Room designed by Kerrie Kelly Design Lab. Photo provided by Kerrie Kelly Design Lab.

Warm, sunny Saturday afternoons can mean only one thing to a savvy decorator. It’s the time of year for those big outdoor flea markets and antique shows. A quick search on the Internet will lead you to dozens of fun, eclectic, bargain packed micas.

Everyone has their favorite shopping events but most would agree that the top ten include Brooklyn Flea in Brooklyn, NY, Atlanta’s Lakewood 400, Brimfield Antique Show in Brimfield, Mass., Round Top Texas and California’s Rose Bowl Flea Market. If you’re looking for a fun afternoon a little closer to home check out the Metrolina Antique & Vintage Market and the Raleigh Flea Market.

Flea Markets are wonderful resources for unique furniture pieces and accessories. They can be the key to creating a décor that’s a step above department store look-a-likes. Thought-provoking rooms contain exceptional pieces with a history that includes how you discovered them.

Don’t get your heart set on finding one or two predetermined pieces. Keep an open agenda. Fun of shopping the markets is you never know what you’ll find. The best discoveries are the ones that have a special meaning to you. Here are some of the hottest items to consider.

Signage of any kind, old wooden signs are the hardest to find because they not as enduring as the metal ones. Old farm signs look great in your kitchen or dining room but they can be a little pricy due to the foodie craze. City signs that remind you of your hometown look great in living rooms and are terrific conversation starters.


Photo by Dover Court.

Dishes are one of my passions. Not just for dinning but also for hanging on the wall, stacking on open shelving and setting around tabletops throughout the house. They are a great way to bring your new signature color into a space for just a few dollars. Don’t shy away from mixing and matching incomplete sets.

Mid Century Modern décor pieces have become very popular and costly. There are still bargains to be found if you’re willing to re-cover or refinish. Lamps abound but they may need new shades. Depending where you shop you may pay $40-50 dollars for a shade. I’ve found some great, brand new ones for $5-10 dollars at the bi-monthly sales at the Potato Sack on Morehead in Charlotte.

Flea markets are great resources for outdoor furniture, planters, and garden accessories. Think outside the box. A white enamel bucket, filled with red geraniums is irresistible on a sunny patio or kitchen counter. If you’re in the market for an outdoor or breakfast room table and chairs consider a vintage metal set. A quick coat of spray paint and you have a functional and adorable new set. Wire and wicker baskets can be hung on the wall to organize cookbooks or linens.

You can’t beat the shopping experience but go prepared. Get there early and drive the right vehicle. If you’re looking for larger furniture pieces you may want to borrow a friend’s truck or van. A SUV is great for most purchases. Stick in a couple of empty boxes and some newspaper for wrapping and transporting smaller, fragile objects. Don’t forget your big canvas tote bags. Most vendors only have plastic bags and they aren’t much fun to drag around all day.


Kelley and Company Home.

Grab your “crossover” shoulder bag and stuff it with cash in small denominations for those less expensive items. Most vendors take checks or credit cards for expensive purchases. When paying for expensive items, credit cards can often be best. Credit cards give you the chance to buy the items straight away and then pay for them later on that month. When applying for a credit card, it’s best to find one that is suitable for what you’ll be using it for. You can read about some of the best credit cards here if you’d like. This should help you purchase some of those more expensive products. However, I’ve sometimes found that there’s more bargaining power if you pay in cash. It saves the vendor paying bank fees. This is up to you though.

Rugs can be tricky. If you’re shopping for them be sure to bring your measurements. I like to take photos of the spaces I’m trying to accessorize. Fabric swatches or paint chips can be very helpful when trying to match existing colors. Measure your tables just incase you find a vintage tablecloth you can’t resist. Flea market purchases are not returnable.

Flea markets are dusty, outdoor experiences. Wear comfortable shoes, sunscreen and relaxed clothing. Bring a bottle of water and be sure to check out the fun food trucks for lunch. Whether you come with friends or go it alone you’re sure to have an entertaining day.