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The 6 Best Secondhand Items for Styling Your Space

Open book next to a bouquet of flowers

You don’t have to spend a fortune on renovations to create a beautiful living space you’ll be proud to show off. Stylist Geneva Vanderzeil, author of HOME IS WHERE YOU MAKE IT, shares her tips for using secondhand items to instantly transform a room in this special selection from her book…

I talk a lot about designing a space that feels real, lived in, and not like a showroom. But how do you actually achieve that? For me, it means adding different items and mixing up the decor so it feels layered rather than static. And that’s where buying secondhand comes in!

I absolutely love the depth that’s created by adding antiques or secondhand pieces to a space. It’s the perfectly imperfect nature of these items that gives your space life. You don’t need to buy a big piece of furniture to get this effect—a few small items here and there won’t cost a lot, but they can add so much interest and character to your space. And the best part? Buying secondhand is eco-friendly.


I have a fascination with unusual books from second- hand stores—the stranger, the better. I love old book covers and colorful hardcover books, for reading as well as the depth they bring to a space. Keep your eye out for pretty covers that you can match to the decor and colors in a room.

Home Is Where You Make It book cover


Investing in older baskets bought from an antiques store is a great way to add depth to your space and give it more personality.


I have yet to fully embrace buying original artwork. I have to admit that most of the pieces I like are outside my price range. But that doesn’t mean I have to opt for cheap knockoff prints or dull still-life pictures. Flea markets are great places to find artwork that has a life and a history.


You’ll always find me hunting through the ceramics section, no matter how boring and bland the second- hand store. It really pays to keep your eyes open. No matter where I am, I always manage to find amazing secondhand terracotta vases, retro cups and milk jugs, and handmade mugs.


Lamps are an opportunity to experiment with detail and style. And, in this case, go vintage or go home! I love everything about a fringed retro lamp, an ’80s-inspired ceramic shell lamp, or anything with a pleated paper shade. Consider swapping out old or ugly shades if the base is good.


Take even a cursory look around an antiques store and you’ll find mirrors of all shapes and sizes, and it’s this variety that adds serious personality to your space. In the last few years I’ve found round mirrors, arched mirrors, antiques with decorative edges, and so many more. They don’t cost too much and make such a big difference.

For more DIY ideas and styling secrets to create a home you love (even if you’re renting!), pick up a copy of HOME IS WHERE YOU MAKE IT by Geneva Vanderzeil.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also like: 7 Essential Feng Shui Tips for Your Kitchen

Excerpted from Home Is Where You Make It by Geneva VanderzeilCopyright © 2020 by author. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Photo via iStock


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