Despite the fact that flea markets can be a treasure trove of one-of-a-kind pieces, they can also feel like an overwhelming junk sale. With so much stuff piled into one parking lot, it’s often hard to narrow in on the good stuff, which got us thinking: What do designers, the people with the most discerning taste and knowledge, keep an eye out for? We polled eight of our favorites for their answers, which yielded some helpful words of wisdom. From apothecary containers to fine linens, here’s what you should be shopping for at your next flea market.
Second Shout Out Set Of Three Vintage Cobalt Blue Apothecary Bottles ($99)
“Flea markets are exciting, because you never know what you are going to find. One thing I have picked up a lot are interesting vases, be it an unusual apothecary container, 19th-century Paris porcelain, or the odd silver cup. I can always walk away with something to put a flower in.” — Miles Redd
Chairish Child Bust Objet ($83)
“I'm always looking for tabletop vessels; glass gets boring after 20 installations. However, if I see a stone bust or even a fragment of a bust, it's going in the back of my SUV. I hear my staff whispering about this on a daily basis: ‘Faces are everywhere...’" – Benjamin Vandiver
Etsy Seven Decades of Design Book ($20)
"At flea markets (and estate sales), I'm always on the hunt for vintage design books and magazines. It's always educational, fun, and inspiring to be immersed in photographs of interiors from different eras. These can typically be found for a great price, and when they aren't being read, they look interesting on a coffee table or to provide some diversity to the books already in one's collection. At one flea market in Ojai, I walked away with an entire collection of Architectural Digest magazines from the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, for only a dollar a piece!" – Lindsay Pennington
Second Shout Out Calabrian Water Pot ($350)
“I'm always on the lookout for vintage pottery. I have found the best funky studio pieces as well as some more important American, European, and Japanese ceramics at flea markets. Sometimes I have to rummage, but that's half the fun and definitely worth it, especially when you unearth a little gem of a pot for $10! Score.” – Jeff Andrews
Second Shout Out Vintage French Suze Porcelain Ashtray ($89)
“I’m always on the hunt for linens, china, ashtrays, mostly accessories. But what I usually find is great at flea markets is vintage clothes that aren't a lot of money, and great chairs.” – Estee Stanley
“When I first moved to Los Angeles from New York, we spent many a Sunday perusing the big flea markets (I especially love Long Beach and PCC!). I started picking up these little Asian figurines; I really associated them with California! They seemed to embody a playfulness of design and capture the quirky side of midcentury. I had never seen them before on the East Coast, and now over the years I have created quite a collection. The fun part is that most of them have a little vase that is part of the sculpture, and I do mini flower arrangements in them. They have become harder to find over the years, but I’m still on the hunt for them at the local flea markets." – Karen Vidal
Chairish Vintage Orange and Cream Lamp with Silk Shade ($250)
“I always look for vintage lamps and accessories at flea markets. My favorite lamps are midcentury glazed pottery. You can really see the care and attention in the glazing—and that’s hard to find in contemporary pieces. I buy them thinking I’ll eventually use them for client projects, but I love them so much it’s hard to give them up! I could basically open a vintage lamp showroom in my office!” – Eddie Lee
What are you always on the hunt for at flea markets? Sound off below.