The design dealer makes a case for shopping at markets and shares some sage advice for finding the best pieces
Given the choice of a freezing cold market and an egg roll, or a piping hot homeware store and some Swedish meatballs, what would you choose? For me the market wins everyday, rain or shine – not just because I love them so very much, but because I truly believe they’re one of the most human and ethically minded places to spend your money. They’re filled with things that other people won’t have; things that once belonged to someone else; things that have a story and are sold by real people not some massive corporation.
Truth be told, I find markets to be some of the most exciting places on this earth. I love the moment before the vans unload and you’re stood there grinding your teeth with total mad anxious anticipation, longing for a rare, postmodern design to come falling out at your freezing feet… Mostly, though, it’ll be something like an early 00s shabby-chic French wardrobe or a yellow chipped formica coffee table with rusty legs.
But, for all the yellow chipped formica coffee tables they’ll be Josef Hoffmann occasional tables, Memphis-era black gloss and yellow dining room sets with matching pendant lights, hand-painted, trompe l’oeil objet d’arts – totally one-off, never-find-again pieces. This is what makes markets truly magical places, where anything you have ever dreamed of might turn up and who would want to miss out on that... not me!
Here are my top five tips on how to do markets properly...
1. Early bird catches the worm
Believe you me, no truer saying applies to markets – don’t miss out on the find of a lifetime for an extra half hour in bed. You snooze, you lose.
2. Bring cash
This may sound stupidly obvious, but you would be surprised the amount of times I've gone to markets with friends and overheard them say to a dealer “do you take card?” at which point I’ve walked off head hung in shame. Markets are the last bastions of good old-fashioned money where cash is king – iZettle and PayPal have no place in this realm. If you want to get a good deal and avoid looking like a prat, bring cash and plenty of it.
3. Don’t buy the first thing you see
I can’t stress this enough. I don’t know when and if I’ll ever learn to follow my own advice, but the first is the worst. Think very hard before you part with your cash, remember it’s the dealers’ first sales so they are probably asking way too much. There is still lots more to see, if it’s still there on your second lap round, chances are you’ll look over and think it’s bloody awful.
4. Ask questions
It’s always good to ask questions about something you’re going to buy – ask the provenance of the piece, its age, how did they came to own it? It’s not being nosey, it’s being interested and being interested means you won’t get a bad deal and the dealer is more likely to remember you next time and give you an even better one.
5. Haggle, haggle, haggle
Always, always haggle and never offer the asking price – that’s absolutely no fun at all. Dealers love a good barter and punters like us love a good bargain and there is no shame in that.