The flea market is a treasure trove of rare finds. You just need to know where, when and how to look. Here are five tips for scoring the best flea market pieces on your next trip up and down the aisles.
1. Be There When the Market Opens
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This one seems like a no-brainer because, well, it is. It doesn’t matter if your design taste is modern industrial or if you’re in love with coastal home interiors; you’ll have the best selection of literally everything at the start of the day.
While you will still be able to nab outstanding items after lunch, arriving on the scene early means you’ll have the first look at what’s available. At some markets, the action begins in the parking lot before the vendors even set up their tables.
2. Make a Shopping List
Flea markets can be overwhelming, even to the coolest, calmest and most collected Santa Monica interior designers. It may be hot. It may be crowded. There may be pets, a live band and vendors wearing too much perfume. In order to remember your goals and avoid impulse purchases, take a few minutes before you go to jot down a list of exactly what pieces you’re after. That way, when the bluegrass band kicks off a rousing set of Nirvana covers and the temperature crosses the 90-degree mark, you won’t forget that you wanted to find a half-dozen highball glasses.
3. Put Furniture First
At virtually every flea market, furniture is the first thing to go. Skip the bin full of mid-century drawer pulls and make a lap right off the bat to scope out the big items, particularly if your shopping list includes specific pieces. If you wait, there’s a good chance that vintage pie safe is going home without you.
4. Do All the Math
When is a $20 club chair not a great flea market find? When it’s going to require another $200 to reupholster it because it’s covered in pineapple-print corduroy.
Most flea market patrons with an interest in interior design Santa Barbara know that paints, fabrics and other finishes are often temporary, particularly when it comes to furniture. The savviest shoppers, however, also figure in the cost of refurbishment upfront. While it’s a good idea to seek out the shape of furniture, not the finish, it’s imperative to figure in the cost of fixing things up before you buy.
5. Don’t Be Afraid To Make an Offer
Seasoned sellers expect you to haggle with them. They also expect to be treated with respect. If you’re not seriously into an item, don’t waste the vendor’s time. If you are interested, discuss the item’s price, the seller’s bottom line and what you think is a fair price. Snagging a discount is entirely do-able if you’re prepared to be courteous and reasonable. Be forewarned that a deep discount on the flea market’s first day is highly unlikely, though. Just like you, sellers want to keep their options open.
Flea markets hold a wealth of unique finds, both old and new, as long as you’re willing to look for them. A little planning and a little patience can go a long way. Embrace the adventure and you may be rewarded with an abundance of exciting design discoveries.