Six Vintage Things You Can Repurpose

When it comes to vintage home goods, a lot of “shabby chic” magazines are into the idea of repurposing old items. I’m all for that, but sometimes that means destroying perfectly good vintage items in order to make new items, which I’m not about. So today I bring you six vintage items you can repurpose without any alteration.

A vase in the shape of a woman's head is off to the right, make-up brushes sit inside. Text on the left reads "5 Vintage Things You Can Repurpose"


Years go I started collecting vintage Las Vegas ashtrays simply because I like old Vegas, but soon realized most glassware, soda cans, and bottles fit inside, making them unique coasters. Today I try to stick to Vegas, but it’s also expanded to California locations, and western themes.

An ashtray for the El Rancho, and features a cowboy on a horse with a lasso. Text reads "I Stole this from the El Rancho Hotel"

A glass sits in a circular ashtray, while a can of soda sits in a square ashtray.

While not all ashtrays are suitable as coasters, as some have raised portions in the middle to hold cigarettes, try to look for restaurant style ones, with wider openings of around three inches. They make for unique decor and great conversation pieces when not being used as coasters.

Magazine Racks

Magazine racks are perfect for holding magazines of course, and like ashtrays, not all are designed the same, however some, like this one here are perfect for storing wood by a fireplace.

A metal magazine rack sits next to a fireplace with wood on it.

Look for wide magazine racks, as opposed to narrow, divided ones. Most magazine racks were made of a goldtone metal, or painted black. Often you’ll find that the metal has discolored, so, at least in my opinion, there is nothing wrong with spray-painting it a brighter color. Just remember to clean it before painting.

Stocking Boxes

Perhaps you’ve been at an antique mall and seen small, long oval or rectangular boxes of quilted fabric. They were originally designed to help women organize their stockings, which would be rolled up and kept in each little compartment. But over the years I’ve found many uses for these cute little boxes, including jewelry, hair accessories, scarves, and of course stockings.

Two oval boxes with dividers hold jewelry.

A divided oval box holds folded up scarves.

There are a few different style of stocking boxes, including large ones that have wider compartments in addition to small compartments, but the style above is the most common.

Telephone Stands

Metal telephone stands provided a nice surface for a phone to sit upon, along with a shelf below for a phonebook. Today, with the disappearance of land lines, there is no almost need for a piece like this. But what it does hold perfectly is toilet paper!

A gold telephone stand holds rolls of toilet paper.

We have two of these, one in each bathroom. Like the magazine rack, most of these came in a gold tone like the one above, but you can spray paint it to match your bathroom.

Floral Frogs & Vases

Like the stocking boxes mentioned earlier, maybe you’ve stumbled upon another item that has left you a little confounded, a small glass object with shallow holes in it. Don’t worry, you’re not alone in not knowing. I’ve overheard many people wonder what they are! They are floral frogs, used to make floral arrangements in the days before styrofoam. Today, few of us make our own floral arrangements, so often glass frogs are overlooked at antique malls. There are may different style of frogs, including beautiful figural ones, like the one below, which I acquired when my grandmother passed away, and I use it for my slim make-up brushes. I’ve also seen them used for pen and pencil holders. However, not all of my make-up brushes fit inside the frog, so in keeping with the feminine theme of our bathroom, I chose to use a vintage head vase to house my thicker make-up brushes.

A glass figure of a woman features a base with small holes along it, which allow make-up brushes to fit in perfectly. Next to her a ceramic vase of a woman's head holds larger make-up brushes.

Of course, any vase with a wide opening is suitable to hold make-up brushes! So just keep an eye out for something the fits in with your bathroom. The important thing is to make sure it’s a relatively short vase. Shallow, figural planters also work well.

Shaving Brushes

Another item that often gets overlooked at antique malls are vintage shaving brushes. For one reason or another, these items have survived the decades, and sit collecting dust. But here’s the thing, they are perfect for removing dust!

A hand enters the frame from the right with an old shaving brush, it is being used to dust an old camera.

Shaving brushes have stiff, yet flexible bristles, often made of badger hair, and they are dense. That makes them perfect for getting inside nooks and crannies of items when you’re cleaning, especially vintage ceramics.

Perhaps you’ve found some things to look out for next time you’re out antiquing! But remember you can also search Ebay and Etsy to find these and have them delivered right to your door! Happy hunting!

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