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.
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
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
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
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.
#4: Ditch the Frame, Use Clips
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
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.
#6: Check the Clothing Aisle
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.
#7: Combine Two Items to Make One
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
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!