At bare minimum this is a fun, casual afternoon activity that can lead to some killer home decor. But to the creative directors who scour Brimfield at 5:00 a.m.and hop through designer yard sales as if on a stealth mission, the skill of antiquing isn't just a pastime -- it's a never ending game with the end goal being top quality for the least quantity. And you have to have some skill to win at this one.
So before you hit the road, here are a few flea market tips for mastering your domain.
List out where you're going and how big the space is. Look at the hours. Although at many markets you are apt to get a good deal while vendors are cleaning up the remnants of the day, the best time to hit any antique market is early. In this case the super early bird catches the vintage armoire for only $50.
Come with Space
If you're planning to buy furniture or going on a mission to redecorate, make sure you have a big car; if not, rent one. When hitting up larger markets you may find deals on vintage furniture or special pieces, and rule of thumb is that you can only buy what you can physically carry away.
You want what you consider to be a treasure, and they want to get rid of what they consider junk. It's a win-win and they're not the only ones who benefit from selling, so be confident and boisterous when hitting up a market. And like most things in life, it's when you don't take no for an answer that you sometimes reap the most benefits.
Have a Good Eye
You can't create the ability to see what works and what doesn't; it's something you have or you don't. But when antiquing or flea market hopping it’s extremely important to use your eyes to really see what's around you. As in, don't just see it, but see what it can do for you.
At least half the furniture in my apartment came from flea markets and antique markets. As a single woman I was consistently made fun of by my group of friends for having a slight obsession with wicker, and every time I came back from a market trip I had a new piece. Wicker vanity desk, wicker arm chair, wicker night stand, even a wicker couch that I loved so much I cried when we parted ways. But as I grew up, my obsession and friend distanced itself until there was almost no trace of her left. I might not have much wicker left but I still like to find it and reminisce on old times.
Go With Your Gut
Last visit I was dying to buy this mint-colored rotary phone. My boyfriend countered and fought me on it insisting I explain why we "need this.”We don’t, of course, I explained, but it’s so awesome. We don't need more junk, he insisted, so we walked away and I kept looking back as if we had just left a puppy at a farm. When a row of vendors later I still couldn't stop thinking about it, I went back. A few negotiations and $20 later, I had our new home decor accessory. It's one of my favorite things in our apartment and gets compliments every time we have people over.
That’s it: prepare, come with space, keep your eyes and your mind open, don’t forget to negotiate, and go with your gut. Now get out there and start hunting!
All photos courtesy of author.