I love a good flea market. Whether it’s here in New York or one of many around the country, I’m always up for an adventure, digging through history and discovering new ways to use old things. For four months now, ever since Jaithan and I started the blog back in July, I’ve also had the tremendous fortune of being able to connect with so many people who share my enthusiasm for beautiful, timeless design that everyone can afford. While most of you I’ve never met in person, it’s through your kind emails and comments that I’ve begun to foster friendships that feel more and more real everyday. Well, last Sunday at the flea market here in town, seven such friends who’d previously existed only in Blogland, reading faithfully day after day, on lunch hours and coffee breaks, finally came together. And for this, my first shopping trip to the flea market, I could not have asked for a nicer group of people!
Early on, Jaithan and I decided it was important to keep it relatively small. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted the experience to feel personal, as though we were all just shopping with friends. And that’s exactly what it was! First, there were the four spitfire girls—teachers all of them—from Long Island: Alex, Nancy, Georgette and Jennie. Next, the sweet couple from Virginia, Lauren and her husband David, together with their adorable one-year old Christian. And last, but not least, Claire, a writer and longtime flea market fanatic. Here’s the group getting to know each other at our meeting spot, Cupcake Cafe, my favorite coffee shop in Hell’s Kitchen. As you can see, we were all so excited to be there (including me!), the laughter started early…then never stopped the entire trip!
While we waited for everyone to arrive, I went around the room asking the girls if there was anything specific they were looking for, just so I could keep an eye out for it myself. From the left, Alex was looking for serving ware and utensils to mix in with pieces she already owns but wasn’t sure how to do it. Nancy just moved into a new house and was looking for things to make it feel more like a home. Georgette…well, she was just looking! And finally, on the right, Jennie was looking for salt spoons and cellars similar to ones she’d seen on the blog and loved!
Here’s the group entering the Hell’s Kitchen flea market with a booth full of fun costume jewelry. Just because it’s jewelry, I explained, doesn’t mean you can’t use it for other things: Antique pins for Thanksgiving place cards, necklaces for Christmas tree garland and (my favorite!) vintage earrings as decorative magnets.
At the next booth, it was Lauren, a talented and very sweet interior designer, who scored the first find of the day—antique drawer pulls in the shape of dolphins. The dealer also had a great idea to repurpose them as towel hooks in a guest bath. How great is that?
Here we are at my friend Rich’s booth, one of my favorite vendors. He’s always cleaning out old homes and businesses upstate, coming back with all the best stuff…
…like this great Wedgwood bowl Lauren found for five bucks! It’s going to look great in her house on a bookshelf, on a dresser for jewelry and change or even on a nightstand filled with flowers.
Here’s Alex and Jennie checking out a pretty fold-down desk from the 40s.
Look how pretty the detailing is on the interior. Jennie was actually looking for a piece like this for her foyer. To update it, I suggested she paint it a color she loved, then swap out the hardware. I thought this piece would look especially good flanked by two balloon back chairs covered in a fresh, modern fabric. As much as she loved the piece, Jennie decided to mull it over for now and move on.
But just before we did, Lauren spotted another great find—an unusual piece of vintage wood. She was planning on using it for display, which would be great, especially mixed with other, more refined elements like porcelain or silver. I also suggested turning it over and using it as an unexpected and one-of-a-kind cheese board for the holidays.
As we made our way through the market, this table attracted the group because it had so many different things on it—pictures, binders, serving ware and utensils. It’s the perfect example of a booth where you never know what you’ll find! All the more reason to spend a little time and dig, right?
Here’s Nancy pointing out one of a collection of sterling silver souvenir spoons she loved, while Jennie, you’ll remember, was on the lookout for salt cellars and spoons.
And wouldn’t you know it? Among them we found a spoon engraved with Poughkeepsie, New York, one of the places Jaithan and I are looking at houses upstate. Do you think it’s a sign?
The girls thought so!
Alex, meanwhile, still on the lookout for serving pieces, scored this sterling silver handle pie server at a booth nearby. This one she’s planning to use as a hostess gift around the holidays. And for $20? What a thoughtful gift that’s simple and timeless enough to mix in with just about anybody’s collection.
When I saw the pie server Alex had picked out—simple and elegant—there was a Wedgwood platter nearby I thought she might like as well.
And sure enough—she did! It’s actually quite similar to the pattern Jaithan and I picked up at the Chelsea flea market a few weeks ago. And with a price tag of $20 for Wedgwood, you can’t even go to the mall and find something of that quality for a better price.
A little further down, there was a new vendor at the market on Sunday, who’d driven in from Boston. He collects and refurbishes old, industrial ware, like this dentist’s cabinet Alex and Jennie were looking at. This piece would be so great in a bathroom, I was telling them, if the back were mirrored and the inside shelves stacked with white towels and beautiful vintage glass jars filled with Q-tips and cotton. As much as Alex loved the piece, she just didn’t have the room for it.
At the same booth, check out this Art Deco ceiling fixture I found. I love its shape and that it’s black and white as well. Now, if only I had another cookie-cutter light fixture in our apartment that needs a vintage replacement!
And finally, here I am with Lauren, David and baby Christian at the last booth we stopped at before heading back. Check out this gorgeous aqua blue vintage bird cage! I could totally see it indoors planted with all kinds of mosses and orchids, while Lauren had a great idea of using it as a garden ornament with climbing ivy.
Before heading out, though, Claire had to stop back at Rich’s booth to pick up this pretty set of 1940s tea cups she’d spotted earlier. For Claire, the rule is if she’s not sure she needs something and it’s still there when she’s ready to leave, well…then she needs it! These cups, I was telling her, would be great not only for tea and coffee but also for a pretty dessert, a hot soup or even for miniature flower arrangements going down a table.
Here’s the group just before we left Hell’s Kitchen for Chelsea. Lauren, David and the baby couldn’t be in the picture because they had already left to pick up their car and meet us. It was a little chilly that day, so we were all looking forward to the Antiques Garage on 26th, our next and last stop!
Check out the scene! I know it looks a little overwhelming, but once you get the lay of the land, it’s really very easy and super fun. Oh, and it helps to have someone with you who’s been going there since—oh, I don’t know—forever!
Do you remember those salt cellars and spoons Jennie had been looking for? Well, she found a pair…and such pretty ones too. And for $16, she couldn’t go wrong. I can’t wait to see the holiday table she going to set!
Meanwhile, check out this gorgeous Chinoiserie ginger jar lamp that Lauren found from the same dealer Jaithan and I bought our Greek key side chairs. The lamp is actually very similar to one her grandmother had growing up. This one she’s planning to put on her desk at home, so I suggested pairing it with a pretty, silk pagoda shade. How elegant is that?
While mommy was busy shopping, baby Christian found a friend in one of the dealer’s adorable poodles!
At a nearby booth, Georgette—it’s her birthday today!—and I were checking things out together when I spotted this beautiful French porcelain basket. They’re definitely one of my favorite things to collect and display on the mantel in our apartment, especially around the holidays potted with poinsettias. When I heard the price was only $15, I nearly fell over with excitement! $150 is even a good price for something like this, especially one in perfect condition.
Meanwhile, Alex was definitely gaining more confidence with her shopping, which I loved! She’d started off with the pie server and Wedgwood platter back at Hell’s Kitchen and now look what she found! It’s a great set of vintage California pottery leaf plates in a gorgeous shade of green. Alex, you might remember, had been looking for serving ware to mix in with her current collection for the holidays, and these pieces would be perfect! I suggested using them for cookies, cheese and crackers, or any other individual hors d’oeuvre. Plus, neither the shape nor color is particularly seasonal, so these pieces really could go from tableside to poolside, all year long.
It was definitely a big day at the flea market for antique salt cellars! Alex also picked up this pair in the shape of bushel baskets, together with cute little salt spoons made from bone.
Here’s Alex and Nancy settling up with a very sweet dealer named Jane.
Once we all got back together, it was time to head upstairs!
I love that Claire went right for the junk tables! She’s definitely not afraid to dig, and in my experience, that’s where you find the best deals!
I’m always running into friends whenever I’m at the flea market. Today it was my good friend Wendy Waxman, one of my old bosses from Food Network. New York can be such a small place!
My conversation with Wendy was cut short, though, when Alex called me over to look at something right away. “My heart’s fluttering!” she said, as she’d found a ring so beautiful, she had trouble breathing!
Check it out! I love all the cameos going around the pretty gold band. It really was special to her, but at $350, a bit more than she wanted to spend. After much deliberation, Alex reluctantly decided to pass.
Jennie, on the other hand (!), found a small Victorian diamond ring she loved because it reminded her of one her mother had worn. I think you can tell how special it was to her by the way she’s folding her hands.
And while Nancy had gone the entire trip without buying a single thing, waiting for a piece she loved that would bring a bit of history into her new house, look at what she found! It’s a gorgeous antique cruet set for salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar. When I saw it, then heard the price ($15!), I have to admit I was a little jealous. Another thing she could do, I told her, would be to fill each vessel with a single flower, like peonies, Casablanca lilies or even a simple fern, then use it as a centerpiece on a holiday buffet. I did something similar with an antique decanter caddy I found last summer at a yard sale in Sag Harbor.
The trip would soon come to an end but not before Lauren had a chance to browse through one dealer’s beautiful collection of antique lithographs and etchings. Both she and her husband David found a set they loved!
And so even though they didn’t get a chance to be in the group picture we took earlier, I definitely wanted to include them in this final shot of the day. By then, Jaithan and I had already said our good-byes to the others. Each, I remember, looked so happy for the trip we took together, digging for treasures, discovering old, beautiful things, all in the company of fun, new friends. Who says the friendships we make in Blogland aren’t real? These, I know, will be some of the best I have.
And check out this picture from the mailbox! Here are the four Spitfire Girls celebrating Georgette’s birthday with cupcakes served on the Wedgwood platter I found for Alex at the flea market. Happy Birthday, Georgi!