My Ten Best Flea Market Finds

(**This is a repost from April 2009. My spring flea market fever has set in a little earlier this year, so I thought I’d share this again. Enjoy!)



The key to FLEA MARKET and GARAGE SALE shopping is KNOWING WHAT TO LOOK FOR. And IMAGINATION. So I guess that’s two KEYS, right? 

It can be difficult to pick up an item for sale, and see what it CAN BE instead of what it IS.

So I thought I’d share with you what I look for when shopping.


  1. Frames. I look for solid wood and sturdy construction. Glass is optional. If you’d like to make a TRAY, look for a wood frame thick enough to accomodate the screw on draw pulls you’ll use for handles. I LOVE finding frames with great details, but they’re a PAIN to sand before painting!
  2. Plates. And they’re not just for eating off of. They add great pattern and “curves” to the decor of any room. Look for the shapes and details you like, then use paint and/or decoupage to add the pattern and color you crave. Look here for a junk plate makeover.
  3. Fabric. I LOVE looking through someone’s fabric scraps. Secondhand fabric is easy to clean, if you’re worried about that, and inexpensive. I used a beautiful piece of garage sale fabric to make my dining room curtain.
  4. Furniture. Focus on the shape of a piece of furniture, and look for sturdy construction. Open and close drawers to make sure they operate smoothly. WIGGLE everything. Look behind and underneath. Don’t worry about the color, you can change that. If a piece looks too plain, think of decorative trim or appliques you could add to make the style your own. Here’s an example.
  5. Books. Look for books that match your color scheme and use them to fill in a space, or add height to a vignette. Of course, you COULD read them too. Especially the Dr. Seuss ones. OR, you can find a book with great illustrations and frame the pages as artwork.
  6. Pots. Just check for cracks. Then paint on polka dots, monograms, stencils or stamps to add your personality to your outdoor spaces.
  7. Candlesticks. Find a shape you like and paint away! Don’t even worry about the material, you can paint glass, ceramic, metal and wood candlsticks.
  8. Lamps. Again, find a shape you like, then paint or decoupage to match your decor. Like a more natural or rustic look? Use glue and a wrapping technique to attach jute cording or rope to cover the lamp base. Just be sure to check the electrical stuff and make sure it actually works, ‘cuz I don’t have an idea for a lamp that doesn’t work, do you?
  9. Lampshades. Word is, you can paint lampshades, but I’ve never tried it. I did try covering a lampshade with wallpaper and my glue gun  and it was pretty easy. Make sure you pay attention to the thingy that connects the lampshade to the lamp, or to the lightbulb to make sure it’s compatible with your lamp.
  10. Baskets. I love baskets for storage; old or new and the cheaper the better. I just look for an interesting texture and shape, and make sure there’s no unraveling going on.

And there you have it, these are the TOP TEN items that I look for when garage sale and flea market shopping. This is seriously more fun for me than shopping at Target, Pottery Barn or any of those other silly stores with NEW stuff. There’s the thrill of imagining something fabulously REINVENTED, and NO SPENDING GUILT!


Check out my wish list from last spring here.

Check out the treasures I found last fall, on my last flea market trip too.

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15 thoughts on “My Ten Best Flea Market Finds

  1. I’m really, really hoping the weather will cooperate here this weekend and that someone will have a garage sale! I’m dying over here! Love your tips! You forgot haggle, haggle, haggle! =)

  2. That’s pretty similar to my list. I bought a $3.50 lamp with good “bones” recently and my hubby re-wired it for me. The kit was inexpensive and it took him about 10 minutes with a 2 year old and 3 year old helping him. So, that doesn’t necessarily need to dissuade you from buying a lamp you <3. :)

  3. I had never thought of using frames as the base for a tray!

    Ive got my eyes peeled for a frame at the moment for a project I’m wanting to make, (and yes it will be one of those ornate -so-hard-and-painful-to-sand-jobs)Now I’ll have to look for two because I wanna make a tray now!

    Great idea. Thanks for the re-post!

  4. This is a great list of tips. I never personally thanked you for choosing me as one of your favorites for Kimba’s DIY day…so thanks! Also, if you are interested, I would love to have you join in on my Favorite Things Friday party this Friday! I am just starting it up and need participants!

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