five things | the best decorating bargains in my house

by | Aug 25, 2020 | All Things Home, Antiques, Decorating, Favorite Finds | 80 comments

I received a comment last week where a reader shared that she felt like she would never own things that were as beautiful as those that are in my house because her decorating budget was limited.  First of all, I wanted to reach through the computer and give her a hug.  I was thankful for her honesty and openness.  I was also thankful for the fact that I knew exactly how she felt.  I’ve shared many times over the years on this blog that I know how frustrating and discouraging it can be to have a non-existent budget to put towards your creative outlet and customizing your home.  I remember looking wistfully at decorating books and magazines, feeling more discouraged than inspired.  But even though I have a bigger budget now, I still love decorating bargains.

Working as an antique’s dealer for almost 10 years and home blogger for over 11 years has allowed me to work on my home in a way I never would’ve been able to before I started my business.  (You can read my business story HERE.)  It literally is a part of my job to work on my house!  And being an antique’s dealer allowed me to have a steady flow of pieces to buy and sell, picking my favorites along the way.  Believe me, though, when I say that I started with hand-me-downs, freebies, and $10 dressers and just continued to trade up, piece by piece, refining my style and skill along the way.

The house that you’re seeing now isn’t where I started.  It’s 10+ years of working on my house professionally and 10 previous years of doing it as a hobby, spending all of my birthday and Christmas money on things to use in my home.  I don’t want you to look only at the expensive things, the splurges.  For the past 8-10 years, I have taken a spend and splurge approach.  I can save in some places, so I can splurge in others.  I’ve also learned that I’d rather wait for just the right piece and save up instead of buying three of four things that I don’t really love.  I’m willing to wait and splurge for things that make my heart flutter when I see them.

So, I thought there might be some value in pointing out some of the best bargains that I’ve found over the years.

I’ve had this pair of wing chairs for over 15 years and they were free leftovers from a yard sale.  The owners couldn’t sell them or even give them away at the yard sale, so they gave them to me to furnish our home in PA.  I slipcovered them once in dropcloths and a second time in hemp sheets when I used to buy and sell them.  The funny thing is that they are blue checked underneath!  They’re just not quite the right blue check for my house, but they might get unveiled one of these days.

vintage home office | blue and white wallpaper | antiques | miss mustard seed

bookcase | lamp | baskets | rug | wallpaper

I don’t remember the exact amount I paid for this hutch, but it was in the neighborhood of $125-150.  They were setting it up as I walked through their booth and I told them to not even bother screwing the top on.  It was going right back out to my van.  Believe it or not, most of my antique dressers and cabinets cost around $150 or less and several of them were between $20-50.

antique pine hutch | white ironstone | miss mustard seed

white ironstone pitchers | wall color | wainscoting tutorial

This beautiful dresser in our living room was one of those $50 craigslist finds…

antique pine dresser | miss mustard seed | stonington gray

painted cabinet tutorial

The chandelier in my dining room was an unbelievable $4.00 at a yard sale.  The stupid thing is it was $5.00 and I asked for $1.00 off!  I kept it packed in a box for 3 years until I had a place to hang it in my PA house.  I love it so much that I moved it with me to MN.  Four dollars.  And the buffet, chairs, table, and hutch were all found on craigslist.

hand painted landscape mural | dining room | budget decorating | miss mustard seed

My everyday ironstone is from a huge set of 1960’s restaurant ware I found at a thrift store.  (You can read about that haul HERE.)  A reader tipped me off to the stash and I drove an hour and hauled hundreds of pieces down a huge flight of steps to buy bowls and plates of all sizes and shapes for $0.25/each.  I sold a bunch of them at my last Lucketts Spring Market, but I kept a bunch of pieces for our family to use as our everyday dishes.  They cost less than the dishes I bought to use in my college apartment!

white ironstone collection | antique hutch | miss mustard seed

I hope that when you look at my home, you see decorating bargains mingled with splurges and recognize that a house doesn’t have to be all one thing or all the other.  I hope you see the work I put into some of those pieces by slipcovering, refinishing, and painting them myself to make them work in my home.  And I hope you see that you can do that, too.  It does take a lot more time, intention, patience, and resourcefulness when your budget is small and I know that from first-hand experience.  But it also forces you to be creative and innovative.  Some of my craziest and best ideas came out of thriftiness and some of my favorite pieces have been freebies and hand-me-downs.

That can be true of your home as well!

What’s your best decorating bargain for your home?


  1. Karon

    My best bargains in my house are (1) a pine mantle for our bedroom fireplace. I found it at a thrift store for $20. and I couldn’t pay for it fast enough. I painted it white and we have enjoyed it all of these years. (2) a pine blanket chest at a neighbors garage sale for $3. We used it in our living room and placed our TV on it. I still have it and have used it as a coffee table and quilt chest. I hope to keep it for my lifetime. Sometimes when your heart tells you it’s special, you can love it for a lifetime, even if it was purchased at a thrift store or a yard sale. I love your blog and read it daily.

  2. sarajane

    Yes! It reminds me of the old adage, “You can have quality, great price or have it quickly – pick two of those!” My house is put together with plenty of thrift store and garage scale scores- built over many years of weekend sale-ing.

    My best score was the 7-piece Art Deco bedroom set I bought for $125 at the end of the day at an estate sale. I was still in college and that was the most money I had ever spent at a sale. I had to beg to borrow my father’s truck (and then beg him to store the furniture in the garage) and I had to pull my fiance out of work to go collect it from an attic bedroom on one of the hottest days of the year. My father and the fiance thought I was crazy. I still have that bedroom set (and the fiance, turned husband) 30+ years later.

    • laura

      At work we call this one “fast, cheap or good, pick two!”

    • Karen

      Marian, I have been reading your blog since before I retired in 2012.. And with great pleasure. I love your ‘style’.. In art and decor.
      (For your reader with the small budget).. I live on a very small budget.. But I fool myself into saving ‘pennies’.. For that perfect ‘find’. Lol. In my checkbook, I keep two balance columns. One that is ‘to the penny’.. & another that is ’rounded up’.. I live by the ’rounded up’ column. It allows me to have ‘hidden’ cash for that little something that makes my heart flutter. I look forward to your creative mind each day.

      • SueA

        Hi Karen, I love your hidden cash idea!

  3. AnnaRae

    I find that the things I hang on to for years are the “old things” I found antiquing with a great friend. Her husband was more on board with “old cherished pieces”, mine not so much. But through the years he has come onboard. I droll over your home and have since the first day I found you on line. That was more than 10 years ago. I would turn my house into blue and white if I could give up my red and white treasures. I love the treasures you find. You inspire me and I love how you stay true to who you are. Not taken over by trendy here today gone tomorrow. So I guess this is all just to say…..Thank You!

    • Renee

      Love this…I’m a big thrifter, trash, curb, home to the homeless pieces…..funny story, when we bought our house way back in 1992 I now had a bunch of rooms to furnish…so a hunting I went to my favorite “watering holes” the places I mentioned above…much to my husbands chagrin I brought home pieces from curbs, friends, thrift stores…etc…. he would say, “ please stop bringing home other peoples trash, just have patience we will get new furniture….(I never stopped🤣)
      However, when it came time for our 10 year anniversary, I told him I wanted a four poster mahogany bed….soooo in the retail stores we went after going to Thomasville, Ethan Allen etc….. he says “have you looked at the thrift stores?”🤣 I said yes, however, queen size was the usual inventory….( our mattress was a king, I was not will to downsize that…) soooo. He paid the retail price of Thomasville……🤢🤯🤑 needless to say, for the past 20 years… I no longer get grief from him (for the most part🤣, unless I start encroaching into our garage…strange he likes to park both cars in the garage🤣….)

  4. Sue Powell

    Some of our favorite pieces are also from estate sales, antique auctions, barn sales, yard sales. Of course we’ve had decades to collect these items, so if you’re just starting out, you have to be patient and not expect to find everything at once. I like that our furniture isn’t all “matchy-matchy” but it still looks nice all together.

  5. Linda Charlton

    I don’t know if this was exactly a bargain but I got my solid mahogany buffet at a second hand store for $350. No way I could have afforded that quality in a new one. I recently painted it black and added transfers and purple shading. I also purchased a solid mahogany china closet on ebay for $250, chalk painted and antiqued it and filled it with white ironstone and some brown transferware. I have a Duncan Phyfe drop leaf table that was my mother’s. I refinished it many years ago and now use hemp oil to brighten it up. Lots can be done on a budget.

    • Bea

      I love seeing and hearing about your bargain finds as well as your splurges. Buying for my home and business is great fun for me and I love a bargain. I had a shop at two locations for 11 years and now I have several spaces at a shop. It’s a lot of work and it can be challenging but I enjoy it. I so enjoy your blog!

  6. Deborah Raney

    I love this post, Marian, and it’s so true: it takes time, intent, and patience, but those are mostly free…and look at the end result. I have several beautiful library tables that we use as desks throughout the house. Some were hand-me-downs from family, and one was a $20 garage sale find that my in-laws refinished for us. My current huge coffee table is from a Mary Emmerling line. It sold for $600 in its day, but I got it for $40 at a garage sale and I just love it. Decorating our home on a tight budget is a necessity, but I love the challenge. Plus, that necessity has helped my husband and me find a style that’s uniquely us.

  7. Janet in Kansas City

    My favorite bargain is an old metal bed frame that I traded a kerosene heater for at a shared garage sale. : ) Honestly if I had a big budget I wouldn’t have a clue how to begin because I’ve always had to search for the bargains and wait. And part of it now is the thrill of the hunt. You can’t just go to a big store to find the real treasures. Hope that your reader is encouraged by your post, as I always am.

  8. Lisa K

    My beautiful kitchen pedestal table was free! My church was going to throw it away and my husband rescued and refinished it. I also have a chandelier quite similar to yours that my husband received in payment for doing a bit of handyman work for a realtor friend. My home is full of second-hand furniture and hand-me-downs. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

  9. Marianne

    My best deal was a $120 burled wood armoire from the 1930’s that we bought for our first home. We had a closet but no dresser. This armoire had it’s original mirror inside one door and the iron hanging rack with movable hooks and a shelf for shoes. Since we needed space for folded clothes my husband built removable wooden shelves and it’s still in our bedroom (3 moves on) over 20 yrs later.

  10. Stace

    85% of my house is second hand finds. My grandmother bought a beautiful bird’s eye maple bedroom set from a war bride who was moving to be nearer her husband. I’m still using those pieces today!
    My latest finds were a set of nightstands for $50, and $40 for an oak cabinet with stained glass inserts which match the stained glass in my kitchen window. It sits on another Craigslist find, a mission oak dresser. I wouldn’t have thought about putting the two pieces together except for your examples here!

  11. Amy

    My very best bargain is an antique blanket chest that we use as a coffee table! My husband recently retired from the military after 27 years, and that has been our coffee table (and our FIRST piece of furniture!) from the very beginning. My Dad and I went to an auction in PA and everyone started to leave when the snow started to fly. We persisted and won the chest at $6. I can say, after traveling the globe, that nothing holds up as well as the solid wooden furniture of old times.

  12. JoAnn

    This post is something I can relate to. Many of my favorite pieces are family pieces that I refinished years before I knew it wasn’t a good idea! I don’t regret it because I love the way they look now. There is the secretary , and a washstand that was brought from Germany. The first of my dining room chairs were redeemed with Green Stamps which tells my age! Several years later my sister found several of the same brand at a garage sale so I have a dozen of them now! I could go on and on, but do enjoy and look forward to your posts! I admire your energy and good taste so much!

  13. judith

    This article resonated with me. How thoughtful and kind of you to base a post on what your reader said. I can relate, in that, I have stopped looking at blogs by gals who have WAY more disposable income than I do and are always getting new things or doing upgrades to their homes. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge anyone that ability; but since I don’t have it, looking at that stuff became discouraging. I agree with you, keep an eye out for bargains, don’t be afraid to shop “used,” and bring things into your home that speak to you and that you will enjoy. My best deal is a 100+ year old wooden “laboratory” table I fished from a dumpster at a college where I worked. It was in an attic and covered in droppings of whatever lived in the attic, bats, pigeons, or both. It cleaned up and refinished nicely, and appears to be walnut; it is now my kitchen table.

  14. Julie N

    I’ve been following you for a long time now and have admired how you always use a common sense approach to everything you purchase. You have also ‘let go’ of items at Lucketts when you wanted to change out a particular piece of furniture or change the look of a room. You have also been blessed to use products and give a review to us “the audience” as to how to implement the product in our homes. Thank you for being a good steward to what the Lord has blessed you with – not only material items in and around your home, but your talent and creativity that I have come to love and enjoy.

  15. Cheryl M

    Those trays you featured yesterday !! And for $10.00. That’s what I’m most envious of, your keen ability to find the ‘golden nuggets‘ amidst the ordinary. It’s a God-given gift I say !! Living vicariously through you and your beautiful home…. ❤️

  16. Charlotte

    My old antique books. I love books and I am particularly drawn to old ones. Older the better! Even better if they’re books I’ve read as a kid (I have a few copies of the original Nancy Drew series from the 30s that I inherited from my grandmother. I like decorating with them but I also love that they’re books previous generations have read them as well. I think e most I’ve spent in a single book was $6? Everything else in my home is a gift or a hand me down and honestly I love my hand me downs and thrifted furniture more than the new stuff.

  17. MaryLisa

    Sometimes I used to feel worse about not finding treasures that magazine articles would say only cost a few dollars. I would wonder where these great buys are located? I have found if you see something you love and you have the money for it than it is worth it.

  18. Mary

    One of my favorite things that has moved with me from place to place, is a pair of nesting crocks. Both are broken, but together they are whole, and I keep my kitchen utensils in the crocks. The sight of them evokes memories of “treasure hunting” in ramshackle houses in the middle of pastures with my young nephews. The nephews are grown with their own children now, but their “treasures” remain on my countertop.

  19. Mary S

    I’ve been reading you for several years and I’ve watched you go from craigslist finds to an Arehous sofa. And that’s so good because early on I could tell you were prudent about how and where the money was spent. I guess that’s another reason why I so much enjoy your blog because I can identify with having to wait and save for something that I want and hope it’s there when I go back for it. Lay-away was always my friend too. I’ve walked around antique makets/stores and look at wonderful things and think well, I can’t afford this and move on. But over the years I’ve finally got my home where I think I want it, and then I get restless and see the paneling you’ve used, and so on and the changes/updates you’ve made. So, you are indeed my role model of sorts. But I so much admire your taste and your abilioty to “do it yourself” which so much describes me, i.e. installed my own hardwood floors, painted my own cainets, sew my own drapes, etc. I appreciate your description of how you’ve acquired the items in your home but on the other hand I feel badly that you felt you had to do that. At least, those of us who have to watch what we spend are encouraged about being sure before I buy, (I’ve made many, many mistakes) and know that being smart I too can have a Miss Mustardseed look where I live. God bless you for who you are!! And one more thing; perhaps you don’t know this but your daily posts are what I look forward to each day so I (and your readers) can see what you latest change to your house has been or what your most recent project is. I’ve learned a lot from you… so don’t think that it’s just a blog. I get so much encouragement from watching what you do. Hope that doesn’t sound silly… but it’s true!! 🙂

  20. Susie

    Hi. Wanted to say that sometimes estate sales are great places to find bargains. That is where most antique dealers find their stuff. Just a suggestion.

  21. Lisa

    It’s the thrill of the hunt!

  22. Julie

    A large, intricately carved hutch that was in two pieces at a garage sale at an old school. The top was upstairs and the bottom was downstairs. It was $100, $50 for each piece. My husband thought I was crazy. The pieces were not in bad shape, just very dirty, with some mold. I gave it a good cleaning, wiped it down with Old English, and moved it into my husband’s hunt room. A month later, a decorator offered me $1200 for it, but it wasn’t for sale. My husband was so impressed with my eye and how that piece turned out, he gave me the push to start refinishing furniture and start my antique booth. I have other pieces in our home that are “nicer”, but that piece will always be special. It causes me to pause and smile.

    • Karen

      I’d love to see your first find

  23. Judeth

    My house. It was a vacant boarded up mess that had sat for 19 years. It is now a 100 years old. I know 1st hand about budgets, I am still on a budget. I have been here now 18 years. The best things came with this house original claw foot tub and cast iron washboard sink. I inherited my parents ironstone dishes, which I use everyday. All my furniture has been yard sale, flea market and side of the road. I call them my orphans I have adopted.

  24. Maureen

    My favorite piece is a 5 1/2 foot long mahogany sideboard my son-in-law found on the side of the road. It has a beautiful curved front and raised details. I sanded down the top and tung oiled it and painted the rest in AS chalk paint. I highlighted the raised details in gold wax. It reminds me of him every time I look at it.

  25. Leslie

    I am so very inspired by everything you do! A few years and a couple of houses ago, I decided to make my house look more my style but did not have money for new furniture etc. So I watched your slipcover tutorials and slipcovered my couches and chairs. I used MMS milk paint to paint the coffee and end tables. For very little money I had an entirely new look- from boring beige to blue and white! Since then l have bought my dream couch but I still use most of the other pieces. I really appreciate your approach to decorating and the confidence you have given me to say, “it’s just paint!”

    • Lissy Chi

      The same with me, staying at home mom, not much money for decor, looking at Marian’s home and projects inspired me to turn cheap finds, even curb side pick ups, into cozy and pretty pieces. She even gave me inspiration to start a booth with dear like minded friend in Kansas City.

  26. Janet G

    Thank you so much for this post, it really resonated with me! I’ve always little to no budget for decorating and even then, necessities always come first. I do find that when you can’t go buy whatever you want, creativity bubbles up and sometimes magic is in the results. My best pieces are a china cabinet and buffet that I inherited from my grandmother… granted, they weren’t sale finds, but my grandpa was a warehouseman at a furniture store in the 1950’s and he’d buy furniture that fell off a truck and repair/fix pieces up. So they’re super deals, just handed down!

  27. Beth

    I fell in love with “junking” many years ago, and, like you, have used my treasured finds to furnish my home. Although nothing matches, it does seem to pull together and exude a warm and cozy feeling. My relatives often use the Danish term, hygge, when describing it. I guess my favorite find would be the house itself. It is an 1886 log cabin that my boyfriend (now husband) and I found abandoned in 1978 for $1000. We took it apart log by log, marked each log, moved it 30 miles, and reassembled it. It was a LONG labor of love, but it was worth it. My heart sings every fall when the trees cloak it with their beautiful colors, and again in the winter when the hoar frost and snow show off its basic simplicity. Thank you for a blog that talks to those of us that don’t have unlimited cash resources. Your post is the one I most look forward to reading on a daily basis.

  28. Kay Hess Grogg

    My grandmother was a “hat and gloves lady” who did everything right in decorating. But her secret was that she went to junk shops and purchased hand-me-downs and fixed them up herself. She inspired me to do the same. She and my grandfather owned a jewelry store and sold china, crystal, and silver as well as jewelry. My dad worked at the store all his life. We could never have the “best of” because these things were out of our price range, but we knew what the “best” was. With all this background in thrifting, I set out to furnish my first apartment after college. I went thrifting and found an antique brass and iron bed. I got it for $100 in 1975. I still have it and it is used in my guest room along with many old pieces that my grandmother gave me to help furnish my apartment back then. But after all these years, I still know what the best is and how to mix and add. I have the “best” everyday china (wedding gifts) but it doesn’t do well in the microwave or dishwasher so I went to Dollar Tree and bought white plates. My husband has my blessing to put these in the microwave any time. But when I am doing tablescapes, these $1 plates pair well with my fancy stuff to set a great table. It is all in how you use what you can afford. So to your reader, I say, do what you can do and enjoy the hunt for what you find! It’s the journey not the destination that is important.
    Marian- Thanks for all of your time tested ideas that you provide us!

  29. Mary

    My daughter is recently divorced and has no furniture and no budget. I went to a church-wide garage sale and picked up 5 pieces for $58.00! They were all solid wood pieces…and serious projects…but sturdy. I’ve completed remaking two of those items and will start the 3rd soon. I asked her what her dream coffee table would look like, and using the one I picked up, I’m aiming in that direction. Like you, we started our home with a lot of hand-me-downs and thrift store finds. As budget allows, I trade up or replace up, and after 38 years, it’s not “done.” 🙂

  30. Toni

    My best deal is a pie safe I found at my favorite thrift shop. It had a tag on it from an antique store that read $195. The thrift shop had marked it $35, but it was 75% off day. I got it for a hair over $8! What a deal! It’s in perfect condition, too. I still can’t believe it.

  31. Dauphine

    I found a mahogany buffet complete with a glass top cover at a neighbors yard sale. When I asked the price she asked me what I could afford. I told her $25.00 and she said fine. I brought it home on a friends red wagon and painted it a creamy white after I stripped it because the mahogany bled through. It has travelled with me from California to Florida, back to California and then to Missouri when I retired 3 1/2 years ago. I love it!

  32. Carol Woodard

    I love reading your blog. My bargain pieces are actually chairs I didn’t pay for. The antique green presidential rocking chairs that sat on the front porch of my parents first home in the 50’s. The paint is beautifully worn and the exposed wood feels like velvet. With them is a round green wicker table I purchased at Luckett’s spring market 3 years ago for cheap since the sky opened up and it was pouring! I really missed not going to that show this year my home needs more treasures. Hugs!

  33. Carol

    Everything in my home is a “found” item. Or purchased way way under “new” cost. After almost 55 years of marriage and a lot of collecting, I can say our home is creative, comfortable and welcoming. I have loved the adventure of decorating/ furnishing on a very limited budget. You, Marian, have been an encouragement for so many, including me.

  34. Barbara

    I will never forget a friend of my children asking me “don’t you have any furniture that is new”? (She was 9). I took it as a compliment because all our stuff was flea market/yard sale finds – except for my mattresses. Even those I buy in mattress outlets. Even today (after 40 years of marriage) my table is an old metal work table with plywood on top – makes it big enough to fit my whole family around (can seat 20). I have learned to make what you want if you can’t find it – and never be ashamed of what you work so hard for.

  35. Ruth

    Most of my adult life a didn’t have two nickels to rub together. But I took pride in making a beautiful and comfortable home as a single mom of two boys. When I first started dating My husband he brought his boys over to meet our family. When they were leaving his youngest son was almost out the door, and turned around and came back in and looked at me and said are you rich?. I got such a chuckle out of that if he only knew how poor I was. But that just goes to show you how important it is to have a home that your family can be proud of.

  36. Diane Christy

    Your readers have expressed their delight at this junking habit we all have and I think it breaks down into three ideas: 1) Having the confidence to create your own personal style, regardless of what is currently “on trend”. That alone allows for a lot of off the curb finds! 2) Being willing to tackle some fixer-upper projects with few or no expectations. You are your worst critic and these items only have to satisfy your own aesthetic. 3) Developing an “eye” to take a piece of rubbish to fabulish (I just made that word up). I have two big finds: a Thomasville triple dresser on the side of the road that I painted and am using as a buffet in our dining room; a tiny piece of art by a local artist (retail at least $100-200) purchased for 25 cents at a Humane Society thrift store. Just keep your eyes, and heart, open and these wonders will fall into your lap

  37. Jean M Clayton

    In 2000, I found a mid century hutch at a furniture store, that had clearly been lost in the back of the warehouse. Paid 100 dollars. Happen to see it as I was driving by, pulled over and brought it home the next day. I still love it!

  38. Chris

    I found an antique French confit pot for $5 at an antique mall’s clearance room. The seller didn’t know what it was. But I did thanks to all the superb decorating blogs. I also treasure my ironstone at all price points thanks to you.

  39. Mary m Young

    Over the years (many of them) i can count on my fingers the new things that i have bought. My most favorite rehab is a buffet that some one beat the $&@( out of it. It sat in my diningroom for a couple of years until the light bulb went off. I painted the body and legs a flat black and refinished the top and stained it cherry. The pulls came from our local little hardware store. I could go on and on but i wont bore you. Marion i love what you have done and makes me shop in my own house and basement more more ideas and rehab ideas. thank you.

  40. Barbara Myslinski

    I recently purchased a french butcher table with a wrought iron base and marble top for $160. I had been looking for one of these for some 20 years. It was very underpriced and the dealer had no idea what it was and was happy to sell it because of its weight. A truly beautiful piece for my home.

  41. Michele M.

    My “curated” home is just that – luck, looking, bartering, bargaining, splurging, re-doing and a lot of patience and years. It is always in change mode.

    Most of my home is mostly full of thrifted and estate sales acquisitions. I love the thrill of the hunt. I have sold more than purchased on CL because I too do a “stepping stone to what I really want” way of decorating. My very fav bargains were from local church garage sales – where the prices are low, the quality of donated goods high and close to home and safe way to buy and nice knowing every dollar goes to charities. I donate too.

    I soooooooooooooooooo miss thrifting. I haven’t shopped for real since before Christmas. I am selling, which is good – and not buying too much, which is better, but I really miss it. My husband doesn’t, haha.

    Love your home, your hard working lifestyle, your taste and talents. Enjoy your blog and really liked this post. I hope you do more posts like this. It was kind of you to write it how you did.

    Stay well.

  42. Graham

    Have you ever tried to jump out of your car when you see what might be a great garage sale only to be yanked back by your seat belt? All my favorite things came from garage sales, thrift shops and flea markets. What tickles me is when I see things I lusted after when they were only available at department stores at a garage sale. Nope, not interested in that any more. I’m actually glad I didn’t have the money at the time; it’s saved me from many a mistake.

  43. Kristin Gjertsen

    I live in North Carolina, once a center of the furniture industry. I have filled our home with beautiful, solid wood pieces that I found in thrift stores, Goodwill, Salvation Army, and the Habitat Restore. I love china, silver, old linens, cut glass, brass, old lamps, beautiful tableclothes. I find many wonderful things at the thrift stores or estate sales. I also take hand-me-downs from family members and friends. I sew my own curtains, cherish family hand-me-downs. Our most prized possession is a 140 year old clock that has been handed down and repaired by multiple generations of family members. I started doing this when we could not afford to buy new. The only thing I bought full price was an Ethan Allen couch which my designer aunt helped me build a couch that would last a lifetime. I have had it more than 20 years and had it re-upolstered when my kids grew up. The man who did the work told me to never get rid of the couch. He said it was so solidly built that it would probably outlast me. I remember being shocked at the price when I got the couch, but it seems pretty cheap in comparison to the years we have had it.

  44. Karen

    I have scored so many great deals at thrift stores and craigslist…I can’t even remember them all, let alone list them.

    But I wanted to write to tell you, Marian, that this is a great post.

    Your honesty and sincerity do not go un-noticed. Your style is not quite the same as my favorite—I like to lean a little more French Farmhouse and Shabby Chic. (I drove from Virginia one day to your PA studio to buy a pair of French needlepoint chairs…and could hardly speak as I was star-struck), but it is because of posts like this that you are the first site I check every morning. I feel like you are a friend, and certainly one of the most honest and true bloggers out there, who’s true intent shows through–to inspire and help your followers, not to impress them or sell them something. Kudos from a huge fan who hopes you never stop blogging.

  45. Patricia W.

    Hi Marian! I love your blog and your projects! My favorite bargain was bought during the last hours of a three day estate sale. I got a tall, narrow Broyhill table (back of the sofa type) for $20! Easily cost more than $400 when new! It had not been well taken care of – maybe put outdoors on a porch – but I loved the shabby chic chippy look. I painted inexpensive stools and the drawer knobs a matching burnt orange color, made cushions and it looks awesome in my kitchen!

  46. Chessie

    Marian, your home is beautiful, and I love the very intentional and practical way you go about selecting what goes where. You are so creative and resourceful!

  47. Meredith MacRitchie

    The number of times I’ve said to my MIL ‘if only I had a… [insert vintage item here]’ and she pulls something out from her attic…. i have an old wooden chest (probably a hope chest of some sort) as my living room coffee table (“but its old! It’s just in my shed”)… i have a chippy, modest little stool that was her mother’s painting stool (“are you going to paint that? It’s all chipped…”), a no. 5 crock, lid included, 2 antique leaded glass windows (now sporting a coat of Linen MMSMP), a travel trunk, French chairs that I’ve now painted and upholsteredin grain sacks, an antique radio cabinet (more milk paint!)… I could go on! All just hanging around her house because they were old and she didn’t have any use for them. As for things I’ve paid for, I have a beautiful, extra chippy wooden chair that I picked up at a yard sale for $10… they just had it out in the yard, not for sale, and thought I was insane when I wanted to buy it! I have an old metal trunk I got for $3 at another garage sale… and countless antique Christmas decorations ive collected between garage sales, my mother in law, and local dealers… I agree with you; patience, and time… thats what makes a beautiful space that’s yours!

  48. Shelly

    I have found many great things being an antique dealer over the years. But one find a couple of years ago comes with a great story. Here it is:
    My husband talked me it to going to a garage sale one Saturday morning. I prefer estate tag sales and auctions, but I went anyway. We got there early and when I walked into the building, I was so glad I went! On a table were 3 of those Marmalade jars everyone loves! Sorry,I can’t remember the name of them at the moment. I left my reading glasses in the car, but I picked one up and it said 25 on it. So I decided to get all three at $25.00 each as I felt it was a good deal. I found some other things but was having a hard time reading the prices so I went over to my husband and snatched his glasses off his head. I then looked at the price on the marmalade jars again AND THEY WERE 25 CENTS EACH!!!!! I about fell over!
    In our antique mall you can never find them under $50.00 each! They were also in perfect condition! I kept them all and smile every time I see them!

  49. Louise

    Marion, I love your story as I shop much the same way. I’m 76 years old and I have combinations of all kinds of things in my home. From my daddy’s desk and momma’s cedar chest that are older than me. I have things I’ve found cheap and painted, chairs I’ve covered, etc I love shopping at thrift stores and antique shops better than new stores. Your home is beautiful and I love the slip cover you made for your office chair and I want to try that. You are a great inspiration and are so talented. I look forward to your blogs . Keep up the good work and I wish many blessings for your family. Stay safe and well.

  50. Marilyn K Craighead

    My favorite piece is an old iron bed frame that my hubby brought home 35 years ago. Because he knew I’d love it. He’s an artist and had gone out on a chilly spring morning looking for a quiet place to paint. He ended up in the city dump…. LOL! Noticing this heavy old iron bed (headboard and footboard ) He cleaned it up and painted it and it’s become a family treasure. I tell him it’s the most romantic thing he’s ever done!
    So to the young lady who is frustrated… Look in unexpected places and be willing to be patient. I mix old with the new and look for ways to be creative with what I have. And I haven’t regretted doing so. Marion has the gift for helping us to “see” that what makes our home special is the unique style we bring to it. Thank you Marion for sharing your talent and beauty of home.

  51. Kathleen

    I love how you’ve sourced and creatively curated so many wonderful treasures! As always, you inspire! The best thing I been lucky enough to find is a Raymond Loewy Bachelor’s chest from the early 1950’s. I found it in a dumpster at my apartment complex during a January snow storm one night when I first moved to Montana. Even in the dark and covered in snow I could see it had great lines. I hauled it home and cleaned it off. It took me a while before I saw the stamp inside and learned that Raymond Loewy, who was considered one of the leading industrial designers of his day, designed this piece. Just tonight, I finally sanded off the ugly pale green stain on it. It’s a gorgeous solid oak and all it needs now is some hemp oil. I feel so lucky!

  52. Jeffrey Favreau

    You are a INSPIRATION to so many. Our house is filled with yard sale side items, hand me downs, pieces I worked for in trade, and of course living in a City for a part of our life that curbside garbage. We have a 170 year old farmhouse filled with wonderful finds. My best find is a 1930’s china hutch that happened to be my grandmothers and my cousin decided she didn’t need or want it any more. 🙂

  53. Teresa

    I’ve been married 43 years and was engaged for 3 years before that. My mother used to joke if someone offered, I accepted and had a full house of furniture before I was married. Not exactly true. What is true is that I still have some of those early items and still love them. When I first discovered Roseville and Weller pottery, I could only afford the broken, chipped and damaged pieces. I learned to repair pottery to my liking and I still have those pieces. Also, with YouTube and the internet, you can find anything you want to make or repair. There are even YouTube videos that teach you how and where to thrift. I’ve found Facebook Marketplace to be a treasure trove of bargains. And finally, finding decorating blogs like this one are a huge help.

  54. Kate

    A new friend came to my house and commented how old world/European the interior of my house looked. She wanted to know where I found all my decorations. I think she thought I must have spent a lot of money. Most of my items are found at thrift stores or yard sales, rarely antique stores (not that I don’t frequent them and I do snatch up a good deal when I can). What I find is that most people decorate their homes with what is trendy or what is mass produced to look vintage at a box store or Hobby Lobby. It really strikes them when they see see a house that is different and personal. I look for items that are unique or handmade that appeal to me. It takes patience. You won’t see my home decor in anyone else’s home. The most I’ve ever spent on furnishings was $200 on a antique quarter-sawn oak mantel to replace a mantel that was missing. We saved up for that and it was our searching limit.

  55. Patricia Kasparian

    Great, relatable post. I’ve so enjoyed the comments, the bargains so many have acquired – and the fun and patience it takes to make a house a home.

  56. Julie

    I enjoyed reading all the comments. I have found so many bargains over the years I can’t pick a favorite. I love the thrill of the hunt. Our home was furnished in second hand furniture. We were on a limited budget and couldn’t afford much of anything new. There was times that I would be embarrassed if someone asked where I got it from. I have a sister in law that would not have a garage sale much less be seen at one. Now its hard for me to spend money for new things because I know I can find it second hand if I have patience.
    Fast forward 38 years and we built a new house with the money we saved over the years. I bought new or almost new items like, door knobs, cabinet pulls, ballisters, mantle, you name it and I searched and found it. Now if someone asks where I found things I’m not embarrassed to tell them. With the help of decorating blogs like yours, I am very proud of my second hand bargains and what I have done with them.

  57. Kristine

    I too have so enjoyed the stories in the comments above, and fully agree that the joy is in the hunt and discovery.
    I share the sentiments of the writer who commented: I have stopped looking at blogs by gals who have WAY more disposable income than I do. So true – I am far more impressed and inspired by creativity and ingenuity. I love thrift shopping (and have written a few posts on it!) My two Craigs lists finds were a writing desk that was exactly what I wanted, even though at $70, I feel like I paid a little too much for it. Nonetheless less I have used it for over 5 years, so there you go. (And I am planning on eventually painting it.) The second find is my real treasure; it is a beast of a bakers rack; it’s 7 feet high, heavy ironwork and some beautiful ivy ‘fret’ work. I was sick as a dog when we drover 45 minutes to pick it up! Even at $100, I adore it beyond all reason.

    And allow me to add my voice to the chorus of appreciation for your staying the course of your own personal aesthetic. I am often drawn to a blogger based on their design taste, but then they decide to change their taste and go into a different direction. Now that’s disappointing. No matter what popular ‘buzz words” are being tossed around (what IS Modern Farmhouse, anyway ?? ) you are a steady source for bringing beauty into your home and inspiration into our hearts.

  58. Darcy

    I love this post. It really was sincere and I think based on the number of comments spoke to a lot of us out there. 🙂 We live in Oregon, and the best finds I’ve scored have been at estate sales and auctions. It might take all day (ours usually start at 9 am and I’ve stayed until 10 pm loading up my finds) but I’ve scored art for my kid’s bedroom for $1, a $5 wooden 12′ chicken nesting box I turned into a flower bed, and baskets, bowls, etc. for a dollar or two. I love the reader comment about “good, fast or cheap – pick 2” – that really is sometimes the case!

  59. Judy Karlson

    Hello Marion……this latest post has been a hit with your readers! So many responses. I am a recent follower of a few months and enjoyed your ‘here’ button to see some of your past posts and your history as an antiques dealer and blogger. What a thrill to find out that you are also collector of Buffalo China! My pattern is Niagra which has two parallel green stripes; one stripe is thinner. I started my collection with thrift store finds also; I’m a lover of the color green as you are with blue. My collection includes plates of all sizes, serving pieces, cups/saucers, pitchers, creamers and various other unique pieces. In early attempts to complete my collection, I purchased ‘look a likes’ manufactured by other companies but now only have a pure Buffalo collection, selling the ‘knock off’s’ in my ‘Vintage Goods’ spaces in southern MN. I have seen Buffalo China with blue stripes; when I see that pattern again, I will think of you! Thanks for the daily joy of reading your posts!

  60. D

    I was at church one Sunday morning when it was announced before the service that several pews were being sold. Anyone interested should see Art following the service. Art was the music director and I kept my eye on Art the entire service. As soon as the service ended I made a beeline for Art and purchased my pew for $20.

    Funny thing … when I got home I told my husband we needed to go by the church Monday to pick up a church pew, which he was okay with. However, that evening I got a call from the pastor who lived just down the street and he said he and one of the deacons were delivering one of the pews to his house and would I like them to deliver mine! A bargain & a delivery– a good thing.

  61. Babs

    Boy, are you preaching to the choir! I have been practicing what you have been preaching for many years. Started out as a necessity due to lack of money but then decided it was more fun to find things, fix them up and enjoy them. Anyone can go to the store and buy a bunch of stuff but it’s not as much fun. Most of my things have a “story” attached to them…where I found it, and what I had to do to it to make it fit in with my home. I treasure the experiences almost as much as the items themselves.

    Keep preaching and we’ll keep practicing! You make it fun.

    P.S. Biggest bargain: huge chandelier from a hotel that I bought for $350 which lights up my whole living room, dining room and kitchen area in my log home. Too many small bargains to even mention but they are just as much fun.

  62. Jeanna

    Not only do I love the creativity that goes into repurposing items, but I grew up with the REDUCE! REUSE! RECYCLE! mantra and we all can be better stewards of the Earth.

    I have a glass cylinder from a wedding centerpiece that I use on my mantel and fill it with artistic pieces of nature: a candle in sand, pinecones, acorns, feathers, dried branches, fresh evergreen branches, hosta leaves, ferns…

    A large, sturdy desk full of drawers at a Garage Sale for $15. My mom helped me strip and repaint it for my daughter’s bedroom. When she was getting ready to leave for college we had a fun time reminiscing with all the treasures she had stowed away while we cleared out all the drawers. 🙂

    Vintage Classic books $1-2 at the Goodwill – in my opinion books have so much value as they help shape you. And they look pretty on a shelf or can be used to prop up another treasure.

  63. Gloria

    Dear Marian, Thank you so much for this beautiful post. It makes my heart happy to hear your story and to realize that you “knew” how I felt While I will never own all of your beautiful things I am thankful for all I have. I am so happy that I have the talents I do I love to create beautiful things. Thank for your sweet words of guidance and hope. Thank you for reminding us that we must all take baby steps to reach our goals.

  64. Melody

    I love this post and just read every comment! I wish I could tour every home and hear all the stories about each and every special item, as this is what makes a house a home! It is so true that we all started out with nothing but have acquired treasures one by one along the way. The years pass quickly and I thought I was the only one that remembers what I paid for my favorite things! Getting a bargain is one of life’s biggest thrills, right? One of my favorite things is an old chalkboard that takes up the whole wall in our dining room. I found it in a dark corner of a “recycle shop” in Japan when we were stationed there. It was $15. We found dozens of glass fishing floats there while beach combing and I love each and every one of them. I could go on and on… I love how each thing holds a memory of a very dear place or person. Thank you for letting us visit your home so we can see all your things & share in the wonderful stories!

  65. Kim

    Love this post and reading all the comments. I have found myself both in awe and at the same time dejected looking at websites and magazines-like there was no way I could have a beautiful home. I love that you blend old and new and that you tell us your home doesn’t have to be full or “done”… evolves as you do.
    I treasure my great grandmothers four poster mahogany bed and my grandmothers Blue Willow China we always ate from. I have a beautiful oak bench that I initially saw on FB Marketplace. I knew my budget and made an offer that the owner did not accept. I was disappointed but understood. A month later the owner reached out to me and said if I still wanted it, she would give it to me. It had not sold and she needed to clear space and she wanted it to go to someone who would appreciate it. She said she had owned it for over 40 years and has purchased it at an auction and it was already old then. I learned it was a deacons bench-she had reupholstered the seat several years prior and it matched my decor perfectly.

  66. Sharon Rexroad

    I don’t have many unbelievable bargain treasures, but I think over half my furniture I’ve bought “gently used” for under $200. Six rose carved back chairs (from Grand Rapids so you know they’re good quality) were the very first thing I ever bought at an auction — they aren’t really useful because I swear the women from the era they are from must have been oh, so petite. One chair barely survived my quite large Nebraska farmboy brother-in-law sitting on it – I salvaged it, though! I’m going to be transforming the chairs into a special project in the coming year because I love them and love that they were my first auction purchase. My first antique store purchase is a gorgeous oak treadle sewing machine that sits as my entryway table. My most recent gently used purchase is a china cabinet that was already painted in the color I was planning to paint one, and I got it for less than they were selling pre-painted! I’ll be storing quilts in it in my bedroom. Oh, and I recently got a full collection of brown transferware in the Sharon pattern (wonder why I like it, teehee); 12 place settings, serving pieces and the TEAPOT, for $75. Just the lid for the teapot is listed on Replacements for $35! Now if I could only find a similar collection of depression glass in the Sharon design for a similar deal…

  67. Lynette

    Solid wood side tables for our bedroom–the people holding the garage sale were packing up and all I had was $15. I offered it “if they’d rather not have to pack them up and store them”, and they took it! My other is a mirror I got for $15 at a Goodwill. I could tell it had lovely cottage lines and was large–about 4 feet tall. However, it was a manufactured dark wood finish and the cut-outs at the top were backed with purple velvet! I popped out the velvet, painted it cream and antiqued it. I love it, love it, love it in my living room! Most of my favorite pieces are the ones I’ve thrifted that have a few dings in them and a history…

  68. Bernie

    I found a box of vintageFiesta at a consignment shop for $18. When I looked up the value of these original pieces they were well over $200. I bought a day bed at a fancy furniture store’s annual sale for $20 since it was missing brass screws. I bought the screws at a hardware store for about$4.

  69. Linda

    I can identify with so much of what you said Marian! I used to dream about decorating when I bought my first home but had an extremely limited budget but I looked for bargains or used hand me downs to make my house a home. I actually love hand me down or garage sale items that I can chalk paint and make it look like what I want for a room! Your chalk painting videos years ago made me realize that I can change the look of so many items in my house instead of getting rid of something or buying new!

  70. Gina

    Marian, I loved this post. I read your blog daily and always love your inspiration. Also, you are real. I’ve been reading your blog for a long time and you have been so inspirational, even when you had a small budget. I’ve learned from you to have patience and perseverance to get my home the way I want it. I love how you save your birthday money, etc. so when you see something you want to “splurge on” you can buy (again, patience) . I read many blogs and it is frustrating when I know I don’t have their budget to have their beautiful home. I love junking, thrifting, garage sales, and estate sales. I love to repurpose things.
    Again, thanks for being real and inspirational.

  71. Esther

    Marjan, you realy hit a spot with this post 🙂
    Before I met my husband I lived on a very tight budget; sometimes I got an assignment (like decorating my uncles garage-company or drawing glass lead-window designs for a friend) and was then finally able to by myself a iron frame IKEA bed(=I slept on a mattress on the floor for 6 years) I still have that bed in our guestroom. All my other furniture where always hand me downs. I got a set of drawers from my mother which had been from my grandmother when I was living in my first tiny 2-room apartment which was full of silk scarves (my grandmother had many coats with each 2 scarves to go with it); since I never wear scarves I sold most of them on the flee-market. This was the first piece of furniture I pimped up; I saw a set of drawers in a home decorating magazine with glass windows in it and of course 600 Gulden wasn’t in my budget. The closet wasn’t antique so I decided to transform the closet to what I had seen in the magazine. I sawed out the inner facets of the drawers, bought some glass wood pieces and brought the drawers to the local glass store where they put glass in them. Then I sanded the whole closet and painted it broken white and bought new handles for it; it now serves as a extra clothing-closet where I keep my t-shirts/blouses etc in each of the 7 drawers in another color scheme. Since then I look different at old furniture. Also before IKEA came to our town there weren’t any stores where you could buy light colored solid wooden furniture so I mostly drooled at the the local flee-markets where they had nice antics but full of wood wormholes and very expensive.
    When moving to Amsterdam we lived in the ghetto where you could put all your big garbage in front of our flat. One morning I found an antique blanket chest and I remember having to beg my husband to help getting it up into the elevator because he thought somebody pied over it but it were water spots from standing to long in a cellar. I sanded it and I still get compliments from visitors when they see it in my house. A few minutes later I met the former owner helping a neighbor of mine hauling the sofa he had also put out up to her apartment he told me the history of the trunk; it had belonged to a sailor. On my hubby’s work they had thrown out an old wooden vitrine closet; he sent me a mail if I wanted it; I immediately recognized the closet I had already admired while on a tour of the labatorium. We didn’t have a car yet so a college delivered the closet to our home. It’s now in my studio full of glass jars with all my textile materials and collections. The key was missing but my hubby found the right key in my old key collection and fixed it. These sort of closets get sold at thrift stores for a 200 Euro’s or more. Now we live in Germany I found you can buy lots of antique furniture very cheap or even for free on the local FB flee-markt list. I also found lots of nice really cheap things in thrift-stores. One of my treasures is a 4 Euro labatorium-glass-holder from wood I use for all my small tools in my studio. I spend more money on paint and sanding paper to make old furniture beautiful than on the furniture itself. Last week I bought a beautiful antique clothing closet painted with folk-art flowers for only 200 Euro’s. I have a flower chandelier which I repainted which I bought for 8 euro. A little closet on the wall for my sewing-tread for 3 Euro, 2 antique chairs for 20 Euro’s together, another antique trunk for 25 Euro, a 60’s style chair I got from my neighbors, a big wooden chair for my hubby from the 20’s for 45 Euro, 2 old blue-green sofa’s for 80 euro’s, a little 30’s style red round chair I got from a friend, and some antique furniture in shabby chic style from the neighbors of my parents in law who were moving and lots more hand me downs from my family. I feel really blessed with how my home looks now. My latest project is a little dark brown hanging herb-closet with 10 drawers from the 70;s I found in a thrift-store for 22,50 euro. I have sanded, painted it broken white and bought new ceramic handles for it: white with blue flowers.

  72. Linda, near Seattle

    I am brand new to your blog, but am loving it. My biggest bargains include a double bed that was given to us almost 50 years ago when our son began to let down the rail on his crib. Took some work to clean it up, but we learned that it is a Jenny Lind bed. It was our guest bed for lots of years and now has a place in the bedroom our grandkids use when they visit. The second bargain is an ancient trunk that my great-grandparents used to bring all of their belongings to this country when they left Switzerland. It amazes me when I think that everything they could bring for a family of four came in that old trunk. If only it could talk! Thank you for a fun blog!

  73. SueA

    All my antique “finds” are hand-me-downs from my mother’s side of my family except for a beautifully funky desk made by my paternal grandfather which he carved in an ornate art-deco style. How many times have I walked into a storage unit and said “ok, I’ll take that, that,that,that,that….”,and had to hire a moving van to get the stuff home? It does make for an eclectic style.


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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