Overwhelmed at the flea market? Designers give shopping tips

  • This undated photo provided by Jenny Dina Kirschner shows vintage plates. Interior designer Kirschner discovered one of these vintage Steinbock Enamel candy dishes at a flea market, then searched online for other pieces in the same series. (Jenny Dina Kirschner via AP) Jenny Dina Kirschner

  • This undated photo provided by Caitlin Murray shows a living room designed Murray, founder of Black Lacquer Design in Los Angeles. The room includes a sleek brass coffee table. When Murray searches for striking vintage pieces at flea markets or estate sales, she always looks for valuable brass pieces being sold well below their market value. (Mary Costa/Caitlin Murray via AP) Mary Costa

  • This undated photo provided by Caitlin Murray shows a bedroom designed by Caitlin Murray, founder of Black Lacquer Design in Los Angeles. The room features a vintage abstract portrait. Murray often hunts for portraits like this at flea markets or estate sales and uses them to beautifully unite the various colors in a room. (Mary Costa/Caitlin Murray via AP) Mary Costa

Associated Press
Saturday, October 21, 2017

Arriving at a sprawling flea market on a crisp Saturday morning can be exciting. So many potential treasures might be hidden among the dusty piles of cast-off, second-hand goods.

Yet often it’s overwhelming, even for experts. With acres of furniture, art, accessories and more stretching out in front of you, where do you begin?

With a list, suggests New York interior designer Jenny Dina Kirschner, who rarely goes hunting for vintage items without one.

On a recent flea market visit, “we made a list of things we still needed. Accent tables, some specific chairs,” Kirschner said. You won’t always find what you seek, and you may find a few treasures you’d never imagined wanting. But having the list helps “avoid that insane feeling of arriving and, ‘Oh my God, what do I look for first?,’ ” she said.

So what do designers like to look for first at a flea market?

For Los Angeles interior designer Jessica McClendon, founder of the design firm Glamour Nest, that depends where she is.

“When I shop on trips, I like to focus on items that are unique to the location. I found a Bavarian deer head carved out of wood when I was in Munich that is so interesting and unique to the Black Forest that I simply had to have it,” she said. “In Ireland, I zeroed in on textiles and antique bibles or prayer books.”

When shopping for vintage items closer to home, McClendon is always on the lookout for chairs.

“I have a full-fledged vintage chair fetish,” she said. “I find antique and vintage chairs so much more interesting and well-made than options found at retailers today. All they need is a little TLC!”

Kirschner agrees: She hunts for chairs that have an eye-catching shape but may be covered in worn or ugly fabric. “As a designer, I know I can revive that chair” by refinishing the wood and updating the upholstery, she said.

She’s open to just about any style; the key, she said, is making sure these second-hand chairs are striking and unusual.