Lake House Decor from the Thrift Store

Lake House Decor from the Thrift Store

Welcome to the latest installment in my “Thrift the Look” series! As you might recall, this is a blog post where I take an inspiration photo from a magazine and recreate it as best I can using thrift store treasures and minimal DIY. And this time around, the style is Lake House Decor.

For this Thrift the Look post, I did a couple of things differently: (1) first, there’s actually a GROUP of us doing it together, and you’ll see their photos and links at the end of this post, and (2) we used two photos from the same Country Living article to inspire us.

Of the two inspiration photos, this is the one I chose to replicate for my lake house decor:

Coastal home in Maine with lake cabin decor

Using the inspiration photo as my guide, I honed in on several different nautical elements: The framed fish; the vintage blue and green books; the brass sailboat; and the glass fishing floats.

Here are a few of the items I picked up from various thrift stores that spoke to those lake decor themes:

Lake house decorating ideas from the thrift store

In this post, I’ll take you through my thrifting strategy, incorporating tips and ideas that I hope you can use in your own secondhand shopping adventures. I’ll also tell you about any “low effort” upcycling projects I did as I recreated the inspiration photo.

This post contains affiliate links for your crafting convenience. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. All blue, bold, and underlined text is a clickable link, either to a product or to a related post.

Upcycling Ideas for Lake House Decor

Now, when it came to the framed fish in the inspiration photo, I needed to create my own version.

First, I found this wooden paper tray, and as soon as I saw it, I thought it could become a makeshift shadowbox.

Wooden paper tray at a thrift store for lake decor

Then, I found this ceramic fish! I could tell it was small enough to fit inside the paper tray (no need to measure) so I snapped it up, too.

Decorative fish at Goodwill for lake home decor

This is the look I’m going for, before paint and some decoupage.

Lake house decorating ideas by making the fish wall art

To complete my fishing decor, I spray painted the entire thing white before painting the edges of the tray a pale blue.

Next, I decoupaged the flat interior with vintage nautical charts and glued my fish inside!

Lake house decor with freshwater fish wall art

Why take step #1 (white spray paint)? So that the flat surface inside was white, which allowed the decoupaged nautical charts to really pop!

Next, I found this bamboo sailing ship.

Not exactly a sailboat and CERTAINLY not brass, like the one in the inspiration photo. But, it was inexpensive, so I grabbed it nonetheless.

Bamboo ship to be used for lake house ideas

All I did was spray paint it gold, then touched up with this brushed-on paint to give the finish more depth and nuances, like real vintage brass.

This would work SO MUCH BETTER for the lake house decor that I was going for.

Painting a bamboo ship with brass colored paint

And last but not least, the glass fishing floats in the inspiration photo! You might actually recognize those as a blog post I recently re-published.

Glass fishing floats or nautical glass balls for coastal home decor

They’re easy to make using glass bowls and vases from the thrift store.

Ready to see my version of Lake House Decor from the thrift store once it’s all put together?

Lake House Decor from the Thrift Store

I found a set of shelves at a thrift store, too, that was perfect for recreating the inspiration photo! And when I styled everything together, this is what it looked like.

lake decor

It’s not quite as close to the inspiration photo as I would have liked, but I used more personal interpretation this time.

But, here are some thrifting tips that I hope you can use in your treasure hunting excursions:

  • When I think of “lake house decor”, I immediately think of the famous St. Joseph, Michigan lighthouse and pier. What comes to your mind when you think of a lake house? Use childhood memories to be your shopping compass.
  • Some of the prettiest vintage books are cloaked in crumbling dust jackets. Don’t forget to peek behind the jacket to see if candy-colored linen binding is hiding underneath. I do it all the time!
  • Phone a friend! Create thrifting scavenger hunts for each other when you’re looking for something specific; ESPECIALLY if they live in different climates or geographic regions that may be more conducive to styles like lake house decor.

Here’s a side by side comparison of the lake decor that I put together from the thrift store.

lake house decor from the thrift store

I hope you enjoyed this version of Thrift the Look as much as I did! I love the challenge of recreating a certain decor style by shopping for thrift store home decor.

And if you enjoyed these lake house decorating ideas, then you may also be interested in this sailboat decor I made from weaving shuttles!

sailboat decor from a weaving shuttle

Craft on!


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Sarah Ramberg is the owner of Sadie Seasongoods, a website that celebrates all things secondhand. From upcycling ideas and thrifted decor to vintage-centric travel itineraries, Sadie Seasongoods is a one-stop shop for anyone who loves thrifting and approachable repurposing ideas. Sarah is also the author of “Crafting with Flannel” and has been featured in numerous media outlets and magazines.


  1. What a great series! I love your interpretation of the photos. i’m curious, you create a lot of upcycled decor — do you ever resell items at markets or anything like that?

    • Sadie Seasongoods says

      Thanks, Rebecca! It’s a constant struggle- some projects I keep and we use around our home. But others get sold- I used to run an Etsy shop, but shuttered it a few months ago. Now, if a reader is really interested in something, I just do a private sale through PayPal. Other projects get broken apart if I can reuse pieces of them, and then the rest either go to friends or donated.

  2. Loved this post! My husband and I recently purchased a lake cottage and I’ve been decorating it almost 90% with thrift store finds (and new beds of course!). So much fun. Thanks for encouraging people to be thrifters!

    • Sadie Seasongoods says

      Ohhh, that’s awesome! I’m a thrift store attic and LOVE to encourage people to do more secondhand shopping.

  3. What a fun exercise in decorating! It would be a blast to look for just the right items to create a look. Love your creativity in making found objects fit the look. Now off to check out the others’ projects!

  4. paulasweetpea says

    You are the master at transforming thrift shop finds into beautiful decor. You found great things to use for this challenge! I love the shadowbox that you created with the fish and tray. Spray painting the ship you found gives it a great updated look. I’m really lusting over your duck bookends. I’d love to use those at my lake house!

    • Sadie Seasongoods says

      Thank you so much, Paula! Yes, those brass bookends were a real bonus to find and I’ll probably take them to my in-laws’ cabin in a few weeks, LOL.

  5. You all did a terrific job of interpretation and I love that there is nothing “cookie cutter” about it. I love your aesthetic!

  6. This turned out so beautifully! I love how you painted the ship to look brass…perfect! And the shadowbox is wonderful! I love the colors and the whole look! This was a lot of fun to participate in!

  7. Fabulous! I love where your creative vision took us – the fish tray is awesome, awesome! Painting the ship gold was a brilliant idea (I don’t think I would have figured that out), and the DIY fishing float – WOW! The whole look is perfect with a ton of great tips packed in there. Thank you for sharing so many amazing lake house decor ideas!!

  8. Standing here (for visual effect only – actually sitting, but you know what I mean) with my mouth open (this is actually true), slack jawed if you will! You are SO good and it’s a bit ridiculous how much I love this series and your amazing thrift store skills – how you can see the beautiful potential in other people’s cast offs – THE QUEEN! I LOVE your creativity SO MUCH! I already can’t wait until our next THRIFT THE LOOK! Eeeeeeeee

    • Sadie Seasongoods says

      Thank you! And YES- I am so excited about the next one. It’s REALLLY outside of my normal comfort zone, so it’ll be a true challenge for me. 😀

  9. I love what you did and love this idea for a party!

  10. Your framed fish is GENIUS! I love it so much! This series hits all the sweet spots for me. Thrifting, vintage and it’s a challenge. PLUS I get to work with all you fabulous thrifty dames and that’s icing on the top. Thank you for pulling this all together!

    • Sadie Seasongoods says

      I’m so glad that we did it as a group!! And man oh man, I just can’t wait to get started on the next one.

  11. “Lake houses” of my childhood were summer camps that did not have decor, just wet towels, life jackets, and sandals strewn all over. I loved your vignette, especially the fish shadowbox. As one who never has vintage nautical charts sitting around, I’d grab a sheet of scrapbook paper! You put your finds together so nicely; you make it look easy; I know it’s not!

  12. I’m always blown away at your vision and how you can take one thing and give it an entirely different look or purpose. Creating that shadow box and painting the ship were genius ideas. All of your items are just perfect for the vintage lakehouse look. Thanks for coming up with this fun challenge!

  13. Love all your finds The master bedroom has the lodge/lake house theme so fun to decorate and find cool stuff….once I find some snow shoes, skates and maybe a ski I will be all set for winter The wooden tray came out beautiful!

    • Sadie Seasongoods says

      Thanks, Lisa! When I was decorating my in-law’s mountain cabin, I was ALWAYS on the look out for snowshoes and ski parts…I just FINALLY found some vintage bamboo ski poles at Goodwill. 😀

  14. I love what you did and am so inspired by the series! If you ever expand the group of participants, keep me in mind 🙂

  15. I love the aquas and greens with the brass accents; so pretty. I found a wood file drawer just like yours when I was hunting! Thanks so much for letting us in on this fun adventure; it was such a blast!

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