DIY Art & Home Decor / DIY Gift Ideas / DIY Projects

How To Upgrade Thrift Store Decor

DIY_pretty_bird_makoverWhat’s a knick knack patty whack?

a. A game kids play at recess.
b. A game men play in locker rooms.
c. N’SYNC’s previously unreleased album.
d. A name Mike’s given to the decorative objects–from pieces of driftwood to a vintage tincture jars–whose absence would leave our house feeling like a sterile Eastern European prison.

If you guessed, d, well, you’re right! When I find little objects that I fall in love with, either because of their personal meaning or their texture, color or design, I bring them home and use them to decorate our house. Our knick knack patty whack collection includes rail road ties, a 10lb iron made of iron, a vintage radio, milk glass vases, bronze deer and about 400 other beautiful things.

My sister, Mich, recently moved into a bigger apartment and has now has plenty of new nooks to knick-knack-erize, so when I saw this little blue bird sitting patiently in a thrift store a while back, I knew he was waiting for me to scoop him up and make him over.

His texture and shape are great, but I knew the color of his feathers were making him look a little too Northern-Wisconsin-Lake-Cottage for my sister. But he cost as much as a can of soda so I was willing to put in a little elbow grease. A few white coats of acrylic craft paint later and this little ugly duckling transformed into something that will look great on Michelle’s bookshelf. And what good would any salon be that didn’t serve a spot of hot tea after a makeover?

A couple things to keep in mind while you look for the perfect makeover subject:

  • Texture is important. Part of this birdie’s charm is his chiseled wood look. Unfortunately, his blue and orange feathers were disguising the potential.
  • Consider what the object’s made of before you choose a paint. Since this bird was made of wood, I knew cheap acrylic craft paint would work well. If he was porcelain or glass, I would have opted for spray paint.
  • Don’t limit yourself to one object. Sometimes the charm may come in the combination of different objects. These plastic animals Mich spray painted are super adorable because they make a great collection together.DIY_Craft_room_jars
  • You don’t have to be limited to a series of like objects though. Try gluing several disparate things together and painting them one color to make a sculpture all your own.

Take some chances! There’s not much risk in grabbing a little knick knack patty whack at a thrift store and slapping a coat of paint on it, right? Best case scenario, it looks like you paid 70x more for it at Anthropologie. Worst case, you can always re-donate it to the thrift store!


  • Frankie
    January 10, 2012 at 3:36 am

    He’s adorable! I love, love, love his texture. I’ve used the paint it white to make it over before, with these ugly fish that were in my childhood bathroom. I hated them. Then I painted them white and viola, loved them again.

    • Make and Do Girl
      January 11, 2012 at 7:27 am

      Frankie, it’s amazing what a coat of white paint will do. Ironically, I had fish in my childhood bathroom too!

      • dad
        January 12, 2012 at 3:50 pm

        Ah, Jess, those fish are still in your bathroom…

        • Make and Do Girl
          January 12, 2012 at 4:59 pm

          Well hey there, Pops! You know what else was still in that bathroom until Christmas? The necktie Mich wore for a high school basketball dress up day. Ha! I was so sick of seeing that thing hanging on the hooks for the last 9 years, I finally humanely disposed of it in the trash can. I’d never do that to those fishies though. 🙂


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.