Flea markets are one of our favorite places to hunt for hidden home treasures. (Just take a peek at our advice for finding all the best stuff.) But their often-sprawling layouts and intimidating diversity means they can also be a hot bed of buyers remorse. All too often, items that read quirky-cool out of context can end up being all wrong for your actual style once you get them home. One category that even newbie foragers can easily master, however, is artwork.
It's usually affordable and easy to transport and, best of all, can stand in opposition to the rest of your stuff and still look totally intentional. An oil painting in a spare loft space? On point. A vintage auction poster in a cutesy country cottage. Done and done. Scroll down to learn the five most common types of art you'll encounter at the flea market and how to decorate with them.
The Quirky Portrait
Old oil portraits are perhaps the most prominent medium on the flea market circuit. Whether you're seeking a stately aristocrat in a gilded frame or a more abstract, low-key work, there's something alluring about buying—and displaying—a painting of a stranger, whether it stands alone, or is layered in a collection, as above. Interest peaked? Check out 16 more ways to display vintage portraits.
The Metal Wall Sculpture
Most often found in a brass finish and sporting an undeniable 70s vibe, the mounted sculpture belongs in the same throwback camp as woven wall hangings. In her Nashville bungalow, stylist Ruthie Lindsey cleverly paired several vintage gold-tone accents for a statement-making bar cart vignette. Fair warning: executed less expertly, these can look like you moved into grandma's place and didn't bother to redecorate.
The Vintage Map
A rather ubiquitous design element in this day and age, the vintage map is easily sourced at the flea market or even garage sales, and often sports fun details like aged paper or tattered edges. Lisa Sherry made a faded Paris map the centerpiece of her living room vignette. Avoid fakes at all costs as they undeniable read as cheesy.
The Old Advert
Always charming and often hilarious, vintage print advertisements abound at many flea markets and secondhand shops. Depending on your style, even designs from the 70s and 80s can work as artistic accents. In Odette Williams's Brooklyn townhouse a print ad for men's underwear makes a punchy accent on open shelving.
The Animal Accent
The rise in faux animal trophies (plaster, wire, and paper versions abound) has made the taxidermy trend appealing to the animal-loving masses. At the flea market, you're more likely to spot real-deal vintage hunting accoutrement, such as this buck found in Ari Heckman's Long Island home.