It’s our favorite day of the week… it’s the day we get to share a few nuggets of design wisdom from our expert (and always hilarious) contributor, Kate Lester. And today’s topic is none other than—you guessed it—scoring the most fabulous finds at the flea market (and styling them to perfection with one of our favorite Western prints, Two Cowboys). So if you love a good vintage find as much as we do, keep scrolling for Kate’s flea market fundamentals…
Summer is just around the corner, which means the days are long, the sun is shining, and its perfect flea market weather! For those of you who are intimidated or unsure of how to navigate your local flea, have no fear. Below I have compiled a list of my top seven tips that will have you navigating your local flea market with ease and feeling like a pro in no time!
Despite what many Instagram influencer posts may have you believe, the flea market is not, in fact, a fashion show. Wear comfortable shoes, clothes, and a hat if it’s sunny. I am usually at the flea market for at least 3-4 hours, so you can find me wandering around in my best Lululemon, vintage band tee, straw hat, and Nikes. So glam.
You know how I am literally a flea market expert? Well somehow, I often forget to do this, or I decide to hit a Sunday flea market and the banks are closed. When this happens, I have to take money out of the flea market ATM. Don’t be like me. The flea market ATM charges you twelve dollars to withdraw your OWN money, and every time I do this, my bookkeeper dies a little inside. Come prepared and use that extra twelve dollars to buy creepy lady art instead. (*See #6.)
This is even easier if you follow the above rule #2 and bring cash. Most vendors come to the flea market to sell things, so this is a win-win for everyone. I find that negotiating prices is a lot easier when you buy multiple items, so I save my best bartering techniques for those vendors. Then I at least try for a ten percent volume discount, if not more. One thing to remember—if an item is popular (I am looking at your vintage fishing floats) then vendors may not budge on the pricing so be prepared to walk away or pay full price. You can also swing back around at the end of the day when the market is winding down to see if what you wanted is still there, and if so you may be in a better position to talk them down on price.
You know those black metal roller carts that everyone has at the farmers market? We affectionately refer to those as the grandma carts, and I have like five of them. They are cheesy and terrible and absolutely key when hitting a flea market. In fact, if you don’t have one, you are like a total flea market novice, and everyone will know and laugh at you. I have also seen people who bring a wagon, which is pretty genius. I can’t imagine steering that thing without running over a bunch of people’s feet, so that’s a pass for me.
Kids are tiny fun-ruiners at the flea market who will make you stop at all the creepy doll vendors and you will end up buying uber-overpriced retro toy cars just to keep them busy for twenty minutes. Leave the little tikes at home, but I do highly suggest bringing someone who owns a truck or SUV. (Again, obvi not your kids.) Because of this rule, I usually bring my husband, who is now a proper flea-market aficionado. We sometimes consider going to the flea market as a morning “date” which is awesome and sad all at the same time. One of my favorite local flea markets even serves beer and soft pretzels. What could possibly be more romantic than this?
I literally cannot stress this enough. There is SO MUCH cool art at the flea market that I could write an entire blog post just on this topic! When looking at art or photography remember that everything is more hip in a matted white frame (which you can get at Target or Ikea), black and white photography makes anything cooler, and pencil sketches, landscapes, and creepy ladies are always a good buy. Also, original art/photography is sophisticated and elevates any home’s décor, so buy some. Then mix it with your shiny new Gray Malin print for a totally unique look that will make your home look like it was styled by a pro. (Just wait, you’ll see what I mean.)
Fact: You will see cool shiny things that will distract you on every single aisle. Try your best to start on one end and work your way to the other so you don’t miss any hidden treasures. I actually like to start at the end of the flea market and my way back, since most people do the opposite. That is a super-secret designer tip, so you’re welcome.
Now that you are well-versed on the flea market fundamentals, you will no doubt arrive home slightly overwhelmed on how to style your treasure trove of items. I think people are hesitant mixing in vintage because they are not sure how it will flow with their newer accessories or more modern décor. Don’t be afraid. Adding vintage pieces gives your space a more curated feel and gives it a sense of age and history. So just do it. Don’t worry, the juxtaposition of the new and old always works!
Below, see how I styled my latest haul with one of my most fave Gray Malin pieces (EVER). The mix of textures, clean lines, and vintage finds creates an entry that feels chic, collected, and sophisticated. I can’t wait to see what you do with yours. Happy hunting!
Anyone else out there a flea market aficionado?
Then, hit your favorite flea, swipe that GM print you’ve been eyeing, and get styling…
Xx Team GM