Stephan Lee
April 27, 2012 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Even for Lara Spencer, who views yard-sale hopping as much more than a hobby, spotting a treasure amid another person’s trash is not always easy. ”It’s like finding the perfect boyfriend,” she says. ”You’re going to kiss a couple of frogs before you meet Prince Charming.”

But it can be worth the effort. Case in point: She turned a set of unloved chairs, which she bought for $2.50 apiece, into prized possessions. “They were hideous,” she says. ”My dad started humming the Sanford and Son theme song when he saw them.”

Still, Spencer saw potential in the chairs and reupholstered them with Pottery Barn shower curtains. Her book brims with similarly affordable projects. ”The pieces that you reinvent and give new life to are the ones that become heirlooms in your family,” she says.

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