5 Brilliant Makeovers for Flea-Market Finds

Photo: Andrew Bordwin

When it comes to decorating with a personal touch, there's nothing more satisfying than upgrading a unique flea-market find. With just a few simple touches, we transformed these five hidden gems into total household stunners.

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A New Light

Brendan Paul

Transform shapely lantern lids into sleek pendant lamps with paint and a few hardware-store supplies. The covers, called smoke bells, come from antique oil-burning lamps known as hundi lanterns; originally, they protected ceilings from smoke. Today, the lids show up at flea markets and salvage lighting stores. Updated with our techniques, they are a bright idea for a bathroom or any space in your home.

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Pendant Lamp How-To

Brendan Paul

Clean a lantern lid with warm, soapy water. Spray the underside of the lid with 3 coats of high-gloss enamel spray paint. Let dry 2 hours after each of the first two coats and 24 hours following the final coat.

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Step 2

Brendan Paul

Buy these materials from a hardware or lighting store: 40-watt bulb, porcelain keyless sockets, socket cap, short threaded rod (or nipple), finial, and silk-covered rotary cord.

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Step 3

Brendan Paul

Thread the cord through the parts in the order shown. Have an electrician wire the socket and hang the lamp.

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How Illuminating!

Brendan Paul

In the bathroom, the lamps shed just the right amount of light on the mirror. The shades have an elegant, rounded shape that is uncommon in many commercial ones. Also try installing the fixtures in an office, a closet, or a mudroom.

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Shed Some Light

Brendan Paul

A workspace is much easier to navigate with a brilliant pair of attractive hanging lamps, painted a creamy hue, at eye level over a kitchen island.

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Entryway Organizers

Eric Piasecki

Vintage coat hooks get a new use! They are mounted on a wooden plaque and put to work corralling the daily mail.

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Coat Hook How-To

Eric Piasecki

First, paint or stain a precut plaque, available at crafts stores. Paint the hooks a desired color (we chose a dark shade of green). Secure hooks side by side with 1/2-inch wood screws. Repeat to form additional rows to separate your mail.

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Cedar Chest

Andrew Bordwin

Cedar is well-suited to storing woolens for some of the same reasons that it is used in gardens: The wood is durable, absorbs moisture, and resists decay. Indoors, its pleasant musky scent discourages moths. We started with an unfinished-cedar garden planter, readily available from garden and home centers.

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Storage Tip

Andrew Bordwin

An unpainted interior maximizes a cedar chest's ability to protect and perfume your woolens. To restore the fragrance once it has diminished over time, simply rub the wood with fine-grit sandpaper.

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The Go-To Blanket Holder

Andrew Bordwin

With an upholstered lid, the cedar chest is the perfect candidate for a bottom-of-the-bed linens chest. With a color that closely resembles the bed spread and a fresh coat of paint, you'd never even know the chest used to be a garden planter.

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Wire-Basket Organizers

Andrew Bordwin

In the age of email, the old-fashioned inbox is less in demand. But wire desk baskets dating from the 1940s and 1950s have a vintage industrial look worth reviving. Cleaned up or with a few pieces of hardware added, they can be employed as office and kitchen organizers.

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How to Hang an Organizer

Andrew Bordwin

Starting a vintage wire basket, remove rust by rubbing lightly with steel wool. Refinish by spraying surfaces with lacquer. Use plates from D-ring picture hangers to screw the basket onto the wall.

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The Keeper of the Plastic Bags

Andrew Bordwin

For the plastic-bag dispenser, place the basket's indented end facedown. Stuff bags through the opening created.

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Desk Secretary

Andrew Bordwin

Hang a large, shallow basket over your desk in place of a bulletin board; use S hooks to suspend desk accessories, and clothespins or binder clips to post notes and reminders.

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Oil Lamps Made Anew

Eric Piasecki

These shapely 19th-century lanterns -- found at flea markets and antiques stores -- will light up your home when used as vases. Remove existing chimneys (the glass tops), then wash the oil reservoir thoroughly. You'll use this portion for your vase.

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Voila, Vases!

Eric Piasecki

The narrow opening at the top of the lamps dictates an arrangement of just a few stems, such as leaves or ferns. Fall foliage and lilies also look lovely.

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