Treasure hunting with Rachel Ashwell

blueberry_crates-10
Floral fabrics give old boxes a classic Shabby Chic look.
Credit: All images by Wynn Miller & Cathy Mogull

Even though it’s been 15 years since Rachel Ashwell’s “Shabby Chic: Treasure Hunting & Decorating Guide” was released, the queen of thrifting still sees people walking around flea markets with the classic tome in hand.

“It’s become a little bit of a flea market bible,” she admits.

Well, navigating those antique-filled aisles just got a bit easier as HarperCollins recently re-released the book in paperback. To further help your scavenging adventures, we checked in with Ashwell for tips on scoring the best trinkets and treasures.

Early bird gets the worm
“Start early. Be there the minute the market is open, if not before. You gotta find those treasures and if you snooze, you lose.”

Have a game plan
“When I go clothes shopping I get overwhelmed if I don’t have my shopping list and end up coming back with nothing. If you’re a specific shopper, then have items in mind.”

Measure beforehand
“Know the size of a table or cabinet you’re looking for, and not just the size of where it’s going live, but how it’s going get there. There’s nothing worse than measuring for a beautiful, big cabinet but it has to go through a teeny hallway.”

RachelAshwell
“Flea market shopping is not instant gratification. It’s not Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware, where you go online and you click and buy 12 things. But I find it the most pleasurable way to shop. In the end, you have collections of pieces with meaning and uniqueness.”

Note the vendor’s location
“If you buy something and want to pick it up later, make sure you write down where you’re going to pick it up from, because, at the end of the day, all those aisles look the same. And write down a phone  number!”

When to negotiate
“Before I even look at a tag, I ask myself, ‘What’s the most I’ll pay for that mirror?’ So I already  know where the price needs to be. If it’s higher than that price, I’ll ask respectfully, ‘I’m sure it’s worth that, but for my purpose I can only pay $50. I don’t want to insult you, but I’d love to buy it for that. If not, no hard feelings.’”

Don’t go crazy with tchotchkes
“As long as an item is beautiful and functional — meaning as long it gets used. I can’t bear curiosity cabinets that are just filled with pretty things that are never going to get used. So make sure it has a purpose before you buy it.”

A little paint does wonders
“I like to find things that have authentic paint on them. I love the original patina. But obviously, if you go to garage sales, you can find these huge tables or cabinets that cost nothing because they’re an awful dark mahogany. Paint can really go a long way with bringing something back to life.”

ShabbyTreasure pb c

Get lamps checked professionally
“No matter what, I always get any vintage lamps and lights checked by a professional, even if they’ve been re-wired. I still go that extra mile just to make certain.”

Watch out for fake distressed pieces
“To me there’s nothing worse than seeing a fake distressed piece where every bit of it is full of flaky paint. There’s a very authentic way that something becomes distressed. It should be distressed in the appropriate places. On a table, chances are it’s going be around certain edges and on the top. Legs on a table don’t usually get that beaten up, so think about it intelligently. ‘If this is going to get beaten up, where would those spots be?’”

Spruce up your finds
“When I find authentic pieces I like to embrace it’s authenticity, i.e. its finish. Then I like to give it a little bit of a new life with perhaps some new or vintage hardware. Also, make sure to clean items well first. I use a big bucket with warm water and soapy suds with a sponge. Sometimes drawers or cabinets are very musty. Try lining them with wallpaper, that gives it a nice fresh feel.”

vintage_turq_table-4
Rachel Ashwell says her favorite place to flea market in the U.S. is
Round Top, Texas.

Shopping tips
Great items to scour flea markets for:

• Wall mirrors

• Lamps, chandeliers

• Cabinetry

• Mixed-matched china

• Candlesticks

• Glassware


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Monday is the deadline to register for Pennsylvania…

If residents want to vote in the May primary, which includes a vote for a new City Council member, today is the deadline to register.

National

Miss America thinks school should reconsider discipline of…

A Pa. student was suspended for asking Miss America to prom.

Local

Aria Health Torresdale workers caught selling prescription drugs

Two Aria Health at Torresdale employees were fired amid accusations they sold prescription drugs out of the Northeast Philadelphia campus.

National

Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter died Sunday from prostate cancer…

Former U.S. professional boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, who spent 19 years in prison for murder and then was released after it was determined he did not get a fair trial,…

Television

Discovery cancels 'Everest Jump Live' special in wake…

The Discovery Channel has indicated it will not be moving forward with "Everest Jump Live," a planned special about mountain climber Joby Ogwyn's effort to…

The Word

'X-Men' director Bryan Singer drama continues

  News broke late last week that "X-Men" and "The Usual Suspects" director Bryan Singer is being sued by a man who said Singer molested…

The Word

Miley Cyrus cancels more dates, tweeting from hospital

Miley Cyrus is reportedly so sick that she's had to postpone more tour dates. We know this because she has been sitting in a hospital…

Music

Loop are, er, um, back in the loop

Experimental noise rock band Loop's three mid-1980s to early-1990s albums, “Heavens End,” “Fade Out” and “A Gilded Eternity,” were mercifully reissued.

NHL

Ray Emery steps up in Flyers’ Game 2…

Sure, he allowed two goals in the Rangers’ first four shots Sunday afternoon, but it’s about how you start, not how you finish.

NHL

Flyers come from behind, even series with Rangers

The Flyers overcame a two-goal deficit to get a much-needed win at Madison Square Garden Sunday.

MLB

Phillies get set for four against the Dodgers

The Phillies will face tough starting pitching out west against the Dodgers this week.

MLB

Phillies notebook: Cole Hamels returns this week

The Phillies should receive a big boost when Cole Hamels returns during the Dodgers series.

Travel

Packing: The one thing you need in your…

A new survey that looks at the travel habits of 50,000 people around the world has revealed that Western and Asian globetrotters have different priorities…

Home

Is your chair making it hard to talk?

Ever wished there was an office chair that could make impromptu meetings and discussions more private? The Cristiana Wing Chair is an asymmetrical armchair which…

Travel

Live large at these luxury hotels

From Thai boxing lessons and macabre Dracula tours to the Australian Outback, the Four Seasons hotel chain launched a series of new travel packages this…

Parenting

4 things that every summer camp should have

Alan Saltz, director of the 92nd street Y program lists things that every summer camp should have.