How to Furnish Your Walls at the Thrift Store

Gallery wall made from thrifted items!

I have a hard time spending a lot of money on wall art. I feel horrible saying that. I got my Bachelor's degree in art, so I - of all people - totally understand the effort and talent that's required to create good art. Honestly, I'm just cheap. While I might occasionally splurge for a print or photo I really love, my home is hardly a museum. I can't afford to fill my walls top to bottom with one-of-a-kind art pieces. So yeah, I might be cheap, but I'm pretty dang thrifty, too! Whether it's sprucing up some existing wall art, or creating my own with found items, I can fill a wall for under $40. The best place to find forgotten and dirt-cheap wall decor is your local second-hand store (think Goodwill, Savers, Salvation Army, etc.). I set out to create a cheap gallery wall using only things I found at the thrift store, and here's how it worked out.          


Cheap gallery wall ideas
 Thrift shopping is a time-investment, but it pays off in affordability. It took 2-3 hours to find all my pieces, but in the end I spent less than $40. Not bad for wall art, right? While I decided to DIY most of my pieces, I was actually able to find lots of ready-to-hang prints and paintings. So if DIY isn't your style, you can still create a cheap gallery wall from your local Goodwill for a fraction of the cost of new - you just might have to dig for it.


There are lots of ways to create upcycled wall art. Here are just a few ways you could transform and morph your thrifted finds. 

#1: Give Frames a Facelift

How to create wall art on the cheap: Paint existing frames in fun colors

How to create fun wall art on a dime - spray paint existing frames


A little spray paint can go a long way. Thrift stores are chock full of less-than-attractive picture frames just begging for a fresh coat of paint. If you want to immediately add bright color to a boring piece of art, remove the glass and print from the frame, give your frame a quick wipe with a damp rag (almost everything I thrifted was just a teeny bit dusty), and apply 1-2 coats of spray paint.

#2: Decoupage It

Decoupaged thrifted item becomes wall art

Decoupaged wooden trivet becomes part of our cheap gallery wall


You might think of decoupage as a dated crafting process, and you're not wrong. It's just a matter of picking modern and new designs to apply. Decoupage generally refers to the process of cutting out and applying several smaller pieces of paper, but with a little Mod Podge and a foam brush, you can utilize this process however you want. Don't limit yourself to just paper - I used fabric to transform this old trivet into inexpensive wall art. You can use Mod Podge on a variety of surfaces, but wood works best. 

To decoupage a thrifted piece, brush a thin layer of Mod Podge onto the surface. Lay paper or fabric on top, and smooth out from the middle, eliminating any bubbles. Trim off any excess paper or fabric, and apply another layer of Mod Podge over the paper or fabric. Let dry completely before handling.


#3: Don't Limit Yourself to One Section of the Thrift Store

Bread baskets become part of this cheap gallery wall with a bit of paint

A little paint can go a long way, so don't limit your thrifting to just the home decor section of the Goodwill. These bread baskets came from the cooking section, and after a paint treatment, they're ready to hang. Use masking tape to create painted patterns on your unique finds.  

Turn baskets into inexpensive wall art with paint

#4:  Ditch the Frame, Use Clips

No frame? No problem. Hang your wall art from bulldog clips

Using bulldog clips to hang wall art without using a frame



If you find a nice piece of art but hate the frame, you can use clips as a stripped-down method of hanging. I managed to find these bulldog clips for 79¢ (what a steal!), but they're affordable to purchase new, too. 

#5: Re-imagine Office Supplies

Transforming a two-ring binder into cute wall art

Similarly to using bread baskets as wall art, sometimes you just have to think outside the box. The office supply aisle of your local Salvation Army or Arc's Value Village can help you fill up your cheap gallery wall. Use clip boards to frame smaller photos. Use colorful paperclips to hang prints. I took this two-ring binder, chopped off the front flap, gave it a fresh coat of spray paint, and used it to hang a small picture.  



Turning a two-ring binder into wall art

#6: Check the Clothing Aisle

Use thrifted scarves to make wall art

Scarves, dresses, and linens can give your cheap gallery wall instant texture and pattern. You can simply hang fabric as a drapery, frame it like a picture, or stretch it over a frame or canvas to create a stand-alone piece.

Use a scarf and an old frame to make new, cheap wall art

#7: Combine Two Items to Make One

Deconstructing a rag rug for our cheap gallery wall

An old belt, plus a rag rug, equals wall art!

If you find inspiration from one thrifted find but it's incomplete on its own, look for an item to pair with it.

To create this piece for my cheap gallery wall, I combined a rag rug and an old belt. I didn't want the rug to be instantly obvious for what it was, so I cut it in half. To keep it from falling apart, I tied the woven strings together. Next, I cut two small strips from an old belt, and punched a hole through each end of the leather strip. I fed the strips through the rug, and tied the ends together with string through the punched holes. 



#8: Dowel and String It

Using skewers and string to hang wall prints

Use skewers to hang wall art

This simple frame method involves gluing dowels to the top and bottom of an existing print, then hanging with a string. Easy enough- but what are the odds that you'll find dowel rods at the Goodwill? Pretty slim. In fact, what I ended up using to hang this piece was actually barbecue skewers! 


Goodwill-thrifted gallery wall

Thrifted and cheap gallery wall

Cheap, thrifted gallery wall

Inexpensive wall art, entirely thrifted

Looking for more cheap gallery wall ideas? Here are 11 wall art projects, each costing less than $50

Cheap wall art

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CHERYL on Aug 06, 2019:

I am a GoodWill junkie when it comes to walls and repurposed decor. They have the most amazing stuff for $1-$5. GoodWill is also an excellent source for book shelf or open shelf decorating - old books, candlesticks, clocks, antiques, globes, small frames, just about anything. Great article... too bad we can't go shopping together! @0rchard0nthehill

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