Walk in any thrift, vintage, or antique store, and you'll find shelves lined with dusty candlesticks, fraying coffee table books, and milk glass left over from a 1950s kitchen. These items are often sold at rock bottom prices—easy to look past as your scour for your next great antique discovery.
So, you walk by these dime-a-dozen items. If there are so many here, that must mean no one wants them, right? Not so fast—we're going to tell you exactly why you should give these finds a second glance.
You’ve likely seen the misfit paintings at any antiques mall: they’re vertically stacked in a giant plastic tub or cardboard box, filed like records, and waiting for you to flip through. Maybe you push one or two gently aside before deciding to move on. But, I’d encourage you to give these faded paintings a fair shot.
Sometimes the painting is a diamond in the rough. I have a floral still-life that I can look at and understand why it ended up discarded—yet, in its new home, surrounded by modern décor, it takes on a new life.
Other times, the painting isn’t worth saving, but the frame is a work of art on its own. I’ve snagged more than one gilded frame—for just a few dollars—and are waiting on a new artwork match.
No, we’re not going to pick up smoking inside. We’d all like to get our security deposit back, right? But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have an eye out for ashtrays while you’re vintage hunting.
Think of ashtrays as the ultimate multi-purpose item. I use a large, midcentury glass ashtray with funky rounded lines to hold my living room remote controls, a smaller one to corral earrings in my bedroom, and yet another to hold collected matchbooks.
You’ll find them in every size, material, and color and from every era pre-millenium. My personal favorites are the orb-like glass ashtrays you’ll find from the 1960s with their rounded, bubbly edges.
You’ll find candlesticks practically being given away at almost any thrift store or Goodwill. I first fell smitten with this commonplace vintage find while planning my wedding. I was in search of cheap table décor and raided a mega antiques shop for every crystal candlestick under $3. I walked out with sparkly Tiffany candlesticks and incredible art deco silhouettes.
I’d spent years antiquing, but how had I never given these intricately cut beauties a second look? Now, I’m always on the lookout for the perfect candlestick—brass, crystal, or otherwise—to finish a tablescape, add height to a styled shelf, or take up residency in a coffee table vignette.
Coffee Table Books
A mint-condition coffee table book can still cost a pretty penny, but one that’s seen better days often finds its way to the bargain bin—or, better yet, to the 50-cent rack outside a used book store. You may want to give these well-loved books a once-over to see if there’s something worth salvaging.
Sometimes, a worn patina gives a coffee table book a vintage appeal, while other times, the binding may be beyond repair—but the pages could be suitable for framing.
Often in pristine condition, milk glass is the 1940s and 50s kitchenware you’ll see lining the shelves at secondhand shops. This creamy, opaque glass comes in every form and price point, from creamer sets to candy dishes, gravy bowls, stem vases, and cake stands—single-use kitchen items of a bygone era.
Though you may not pick up a bag of Werther’s and fill a coffee table candy dish, that doesn’t mean this pretty vintage glass can’t find a place in your home. I love the dotted Hobnail milk glass, which I’ve always picked up for just a few dollars.
A milk and sugar set adds a delicate white, textured touch to the open shelving in my kitchen, while a dish sits on my bathroom windowsill, perfect for tossing my rings in at night. Just like the ashtrays, it’s a matter of seeing the versatility in a now obsolete vintage item.