With successful flea market shopping, you’ll bring home items that you truly love. Maybe you fell for the robin’s egg blue green of the frying pan or the faded, winged horse on the corroded oil drum. You might not even be able to explain why you’re drawn to some of the things you pick up, but if you follow your heart and bring it home, then the fun really starts.
The following are some universal truths that may make your flea-market shopping easier:
1. Start with a plan, which will help guide your search. But be ready to scrap it based on what you find.
2. Before you go, study a guide to familiarize yourself with market values for the items you’re after (Kovel’s guides have been around for ages, and now they’re online at www.kovels.com.)
3. Bring a list of items you want or need, along with specific sizes and room measurements.
4. Bring paint samples, fabric swatches, and photos of the rooms you’re decorating.
5. Bring a tape measure, a notebook, tote bags and cash.
6. Be prepared to haggle–politely, of course. Most antique dealers and flea-market sellers admit that a 20 percent price adjustment isn’t all that unusual.
7. The best selection happens early; the best bargains come at the end of the day.
8. If you love it, buy it before it’s gone–but remember, most purchases are final.
The beauty in flea-market finds is that they don’t have to be put to their original use. A lidless teapot can become a flowerpot, an old window a mirror frame. Jelly jars hold pencils and utensils, and old picnic baskets make great side tables that also provide storage.
Adapted from The Wabi-Sabi House by Robyn Griggs Lawrence (Clarkson-Potter, 2004).