Only the other day, while out hunting for clothes, I came across this fine set of dining room furniture, circa mid 1960s, in a local thrift. A nicely sized table with two extension leaves and six cane back chairs, two with arms, in dirty but good shape. Asking price was $250, but after pointing out a nick or two here and there, I managed to get them down to $200. I figured the seat cushion fabric might be whiff ugly, but nothing I could't easily fix via DIY tactics.
Then I got it home, and waxed it up with a little Old English with a drop of dark brown stain, and suddenly, in my dining room, with it's rusty orange walls and clean wood floor, those seat cushions didn't look so bad. In fact, they looked pretty damn good.
Few things are as important to remember as context if you want to thrift shop successfully. There are no end of good things out there, but the will often be crammed in amongst a bunch of junk under unflattering fluorescent lighting. They might be in need of cleaning or slight repair. You have to train your eye to see a little past what is right in front of you to what you're actually getting. It's all about context.