The most evocatively styled homes are a slow and winding process. Furniture is acquired and added, rather than purchased en masse; collections are assembled and objets moved from shelf to dresser to coffee table in an ongoing process of vignette-composition.
In other words, an evocatively styled home is a journey not a destination, and the most evocative of all include elements of literal journeys, as well as metaphoric ones. What better a travel memento than one you can take pleasure in every day?
Combing the world’s great flea markets can yield just the right treasure to complete a collection (or begin a new one). Here are three that we recommend visiting.
Rose Bowl Flea Market
Where: 1001 Rose Bowl Drive, Pasadena, California
When: Held on the second Sunday of every month. Go in the morning for the best wares – some vendors arrive as early as 5am.
Why: The terrain is vast and the merchandise varied at this legendary flea market, which typically holds around 2500 stalls. Be prepared to sift, sort and rummage through old toys, piles of tires and collections of hats that have frankly seen better days, and you’ll be rewarded with the gems. Interior designers such as Emily Henderson like to frequent Rose Bowl Flea for the mid-century furniture and the quirky accessories. If sensory overload becomes too much or you have limited luggage space, home in on the classics such as silverware, cut crystal and beautiful vintage linen; if you’re really lucky and believe in interiors destiny, you’ll even find a piece embroidered with your initials.
Pro tip: bring cash. The entry fee is cash only and having hard currency will put you in a better position to bargain, once you find something you love.
Lewes Flea Market, Sussex, England
Where: 14a Market Street, Lewes, BN7 2NB
When: Daily, year round
Why: Humbly billing itself “The Famous!” Lewes Flea Market, this two-storey vintage wonderland is housed in a converted church in the historic town of Lewes. Tucked in the southeast corner of the country, it’s a bit over an hour from London on the train, or a couple of hours by car. The distance does more than whet your appetite for the antique and mid-century gems on offer, it also means the prices are considerably cheaper than in London. Much of the furniture is unrestored, so bring your best eye and a sharp imagination to see the possibilities inherent in a “deconstructed” French armchair, or a 1960s chest of drawers that’s badly in need of a little love.
Pro tip: There is some wonderful furniture here, so keep a moving van and/or shipping container on standby.
Clignancourt Market, Paris
Where: 124 rue des roses 93400 Saint Ouen
When: Saturday to Monday
Why: As markets go, this is the grand dame. Le Marché aux Puce de Saint-Ouen, as it’s officially known, is the largest market in France, thanks to it actually being comprised of 15 separate markets. Several days are needed to cover the entire area, but part of the joy is in being le flâneur and simply winding your way through the hodge-podge of storefronts and tables set up directly on the street. The prices are high but the quality here can be very good, particularly if your taste runs to European vintage furniture. For a more affordable memento, look for old posters and illustrations that pack flat and can be framed once you return home.
Pro tip: Do as the Parisiennes do and wear your handbag slung across the body. It not only looks très chic, it also means you’re less likely to fall prey to the notorious pickpockets who also frequent the market.
Written by Michelle Bateman