Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Vintage shopping: DC Big Flea Antiques & Collectibles Market

When I talk to people about how they got into antiques, most mention a family member. Usually it's mom or dad or an aunt or an uncle. They remember combing antique stores, thrift stores, yard sales and barns as children when everything seemed like such an adventure. And even though we're all adults now, we still like adventures, right?

A mid century walnut storage piece out of North Carolina from
my favorite mid century dealers from Hunt Country Antiques. Email them for details.

Smoking sets from my favorite mid century dealers from Hunt Country Antiques. Email them for details.

My story is a bit different. I didn't have any relatives who were into antiques that I'm aware of. My grandmother on my mother's side was very involved with Little Sisters of the Poor in San Francisco and so we'd occasionally go to their annual White Elephant Sale to see Bama, but it wasn't like thrifting was a part of our weekly or monthly routines.

Vintage English style riding boots (and western boots) from $20-100.

No, I discovered antiques while perusing Craigslist for a dresser. That dresser led to another dresser. And, um, another dresser. Finally I had run out of space for dressers and decided to branch out from Craigslist, which led me to the DC Big Flea, my very first exposure to the world of antiques & collectibles. The first thing I bought was a set of Culver glassware that matched the glasses my grandmother had while I was a child. The DC Big Flea is a huge market in a warehouse-size building in Chantilly, Virginia that is reportedly the largest antiques and collectibles show in the Mid-Atlantic.

Mr. Bob's Antiques had these gorgeous Hollywood Regency style faux bamboo end tables -- $165 for the pair.

That said, the DC Big Flea has had its ups and downs for me. After 2008 when the economy took a turn, a lot of dealers stopped coming, went out of business or stopped bringing their best stuff. Several of my favorite mid century modern dealers stopped coming due to age or cost or lack of sales or all three.

Super cool wire chair from potwired54 for just $250.

I loved these, but thought Doug would think they're creepy. Sadness. Also from potwired54. $25 each.

However, the show seems to have turned a corner. At least this month's show, which took place last weekend, was better than I'd remembered. This is not generally the place to find your fine antiques. Many of the dealers are novices and most of the wares are of decorative quality. You'll see a lot of shabby chic pieces, some buy-and-sell reproductions from China and a lot of over-restored or refinished wood furniture.

Pyrex Passion's first time at DC Big Flea. Hope to see them again! And check out their fantastic book!

That said, there are still some gems, which I've shown here, and some great bargains, even on first quality pieces. Having a lot of the same dealers every time means that you get to know people, which comes in handy when you want to negotiate. Plus if you're looking for pieces you can use everyday, items for craft projects or the right thing to fill a space, you can't beat the selection or the prices.

Type, silverware & hooks from Cockley Antiques, perfect for upcycling.

Three vintage suitcases for $35? Yes, please! Also from Cockley Antiques.

This time around I bought a Gustavsberg Afghan Hound by Lisa Larson for $25 and a white mid century plant stand for $12 that I think may go in the bedroom. I'm not sure I love it white though. It might need to be gold. We'll see when we start the official makeover in there.

Gustavsberg Afghan Hound by Lisa Larson from Fair Lady Estate Sales

Plant stand from Buckeyes & Bluegrass, which easily had the nicest booth at the show.

It's been a while since I've visited the DC Big Flea on a regular basis, but this was a really good show. If you're interested, the next one will be November 2-3, 2013.

Have you ever been to an antique show? Why or why not?



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