Tips for nabbing the coolest flea market treasures around

Bonjour actually I need to drop the French I’m back in London a little weary but nothing a few coffees won’t sort out hopefully! I didn’t get to shop regrettably just whizz by a load of cool boutiques in a taxi but it was a working trip so  hey. I saw some amazing apartments eclectic in feel, grand, boho, classical and it got me to thinking about flea markets something Paris has a lot of. I thought it would be a good time to write some tips about how to nab some cool treasures at such markets.

Before I go into the low down about what dealers do to grab some of the coolest finds around I should give you my down low of some of the flea markets I visit around the world:

IACF Antique & Collectors Fair, the biggest antique fairs in the UK held every other month at Newark, Ardingly, Shepton Mallet, Swinderby and Newbury. Always go on trade day you pay £20 to get through the door but if you go on public day (day after) all the good stuff has gone because I’ve nabbed it!

Sunbury Antiques Market – held in London every other Tuesday. To get the good stuff go when doors open at 6.30 in winter go with a torch as its still dark!

Porte de Vanves – Paris held every weekend. The best flea in Paris set amongst beautiful old plane trees it is stocked to the brim with leather chairs, paintings and some seriously cool stuff. It’s not cheap but its so good!

For 20 of the best other flea markets in France, click here!

Hells Kitchen – NYC. Whenever I’m in Manhattan I make a beeline. Love!

Brooklyn Flea – Every Sunday rain or shine. We always go jump on a ferry to cross the Hudson it takes you right there and its the best way of going in my book  especially in the warmer months.

Brimfield Antiques Market – Massachusetts held May , July and September. It’s huge!

Rose Bowl – Pasadena, held once a month.

So lets get down to some tips:

Edit your eye

Flea markets can be overwhelming, unless you’re focused you’ll spend half your time feeling dazed and confused so go with a list. I do this with trade shows all the time, bearing in mind we spend three days walking dozens of floors from 9-6pm bamboozled with so many different styles we go snow blind very quickly. Work from a list it will focus your mind.  On my continual flea market radar is rugs, chandeliers, bar carts, leather chairs, paintings.

Think outside the box

If you like the shape of a piece forget if you can to much about the state of it.  Things can be easily repainted or upholstered. Check for wood worm or large cracks in the frame, obviously anything that looks super damaged avoid!  I am a sucker for claw or ball feet, carved edges, that sort of stuff. There is no market in brown furniture and I’ve picked up some of the coolest most ornate pieces from £100 or less simply because they are no longer in fashion.

Go scruffy

The price is never on the piece so rough up and don’t glam up otherwise you’re likely to get an overly inflated price. Remember to bargain no one ever expects you to pay full whack! Most people raise their prices to compensate for bargaining, which is why you have to haggle. I typically go in about 30% under and then we see where we go from there. Unless you’re my father of course and he’ll go in at about 80% lower, which causes the vendor to puff up, go instantly red and generally shout abusive words at us all.

Arrive Early

Go when the doors open no later all the dealers get there then and that is when you’ll get the best choice.


Flea markets are fabulous for lighting, think chandeliers, pendants, floor lamps, desk lamps, wall sconces. Don’t worry to much it if things are missing a plug, need rewiring or have lost a bit of crystal. Good lighting is an investment and I’ve found some amazing pieces at flea markets.

Find new uses for things

Think differently – could for example that console work as a mini desk or at the end of the bed to house the TV.  Or how about that outdoor chair working indoors with a sheepskin over it. I’ve brought old remnants of antique rugs and used them as floor cushions, sofas I’ve put against dining tables its called thinking outside of the box.

Lastly don’t ponder and think I’ll go back to it. Every time I’ve done this the pieces have gone. Happy Hunting!

If you feel bamboozled by all of that may I suggest you take a few minutes and sit down to this fabulous film my friend Graham Atkins Hughes has directed and shot. As I’m sure you guys know Graham takes all the fabulous photography you see in my books, the way he plays with light is phenomenal – no tricks or gimmicks just a pure understanding of the nuances of light, super clever. It’s called Clementine– enjoy!





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