Fall for Flea Markets

How about a fall drive to a pick-your-own orchard and a few flea markets? Such trips can be beloved traditions for children (and that bushel of apples in the garage that you picked is a joy for weeks), and fun finds at flea markets along the way will help your budget and the environment by supporting reuse. Here is some inspiration found in the new book Home: A Life in Design:

One of my favorite things to do on weekends is to go to the flea market. The Chelsea Flea Market in New York is one of the few such pleasures left in the city but sadly it is fighting for its life as the lots it occupies are swiftly being taken over by skyscrapers. For more than a decade and a half I have been combing these lots and finding treasures.

My husband and I have become regulars and have developed relationships with the vendors over the years. Part of what appeals to me is finding objects from totally different eras and cultures and bringing them together in a room. I have brought home Haitian paintings, African iron sculptures and sweet-grass throws, Turkish mosaic tables, mid-century modern lamps, and Victorian loveseats, chairs, and cabinets. I have collected English and Bavarian cups and saucers, Chinese parrot sculptures and vases, and hand-painted fabrics from India. Our home is filled with these treasures that all seem to coexist nicely.

I have a particular fetish for chairs and not enough space for all of the ones I have collected over the years. Chairs are such wonderful canvases for me. Their anatomies are the perfect models for my upholstery fabrics and pillows. When I see one with a good frame, I cannot resist bringing it home for a fitting with one of my fabrics. Many of the pieces we have carted home were not in great shape and needed major help, but reupholstering them and bringing them back to life with my fabrics makes me feel more emotionally invested in these pieces.

I never shop in department stores for new furniture because to me newly made pieces lack life. I am attracted to old-world craftsmanship, to unique pieces that cannot be found any longer. I like the idea that a chair has remained classic and strong over time. The evidence of life and age in anything gives it greater charm and deeper appeal.

Flea markets are about nostalgia. They reignite old love affairs with objects from our childhoods, keeping us connected to the past and its craftsmanship. They can trigger creativity and inspire in unexpected ways. I have purchased art books that have stirred my desire to go home and paint or write, as well as vintage pieces of clothing that triggered ideas for my own designs. I go there with others in mind as I browse, finding vintage opera recordings for my father, any beautiful green object for my mother, or quirky oddities that my brother, who invents clever sculptures, could employ in his work.

Somehow the ritual of these weekend visits never gets stale. You never know what you are going to find and that element of mystery keeps the hunt fresh. The flea market is a wonderland of the unexpected, a place to lose oneself and encounter a meaningful variety of treasures that speak to the heart and refresh both space and spirit.

Flea markets are about nostalgia. They reignite old love affairs with objects from our childhood, keeping us connected to the past and its craftsmanship.

Adapted from Home: A Life in Design, by Kim Parker (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2008).


Kristina C.
Kristina C6 years ago

I love fleamarkets! Thanks for sharing...

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W6 years ago

Unfortunately, that's totally unhygienic!

Toni A.
Pirana X6 years ago

I love flea markets!

Jon Hoy
Jonjon Hoy7 years ago

Flea markets are great when your trying to find something unusual to add to your home. Shop till you drop and have good walking shoes on. :-)

mrs v.
valerie murphy7 years ago

I just love flea markets

Bon L.
Bon L7 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Alison D.
Alison Duncan7 years ago

Flea markets, yard sales, thrift stores, consignment stores, so many treasures waiting to be discovered.

My mother went to a yard sale and found a bracelet for a buck, appraised for $6500, sold at auction for $3800. Now that is a find!

She has found other great deals too, but this was the best so far.

Dorothy C.
7 years ago

I love flea markets

Patti Brown

I love flea markets! Its a great place to find neat stuff and meet nice people.

Louis Olivencia
Lou Olive7 years ago

flee markets are great places to find nice things)