Special Nonexistent Furniture

by Matthew Mead

Matthew is a stylist, writer, author, photographer, lifestyle editor, and noted style expert. Matthew is the official food photographer for the Associated Press and is a regular contributor to Better Homes and Gardens, Real Simple, and Oprah.com. He has also written several books and produced countless magazine spreads and ad campaigns for companies such as Pottery Barn, Dove Chocolate, Target, and Stonewall Kitchen.

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  • Photo Credit: Matthew Mead
  • I'm a shopper. It doesn't matter where, when, or why, but I am always on the hunt for items to help cultivate my personal style. If I'm not online shopping, I'm most likely at a flea market or junk shop looking for deals on items that can be reborn in my home as accents all my own.

    This year, I wrote a book titled Flea Market Finds. It is filled with on how to turn great deals and castoffs into something fresh and new. What I love about flea markets is their versatility. It's a good idea to have a specific item in mind when you set out to shop, but I am always pleasantly surprised when I keep my eyes wide open for the unexpected.
  • Photo Credit: Matthew Mead
  • I purchase items that can be used in a myriad of ways. Furniture, fabrics, table top accessories. I gather baskets for storage, pottery for centerpieces, and glasses and dishes to decorate shelves and set the table. I also use these items as supplies for projects, like paper for decoupage, old linens for dyeing, and all kinds of tables, bureaus, and chairs that can be painted and revived in fresh hues.
  • Photo Credit: Matthew Mead
  • I mix vintage and reborn styles with contemporary and modern pieces found at retail. Old books, art, lamps, and any other interesting accessories form a unique and special style. And you can do that same. Some people think that flea markets are filled with just dusty old items. I like to see it as a field of possibilities with items that can be cleaned, polished and revived with a fresh coat of paint.

    Here's a few ideas from some of my own recent flea market finds:
  • Photo Credit: Matthew Mead
  • Useful and colorful pieces of cookware and bakeware are inexpensive and still fulfill their original purpose. I like to collect these pieces for their vibrant hues and uses in entertaining.
  • Photo Credit: Matthew Mead
  • I made a table out of a metal grate and a sawhorse, while an old butler's tray got a fresh coat of blue paint to create an functional bar stand.
  • Photo Credit: Matthew Mead
  • I found all kinds of mid-century pieces at very low prices to create a useful and contemporary mid-century look. New pillows and lampshades freshen up vintage pieces.
  • Photo Credit: Matthew Mead
  • Simple pieces like a silver-plate pitcher and tray become instant family heirlooms. A plain desk gets an update with paint and some artfully arranged fern stencils.
  • Photo Credit: Matthew Mead
  • Plates, dishes, platters, flatware…everything you need for entertaining can be found and mixed with what you already have or what you can purchase in the marketplace today.
  • Photo Credit: Matthew Mead
  • Photo Credit: Matthew Mead
  • A kitchen cart becomes a bar cart with vintage plates, glasses, and an ice bucket. A glass vase becomes a stylish lamp with a lighting kit from the hardware store and shade made from gift wrap remnants.
  • Photo Credit: Matthew Mead
  • A compote bowl becomes a focal point as a holder for a large ball of twine. A vintage tea box and black floral vase are a stylish pairing on a stainless coffee table.
  • Photo Credit: Matthew Mead
  • A muffin tin doubles as a candle holder for an instant centerpiece.

    I use decorative planters to hold other items besides flowers and plants, like pencils on a desk or manicure tools in the bath.
  • Photo Credit: Matthew Mead
  • An old sea grass handbag has a brand new look dip-dyed in deep pink. Vintage fabrics and linens can inspire fresh color palettes and new ways of experiencing decor.

    A few of my tried and true tips:

    1. Have a budget of how much you can spend. Bring cash in low denominations. Be prepared to ask for a deal and don't be afraid to walk away from an item.
    2. If you see something you absolutely want, make your presence known and don't be afraid to pick it up and hold it to assert intent.
    3. Be open to what you find and buy what you love.
    4. Shop early in the day for the best selection. I get there early and wait in line.
    5. Bring your own: blankets, rope, bubble wrap, shopping bags, and a folding shopping cart for all of your purchases.
    6. Pack some water, snacks and an umbrella for hot sun or rain.

    - Matthew
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