Flea Market Style: Book Review

Stumbling upon a flea market is rather like discovering a long-lost box of treasures in the attic: venture inside and you'll discover a world of things you never knew you wanted! Going to flea markets has become something of a weekend passtime for millions of Americans and Europeans; there's just something about looking through piles of old books whose pages have been turned a million times, or wandering through a rainbow of vintage furniture that leaves so many of us thrilled and inspired.

The problem with flea markets, often times, is that we leave with one or two random pieces, never quite sure what we'll do with them, where we'll put them or how it will be received by our significant others once we bring it through the door. All we know is that we love them and that we had to have them.

Thankfully, Flea Market Style, a glorious little book by Emily Chalmers and Ali Hanan helps us put our love of flea market finds into perspective and gives us an inside look at rooms - indeed, entire houses and apartments! - that have successfully mastered the art of creating a flea market style at home. Whether your space is modern or rustic, there is room for flea market treasures. It's just about choosing carefully.

My new apartment in Toronto is not the least bit modern. It's located in a building that was constructed in the 1920s with Art Deco elements all over the place. It has archways and tall, narrow windows, creaky hardwood floors and a bathroom laden with light green subway tiles. It lends itself perfectly to a clean, boho-chic look I've been dying to try my hand at for ages now. So, that's the approach I'm taking to its decoration - never forgetting my inherrent minimalism and my need for space. (A clutter bug, I am not!)

What I love about the book is its easy approach to bringing flea market finds together and its tips on what to consider when you go to a flea market looking for pieces for your home. The carefree nature of flea market style, while refreshingly casual and brimming with character, should not be taken simply at face value; there are guidelines and quiet rules that any decorator wanting to attain that shabby-chic look must follow to avoid falling into the dreaded "anything goes" trap, which could result in rooms that look hideously neglected rather than artfully considered.

It's about careful selection of pieces at the flea market, a deep understanding of your space (layout, light, display structures, colour) and your needs, both as a designer and as a practical dweller: buying a vintage pod chair for $500 may not be the greatest investment for a mother of three when a gorgeous 60s sectional could be had for the same price.

I urge anyone who loves eclecticism and vintage looks to have a browse through this beautiful book. It will make you want to skip to the nearest flea market as hastily as possible!

This collection of colourful bowls has been carefully cherry-picked over several years from a flea market in Brussels. The owner displays them on open shelving in her kitchen, row upon row.
So much about the flea-market look has to do with furniture arrangement and the display of collections. This old chesterfield was just a skeleton of wood and springs when it was found. Now fully reupholstered, it has a carefree elegance that lends itself perfectly to the rusticity of this old room. A collection of dog prints on the walls gives the room a gentlemanly air.
Flea market style doesn't have to mean clutter and clash. In this spare dining room a table and chair set from the 60s blends nicely with a pair of pendant lamps for a retro-modern look. The "masterpiece" on the wall is actually a piece of old linoleum flooring hung from a pair of sturdy bulldog clips attached to the wall with nails: that hit of the unexpected is key to the look.
I love this room! That QE II print alone is enough to endear the space to my heart! Metal-rimmed furniture from the 70s and a boldly printed pillow give the space its modern edge. Playing with scale and monochromatic elements infuse it with quirky drama.

Cereal anyone? Pick a bowl, any bowl. The delightful display of this enormous collection of vintage dishware, gathered over a decade of flea-market excursions, lends this loft kitchen an air of extreme drama, texture, depth and scale.
A secret workspace in this loft is kept separate from the rest of the living spaces by a curtain of stitched scarves and tea-towels. Galvanized storage shelves and a heavy metal desk provide beautiful contrast, as well as a utilitarian work area for this crafter.
Display is so much a part of the flea-market look. This rustic old cabinet holds a bevy of flea market finds. Isolating your flea market collections to one area, or even one cabinet in the corner of a room, is a fine way to limit the look while still providing the eye with a focus of interest.
Another space I adore! This long farm table and its collection of wooden swivel chairs provide just the counteraction necessary to make that old steel filing cabinet pop from the wall. The blend of the wood with the metal (also in the lamps overhead and the bases of the chairs below) gives the room a tactile, utilitarian look that lends itself perfectly to working.

1 comment:

Kenn said...

I LOVE the farmhouse 'conference' table space!! What a great environment to work in! I may have to check out this book... it looks interesting. Thanks Andrew!