The best items to look for at yard sales, according to interior designers

Yard sale season is upon us, and these are the items interior designers make a beeline for at their own neighborhood yard sales

yard sales
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While the rise of Facebook Marketplace, eBay, 1stDibs, and various online vintage furniture shops have made it easier than ever to find the exact antique or vintage item you might have in mind for your space, there’s something unique about finding a roadside yard sale; almost like a grown-up treasure hunt.

Think about it like this: heading out to a yard sale is always going to be a fun and exciting experience—with everything including the kitchen sink spread out on the lawns and driveways of your neighbors, you never know what you might find. That said, with so many second hand tchotchkes and random items on display for sale, it can be hard to know where to start and what to bring home.

In order to help you make the most of yard sale season, we spoke to a handful of interior designers and thrifting experts to get their best insights and tips on exactly what you should be making a beeline for this summer. From scouting out “unusual” lamps to learning to authenticate antiques, here’s how to get the most out of yard sales when it comes to sprucing up your space.

Track down unusual lamps that inspire you

yard sale lamp

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“It's hard to end up at a yard sale and not discover an unusual lamp that could shift the mood of your space,” says Diane Lowy, Founder of New York at Home. “Depending on the style, it could make your space feel more playful (old western nightlight) or formal (green shaded banker lamp).”

According to Lowy, one of the great things about lighting fixtures is that they add a certain dimension to space during the day and a totally different dimension at night. “You might even consider switching out the shade and playing with unusual bulbs to customize it to fit your home.”

Look for large furniture that you love


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“Sometimes you can get very lucky, especially if you have a good eye for furniture and other large scale or fragile pieces that wouldn't be viable to ship,” says Sam Jernigan, Interior Designer at IFDA Renaissance Design Consultations.

According to Jernigan, large antique or vintage furniture is often abundant via direct importers and/or auction houses as well as specialty antiques websites, but shipping such large items can be more expensive than the piece itself.

Finding these items at a yard sale can save big bucks if you can haul it home yourself (or even pay a hauling service to do it for you). 

Keep an eye out for authentic antiques

yard sale finds

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“I've also personally arrived at the realization that while reproductions have certain advantages including widespread availability and customizing of painted finishes, etc., nothing brings the level of visual warmth and, well, just oomph to a space as authentic antiques,” explains Jernigan. 

“Another incredible benefit of owning authentic antiques is not only their general affordability initially but the fact they then hold their value so well, unlike the majority of newly-manufactured furnishings—making them a wise [financial] choice indeed.”

Head for the handcrafted items

yard sale find

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Handcrafted or hand carved items, when done right, can offer a dose of timeless personality to any space—especially larger items like chairs or tables.

“I once found a wooden rocking chair on a yard sale near our subdivision—but was a particularly unique find because it has an unusual design, it's carved with astrological symbols which look so beautiful, and I got it for only $5!” says Robert Johnson, Founder of Sawinery.

“I really like unusual stuff, especially wooden pieces since I own a woodworking company. Finds like this inspires me more and gives me new ideas for my future wood crafts,” he shares.

Consider quirky items to add personality to your space

yard sale finds

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“Some of my favorite items to find at yard sales are golden pleated vintage mirrors, picture frames and quirky decoration items that serve no particular purpose,” shares Joe Flanagan, expert thrifter and Founder of 90s Fashion World.

Flanagan suggests looking for slightly kitschy items like statues, vases and paper holders, that most people would pass on—but with a little creativity you can easily create or embellish a room around them.

Kaitlyn McInnis

Kaitlyn is an experienced travel and lifestyle writer with a keen interest in interior decorating and home optimization. An avid traveler, she's currently splitting her time between her apartment in a century-old châteauesque building in Montreal and her cozy chalet in the woods (that she built with her own two hands... and many YouTube tutorials!). Her work has been published in Travel + Leisure, Tatler Asia, Forbes, Robb Report Singapore, and various other international publications.