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
National

Woman dies when run over by bus at…

A woman at the Burning Man arts and culture festival in the Nevada desert died on Thursday when she was run over by a bus carrying participants.

National

Texas parents sue day care center for duct…

By Marice RichterDALLAS (Reuters) - A Texas couple has filed a lawsuit against the owners of a Fort Worth-area day care center seeking $1 million…

National

Santa Fe city council votes to decriminalize marijuana

By Joseph KolbALBUQUERQUE N.M. (Reuters) - Santa Fe on Wednesday became the latest U.S. city to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, with lawmakers in the…

International

Egypt queries Mursi over documents "leaked" to Al…

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt is investigating jailed ex-president Mohamed Mursi in connection with documents that judicial investigators say were leaked to the Qatar-based Al Jazeera…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…

Movies

Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.

Movies

Criterion's new Jacques Demy box mixes the light…

Jacques Demy, the most effervescent of French New Wave filmmakers, gets a Criterion box all to himself, with classics like "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg."

Entertainment

Comedian Joan Rivers, 81, rushed to New York…

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Acerbic comedian and fashion critic Joan Rivers was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York on Thursday after she reportedly…

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…

Wellbeing

4 healthy ingredient swaps to make your meals…

When it comes to eating well, everyone knows they could be doing better. But cooking in an apartment on a busy schedule is a recipe…

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…