Since we've moved, I've made a point to try and hit as many flea markets as my weekends will allow. There's nothing quite like the thrill of finding exactly what I want at a price that feels like highway robbery.
And though I've found some big-piece furniture items on lucky runs, it's the tchotchkes and trinkets that add sentimentality to our home. Here, the under $15 items that get me to open my wallet.
Vintage frames and/or prints: I'll often rely on vintage frames to fill in awkward gaps on my gallery walls. Custom frames are often expensive, and neutral ones are available en masse at the flea. I look for varying sizes in colors like black, white or gold and remind myself to visualize the frame without the print it may already contain. I'm always surprised at how different a frame can look around a poster I love. (Though admittedly, some of my favorite old prints have been found in hideous frames, too).
Antique bottles: These antique bottles may have held perfume, medicine, or spices in a past life, but in their current state make for an ideal bud vases. A single stem on my bedside table or next to the kitchen sink can make a dull space suddenly brighter. The best part? They're $3 a pop.
Knobs and pulls: When buying new furniture isn't in the cards, I'll pop over to a big bin of knobs and pulls to spice up an old set of drawers on the cheap. Since these pulls are not too precious, I can buy a multitude of shapes and then spray paint them in a uniform color like gold or black.
China: Something else I stock in spades: mismatched bowls, cups and plates. There are vintage bowls sitting on nearly every countertop in my home that act as catch-alls for things like loose change and jewelry, or to corral odds and ends. Dainty cups make for much prettier toothbrush and makeup holders, while mismatched china plates can make even the simplest cake seem a tiny bit fancier.
Vintage Matchbooks: If I were to be known as a collector of sorts, it'd be for my embarrassingly large assemblage of candles. And vying for the first place spot would be my equally massive collection of colorful matchbooks. I leave them in a bowl on the coffee table and they're great fun to look through. They've acted as a conversation starter when house guests recognize an artist, restaurant, or city printed on the cover.
Candlesticks: My friend Rachel uses vintage candlesticks for casual dinners and it makes even a night of pizza and beer seem so much more grown up. She gifted me a set, and when I want to expand my hoard, I set out to the flea. They add serious wow factor to our dining room table (even if it is a Wednesday night, and dinner was delivered).
Salt cellars: Though these salt cellars have an entirely functional purpose in the kitchen, I've started to amass a collection of these to house dainty earrings, necklaces and rings. They're an unobtrusive way to keep my jewelry in order when I want my counters to look pared down.
Sunglasses: I'm notorious for losing sunglasses and though I've splurged on a couple, the majority of them are not pricey. I've found the best way to get a high quality lens without the hefty price tag is at the flea. I'll look for designer brands (I can't say no to vintage Dior) cut in timeless styles like a cat-eye or aviator shape.
Bottle openers: I stock up on vintage bottle openers as simple gifts. When someone throws a housewarming party, I'll tie these onto the necks of some good craft beer with some ribbon.
Fabric and pillows: Entertaining outdoors in the summer is one of the season's biggest treats. For my friends that like to hang out after dinner is over, I'll throw over-stuffed pillows onto chairs and onto our porch steps so people can lounge. Since these go outdoors, I look for durable ones with bright fabric to hide any dust.
Globes: I was entirely fascinated by globes when I was in elementary school, but now that there are a plethora of maps available online, these have lost their luster in many classrooms. I collect them to remind myself of the traveling I want to do and the great big world I have yet to see. If you have an empty spot on a shelf that needs to be filled, a vintage globe or figurine can make a big statement.
Some of Los Angeles County's best flea markets:
Santa Monica Flea Market (1st and 4th Sunday of every month)
Melrose Trading Post Flea Market (Every Sunday)
Long Beach Flea Market (3rd Sunday of every month)
Rose Bowl Flea Market (2nd Sunday of every month)