Flea markets and Vintage fairs are a virtual treasure trove of perfect one-off pieces for your client’s spaces….. If only you know how to find them.

We have created the below guide in association with IACF (the largest antique and collectors fair group in the UK) to help you navigate and find that special piece. Without a doubt, I have found some of the most treasured possessions for clients, and my own home at flea markets, antique fairs, and charity shops. Each item tells a story of its creation and how it’s been loved, cherished and used. First things first, let’s establish……. what exactly are you looking at  Vintage, Antique, Repro? The antiques fair guide to production will help you differentiate vintage from repro.

Antique ££££ Items are usually over 100 – 150 years old, so working back from 2019 – we are looking at the early 1900s for production.

Mid-century Modern £££  1930s – 1960s, Pieces you would have seen in your grandma’s home, usually extremely heavy to the touch and solid in appearance.   

Vintage ££ Items are usually 20/30 years old, the rule of thumb I use, “do I remember this from my 80s childhood” if yes, the item is officially vintage.

Retro/ and reproduction £ These are a designers Achilles heal, beware if you are looking for a genuine vintage or mid-century product. Often they are copies of the above and were usually created in the early 2,000s, great If you’re looking to create a vintage look for less.

Let start with a Emma Merry Styling’s top tips to shopping the antique fair. We’ll have you walking away with the best bargains, at reasonable prices. Before you start

1: Download a map from the link below, As you shop, mark the booths where you’ve left paid purchases for later pickup as well as those you’d like to visit again in the day. I’ve found that the sellers with the fine antiques are the ones sheltered inside but I usually start outside on the periphery marquees, for me they house the good stuff e.g.: larger European furniture pieces & glassware.

2: Go as early as humanly possible on the first day of the fair for the best selection, as the early bird catches the worm in this case! Once purchased most vendors will hold larger items until the end of the day for you to collect with your car. 3: Stop off at the cash point before you arrive! Cash is king with most of the stand holders, you will be sure to secure the vintage sideboard if you can produce the cash whilst negotiating. 4: Get a cart or trolley, ditch the street cred! The granny trolley is a great place to store all your purchases as you travel around the fair, preload it with bubble wrap or old towels to keep your antiques, secure and dry.  5: Do your homework, make a note of the items your sourcing & approximate size, take a tape measure to the antique fair. It’s likely you will have to make a decision in a matter of minutes and there are no second chances when it’s gone, it’s gone and ultimately there are

Upon arrival

1: Enjoy yourself, I always have the best day when I visit IACF, I particularly love chatting with all the vendors finding out the story & history of how they came to find each piece.  Always be respectful and polite, dealers want to sell their items to nice people, so be that nice person and you will bag a bargain. 2: Once you zone in on your items do check the condition of furniture, lighting, rugs, and other furnishings. Estimate how much time and money each piece will take to repair, and make sure repairs are even possible before you make an offer. I’ve found its worth explaining why you are haggling, explain you are willing to take on the repair work. 3: Huge discounts on the opening morning of IACF just don’t happen. Dealers save the big deals for the end of the final day, That’s when they just want to get home. 4: Never walk away from an item if it’s sparking all the joy!  If you love it, someone else will, so chances are it will be gone when you come back.

If I have a client with limited budget & storage what should I look out for? 1: Midcentury ceramic pots, all colours and all sizes, these are always useful to fill shelves in and around kitchens, bathrooms or living rooms. 2: Novelty items, such as crazy ashtrays, salad bowls, single stem vases! Anything that catches your eye and you think “omg look at this cute piece” It could be the hero in your next room scheme. 3: Anything time-stamped, so obviously from a certain era, 1920 – 30 is my holy grail, whether that’s, fabric, an old movie poster, a sewing box, old telephone, these little touches make a high street interior instantly scream interesting and deep.

How would you use vintage/antique in a modern home design? The texture is the key element when looking at mixing old and new. Identify the similarities in the texture of the old glass wear to that reflected in the new woodwork. I have created the eclectic kitchen mood board based with a product found at IACF to help inspire you in this way

That’s all folks! I really hope you found the piece interesting, and as always I’m happy to answer any further questions you may have or head over to email – emma@EmmaMerryStyling .All images & mood board copyright are owned by Emma merry styling except where noted. Please make sure you credit and link/tag if you use them. Thank you x

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