If there's one thing we love more than travel, it's flying somewhere to shop. It's a foolproof combination. Don't get us wrong, we love vacationing to a remote beach or natural wonder across the globe, but we found a new experience every jet-setting design buff needs to tick off their bucket list: vintage and market shopping around the world. While we love looking for rare finds on Chairish, 1stdibs, eBay, and even Craigslist, there's nothing quite like the thrill of the hunt and that feeling you get when you find a unique treasure among the trash is priceless (especially when you paid pennies for it).
So where exactly can we uncover these hidden gems and unique curiosities? To find out, we turned to our favorite interior designers who graciously shared their favorite flea markets, under-the-radar boutiques, and secret antique stores around the world and the tales behind their prized finds. So take Nate Berkus's lead and make your next vacation a trip to one of these vintage stores or markets across the globe instead.
Ohara Davies-Gaetano, Founder of ODG Interiors
"One of my all-time favorites is the Sunday market in L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. Like many other markets, this one is brimming with local food and craft provisions, but on the outskirts, there are small antique dealers. I have an obsession with antique door hardware and have sourced some of my favorite hardware at this market. There are also a few dealers that have incredible volumes of old books on art, which I like to collect. There are many little shops in this town as well, and on my most recent shopping trip, I bought this fabulous antique daybed for our little boy’s room."
"I grew up in New York City, but we had a weekend and summer house in western upstate New York. Our home was filled with American antiques, and we spent our summers on the hunt for fabulous pieces. The antique show at Madison-Bouckville was always one of my favorite shopping experiences in the summer. Over the years, we found many great treasures at this fair, but one of the pieces that I cherished the most was an antique American pie cupboard that we used to store all of our dishes in the dining room. The condition of the cabinet was subpar when we purchased it, so my grandma stripped it down and restored it."
"It's no hidden secret that the flea markets in Paris are my all-time favorite. I have found more incredible pieces over the years at Les Puces than anywhere else. On a recent trip, I stumbled upon this incredible 18th-century tapestry that had been torn at some point and repaired rather crudely with a linen patch. I found something so abstract about the crude patch repair, and I fell in love with the juxtaposition of the precise beauty of the Aubusson to the abstraction of the repair. I await the arrival of this piece so I can hang it in my office.
"Another all-time favorite from Les Puces was the purchase of an antique oil painting that ended up at a client's home in Dana Point. The painting depicted the sea during a storm, and there was a beautiful moodiness and a certain way that the light was captured that moved me, and it still does when I see it."
"When I have to fly back east, I try to plan my trips around the monthly market at Scott's Flea. I have bought a lot at Scott's over the years. One find that stands out is a pair of tables. The bases were made from antique architectural salvage, and the tops were newly made out of chiseled fossil stone and metal. I used this table at a project that was featured in House Beautiful two years ago. When I go back and look at the photos of the room, I always fall in love with the tables again."
Tom Stringer, Founder Tom Stringer Design Partners
"If you find yourself in Venice, Italy, the antiques market in Campo San Maurizio is a must-stop. This renowned market (founded in 1970) only happens four to five weekends a year, so plan your trip accordingly. It is a treasure trove of antiques and small accessories. I picked up cool photos from local artists as well as antique oils. It is a great place to pick up vintage Buccellati silver, too."
"On my recent trip to Jakarta, I ventured to the famous flea market on Jalan Surabaya Street. Since the 1970s, this open-air flea market has been spanning the long road with tiny 10' x 15' stalls jammed with antiques, art, sculptures, and light fixtures. Wandering from stall to stall, you will see antiques from all over the world but mostly from various provinces of Indonesia. I cobbled together a wonderful collection of antique batik fabrics, as well as very interesting shadow puppets."
Tim Campbell, Founder of Studio Tim Campbell
"Two of my favorites are at Toguna in Johannesburg. This is a wholesale and retail establishment that works with local craftspeople from all over Africa to source handmade African items including jewelry, baskets, masks, textiles, bowls, and more. They also carry an amazing collection of near-museum-quality antiquities found all over the continent. Their shop is an open-air building in a residential part of Johannesburg, and I've found them to be the absolute easiest way to shop for African accessories and antiquities.
"I overheard a local talking about the shop while having dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in Johannesburg called Fishmonger. I went the next day, and it was amazing. It truly is one of the best locations in all of Africa for buying genuine African crafts, baskets, art, and accessories."
Annette and Danielle Rubin, Founder of Rubin Design Studio
"While in Morocco, we were fortunate enough to experience the vibrancy of the souk. We took a detour down a particularly narrow street and stumbled upon a merchant's store who sold handcrafted case goods. We learned that wood carving had been a family craft for decades, and we did not leave the shop empty-handed. We bought a hand-carved coffee table complete with semiprecious natural stone inlay (inside and outside) and 12 upholstered stools in the traditional Moroccan style. It took our breath away. Six months later, the table arrived and is the signature one-of-a-kind piece featured in our client's loggia where they feel as if they have a taste of Morocco while entertaining outside.
"When we were in Venice, we took a boat to Murano to study the art of glassblowing. We spent hours in the foundry learning how glass is blown and ultimately trying it ourselves—it is much harder than it looks. We left the foundry with an understanding of this technique that we now use to inform our design process when creating custom pieces of art or décor for our clients. Specifically, we were drawn to combinations of color, shapes, and patterns that can be created using this technique. On this trip, we left with colorful vases from an old foundry that are placed throughout our client's home."
Nate Berkus, Founder of Nate Berkus Design
"This is one of my favorite go-to vintage markets in Europe. It is literally filled with rows and rows of the most unique and unexpected finds. If you're ever in Italy, make sure you allow some time to visit, preferably a whole day; you’ll need it."
"I've been shopping at Pavilion ever since my early days in Chicago. Between myself and my design directors, Lauren and Sasha, we are constantly sourcing things from here for various design projects. Like the black dining room table that Jeremiah and I bought for Rita Hazan's NYC apartment."
"Jeremiah and I are knee-deep in a renovation for our L.A. house, and I have been scouring antique malls for everything from English farm tables to 18th-century French cabinets and lighting. These two stores are fantastic for that."
Kelly Lee, of Kelly Golightly
"Located at the north end of Palm Springs (before you hit the main drag of Palm Canyon), it's easy to zip right by, but it would be a travesty to miss this candy land of midcentury ice buckets, side tables, Bakelite jewelry, and glassware in every color of the rainbow. I also love Bon Vivant. What it lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality. The tightly edited selection ensures you'll find a gem every time you visit. You'll find vases, groovy glassware, and midcentury home decorative items to spruce up your space here.
"I've never shared this one before because it's such a gem, but sometimes the secret is so good, it demands to be shared. Spaces is located on Perez Road in the Art and Design Center in neighboring Cathedral City. It also has two more great vintage stores right next door: Hedge and At-HOM. If you're into thrifting, then hit up Angel View for amazing deals on furniture and décor. Like most thrift stores, it's hit or miss, but I've found everything from bamboo cane chairs to wicker furniture and even a swan side table on previous visits. I scored an amazing set of 25 blush-pink champagne coupes, each for only $0.99. Bonus: There are several desert locations, and proceeds benefit charity.
Revivals is literally the holy grail of thrifting. There are five locations of this store in the desert, but the one in Palm Springs is my go-to. It's a thrifter's paradise of preloved home furnishings and décor, plus clothing and jewelry. There's junk too, but I almost always find a gem. I once even spied the swan dining table that matched my swan sofa table that I'd just scored at Angel View! You can usually find me in the glassware section, scoring glasses for my bar cart—just like this one. Tip: There's a new furniture section in the back too with some good finds. Bonus: Proceeds benefit Desert AIDS Project."
Lindsay Pennington, Founder of Lindsay Pennington
"Every time I am in New York, I make it a point to visit Wynne City Works, located on what I consider to be one of the best shopping streets in Brooklyn. It has an impressive midcentury furnishings inventory, and I never leave empty-handed. My client and I recently dragged home this end table in an Uber for sofa-side storage, but now I'm lusting after this set of teak dining chairs by Danish designer Niels Møller."
"Casa Victoria in L.A.'s Silverlake neighborhood is an all-time favorite shopping spot. It's a super-eclectic mix of furniture, art, lighting, and accessories, the perfect place to pick up both foundational items (sofas, desks) and accent pieces (lamps, vases, and books) at terrific prices. I always visit Casa Victoria before installation days and routinely stalk their inventory on Instagram when I can't face L.A. traffic. (If you see something you like on Instagram, just call them!) They recently listed a pair of Murano glass lamps by Donghia that have me drooling."
"It certainly can't be much of a secret that Michele Aragon's boutique on Rue Jacob is a must-shop destination for beautiful marbleized tableware of her design (along with a dizzying array of antique textiles and rugs). Since she doesn't have a website, shopping at Michele's in person always feels like the incredibly rare treat that it is. On my last visit, I picked up the most colorful suzani pillow covers for a client's living room and shipped home a set of marble plates to myself to hang on the walls (they're too pretty to eat off). The hardest part is deciding what not to buy."
Have you shopped at any of these vintage stores around the world? Where do you look for rare curiosities and antiques?