Make Your Preloved Piece the Star of the Show

Help your secondhand treasures command attention with these decorating hints and display tips

By Louise O'Bryan / Courtesy of

Those of us obsessed with scouring secondhand shops or garage sales for a prized find know all about the thrill of stumbling across a special piece that simply makes your jaw drop. So give your treasure the attention it deserves by styling it in a way that brings the focus to the star of the room. Not only will you fill your home with personality and drama, your guests will have plenty to talk about too.

Go fluorescent in the bedroom. Sprinkle a traditional metal bed frame with contemporary magic and paint it in a standout fluorescent shade that will take the leading role in your master bedroom. Keep the backdrop neutral so the bed frame pops and heighten the electric color scheme with complementary accessories. A painted skull makes a dramatic accompaniment.

Surround a retro sideboard. If your retro sideboard is feeling lonely and unappealing, then surround it with weird and wonderful objects to make it the feature. Border your treasured piece with a mix of vintage signs and modern prints. You’ll also shift the focus to this spot if you choose to use it as a drinks table.

Update with striking color.Natural wooden farmhouse chairs have a nostalgic quality, and evoke a simple and humble style, which means that these beautifully crafted items often go unnoticed in a room. To bring your farmhouse chair out of the shadows, give it a lick of paint with a brilliantly bright color, such as zesty green or zingy yellow. By keeping the rest of the room neutral, your chair will jump right out, adding a playful element to any corner.

Play with scale(s). An imposing chesterfield sofa has a timeless elegance and deserves a grand setting. Consider a bold backdrop to create a dramatic scene and bring attention to the sofa. A striking painting that is the same width as the sofa is a confident choice. A large ornate mirror would have a similar effect without being quite as daring.

Create a vignette. If your treasured preloved item is a simple ornament or bowl, you can still make it a crowd-pleaser by creating a showstopping vignette around it. Group together similarly colored items that will accentuate your piece and add a couple of taller objects, such as a lamp and an artwork, that will grab the attention. The more items you group, the bigger the effect, so go for it!

Choose a highlighting backdrop. If you’ve been lucky enough to discover an usual designer piece, such as the Egg chair by Arne Jacobsen, then use this as your starting point for the decorating scheme. Opt for a soft, simple backdrop that will allow the chair to shine against it, then dot similar colors around the room that will draw the emphasis back to the chair itself.

Create a serene scene. Make your master bedroom a romantic haven by placing a beautiful hand-painted screen behind the bed as a theatrical headboard. Highlight the drama with an elegantly symmetrical setting, featuring matching bedside tables and lamps. Stick to soft tones to continue the serenity of the theme.

Make a striking entrance.Do you have a treasured collection of old magazines or newspapers that you’d love to display? Then dig them out and transform them into wonderful wall art. Using wallpaper paste, create a collage of the pages on a blank wall. You’ll be able to enjoy reading them once again, and they’ll add personality to your entrance.