Decorating with Flea Market Finds

Author: Alecia Pirulis


Moving is expensive. Most of the time, there are expenses you didn’t even see coming: unexpected fees at closing, repairs and remodeling, cleaning costs, that air conditioner that worked just fine when you looked at the house but decided to break on move-in day, etc. When you have finally settled in, you may look around and realize … you really need to decorate! Especially if you’ve moved from a smaller place into a larger one, or this is your first real place, your stuff looks either ratty and tired or completely non-existent. With very little money left in the budget, you may think creating a beautiful space is out of reach. Not so fast – you’ll be amazed at what you can do with limited funds.

First, forget the notion that everything in your “new” space must be “new.” As long as a piece has the style and shape you want, what does it matter if you spent hundreds at a furniture store or just a few bucks at a flea market? The end result is the same, and you’ll be more pleased with the fixed-up old dresser because you made it your own – and saved money.

Learn to think beyond what you see. Okay, that credenza from 1975 is old-fashioned and the dark wood is appalling. Don’t look at that – look at the shape and size. Perhaps it is perfect for your dining room as a sideboard, and all of those cabinets would come in handy for storing lesser-used kitchen items. Now imagine it painted white or robin’s-egg blue … with new hardware … perhaps some stenciling … suddenly, it is funky and retro – and ideal for your space.

Finally, be patient. When shopping garage sales, flea markets, and thrift stores, it takes time and effort to weed through the junk to find your treasure. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t find what you are looking for right away – or even on the third or fourth trip. You will find it, and when you do, you’ll feel just like the pirate who finally discovered that “X” on the treasure map.

It’s okay to get distracted! A few years ago, an interior decorator on television said she keeps a list of everything she’s after before she heads to the stores and she doesn’t allow herself to look at anything else. But if you close yourself off to unexpected finds, you might just overlook that amazing antique chandelier that would look perfect over your dining room table. Okay, so you are searching for a coffee table and you find lamps or wall art or a one-of-a-kind vase instead. Do you really want to pass those up, knowing they’d look great in your space?

Before you head out to the flea market or to garage sales, you do want to have a clear idea of what you want your end result to be, otherwise you could end up with a hodgepodge of mismatched odds and ends that just never really came together. The best way to do this is to have one basic color as your starting point. This color will be weaved throughout the room, even as you pull in other accent colors. If you love emerald green, for example, keep that as your base color and look for items with that shade. If you stumble upon a tangerine throw pillow and a lemon-yellow vase, get them – you don’t want everything to match, but you do want colors that complement your base shade.

Find what you love and what will look great in your room – even if it wasn’t meant to serve that purpose. If, for example, you come across an adorable wrought-iron bistro table and chairs obviously meant for an outdoor patio but it would look amazing in your dining room – put it there! An old trunk complete with aged, slightly rusty latches and rivets may have been built to carry cargo across the ocean, but it makes a lovely coffee table – and hey, storage!

Unmatched is better than matched. Abandon the notion that things have to “go” together. No, your living room doesn’t need a matching loveseat and couch with a coordinating rug and lamps that were all sold as a package deal. Put your personality into your room! Your grandmother’s old rocking chair does go with that wicker love seat you found at a garage sale! Along with the coffee table trunk, the odd collection of lamps you’ve acquired, and the hand-me-down rug from your sister. As long as you keep your color scheme in mind (perhaps paint the wicker love seat emerald green or add an emerald green pillow to the rocking chair) it will all come together perfectly. The same holds true in the dining room – you don’t have to buy a table and chairs together. If you find an old farm table standing alone at a yard sale, get it. Add chairs one at a time as you find ones you like.

Finally, be sure to measure your spaces and write it down. If you are looking for a dresser for the bedroom, measure the wall you want to put it against, then measure the depth, as well. Write those dimensions down and take your tape measure with you as you shop. You don’t want to buy something that will be too large (or too small!) for the space.