Antique + Vintage Shopping 101: A Complete Guide to Finding Secondhand Pieces that Work in Your Home


Our ears instantly perk up when someone says the word “vintage”. We immediately imagine all of the character, the individuality, the possibilities that come along with an item that has had a former life. 

What is it? Where is it? How much is it? Give us the details of an opportunity to pick up a vintage or antique piece and we’re there.

From vintage clothing to antique furniture and home goods, we just think that secondhand is better. These items have their own unique vibe, because you don’t get these things in a traditional store, where anyone else could pick up the same thing and display it in their home. You know that you love them because you spent some time looking for them and found them amid a sea of pieces at an antique store or hidden in a bin at a local garage sale.  When you find a secondhand piece, it’s special.

That’s the thing about vintage and antique shopping - it’s a bit of a treasure hunt. It’s not as easy as saying, “I’m going to go find something vintage for my home today!” (That is, unless you’re coming to Dune.) Antique and vintage shopping requires a little more effort, and today we’re sharing our favorite tips for finding pieces that will actually work in your home.

How to Find Secondhand Pieces That Work in Your Home

Anyone could go to an antique shop and buy a piece with history. However, shopping intentionally for items that will work in your home specifically is another story. That careful sifting and searching takes a bit more time, and a keen eye for something special.

As avid thrifters ourselves, we’ve come up with a few key tactics to coming away with the perfect piece more often than not.

Find the right places

Before you begin the search, you need to figure out where you’re going to search. Of course, the logical first place to check out is Dune if you’re near Stoughton, WI, but for those who are a bit further away, we have some other suggestions:

Do some Instagram stalking

You’ve Instagram-stalked your crush and that new coffee shop downtown, why wouldn’t it be the first spot you’d look for curated vintage and antique shops? Peruse your geolocation, as well as relevant hashtags (i.e. #MadisonAntiques, #MidwestVintage), to see where people are purchasing items that pique your interest. Once you come across a post with a shop that you want to check out, save it to your “saved posts” on Instagram. You won’t lose the name in your Notes app (been there), and you’ll be able to reference specific items when you get to the shop.


Get addicted to yard sales

A tried and true place to find unique antiques is a yard sale. How many times have you driven past a sign, or a yard sale in progress, and thought to yourself, “I wonder if they have anything interesting.” Sometimes you come away with nothing, and other times you can find gorgeous lamps, mid-century modern furniture, old records, and more. Next weekend, make a point to stop at one yard sale and see what treasures you can find. It just might jumpstart your passion for vintage shopping!

Head to the Facebook Marketplace

Facebook Marketplace is like the yard sale of social media. People in your area are selling things constantly, hoping to make room for newer items or something that’s a bit more of their style. You know what they say though: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. We’ve had a ton of luck finding wicker furniture, mid-century modern end tables,  dining room sets, and even some authentic vintage clothing that was in great shape.

Don’t forget Craigslist!

Though Craigslist has a strange reputation, it is a veritable gold mine for antique and vintage finds at low prices. Often, people are just trying to get rid of a few things in their home, not realizing or unconcerned that those pieces have become on trend again. Stunning wood furniture, 60s style dining chairs, and antique rugs are just a few of the things we’ve found on Craigslist.

Keep an open mind and an open eye

If you go into antique shopping with a negative mindset, you’re guaranteed to never find a piece that will work in your home. Instead, try to keep an open mind and a positive spirit. Allow yourself to consider each piece that you come across and wonder how it could fit into the rooms that you’ve already created. Imagine its backstory and see if you feel a connection to it. Peruse the aisles of the shop (or the pages of the website) with intention, always keeping an open eye for something that calls to you.

Shop consistently

The biggest piece of advice we can give for finding secondhand pieces that work in your home is to keep shopping. No, we don’t mean keep buying pieces until something feels right. We mean keep going through the act of shopping, of searching, of checking out new places on a consistent basis. In addition to being difficult to find, great antique and vintage items tend to move quickly in stores, so your best strategy is to continuously check out new inventory so you can be the first to take action on a particularly spectacular piece.


Best Pieces to Buy Secondhand

Not all vintage home decor is created equal. When you’re considering what to purchase secondhand vs. new, we have a few opinions. Take ‘em or leave ‘em.


Consider this one an emphatic “yes” from us! Vintage and antique furniture is what you might consider the “jackpot” in this scenario. Cire’, the founder of Dune, routinely posts furniture finds from Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace to Dune’s Instagram, inspiring us all with her ability to dig and find gold. 

Furniture just isn’t made today the way it used to be, so finding a piece that has been maintained and is ready for love in a new home is the ultimate goal. When you’re considering whether a piece of secondhand furniture is worth the purchase, think about its current state. Is it in great condition? Does it need only one or two updates to be exactly the way you want it? Then go for it!


Antique art? We’re sold. Whether it’s a beautiful oil painting, pressed petals between frames of glass, mosaic, or even vintage photographs, finding art in a vintage shop or at a yard sale is a major score. This art is unlike anything you could buy current, as it has a distinct story to tell. Why was it purchased in the first place? How many lives has it seen? Is there a special meaning behind the subject in the frame?

Look for pieces that you feel connected to, or that would complete the gallery wall that you’ve been working to put together. Something with a bit of wear and tear could be just what you need to keep your decor looking lived-in instead of straight from a design magazine.


Home goods

When we say home goods what do we mean? In this case, we’re talking kitchenware, candlesticks, trinkets, ceramics, baskets, pillows, even the items that you would typically use to style shelves.

All of these and more are great vintage and antique options. Depending on the condition that these pieces are in, they could be the finishing touch that your bookshelves have been craving, or add a homey aspect to your modern kitchen. Mixing the old with the new is the perfect way to create a home that feels like you, not just another Pinterest inspiration photo.


If you can find a beautiful vintage rug, you’re doing it right. Rugs are costly items to purchase for your home, and that authentic, handwoven look is coming back into style. Instead of opting for a mass-produced version from a mass retailer on the internet, scope out your local antique shops, yard sales, and Facebook Marketplace listings. Many people aren’t aware of what they have, and you could find a rug that will fit into your living room, kitchen, or bedroom with ease.

One thing to note about buying a secondhand rug: you may need to hire a professional to assist you with an initial cleaning. Because rugs are underfoot, they accumulate a lot of dirt and dust, and it is smart to give the rug a fresh start when it enters your home. The cost of a professional cleaner is far outweighed, however, by the impact that a vibrant rug can have on your space.

Shopping for antique and vintage goods is more of a hobby than a one-time occurrence. It quickly becomes something that you do in your spare time. Instead of scrolling Instagram looking at whatever pops into your feed, you’ll find yourself checking out Craigslist to see if that mid-century modern desk is still available and imagining where you could put it in your house. Or, at least, that’s what we like to do for fun.

We wish you luck in your antiquing and vintage shopping adventures! Be sure to tag us on Facebook and Instagram when you share your favorite finds. We can’t wait to see what you uncover.

Lifestyle, Interiors, HomeEmma Leuman