We’re always envious of the carefully curated finds that design-minded friends score at flea markets. But it also seemed that there was an art to finding that perfectly worn Eames chair or a stash of Eva Zeisel dinnerware in the chockablock booths at most fairs.
We’ve included an abbreviated version below. One thing we’d add to the list? Bring your own folding shopping cart.
1. It’s all about the details, craftsmanship, and the sign of an artisan’s hand. Look for hand-stitching, nail-head trims, embroidery, and hand-woven textiles. It makes anything more special.
2. Look past the scratches, dust, and dirt. You can have most anything restored, cleaned, or reupholstered. Try to survey the options while focusing on the possibilities—not on the limitations.
3. Don’t focus on provenance—unless you really know what you’re doing. (If you see something too good to be true, it probably is.) This is not to say that there aren’t treasures around—just take a deep breath, get out your phone, and search the internet for originals so you can confirm that the details are correct.
4. Measure your space before you go. Beyond the parameters of the area you’d like to fill (i.e., the space allotted for a coffee table), bring measurements for the supporting furniture (i.e., the height and length of your couch, etc.).
5. Interact with your potential purchase. Sit in the chairs and make sure they’re comfortable and that they don’t wobble; make sure a table is the right height, etc.
6. If you’re interested in an item, but not overly attached, walk away. Do a second lap at the end of the day. If it’s still available, you’ll have much more negotiating power.
7. Know your budget. And don’t forget to factor customs and shipping. It’s easy to get totally carried away in the moment, so know your upper limit.
8. Look for pairs and sets. Vendors generally hate to break them up, so you’re going to get a better deal. Besides adding symmetry to a space, you can often use an extra lamp or chairs in a different room.