I used to think antiques were weird and fussy. My grandmother was an avid collector and while I liked sifting through her vintage jewelry, I wasn’t a big fan of the dusty dishes or worn furniture. I fantasized about a house filled with shiny new furniture, just purchased rugs and pottery barn dishes. Even my dollhouse had a tasteful, victorian aesthetic with newly manufactured furniture only reproduced to look like antiques.
My freshman year in high school, my friends and I embraced thrift store shopping with a vengenace. My parents wisely viewed this as a phase and allowed me the “creative” space to find myself. We visited thrift stores all around the Central Valley, picking up old bowling shirts with long forgotten names stitched across the lapel and ringer tees with weird sayings on them. I went through my Dad’s closet, scoring such finds as a velour striped sweatshirt and a hand tooled leather belt with a sunset design. I loved looking different from everyone else and took pride in my eccentric ensembles.
In college, I still wandered thrift stores but I was looking more for things I could pass off as new, rather than vintage treasures. I wanted to fit in with my sorority sisters and upperclassmen and knew instinctively that anything different or weird would be shunned. When my mom offered me my Nana’s dining room table for my first off campus apartment, I took it relunctantly knowing it didn’t look anything like the new Cost Plus models my friends all had. Luckily my older and impossible cool roommate declared it “gorgeous” and I felt a glimmer of pride that I had something else no one else had.
Years later, I could kick myself for showing little interest in some of the items my mom inherited from my Grandma and Nana. She is a very practical woman who eschews saving things if they don’t have an immediate purpose, and so a lot of things I would now love, were given away. During wedding planning, my mom was often heard exclaiming, “Oh we had something that looked JUST like that before I got rid of it!” She made up for it by finding a pristine box of lace from her own wedding dress and loaning us her beautiful vintage cake topper.
Now as I set up my first newlywed nest with my beloved husband, I am drawn to vintage furniture like a moth to a flame. For one, it’s so economical and green to buy things that would otherwise go into a landfill. After reading countless shelter blogs I am a firm believer that every piece of furniture on the planet can be re-purposed into something gorgeous with a fresh coat of paint and new hardware. I’ve convinced Roem to haul furniture home that we found on the side of the road and pleaded with him to see my “vision” at garage sales.
This whole post has been written to lead up to this absurdity: I woke up voluntarily at 7:30am to attend a flea market this past Sunday. And it wasn’t the first time. My parents and I attended the Alameda Flea Market and it is such a magical, wonderful place that I only hesitate to tell you about it because it may increase the already insane traffic. That being said, not even the nearly hour wait to get in and out of the parking lot can dampen my love for this incredible flea market.
I suggest you bring water and some emergency fruit because you really have no idea how long you will be there. Coat your pasty skin in sunscreen even if it’s windy and overcast and wear comfortable shoes. If you bring a luxury vehicle (such as a nearly new honda accord with leather seats, ahem, parents) then be sure and grab some rope and a blanket. I’ll explain later.
I really can’t imagine anyone not liking the Flea Market, unless you are my brother-in-law who describes the one Sunday I dragged them along for a wedding shopping trip as, “the worst day of his life”. Both he and my sister have incredible taste, but it does not run to mid century stereo cabinets cum entertainment consoles, they prefer things new. Even if this more closely resembles you, I know you will still be able to find some treasure such as a cool bag or painting.
The market has lanes that are alphabetized and runs A-Z before it doubles up AA-KK. It’s a lot of rows and rookies may not be able to make it to the end. Be warned, I tend to purchase items towards the latter half of the trip, not sure if they have better things towards the back or if I just work up the courage to blow $60 on a 1960s medicine cabinet. Which may have housed a pair of artificial legs complete with socks and shoes and Roem said looks just like, “a cabinet”. He still doesn’t see its potential for a bar, bathroom cabinet or side table. Sigh. Good thing I didn’t come home with the old school lockers I was thisclose to buying for our entry way. Also note the amazing 1950s hand cranked ice crusher I got to accompany my bar cabinet. Currently it’s in the running for my favorite possession.
In addition to these amazing finds, I was forced to give up on the most incredible Zenith stereo cabinet because my Dad said it, “wouldn’t fit”. I confess I threw a fit worthy of any two year old and insisted it HAD to fit because I WANTED it! Alas, it would not have fit and I still have not received a call from my BFF Walter to announce it is now mine because it didn’t sell by the end of the day. That’s another tip, don’t go there looking for furniture if you arrived in the aforementioned luxury sedan with leather seats. Take a pickup truck or a convertible.
The Alameda Point Antiques Fair runs rain or shine on the first Sunday of the month. I’ll be there next week with my Zipcar pickup, a wad of cash and a (un)willing husband looking for that stereo console.