There are plenty of awesome flea markets all over the U.S. - Brimfield, Round Top, and First Monday Trade Days are just a few of them. In Southern California, where our weather pattern is 70-degrees with blazing sunshine pretty much 98% of the year, flea markets reign. But if you're new to the game (or even if you're not), the process of flea market "picking," as it's deemed, can be downright overwhelming. I'm the first to admit I'm not a morning person, so driving to Pasadena in the (extreme) early morning darkness isn't my idea of a fun time, and I rarely arrive there any earlier than 8 AM. That said, we've done our fair share of flea market shopping here in Los Angeles and elsewhere (but that's another story entirely), so we're sharing a handful of our Lily Spindle tips to doing a flea right and finding what you want.
1) Some of the very best flea market pieces can be found in the booths that look like they've got zilch. In the most intensely "curated" booths, everything will be of the same general design, aesthetic, and period, say, boomerang coffee tables beside teak nesting tables holding atomic lamps (and the heavily curated collection will have heavily marked-up price tags to match). The ultimate flea market discoveries often exist within the booths you'd never even glance at twice. We once found a set of three split blade Ivar Alenius Bjork brass candle holders in amazing vintage condition at a Rose Bowl booth offering little else but rusty car parts, antiquated tools, and heaps of picks, shovels, and hoes. Keep your eyes open, always be scanning the flea market landscape for provocative colors, patterns, and shapes. Love can be found in the strangest of places.
2) It always takes longer than you expect it will (I mean, for heaven's sake, the Rose Bowl has over 2,500 vendors!) and I don't recommend making heavy social plans for later in the day. Maybe it's just me, but the sensory overload of a mid-size to huge flea market both energizes and enervates me and I'm totally incapable of throwing on some heels, slapping on some Urban Decay gloss, and chatting at a dinner party that same evening.
3) Cash, cash, and cash. Carry it on you beforehand (we usually get ours the night before). The lines for the ATMs are bananas and who wants to waste time standing in line when you could be shopping?
4) Wear a hat. Wear sunscreen. Wear your sunglasses like a good Angeleno always should. And wear layers, because as the day progresses, you'll get warmer. Oh, and bring water! Staying hydrated is muy importante.
5) Bring a truck to the flea market, if possible. And have a rope or two handy, to lash some purchases in/on your car or truck. I can't tell you how many times my husband's surf strap has safely secured furniture and lamps for their freeway journeys. I always travel with wrapping blankets, of course, because that's what us Lily Spindle ladies do, but that stash of cloth shopping bags you keep in your car can be useful, as well! I often stuff them in between pieces, use them to soften the sharp corners on sofa legs, art frames, and doubly wrap ceramics and other fragile pieces to ensure their protection as we roll home after a successful shopping expedition.
Do you have any flea market favorites you've scored over the years? Or any tips you want to share? Give us a holler at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll share them with our readers!