As a designer, I purchase antiques and vintage items for my clients, so I almost always have a person or space in mind when I’m shopping. That said, I also often buy things that appeal to me and find homes for them as projects come my way.
For me, flea markets offer up an endless supply of one-of-a-kind objects that can easily add character and charm to any room. While I do this professionally, anyone can go to a flea market and find items that make can make a house feel like a home. Rugs, vases, lamps and myriad of decorative objects can be found for a fraction of the price of their new counterparts.
Aside from perks like being quite inexpensive, and environmentally friendly (it doesn’t get more “green” than buying what already exists!), flea market treasures have lots of personality. Adding such personality to a space can help to prevent it from looking like a hotel room or a setting in a big box store.
Photo credit: Ethan David Kent
A few well-chosen pieces can add depth and interest to any kind of space. In this room, I wanted to convey a warm, international feel, so I chose items hailing from all over the globe.
This space is in New York City, and I found several of the items nearby at The Antiques Garage Flea Market. The vintage blue apothecary jars are French; the red gourd-shaped vases are Swedish, and the baskets are African and Chinese.
To avoid making a room feel like an antique shop, I try to select carefully and harmonize with color. Blue and red are punchy accent colors here in a backdrop that is otherwise entirely in muted tones. It makes the items pop and the space seem friendly and inviting.
This is the entrance to a guesthouse I designed in Hondo, Texas. It is a new construction, but the owner wanted to evoke a feeling of the Old West. I found the great intricately carved wooden chair at The Garage and shipped it there, and the rest was culled from flea markets and shops right there in The Lone Star State.
The Mexican serape or shawl adds a fun pop of color and the child’s cowboy boots, cowboy hats, and chaps create a fun vignette. The last touch is a framed vintage map of the area that probably spent the better part of its life in a glove compartment.
My favorite design projects allow me to tap into beautiful, tangible pieces of history and give them new life. Flea markets give a sociological and historical perspective on an area and its inhabitants, so when I go to them, not only do I find great things for my clients and myself, but I always learn something new as well.
So the next time you’re considering sprucing up a room or an entire house, head to the flea market. There you’ll find unique items, reasonable prices, great stories and fun people. It’s a combo that keeps me coming back week after week.