Monday, April 5, 2010

Q&A: Gamblin' at the Flea Market

Dear Jackie,

ok, i really hope ur there b/c i am standing at a flea market RIGHT NOW and i need ur opinion. there's this awesome sofa here that i want to get... but it needs a LOT of wrk. how do i kno when 2 walk away?


Sent from my iPhone

Dear iPhone,

When it comes to shopping at flea markets, you've gotta make like The Gambler: you gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, and know when to RUN!

Yes, this chair has potential, but a few questions first...

First and foremost, you have to establish if this is a WANT or a NEED. Now, there's nothing wrong with something being a want instead of a need, but you just need to recognize which one it is. Did you need it before you even got to the flea market that morning? That's a point in the "buy it!" column.

You also have to consider if it's going to work in your home, literally and aesthetically. If you're like me, you've got every measurement in your home memorized. The window in my kitchen is 28 inches wide, which leaves 6 inches of wallspace on one side and 24 inches on the other... Even if you don't have every millimeter in your head, you should still have a general idea of how big your space is, which will help you determine if the piece will even fit in your room. Some goes for color and style: if you know that your living room is mid-century modern in bright citrus-y colors, maybe that soft pink tufted velvet Victorian-era loveseat isn't going to work. I know, I know, it's so cool looking and you love it, but... You gotta know when to walk away. (Here's a tip: create a tiny color palette of each room in your house, and keep it in your purse for when you're shopping!)

Finally, the biggest problem in determining if that flea market find should go home with you is how much work needs to be done to it. If it's ready to go as is, great! Unless you're a die-hard "alterer" like myself, the less you have to do to it, the better. Many, many people take home a piece that needs a coat of paint or some reupholstering, and once it gets there it just sits... and sits... and sits... Be HONEST with yourself: are you really going to make the necessary changes? Really? Really? When are you going to do them? Do you know how to do them, or will you be learning as you go? How long will it take you? How much money do you have to put into it? If you're buying an antique table that needs refinishing for $50, you're buying it for $50 and several hours of your time. If you're buying a sofa for $75 and having it professionally reupholstered for $150, you're spending $225.

Is breathing paint fumes for a weekend worth it?

If you can't make up your mind, you can always ask the seller for their contact information. Many regular flea market sellers even have websites these days, so if you walk away for now, you can always check in with them later to see if that piece is still available.

So iPhone, I hope that I've given you some criteria to use when you're looking at that flea market sofa. Maybe one day there'll "be an app for that," but until then you've always got me!

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