Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Barbara Schmidt

With these tips, no one will be the wiser of your wallet-friendly furniture and decor.

Even though shopping for furniture and decor at thrift stores can be a hit-or-miss experience, we’ll always recommend trying. Any seasoned thrifter will tell you that you must shop fairly regularly to get the best stuff, knowing you’ll usually leave empty handed. Once you have found a piece you love, if it’s not in mint condition (and the best thrifted finds rarely are), you’ll need a plan for fixing it up. There are plenty of good how-to and DIY guides out there for making over antique furniture, but there are four key things to keep in mind throughout your buying and refurbishing process that will make your thrifted find look seriously high-end without investing too much into it.

1. Buy Items That Are Already High Quality

You don’t have to shop at an expensive antique shop to find higher quality pieces, but you do need to know what you’re looking for. Avoid pieces with particle board or cardboard backs and bottoms. Instead, look for wooden furniture with dovetail joints and check the backs and bottoms of furniture for emblems stamped on. Many higher-quality pieces will be marked with the shop where they were made. You can even do a quick Google search of the name before you commit. Even if it’s seen much better days, a piece that was built with quality craftsmanship has the potential to last much longer than something made with cheaper materials.

2. Buy Pieces With Their Future Home in Mind

It’s important to consider how any piece of furniture or decorative item will fit in your space (both literally and also more thematically), but it’s especially important if you’re planning on putting man-hours into that piece to give it some new life. No matter how amazing it is, a mid-century modern desk will still look a little out of place in an otherwise very traditional room. And it might end up inadvertently cheapening the look of your overall space. So just because you know something is high-quality, you don’t have to take it home with you. Don’t let the low price tags go to your head. A cohesively designed space will always look higher end than one with disjointed style.

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3. Go for Gold

Gold spray paint is your best friend when it comes to making pieces look more luxe and high end. The best place to start is hardware. Whether it’s lost its splendor or isn’t metal at all, using gold spray paint on handles and knobs will mimic the look of brass. You can also add a gilded touch to lamps, metal shelves, or frames. Be sure you use the right gold, though. You don’t want something that looks too flat or too yellow, so test a few before you use it on your piece. Many furniture flippers swear by Rustoleum’s gold metallic spray paint—the brand also has an aged brass spray paint that’s perfect for pieces you don’t want to have too much shine.

4. Choose Pieces That Are Easy to Make Over

You don’t want to set yourself up to take on an impossible project, so keep an eye out for pieces that lend themselves to refurbishing. For example, in dressers or side tables, look for removable hardware. It’s easier to dress up worn-out pulls and handles (or totally replace them) than permanently attached knobs or carved-out handles. Also consider the finish of a piece, and what you’d like it to look like eventually. Going from stained wood to painted wood is easier than the other way around. Don’t bite off more than you can (or want) to chew, and you’ll always be happy with the end result.