Flea Market Tips From a Stylist (Part One)
Hi decor8 readers, I’m Meagan Camp and I’m a photo stylist and designer based in New York who is visiting you today on decor8 with a guest post since Holly is working on location for her next book. Exciting! I’m going to talk about a favorite flea market in Massachusetts that I just attended with a little glimpse into my finds. So come along with me… Let’s go to the market!
I wait in anticipation for Brimfield every year, either shopping for myself or for projects, this market has become a very valuable resource for trend forecasting and is incredibly inspiring for my work as a stylist. I like to go early in the week for the best selection and beat the crowds, although the best deals are at the end of the week because dealers don’t want to pack things back up. For a show the size of Brimfield with thousands of dealers, it’s impossible to see everything so it helps to go in knowing what you’re looking for while keeping in mind it’s the thrill of the hunt. I’m often shopping for clients so I’ll bring with me detailed measurements and inspirational pictures — when I’m out in the fields there’s no time to hesitate so when I see something, I’ll need to jump on it!
Many of the dealers set up their booths like mini-stores with beautifully styled vignettes, great music, even incense or a burning candle — the spaces are so beautiful that I’ll just stand and stare and soak it all in! It’s incredibly inspiring how each vendor chooses to set up their wares. As a stylist, I can definitely get caught up in the little details (like the red milliner feathers displayed a white ironstone bowl, antique doll heads lined up in a glass case or a row of antique glove molds). I love meeting other designers, store owners, and artists who thrive on this sort of thing — people fly in from all over the world to attend this show and there’s never a lack of interesting characters or excitement. Every once in a while you’ll pass by a film crew shooting or someone giving an interview. The whispers of J.Crew buyers running in and slapping their “J.Crew SOLD” stickers on everything (if you’ve been to Brimfield, you know exactly what I’m talking about!) is always the biggest gossip of the week!
This year I was specifically shopping for a multi-functional table for a small apartment, a rustic farm table for an eat-in kitchen and any small props that caught my eye. Although I’m still on the hunt for a farm table, I found a wonderful vintage 1940’s drop leaf maple table with spindle legs that opens up to dining table yet can act as a console when the leaves are down. I also came away with an antique gray chippy adjustable stool with glass ball claw feet that will be perfect for a clients living room as a side table. A set of 1800’s antique plates with hand painted butterflies made their way home with me, I fell in love with their charm and couldn’t resist!
Both Raina Kattelson (a fellow stylist who traveled with me, who will have the part “two” for you soon on decor8 with her “take” on the show) and I have agreed the industrial style seems to be here to stay — almost every dealer had some kind of metal lab stool or rolling cart. It was getting a little out of hand there for a while where anything pulled out of an old building was considered “industrial” with a trendy price tag to match! I have noticed people are mixing the industrial pieces with more refined elements to soften the look of the very masculine, hard lines of the rusty, crusty metal; pale gray and cream painted furniture, faded linen upholstery, reclaimed wood, ironstone and silver pieces etc. This is a style I kept coming across while living in Northern California a few years ago and it seems to making its way to the East Coast. I was calling it California meets Swedish as it seems to be the play on light with a lived-in/casual lifestyle. Mid-century is also huge huge huge. I overheard a handful of dealers independently commenting about how they’ll need to bring more mad-men style pieces for the next show. Although I was there for the first day, many of the big pieces had already sold!
Cash is king at a market like this one, although I have found that many dealers are totally okay with checks for large ticket items and some will even accept credit cards. Negotiating is part of the game and the dealers expect it. I always try to start a conversation either by asking “what can you tell me about this piece” or “what are you asking for this piece?” From their answer I can usually gauge their mark-up and if the item is within my price range. In the heat of the moment, it’s important to remember you’ll always get more with honey than you will with vinegar — being polite and friendly will get you far! Negotiating a lower price can be as easy as asking “what’s your lowest price?” or “my budget is xyz, is there any chance you could meet me closer to that price range?” Of course, you don’t want to insult anyone by assuming their wares aren’t worth what they’re asking. If I’m really serious about something, I will let the dealer know how much I love the piece, the color, shape etc. I’ve heard some people say the opposite that you don’t want to seem too eager, but I have found most people will go lower on the price if they know the buyer appreciates what ever it is they’re selling — they picked it, pack it and unloaded it, after all! For many dealers, this is their livelihood and they appreciate enthusiasm for what they do.
Brimfield has definitely become a giant retail store over the years, gone are the “good ‘ol days” when you could load up your car with treasures at bargain prices. Technology and a general interest in the antique industry has made everyone very aware of what items cost. According to many of the dealers, “these damn New Yorkers are driving up the prices”… *gulp*… I guess I’m guilty as charged! Brimfield is a party for people who like stuff and I joke that attending this show is like going to war; you’re tired, you get dirty, your body aches and you push through… and I love every second of it!
So let’s recap with my 6 top tips:
1. Go early in the week for the BEST selection or end of the week for the BEST deals.
2. Go in knowing what you’re looking for.
3. Bring detailed measurements and inspirational pictures. (Holly wrote a post detailing a binder she made back in 2008 when she lived over here – check this out!)
4. Cash is king (though many dealers are totally okay with checks for large ticket items and some will even accept credit cards).
5. Negotiating is part of the game and the dealers expect it.
6. Be friendly with dealers – you’ll always get more with honey than you will with vinegar — being polite and friendly will get you far!
Psst: If you missed the May Brimfield show, don’t worry… There are two more for you to catch this year – here are the upcoming dates: July 9-14 and September 3-8. So rest up and get ready to shop!
Nice to visit you on decor8 today everyone! If you have any questions, please comment below and I will try to answer you. Thanks for having me! – Meagan.
(text/photos: Meagan Camp)