If you’re a collector of anything, you know the thrill of a good find. We’ve all heard the stories of garage sale sleuths. The woman who found some valuable antique nestled among odd knick-knacks. Or you have a friend who somehow found a rare artist’s print on the cheap while she was traveling. Even a thrifty little eBay victory can induce the same delightful feeling of pride and accomplishment. The objects that we buy this way, through our cunning and thrift, can develop special meaning to us. We’ve won them, and they give us a story to tell.
Wouldn’t it be great to have more things like that? It’s true, filling your home with unique and meaningful things can be a major challenge. But you can also do better than Wayfair or IKEA (no offense), right? So if you’re looking at objects and decor that are interesting, and more meaningful, then read on. What follows is a collection of shops and markets that feature antique furniture, vintage curiosities, and decorative miscellanea. These aren’t the online retailers, the upscale boutiques, or the trendy vintage shops. Think rougher around the edges (for the most part). So keep your eyes peeled, block out your Sunday afternoon (or your whole weekend), and get ready for a little digging. It’s time to score some gems.
Big Reuse: Reclaimed Cabinets, Salvaged Curiosities
One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Or as they say at Big Reuse, one torn-down barn is another person’s reclaimed floorboards. Big, which stands for “build it green,” has provided adventurous New York design hunters with affordable salvaged goods since 2004. As a result, their inventory is an eclectic mix of vintage bathroom fixtures, appliances, wooden doors, and much more. For example, a recent search pulled up a decorative cow skull, a massage table, and a crystal chandelier– and all at steep discounts! So if you’re looking for a conversation piece, you may well be in luck. Big also eases an environmental burden as well as a financial one. All the used materials you see in their Gowanus or Astoria shops will avoid rotting in a landfill. So there are many reasons you can feel good about your next clawfoot tub or antique dinnerware.
New York Old Iron: Wrought Commodities
While you’re visiting Big Reuse, it might be difficult not to notice its eclectic neighbor along the Gowanus Canal, New York Old Iron. You’re bound to trip over a delightful surprise at this outdoor salvage yard, located underneath the F/G train platform Smith and 9th Street. The collection is the property of the owner, Roy Vaccaro, who is open to negotiating on price. In fact, there aren’t even any price tags, so don’t be shy about haggling for that architectural iron piece. If wood carvings, ceramics, or department store mannequins are more your speed, then fear not! They too are available for sale. New York Old Iron may abound in design gems, but it’s also a treasure in its own right.
Reh Shows: A Cornucopia of Finery
Now say salvaged goods, the delightful and discarded, are not your cup of tea. In fact, you’ve got a taste for the finer things. Used is okay, so long as it has provenance. Eccentric and odd is great, so long as the quality of the object might also pass museum muster. Does this sound more like your sort of alternative shopping experience? If so, you may want to drop by one of the next Reh Shows. Jewelry experts and married couple Brad and Vandy Reh began organizing the shows in 2015. Each event features a select group of high-end dealers who showcase the best of their diverse collections. Objects on display may include paintings, decorative furniture, sculpture, handmade antique rugs, rare books, among designer jewelry, among much more. But make sure you don’t miss this sensory and financial indulgence! The shows are infrequent and they only last one day, like an objets d’art pop-up shop.
Get out of Town! Seriously, Get out of Town.
The preceding shops and shows are all located in New York City. Despite what some New Yorkers believe, there is a world outside the city limits. If you’re a collector of interesting objects, the world may even extend so far as rural Massachusetts! The following destinations are for the intrepid collector or bargain hunter. So if the prospect of a full tank of gas, an empty flatbed truck, and an open eye for possibilities excite you, hop in. We begin our journey in upstate New York.
Madison Bouckville: New York’s Finest (Selection of Antique Merchandise)
It’s the sheer scale of the annual Madison Bouckville fair that widens the eyes. With 2000 vendors stretched over a mile of fields, the fair boasts a robust variety of inventory. There’s something for everyone at the fair, which takes place in August, from the 13t to the 19th. You’re as likely to fine antiques as you are the miscellaneous trinket and bargain find. You may encounter some industrial supplies on one field and then spot some vintage furniture on the next. You might even see some oversized milk bottles and vintage advertising along the way. You can even grab a nice bite to eat. There are plenty of local food vendors on hand for a meal or a cool drink to beat that August heat.
Elephant’s Trunk: An Experience You’ll Never Forget
You may have to cross state lines to get there, but the trip to the Elephant’s Trunk Flea Market is very convenient. Located in New Milford, Connecticut, Elephant’s Trunk is only a two-hour drive from New York City. And unlike many an outdoor antique show, Elephant’s Trunk is open for business every Sunday. So you don’t have to wait to get your fill of high-quality antiques and vintage merchandise. The show is more modest in size, with about 500 vendors, but the selection is still vast. What began as a group yard sale back in 1976 has now become a destination for both New Yorkers and New Englanders. It’s also gained some healthy publicity through its frequent features on HGTV’s Flea Market Flip™. Just don’t bring any pets when you go! They’re very clear about that.
Brimfield: Those Who Know, Go
For both professional and non-professional designers, visiting the Brimfield Antiques Market is something of a pilgrimage. Founded in 1957, the market is the longest-running outdoor antique show in the country. It’s also the largest, with over 5000 dealers represented. The show takes place in Brimfield, Massachusetts, for three weeks a year in May, July, and September. What will you find at Brimfield? Among other things, you’ll encounter furniture throughout the ages, vintage textiles, fine porcelain, fine and folk art from all over the world, miscellaneous memorabilia, model trains, old clocks, weird butter dishes, you name it! The design community celebrates and romanticizes the Brimfield market for a reason. It’s a true delight. Do yourself a favor and stay for the weekend, if you can. There is so much to explore and appreciate, even if you can’t bring it all home.
- Big Reuse: Reclaimed Cabinets, Salvaged Curiosities
- New York Old Iron: Wrought Commodities
- Reh Shows: A Cornucopia of Finery
- Get out of Town! Seriously, Get out of Town.
- Madison Bouckville: New York’s Finest (Selection of Antique Merchandise)
- Elephant’s Trunk: An Experience You’ll Never Forget
- Brimfield: Those Who Know, Go