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Once we’d tackled the painting and major carpentry projects (here and here) at my sister’s beach cottage, it was time to start decorating – my favorite part! As is true in any home, it’s the accessories that bring a look together and give your rooms personality — and — it will come as a shock to no one who’s read my Adventures in Antiquing posts that my favorite place to shop for accessories is at estate sales, flea markets and garage sales. Not only are the prices (WAY!) cheaper but I find the coolest stuff plus bits and pieces that I can upcycle into something new. And when you’re starting from scratch to fill a 3 bed/2 bath beach house — inexpensive and cool are your best friends.

Exhibit A: This sculptural, vintage whiskey decanter. Made as a promotional item in 1972 by Jim Beam to commemorate Key West’s 150th anniversary, the decanter’s colorful, kitschy subject and hand-painted details lured me over while the $10 price tag sealed the deal and earned it pride of place on the corner of the beach house’s bar. The fish on top actually lifts off to reveal the bottle’s opening. The decanter is empty but the rich smell of 40-year-old bourbon remains.  Beach House Bar Area

How cute is this little alarm clock?! Not very practical, but then who wants to be woken up when you’re on vacation anyway? My sister picked up this little cutie at an estate sale for just $4. Paired with a few shells we found (for free!) and a $2 ginger jar lamp that I covered in rope, this table has the coastal cottage look down pat.  Beach Cottage Bedside Table

I am absolutely in love with this ship’s model — my first and best Craigslist find (just $5!!). The ship’s prow was a bit battered (the previous owner’s son liked to “sail” the ship into the wall) and a few bits were missing but luckily the seller had kept them so my dad was able to make it ship-shape again. Surrounding the ship are zoological fish illustrations I printed (for free!) from this site then just popped into dark-stained frames.  Beach House Living Room With Ship Model, Candles and Shells

And when I can’t find exactly what I want – I make it. Yard/estate sales are a great place to buy candles. Sometimes they’re in pristine condition, sometimes, not so much. For candles that are dented, scratched or just plain ugly — cover them up. Learn more about this under $10 project and get my instructions here.Beach House Twine-Wrapped Candles

It’s taken 3 years of DIYing over family vacations but the beach house is slowly coming together. What do you think of our improvements?

Budget Beach Cottage: Bedside Table Before and After
Budget Beach Cottage: Make a Nautical Rope Mirror
Budget Beach Cottage Before and After: Built-In Bookcase
Budget Beach Cottage Before and After: Kitchen
Budget Beach Cottage Before and After: Living Room
Adventures in Antiquing: Easy Beachy Candle Update

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H. Camille SmithCamille is a managing editor for HGTV.com, fine artist and antique furniture devotee. As a former interior designer and Nickelodeon animator, she has a real passion for balanced, beautiful interiors...


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