Friday, March 2, 2012

Something to look for at the Flea!

I think it is so nice to have something new to look for and collect at the flea market,  and I especially feel that using those items in new and unexpected ways make them feel fresh, customized, and thoroughly modern. Our new Flea Market Finds book is full of this type of decorating: we take vintage items and breathe new life into them with paint, style, and impromptu ideas.  Here are some ideas with lace that we think are fun and engaging:

1. Fashion Show: We've dressed up  a simple club chair - upholstered in painters canvas - with a large lacy tablecloth, an embroidered throw, and a vintage pillow that was found unstuffed. These monochromatic pieces instantly transform a simple chair and give it texture, interest, and a hearty dose of unique style. You can find these pieces inexpensively and in decent condition at flea markets, yard sales, and church bazaars. You may also want to check out your mother's attic, as some of these items were popular right up until the mid-1960's.  

2.  This pillow is graphic and textural, and the layering of textured pattern upon pattern provides an unyielding adventure for your eyes.

3. We dressed up pillar candles using humble placemats. Simply wrap around candles, and close the seam with some natural jute twine interwoven in the lace pattern and tied with a knot.

 And now, here is my list of what to look for and what to do at the flea market:

1. Look for box lots of linens; they often are inexpensive treasure troves of mismatched items that can hold one or two stellar pieces.
2. Most staining on fabric can be removed with whitening agents, so don't let that keep you from buying something that you love (I borrowed a bed spread from my sister for a photo shoot that was a dingy shade of beige; and once soaked in Borax, it was pristine white).
3.  Make sure fabric and lace pieces are not too badly torn, cut, or dry and brittle - unless you are only looking for small swatches.
4.  You can always dye tired fabrics:Watch for an article on dyeing vintage fabrics in our upcoming Flea Market Finds book to learn how, and customize all of your lace and linen.
5.  Once clean and dry, store your lace pieces on tissue-wrapped cardboard rolls (discarded gift wrap rolls work well).

**For other ideas for reusing, recycling and revamping flea market treasures, check out Flea Market Finds.
Happy Shopping!


Flea Market Finds with Matthew Mead is available for order via and .


  1. many a box of linens have followed us home from an auction or flea market! some I just can't part with...others get turned into beautiful cushions slipcovers or bed coverings!..Crochet ones are the best! so much work goes into them....Thanks for such a pretty picture!

  2. wonderful ideas! I inherited a very large lace tablecloth crocheted by my great-great grandmother. It is quite stiff and a light brown shade... I'm wondering if you could recommend a resource for learning more about how to care for vintage lace? would love to try to clean it (maybe it was originally white?) and I'd also love to see more ideas about what to do with it... I'm very torn between wanting to enjoy it versus being worried about it getting stained or damaged. Thanks!

    1. Designer Tricia Foley's wonderful book Linens and Lace is a treasure trove of ideas and practical care ideas. You could use your piece as a wall or window hanging or even a canopy on a bed. Good luck! Matthew

  3. Great idea to dress up plain pillar candles! So easy yet so refreshing and spring-like in appearance. Love it!

    Thanks for the inspiration!


We love to hear from our readers and friends! Thank you for taking the time to talk to us.