverage. I prefer to paint wooden items with a brush in most cases.

When painting wood furniture, I prefer Chalk Paint. It covers easily, and you don’t have to do much prep work. In addition, it dries very quickly allowing you to apply the next coat of paint.

Acrylic craft paint works well on wood and many other surfaces.

Note: When painting with a brush, it’s important to allow dry time between each layer of paint. If you begin to apply the next coat too early, you may damage the finish.

As we go through the project examples today, I’ll share the techniques I used for each one.

The Wall Sconce Story

Did y’all see the wrought iron wall sconces I found a few weeks ago? Well, in case you missed it, I found one at a thrift store but didn’t purchase it. My next stop was Goodwill and there was another identical wall sconce.

What are the chances of that happening? Needless to say, I purchased both. Thankfully, the first one was still there when I returned.

Although they were a little rusty, I knew I could make them look brand new.

Easy Paint Ideas

When I find a Thrift Store treasure, the first question I ask myself is, “Can I Paint It?”

A new paint job is the cheapest way to update almost anything.

So, let’s take a look at some simple transformations using only paint.

Easy Paint Ideas using chalk paint.
The thrift store shelf and candleholder are both easy to paint updates with chalk paint. Both were painted with a brush and heavily distressed. Then, a coat of clear wax sealed the paint.

Easy Transformation: A New Paint Job

The wall sconces were so easy to transform. Here’s all you need.

The sconces had a little thin paint problem and because they are iron, a fresh coat of rust prevention was in order.

Be sure to clean the metal, remove any flaking paint, and sand away any rust. Then, place it in a well-ventilated area to spray paint.

Hold the spray can several inches from the item to prevent runs in the paint.

They are a perfect addition to either side of the DIY Greenhouse. Plus, the solar lights will look so pretty at night.

Insider Tip

When working with spray paint, don’t attempt to get 100% coverage with the first application. It’s much better to spray a light coat first and then come back with another light coat.

Don’t hold the can too close to the project. Spray from 6 to 10 inches away to avoid the paint from running.

You can add a second coverage within minutes when using spray paint.

Picture Frame Easy Update

If you are looking for art or picture frames, don’t overlook an ugly finish. A new paint job is easy to accomplish on old frames. If you are looking for a rustic, distressed frame or an elegant gold leaf frame, it only takes a few minutes to update.

I found four needlepoint framed birds for $9.50 but didn’t like the dark-stained frames. They were professionally framed, and I didn’t want to disassemble them. Here’s the easy transformation.

  • First, tape off the glass around the frame. Just use blue painter’s tape or masking tape.
  • Gather your paint and a small paintbrush.
  • I used white chalk paint and a distressed, dry brush technique. Just apply a small amount of paint to the brush. Then, wipe the excess off on a paper towel and brush paint onto the frames.
  • Remove the tape and hang your art.

Note: If you want a shiny finish, follow with a coat of clear wax or brush on a satin clear coat sealer.

I’ve used these birds all around the farmhouse.

In the image below, you can see a mirror and two picture frames that have been updated with a new paint job.

Unique frames and mirrors are always on my list while thrifting. For more details, see 19 Ways To Upcycle Old Picture Frames.

vintage picture frames with easy paint ideas to repurpose.

A Gold Leaf Vase – Easy Paint Finish

I saw a gold leaf vase in a high-end boutique last year. The price was $220.00, and I immediately began a search for a similar-shaped vase. Gold leaf paint provides an easy paint finish.

I found one that was $6.00 at Habitat Restore, and with a jar of gold leaf paint, the ugly vase was transformed and cost less than $10.00

Just clean the vase and remove any oils or stickers. Use a small quality paint brush to apply the gold leaf paint. This project took two coats of paint.

A Pottery Barn Dupe: Easy Paint Idea

Do you like Pottery Barn decor? I do, but I rarely purchase from them because they are not very budget-friendly. I really liked the textured vases they were selling, so I decided to duplicate the look.

This was one of the easiest projects ever. All you need is Krylon Stone Course Texture spray paint.

  1. Clean the vase with rubbing alcohol to remove any oils and allow it to dry.
  2. Place in a well-ventilated area and spray to cover the vase.

You can see this project and more at Thrifted Flips for Pottery Barn-Inspired Decor.

Insider Tip

The stone spray paint will cover several pieces for an easy paint finish if prepared properly. If you are working with a dark piece like the vase I used, you may want to apply a coat of white paint before adding the textured paint.

Due to the dark color, I had to apply three coats of textured paint, which was more expensive. A budget-friendly option would be to use less expensive paint as the base and then apply the texture.

The $2.00 Birdhouse

Another recent thrifting find was a rustic handmade birdhouse for $2.00. It needed only a little cleaning and a fresh coat of paint.

Since I wanted it to pop in the flower garden, I chose RED.

This update took less than 30 minutes to apply two new coats of red chalk paint. I can’t wait to actually hang it in the garden.

Since the birdhouse will be exposed to the outdoors, I chose to use a clear spray sealer for the outdoors.

Easy Painted Candlestick Holders and Sconces

Don’t overlook candlestick holders and wall sconces at thrift stores. You can create a distressed paint finish on wooden pieces for an easy update. The wall sconce below was a plain dark stain, to begin with. Here’s how to easily paint it and create a timeworn look distressed paint finish.

  • Paint a base color of your choice. Complete cover with paint.
  • Use a second color of paint over the top. This time, apply in uneven strokes.
  • Allow the top color to be heavy in some areas and lighter in others.
  • Let the paint dry completely.
  • Use a fine-grit sanding block and sand away the paint around the edges of the piece.
  • You can sand until the original stain shows in places.
  • Once you are satisfied with the appearance, seal with clear wax.

For this project, I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint; however, this technique works with any craft paint. If you would like to know more about chalk paint, see this article: How To Chalk Paint Furniture.

Wall sconce makeover with layered paint for a distressed paint finish.  Farmhouse style repurposed home decor.

Just Paint It! Repurposed Old Chandelier

One of my first projects for the greenhouse was to repurpose an old chandelier into a solar light.

I found the chandelier at a thrift store for only $10.00, and after a couple of coats of white spray paint, it was ready for the solar light.

I decided to disassemble the candleholders, but in hindsight, I could have just sprayed them as they were.

If you’d like to see more details, check out How To Repurposed A Thrifted Chandelier.

Other Recycled Decor Projects

In previous news, I found this great chest at a flea market several weeks ago. With a little paint, it’s a perfect fit beside our bed. See this 3-Step Furniture Makeover Here!

If you missed how that ugly thrifted lamp got transformed, you can see the after on Easy Thrifted Lamp Makeover

Furniture Paint Job and More

Once that makeover was complete, I couldn’t wait to update the thrift store chest on the other side of the bed. I found this chest about a year ago and just quickly painted it with one of my easy paint ideas.

Inspired by the success of the above makeover, I decided to tackle something a little more involved.

If you haven’t seen Amazing Furniture Transformation, you can see it here.

I hope these easy paint ideas will inspire you to look at thrift store decor in a new light. I’d love to hear any ideas you have for updating items with a new paint job.

I can’t wait to share some of my next finds and thrifting tips with you next month on Thrifting with the Gals.


Larger Thrift Store Makeover Project Ideas

Here are some additional projects using thrift store finds that you may enjoy.

You may also like to learn more about thrift store shopping. Read this article – 10 Must-Know Thrifting Tips For Home Decor Budget-Savvy Shoppers.

Now it’s time to see what all the other Gals have been up to since last month. Next up on the Tour is Emily at The Thrifted Table.

Be sure to click the blog name below to follow along.

Thrifting with the Gals - Monthly series of thrift store and vintage shopping tips.
Dabbling & Decorating / Shiplap and Shells / Robyn’s French Nest /
Stacy Ling Bricks N Blooms / White Arrows Home/ The Ponds
Farmhome / The Thrifted Table

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I appreciate your comments and support.

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Monday 22nd of March 2021

Rachel, I love all of these finds so much. You have a knack for finding and bringing out the best in every piece.

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Monday 22nd of March 2021

Shawna, I really appreciate this.


Sunday 21st of March 2021

So many fun finds, Rachel! Makes me want to go thrifting!

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Monday 22nd of March 2021

Jen, It is so fun. Thanks.


Saturday 20th of March 2021

Loving all of these thrifting tips!

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Sunday 21st of March 2021

Ana, Thank you so much.


Saturday 20th of March 2021

Your projects always leave me in awe! I love them so much Rachel! You inspired me!!

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Sunday 21st of March 2021

Kristin, I appreciate your encouragement,


Saturday 20th of March 2021

Rachel you have such a good eye! I love all of your find but I think the sconces are my favorite. I still can’t believe you found two!

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Sunday 21st of March 2021

Kelly, It was meant to be. I love them.