Flea Market Fabulous

May 19, 2015

Summer flea market season officially opens this weekend!

Here in Chicago, it’s marked by the Randolph Street Market taking their festivities outside. I’m super excited that this year, I’ve been invited to the media breakfast and early buy (before the market opens) to mark my favorite vintage finds with a green ribbon. If you’re in Chicago and shopping the market keep your eyes peeled for the green ribbons. Lots of design lovers, bloggers, and media are invited to pick their favorites. Trust me, I can’t bring everything I love home, so I’ll mark the good stuff for you too!

If you don’t live in Chicago, or you’re out-of-town for the holiday here’s a 2014 USA Today article listing 10 of the best vintage flea markets in the states.

It’s always good to be prepared when you go to any flea market. You may have bargaining in your genes (thanks mom), but being prepared means you’re more likely to score the right items at a fair price. Here’s my top 10 list for getting Flea Market Fabulous!

  1. BRING CASH. Yes, most people take cards theses days, but having cash is always better for bargaining and sometimes you won’t have to pay tax with a cash exchange. It can also be a good way to limit your spending.
  2. DRESS A LITTLE SHABBY. This was a good tip from a friend. Cute new outfit? Don’t wear it to a flea market. This is old, dirty stuff and if you’re buying you’ll probably be lugging it around yourself. Also, it’s not easy to haggle for a discount with that Fendi bag on your shoulder. See what I mean?
  3. MAKE A LIST. I always have specific items I’m shopping for and I write them down to remind myself what I’m actually looking for. It’s so easy to get distracted! Easy decorative items to carry and buy could be lamps, mirrors, clocks, barware, and possibly rugs.
  4. TAKE MEASUREMENTS. If you are looking for a dresser, cabinet, credenza or the like make sure you know the size of the space you are going to place the piece in. Measure the height, depth, and width and write it on your shopping list.
  5. BRING A TAPE MEASURE. Whelp, having the measurements written down won’t do you any good if you can’t measure the piece when you see the perfect thing!
  6. WEAR A BACKPACK. I like to have both hands free for measuring, moving items around, and eventually carrying items I’ve purchased on both arms. Put your measuring tape, a poncho, a water bottle, sunscreen and cash in your bag and you are good to go!
  7. ALWAYS OFFER LESS. Items are usually priced high because vendors know people want to bargain, also they need room to lower prices at the end of the day or weekend. Don’t offer something insulting, but $5 – $25 less than marked is always fine in my book.
  8. KNOW WHERE YOUR CAR IS PARKED. If you are really serious about shopping for big items you need a car. Know what will fit in your car and where your car is actually parked if it’s a huge lot. Most likely you’ll be making a few trips to the car, or you’ll have a nice vendor who will help you transport the large item to your car.
  9. BRING A BUDDY. Having a friend with you is a great idea (this friend needs to love flea markets too). Two sets of eyes helps, and this person can be your back up on crunch time decisions, bargaining fiascos, and they can help you carry stuff to the car!
  10. DIG, DIG, DIG! Look in the sale bin, move things around, try to see what everyone else is missing. That’s where you strike GOLD my friend.

Here are a few pictures from my recent flea market and thrifting adventures.


Don Kelly’s in Northern Michigan. Awesome spot!


Where wicker chairs go to die.


My packed car after Wolf’s Flea at the Allstate Arena near Chicago.


Headboard score that I’ll most likely use as a wall hanging.

Good luck and happy hunting!


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Meet Claire

Claire’s creative energy comes from her unique perspective on the world as both a trained interior designer and a passionate yoga teacher. Her affinity for kitchen design, timeless style and eclectic decorating are shared here, along with lots of interior design education and tips. Thanks for being here, please enjoy!

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