10 Tips for Flea Market Shopping

Image from My Daily Find Chicago


With only a couple more Chicago Area Flea Markets (Such as Randolph Street) left this season. I thought it would be a great idea to post about flea market shopping. I know with summer almost over, I am late, but this post is one of those that are better late than never posted. So here you go, my top ten tips that I have collected from the mouths of other designers and flea market masters alike on shopping.

#1 Go Early – Yes I mean butt crack of dawn early. Day one out of the gate is when designers shop, and the finds that they score show it. The only down fall is that you do not have much bargaining power with shopping early.

#2 Cash Is King – Well Jesus is king, but at a flea market, there is nothing better. You go much farther bargaining for goods when you have cash and can purchase on the spot.

#3 Set a Budget – As a designer I am always on someone else’s budget. I set it before I leave the house heck, I set it before I start the project. Setting a budget helps you in keeping you in check for the day instead of wandering what happened to your money when you get home.

#4 Bring a Friend and A Latte – Designers know what they want and come born with a discriminating eye. But like Gretchin Weiner from Mean girls says –Well, I mean you wouldn’t buy a skirt without asking your friends first if it looks good on you?” To sum it up your friend can stop you from purchasing a fugly mistake, that you cannot return.  The latte is for you to stay energized and stay awake (see rule #1)

#5 Dress Comfortably, In Layers Started early and shopping into the afternoon you could have a 30 degree temperature change, especially in Chicago. I wear clothing that I can easily take off and put on. Sneakers are a must! 

#6 Pack a Bag- There are food vendors and drink vendors galore! Its a great time, but be careful not to eat too much fried candy bars. I pack snacks such as fruit, bottled water and most important handi-wipes (hand washing booths are scarce). In that bag I also pack my check list, and budget with a camera. (more in tip #7, #8)

#7 Go armed with a List – When Designers are shopping for homeowners, before they shop, especially flea, they have a floor plan made. With that floor plan, there are items that are needed that would fit certain dimensions, color, etc. Basically make a check list and stick to it.

Image from Chic Overload



#8 Bring A Tape Measure – See step #7 – Before you drop $250 on that uber cute vintage piece, make sure it fits in the space AND through the door; remember its non refundable…

#9 Make Friends and Collect Info – Did you visit a booth with a  really nice person, selling a wonderful collection that you have never seen before?! Yep – happens to me every weekend. Even though her collection of antique African masks are not on my list, I grabbed her information anyway. After all you never know when you may need that one of a kind African mask as a gift. – Oh and something that fits with this tip is: no matter how cute the item is I try not to buy from rude but holes!
#10 Think outside the box – Candle sticks on you list, but you cannot seem to find the right color? If the price and frame is right, and I can EASILY re-create an item, I get it. There are tons of stuff at flea markets that can be re-created, re-painted, re-upholstered, re-purposed, re-wired….

Your Chicago Interior Designer & Interior Stylist









Tiffany Brooks

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