How to Use Flea Market Finds

Monday, August 11, 2014

Last weekend Chad and I borrowed my Dad's convertible (a sure way to lure Chad into participating) and finally made our way to Finnegan's Saturday Flea Market in Hudson, Quebec. It was a beautiful summer day, the town of Hudson could pass for a small New England seaside escape and we were doing what I love to do best-going to a flea market.

While I originally intended to simply show you all the things I looked at and what I bought (despite vowing to only take pictures and not actually bringing any money- I did in fact manage to "borrow" $20 from Chad to buy something) I realized that this would be a good opportunity to share with you what goes through my mind when I'm digging through what many people see as junk. This is the question I get asked the most when I'm shopping with people or when I'm showing someone what I would consider a 'score' and they ask "what the hell are you going to do with that?" 

The biggest mistakes I see people making when decorating is that they simply don't have enough accessories and the ones they have are often boring. It's great to be able to tell a story about an object in your space rather than just 'it's from Ikea' (don't worry I won't quit you Ikea). I know you're scared your house will be overrun with 'tchotchkes' but if you approach accessories like a 'collection' they inject some much needed layers and personality into your home rather than just as objects to collect dust. Now, I am definitely a 'more is more' kind of person but I'm not against minimalism altogether. I am just of the opinion that it has to be done with a few really special pieces and that my friends normally comes at a cost. If you're on a budget, accessories are your best friend (this also applies to clothes but that's a whole other post).

Okay, back to the flea market. First off, let me tell you that it was not a huge market. I think I'm forever spoiled after Brimfield but it wasn't bad and there were quite a few things I could have taken home but I managed to show restraint-surprisingly! I'm not going to give you a general guide to flea market or antique shopping because there have been quite few good ones I've read lately and overall it's just common sense: come early, bring cash, sunscreen and water and don't be afraid of something that can be easily changed if it has good bones. It also helps to have an idea of what you're looking for and try and focus on that and not get distracted. I haven't mastered that one yet. Now let's dive in and take a look at several pieces I wanted to buy and how I envisioned them in a decorated space.

At the Flea Market: Vintage Glass Bottles

When you look at this picture, what do you see? A bunch of old bottles. It's exactly things like this that can start a collection. Group a selection of bottles together on a mantle, shelf or table - alone or filled with flowers.

In Your Home:

Clockwise from Top Left: 1, 2, 3, 4 (unknown)
At the Flea Market: Brass Candlesticks and Vases

This is not your Grandmother's brass. Vases and candlestick holder have been popping up for sale in stores like Crate & Barrel but why pay for that when you can score a deal on second hand? (I even threw in a picture of how I styled my bar cart with a vintage brass vase I got at Goodwill).

In Your Home: 
Clockwise from top left: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
At The Flea Market: Chinoiserie Panel

Again, maybe you're thinking that this looks 'Grandma' but Grandma is back in! Actually Chinoiserie has never gone out of style but it has made a comeback -I've seen it featured in Elle Decor and in the bedroom of my favourite decorator Orlando Soria. 

In Your Home:
Clockwise from top left: 1, 2 (unknown source) , 3, 4
At the Flea Market: Industrial Pendant

Industrial pendant lights are still created today for a reason! There is nothing better than bringing a touch of patina to your modern kitchen or dining room with a piece like this.

In Your Home:
Clockwise from top: 1, 2, 3
At the Flea Market: Ladders

While you may think, "I don't need a ladder Sarah, I live in an apartment," you are wrong! You aren't going to use it as a ladder. You are going to use it as a holder for your collection of: blankets, fabric, magazines, towels etc. You're welcome.

In Your Home: 
Clockwise from top right: 1, 2, 3, 4
At the Flea Market: West German Pottery

To some people, West German pottery screams '70s' but to those people I say, "the 70s were awesome and this pottery is beautiful!" These are the kind of ceramics that look handmade and hand glazed. This is how you bring in interest.It doesn't just have to be a compliment to mid century modern design. Like I said above, there is something to be said for the juxtaposition of old and new, rough and old vs. sleek and modern. 

In Your Home:
Clockwise from top left: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (source unknown)

At the Flea Market:Vintage Portraits

I'm aware I won't be able to convince everyone that vintage portraits are amazing (yes even you horse portrait!) Art isn't cheap, especially original art so a vintage painting not only saves you money but is also a conversation piece. The key is to use them in a modern way and mix them with modern pieces- i.e. if you have a very  formal/traditional room don't use vintage art. I'm going to repeat this again, but it's that contrast between old and new that breathes life into a room. 

In Your Home:
Clockwise from top left via: 1, 2, 3, 4
At the Flea Market: Vintage Pyrex

Vintage Pyrex is a collector's item so it's not super cheap but it adds a great bit of colour in an otherwise boring kitchen. It took everything I had not to buy those cute little polka dot bowls.

In Your Home:
Clockwise from top left: 1, 2, 3
At the Flea Market: Depression Glass

Depression Glass is also a collector's item and I can see why, it's delicate and feminine and to me it just screams- tea time or girl's brunch or baby shower. These could be the kind of pieces you mix in with your everyday dinnerware or display to bring a subtle amount of colour to a space.

In Your Home:
Clockwise from top left: 1, 2, 3
At the Flea Market: Ironing Board

This is probably another item where you're going to tell me that you don't need an old ironing board. You are probably happy with your ironing board or like me you hate ironing so have a streamer. Again, I'll tell you that you will not use this to iron. This will be a console table or a book shelf or a plant holder. 

In Your Home: 
Clockwise from top left: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
What do you think? Was this helpful for you next antiquing trip? Let's recap what we learnt:
  • Home accessories are like just like fashion accessories. They can take completely elevate the look of a space (or dress) and are an absolutely necessary way to add interest. 
  • It's all about the juxtaposition! Old and new, rough and get the idea.
  • Build a collection of objects to pair together for maximum impact. The flea market is a great place to start because it doesn't have to be expensive to get quality, interesting pieces. 
  • You don't have to use things for their intended purpose, keep an open mind!
  • I can't NOT buy anything at a flea market - just not possible...

Would you like to see what I ended up getting? I was sneaky and didn't mention it in the earlier picture but these turquoise metal tins were too good to pass up at $5 a piece. Not only can I store baking supplies in them but they add more of that all important colour and contrast in my modern kitchen.

Here's what I didn't buy at the flea market but what also makes it so fun. What the hell is this and did anyone actually buy this when it was mass-produced? Just what you need, something to make coffee with while you're driving.

5 Response to How to Use Flea Market Finds

August 11, 2014 at 9:15 PM

This was NOT helpful and I will NOT be going to any more flea markets even if we can use your dad's car. I'm onto you!

August 13, 2014 at 10:32 AM

So I'm reading this post, thinking to myself how clever an idea it is to show people how to display treasures they might find at the flea market, when I see my own kitchen! So weird! Thanks for featuring my Pyrex-laden aqua kitchen. I can totally appreciate how much effort this post took to write and I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed reading it.

August 13, 2014 at 12:44 PM

Wow, Sarah! I can't believe how awesome this is! My mom loves flea market and she also has an eye for these things, but when you put it like this, with examples, I can really see what you mean when you say these are finds. These are awesome! I just need to train my eye a bit! Also, this is quite a fleamarket! Thank you! Bookmarked!

August 14, 2014 at 7:45 PM

Thanks Tanya,

Of course I had to feature your amazing kitchen. It was the first one I thought of as an example!


August 14, 2014 at 7:46 PM

Thanks Lesia,

I'm glad I could help spread my love of flea markets-just be warned that it's addictive!


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