The One Thing You're Not Buying at Thrift Stores, But Should Be

Couch with framed art above it.

Kelin Zhao

One of my favorite weekend activities is leisurely strolling through the aisles of my favorite thrift stores—and I’m not ashamed to admit it. One area I’m always quick to visit? The art section, because you can never have too many beautiful pieces adorning your walls or bookshelves.

But, if you’re not loving the prints or paintings you see for sale, don’t be too quick to call it a day. Below, two talented DIYers elaborate on how to take thrift store art pieces from so-so to swoon-worthy. 

Large art piece of a bird above a fire[lace mantel.

Kelin Zhao

Empty thrift store frames—or even pieces of already framed art—make for the perfect not-so-blank canvases that you can easily repurpose and transform in just a few steps. Souyra Venumbaka, who manages the Instagram account Sové Home, has a few different methods for revamping thrift store finds.

“If you like a frame but the color doesn’t match your aesthetic, use spray paint, gold leaf, or rub 'n' buff to transform it so it better suits your style,” she advises. 

Art piece framed above dining table.

Sourya Venumbaka

In a sea of secondhand frames, it can be difficult to know which are top-notch. “You can tell if a frame is of good quality if it is made of sturdy wood, gilded, or carved,” Venumbaka adds.

Framed small art above bed.

Sourya Venumbaka

Blogger Kelin Zhao suggests searching for frames with a thinner profile. “After thrifting frames for a while, I’ve noticed thinner frames are always easier to work with than thicker frames—plus, it makes the artwork shine,” she says. “Also, I like to pick simpler styles versus very decorative ones, as those can almost work with any interior style.” 

Gallery wall of thrifted art frames.

Kelin Zhao

And if you stumble upon a beautifully framed canvas, there’s no reason to leave it behind just because the painting is mediocre or the colors don’t match your aesthetic. “You can paint over it with your own art or try the joint compound method to create textured art,” Venumbaka advises, who has taken both of these approaches with pieces now hanging in her own apartment.

Venumbaka holding art in front of her.

Sourya Venumbaka