Apartment Life Blog

Green Living Tip: Flea Market Shopping

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Retail stores are awash with environmentally friendly furnishings and household goods—and that’s great news. But don’t overlook an option that’s even greener than recycled plastic and natural materials. Reuse is always the greenest way to go, and flea markets can be an environmentally minded homeowner’s paradise.

Summertime is flea market and garage sale season, so whether you’re traveling to another town or spending a staycation in your own, it’s a great time to hit the resale shops and bring home some treasures.

Finding pieces with history and character that also serve your needs can be a challenge.  Don’t be afraid to dig through piles of musty old junk or buckets of rusty hardware – the good stuff may be hiding underneath. Like cuisine, flea markets and resale shops have their own distinctive flavor. And even if you leave empty handed, it’s a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

Flea market success requires agility, flexibility and dedication. There’s an antique mall, thrift store or flea market of some sort in every city of any size across the United States. When you find one, it’s good to be prepared.

—Make a plan to help guide your search, but don’t be attached to it. The beauty of flea markets is their unpredictability, so go with an open mind.

—Bring a list of items you want or need, along with specific sizes and room measurements.

—Know the market value of the items you’re after. (An online source is www.kovels.com.)

—Bring paint samples, fabric swatches and photos of the rooms you’re decorating.

—Bring a tape measure, a notebook, tote bags and cash. Some merchants don’t accept credit cards. Plus, a cash offer could help in bargaining on price.

—Be prepared to haggle. Antique dealers and flea market sellers say a 20 percent price cut isn’t unusual.

—The best selection can be found early in the day; the best bargains at day’s end.

—If you love it, buy it—but remember, most purchases are final.

One beauty of flea market finds is that they don’t have to be put to their original use. A lidless teapot can become a flowerpot, an old window frame can hold a mirror, jelly jars can be spoon holders, old picnic baskets and suitcases make great side tables  and old scarves are great for hiding sofa stains.

And finally, follow your instincts. If you fall in love with a Shaker chair, don’t worry about how it will fit in with your mid-century modern décor. There’s nothing wrong with mixing and matching decades and styles. All that really matters it that the items appeal to you.

“It’s about finding a piece that you love,” says Wendy Lubovich, a consultant for Dayton’s Paris Flea Market in Minneapolis. “You’ll find that if you love everything in the room, it will somehow go together.”


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