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My Latest Vintage Haul + HOT TIPS on What to Buy (& Skip) at the Antique Mall/Flea Market



This is a good old fashion vintage “what I bought and why,” “what I realized I didn’t really need so I skipped” with a special edition addendum of “what I ended up not needing and returning and kinda feeling like an A-hole” post. I went to the Pasadena Antique Mall and annex, a frequent of mine when I need a fix. We were doing a sponsored story for our social channels about vintage shopping, but I figured this could easily be a blog post with some tips and general questions to ask yourself when shopping. It helps to have someone there so your solo external processing doesn’t alarm the locals. I’ve been known to grab any warm body that had a couple of hours to spare to come with me simply so it doesn’t look like I’m talking to myself. A Weekend at Bernies sort of strategy could work, as well. I try to implement any Weekend at Bernies strategy when possible. REMEMBER WHEN HOLLYWOOD MADE MOVIES ABOUT FALLING IN LOVE WITH STORE MANNEQUINS AND PEOPLE YACHTING WITH DEAD RICH MEN?

Which brings me to my obvious segue into what I scored and what I overpaid for (and why).

First up: a primitive dough bowl that, TWIST, has legs so it could kinda be a table.

Antique Mall Finds 4

I had been eyeing this dough bowl for MONTHS. The reason I didn’t pull the trigger before was:

  1. I don’t need it. Still don’t.
  2. It’s expensive at $375; if it were $125, I would hoard it for the right project or my future farmhouse.
  3. I don’t really know what to do with it. Sure, I know that back in the day they literally made dough in it and I am marathoning Outlander every night, set in te highlands of 18th-century Scotland, so I think we all know that I’m about to start using my own urine to set the dyes in my indigo tapestries, and therefore making the kids’ birthday cakes in said dough bowl isn’t far behind. But for now…

I thought it could be a GREAT key/purse drop, which I still concur however I don’t have room for it in my entry. We also thought we could put glass on it as a side table, but that sounds kinda weird and it would be high. Maybe a blanket holder? A magazine holder? A bassinet?

Then Brian chimed in with the winning answer: a very large, guacamole making/serving bowl. Obviously.


Ultimately, I bought it on “memo” which means I have 24 hours to try it out and bring it back or they charge my card. They will not do this for everyone, mostly people they know or designers, but it is a nice feature to know that you can move it around your house, try to make it work but if it doesn’t, you are okay.

HOT TIP: Pull the piece out into the cleared hallway, like I did above. This piece was BURIED and it’s hard to see in that messy context, so pull it out and sometimes I even use my hands to block things visually so I can focus on it. I will then often refer to photos of my house on my phone because even though I KNOW what my house looks like, sometimes you need to stare at it to really see/feel if something will work or maybe you’ve forgotten that corner that could use a bit of primitive warmth.

Find out at the end if I own it or if the world’s chicest guacamole bowl is still available to be yours!

Antique Mall Finds 5

ANOTHER HOT TIP: There has to be at least one VERY compelling reason to buy vintage. Either A. It’s a steal (like this vase at $25), B. you NEED IT and C. It’s so amazing and you know you’ll love it forever. If it’s moderately priced, you don’t really need it and it’s cool but not soul-exploding wonderful, then skip it.

This vase was inexpensive at $25 and really big and dark and pretty. I don’t need it but that is a GREAT hoard either for a shoot, future project or when I feel like restyling a vignette in my house.

Now for something I REALLY wanted but I had to channel “logic” and “common sense” to make a decision:

Antique Mall Finds 7

Vintage plastic portable picnic “baskets.” They come in these adorable little spheres with a handle, then inside are cups, dinner plates and smaller plates.

IT’S SO CUTE. The problem is that I’ve fallen victim multiple times to the “sound of music family-picnic fantasy” that rarely happens. When we do go on picnics, we need FAR more than just come cups and plates. We end up bringing a full cooler, with either ready-made sandwiches or plastic containers of garbage pasta salad from Albertsons. We picnic in the backyard all the time, but we don’t need to dirty any vintage plastic for it.

HOT TIP: Without looking, ask yourself what price you would pay, what you feel it would be worth it to you to pay, for YOUR life. The rule is that if it’s over that, you HAVE to put it back. In this instance, I said $30, and the rule is that if it’s over that, you HAVE to put it back.

For these, I said $30, and they turned out to be either $35 or $40 (don’t remember exactly). SO CLOSE. But $30 was already a stretch for something I’d likely only use once, lose all the pieces to then end up giving away. So NO GO.

Antique Shopping Picnic Basket Side By Side

It’s the perfect playful photoshoot picnic set though. I pictured a big white pom pom vintage bedspread as the blanket (as you would with kids), sandwiches wrapped in parchment or maybe little cute white bread tea sandwiches. There would be a cut open bright red watermelon on a platter, vintage plaid napkins, and wooden utensils.

I had it all pictured. Shoot, I need to go back. This is why stylists are hoarders—we can envision the future shot and get a flutter in our belly about how a particular piece will not only be beautiful, but actually make our lives easier. Trying to find this when asked can be hard, hoarding it until you need it, even years down the road, is easier. This is not a tip, it’s just an ugly part of my psyche/reality.

But you know what you should NEVER pass up?

Antique Mall Finds 15

…a vintage French string dispenser. YOU NEED THIS.

I’d like to reiterate: this is why stylists are hoarders. There have been (and will be) so many shoots where I’m styling out a craft space or a desk and you want interesting desk props, and this wooden round container with that string coming out of the top so gracefully, with the perfect loop landing on the desk, is what will impress the art director, photographer and really MAKE THE SHOT.

It was $40. That’s absurd. Did I buy it? MAYBE. (cut to my kids finding it and unwinding all of the vintage French string followed by me screaming about not touching mommy’s vintage French string container—it was a great moment for the family).

Antique Mall Finds 17

Then I found this scrap of primitive indigo fabric for $35. What do you do with a scrap of fabric? Here you go:

  • Pillows, duh
  • A table runner (if cleaned)
  • Layered at the foot of a bed over another blanket
  • Thrown over a simple headboard to dress it up
  • Thrown over a sofa
  • Cut up and stretched over wood for art or simply hung in a very vertical space like a stairway

I could do even one of those highly popular YouTube videos on how to wear a scarf with this. Did you know that people get famous and make millions from videos on how to wrap a scarf around one’s neck? The universe is clearly sending signs that I need to start wrapping my cold neck in primitive yardage and spreading my message to the tween population.


Lastly, more art to hoard.

Antique Mall Finds 20

I bought this from Bonita Interiors within the Pasadena Antique Mall, a vendor I’ve shopped from for years but I didn’t know Angie was a painter. These pieces are my colors. They just LOOK like me, we all know this. And I knew that they would look GREAT in my master bedroom. The problem is that they were expensive, weighing in at $450 a piece. Now, I got a discount (I think 20% off) because I have a relationship and she knew I would post about it but I still think they are worth $450 because of the following reasons:

  1. Materials cost money, and even buying materials takes time.
  2. Talent takes time to cultivate, sometimes over DECADES of learning, experimenting, teaching yourself not to mention any classes or art school that was attended.
  3. Creating a very good color palette is not easy, thus more time experimenting and likely a lot of first drafts.
  4. Actually painting the piece takes time. I don’t know how much but this looks like over 10 hours.
  5. Having it framed is expensive and takes more time/effort.
  6. The stress of putting your work out there, paying for the booth that you sell it in and then merchandising in a way that looks good takes more time (and money).

You get it. If you can paint this yourself for less than $450, sure, go for it! If not, I think that an original painting for $450 is a great deal by a contemporary artist.

Now, onto some less good deals (i.e. what you should skip):

Antique Mall Finds 12

I find vintage 1960s architectural pots all the time and they are so expensive and look 100% like what you can find at the flower market, new. They HAVE to look special in order for you to splurge on them. Those back there were over $100 and were just gray pots. Sure they are old and yes, more important than what’s at the local nursery, but don’t buy something vintage if it’s not special and if a modern day version is actually better and more affordable. Seems obvious, but when you are shopping, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in and tell yourself this vintage pot fantasy, but be careful.

Antique Mall Finds 23

A vintage wood rocking horse, weighing in at $2,700. SKIP!

Antique Mall Finds 24

A “chair”(?) made out of punching bags that had a clear “please do not sit” on it sign, which always cracks me up. You want me to spend $3,400 on a “chair” (or whatever it was, it was in the thousands) and not sit on it? My other favorite sign at an antique mall is “NSF’ – NOT FOR SALE.” It both amuses me and pisses me off at the same time. Being the irreverent rebel that I am, I have challenged this MULTIPLE TIMES, with an “everything has a price” attitude. Sometimes it will be a super boring innocuous bookshelf that MIGHT be worth like $60, but they are all “nope, not for sale,” so I like to challenge back with a “well what If I offered you $1,500?” They say, “well of course I’d sell it then,” where I retort, “then put your top price on it!! Everything has a price!!”

It’s kinda an asshole conversation I realize, but it’s just so annoying when someone has a piece in their booth or even worst at the flea market that is NFS.

So here is the final haul…what I landed on:

Antique Mall Finds 25

Let’s play the “did I keep or return” game:

  1. Dough bowl: For now, it’s back at the mall, but I’m picturing an epic Cinco De Mayo shoot where we need a 65-avocado guac situation (…or more realistically, what if I do actually move to a farm at some point? It’s so sculptural and beautiful and LEGIT…ugh…next to a bathtub with a plant in it, flowing over the sides?).
  2. The vase, white pottery tray ($30, Bennington) string holder, fabric and black spiral sculpture ($60) are all a “hell yes.”
  3. The black Thonet stool was a risk but I love all things Thonet. I don’t think it was too expensive, but don’t remember—I think like $125. But I got it home and tried it in a few places and it wasn’t a hell yes. If it had been all light wood, I could have hoarded it but between the mixed finishes and the scale and the curves, it just felt overly decorative for me without the perfect place to put it. I have SO many sculptural chairs (it’s a thing) so I didn’t need another.
  4. The paintings are a hit and look great in the master bedroom. I think I actually might have only needed one, but I love them together, too.

There you go guys. I hope you learned the importance of using the word “French” when trying to sell overpriced string dispensers and why we should not balk at expensive original paintings.

Please stay tuned for my YouTube channel where I dramatically wrap myself in fabric/scarves, or better yet demonstrate the avant-garde “foot/bed scarf” which is an actual thing that I’d like to both expose and then take down.

***photography by Veronica Crawford

Fin Mark


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Love to see you at the flea! Thank you.
Please tell me about your blouse. Ulla Johnson?


It’s kinda hilarious how you can walk into any antique mall in the country and they pretty much all the look the same. Like I’m on the east coast and the antique malls I go to look EXACTLY like this one. Ha! And you’re right about “vintage French.” I’ve fallen for that line on a piece myself. But still, that string dispenser is cool!! I would have had a hard time returning that dough ball, though I don’t have any great ideas for its use: Plant stand? Magazine holder? Shoe collector (near the front door where people could drop their… Read more »

Erika Otter

Ha, I love this as a shoe collector! Really elevates that pile of shoes by the door all the time!

Michelle rao

Literally laughed out loud xD


Bad news for Emily, good news for me! *grabby hands*


Laughed as well! So funny


Oh good! I didn’t know I needed that in my life, but… maybe I kind of do?


Oh dear! Buyer beware, I guess, but at least she only paid 5 cents over retail.

I totally want one.

OH MY GOD I’M DYING WITH LAUGHTER AND SHAME. OMG OMG OMG. Going to update the post about how even a so called ‘expert’ can be an absolute SUCKER. hahahahahahahahahahahAHA (for those of you who don’t want to click that link, I LITERALLY BOUGHT A USED WILLIAM AND SONOMA NON-FRENCH, BRAND NEW, STILL AVAILABLE STRING HOLDER for more than retail. jokes on me. thank you for finding and posting @Michelle

I’M ELATED – I was immediately jealous of this find, thinking about how cute it would look sitting in my kitchen, ready to dispense twine to wrap my brown paper baked goods. JUST BOUGHT IT. Thank you Michelle.


But you do have total validation about how awesome it looks styled in photos…look at those perfect, graceful loops on the cutting boards in their photos! Just like you said! ????????


Made in Italy so at least it’s European ????‍♀️


hahaha this reminds of Phoebe from Friends loving all the antiques that Rachel was getting from Pottery Barn.


Ha! I immediately recognized this and was going to post that link. And while I love mine for many of the reasons that it appealed to Emily, it takes turns with the potato masher for “reasons why the kitchen drawer won’t open.” :-/


Soooooooooo funny!!


This is hilarious. There is a silver punch bowl (has a grape design in it) that my mom and I always see in antique malls or flea markets. She bought the same one at Costco like 15 years ago (so I guess that makes it vintage?). I guess if you truly love it, it shouldn’t matter if its actually vintage or not.


This reminds me of a pretty World Market carved mirror that I bought for $89, only to stumble across it in an antique store a week later. The owner told me he couldn’t part with it for less than $500 as a friend had found it in Europe and brought it to him many years ago.


As a contemporary artist I really like the break down you did of all of the time and effort that someone like myself puts into a piece of art. Thanks for sharing, the pieces you got are beautiful!


I’m not a knitter but I think the dough bowl could be a knitting table/bowl? Plop a ball of yarn and some needles in it, and you could knit from it directly if it was next to a chair (I think that’s how knitting works, again, not a knitter). But I would style it that way in your craft room, you know, the craft room you’re styling with that vintage french string dispenser. I also love the idea of the guac bowl. Or what about fill it with chips and put a smaller bowl of guac in the middle of… Read more »


My first thought when I saw it was that it was a knitting bowl/stand like my grandmother had, not a dough bowl.


I am a knitter and I was thinking it would be the most beautiful yarn display piece but also practical because it would fit ALL the yarn along with your in-progress project. But I also think most knitters would rather spend that much money on luxury yarn over an expensive “yarn holder.”

I liked one of Emily’s original ideas for putting a glass top on it to create a side table but I guess the height is hard to understand when it’s shown out of context.

Karen T.

This post was a great start to the morning. Happy weekend!

loveley of

these finds are so good. i absolutely would have kept that wood bowl table….. it’s soooooooooo good. and totally looks like something you would style with.


One of my favourite vintage shopping posts yet (though I love them all) – laughed a lot and learned something too 🙂 not super into the dough bowl (sooo big) but I looove the vase and string dispenser – agree with the previous comment about it possible being a good knitting/yarn-bowl (though I’m actually also not a knitter ;)) thanks for taking us along!


Oooo I love the Thonet stool! I’ll take it off your hands, it would look great in my house 😉


As an artist I appreciate your insight into what it takes to make art….the time and materials and experience. Great pieces, btw!

Paula Carr

Me, too. A friend of a friend admired some crochet work I’d done and commissioned a few pieces. Then, she offered me what would have been pennies an hour — excluding the materials cost! If it was an actual friend, I might have let them go for that price, but not to someone I didn’t know. I kept them and eventually gave them away as a gift to an actual friend.


Did you explain to her how many hours of work you put into the pieces – I am just surprised she wasn’t ashamed of offering such a low price, after having commissioned it? I guess our society is warped by the flood of cheap goods from China, India or other countries with lower living standards and we are used to paying actual pennies an hour for craftsmanship without realizing the damage it does to the people creating it.


Whaaaa that’s incredible!!! 😀


It also featured in Friends, in Joey’s fancy apartment that he decorated himself.
It’s actually by a Norwegian designer, Peter Opsvik (who also designed the Tripp Trapp high chair), and a bit of a design classic – it’s been reissued lately in pale wood.

Sonia Quinones

OMG! That’s so damn cool/hilarious.

GAH!!! That’s why its SO expensive. thats hilarious. thank you for sharing (going to share on social – in a ‘who wore it better’ kinda post


Lol! I was going to comment CRAP I WANT THAT CHAIR SO MUCH. And I still do. Best corner armchair ever. It hurts.


FYI, you ride a segway, you do a segue. This was one of my favorite typos of all time.

hahahahahahahahahahahahahah. i wish you could audio record reactions and post here here. I laughed so hard at your comment and its truly just so me to make that kind of mistake (or not know it in the first place). Forever more, I will write SEGWAY, i promise you that. xx


That’s what I was thinking too . . .


I’m glad the guacamole bowl went back; in real life it just doesn’t make sense. But that vintage French wooden string dispenser makes ALL KINDS OF SENSE because A. it’s beautiful B. actually has a real use and C. see A. I would have gone for that textile remnant also. Hello, condo mostly furnished with blue and white pillows and textile fragments. I could clearly never go flea marketing with you because you’d spot all the best stuff first and good luck me arm wrestling it away from you. Love this post. Do it again please. My small condo is… Read more »


I love the old man portraits in the photo where you are showing off your paired paintings. Shout out to whoever put those up! I would love to come visit.


Grew up using that exact same picnic set every summer camping with my family. Pretty sure my mom still has it…


Love your tips Emily. Looks like an amazing shop to thrift at. I need to find some good antique/thrift shops in the Denver area. There is one that I go to, but it’s so hit or miss. You have to look “through” so much that you don’t want before you see that sparkling find shinning at you. Happy Friday!

Connie Camp

I see that dough bowl overflowing with florals, greenery, and right now pumpkins and gourds!!

UGH you are RIGHT. overflowing with white and princess pumpkins would be so beautiful. SHOOT

Debra Yerger

I have the red plastic bowls with picnic set inside. i bought it when my children were small. Bright colors and happy memories of a time long passed.

so you use it a lot??? maybe i do need?


Love this post!! I’m always shopping at the flea market (I’m secretly always looking around and hoping to see you ;-)) and get overwhelmed easily. I will remember this post next time I’m going.

ah. well if you are in LA then we might see each other 🙂


Good call on the dough bowl! Your kids would immediately climb into it and the legs would snap off. At least that’s what my kids would do.


The dough bowl would be awesome in the mountain kitchen as a depository for your farmers market haul…seeing all your vegetables and melons and things that don’t get squished would be art in itself.


That dough bowl is begging to be made into a planter. Drill a few holes in the bottom, put it by your front door full of succulents and other perennial beauties, BAM!

I thought that too!!!! ugh. i need to go back. you all are convincing me.


I desperately need that dough bowl ????.
Will Never Actually Get The Dough Bowl in Arizona

hahaha. i have the funniest commenters on the internet, i laughed like 5 times at all your comments today. THANK YOU. xx

Monique Wright Interior Design

That dough bowl needs to be a planter!! Would look so great with trailing greenery…go back and get it girl! ????


This post was hilarious and fascinating! With two toddlers and a full time job, I don’t think I’ll find time to go to an antiques mall in the next decade. But the design ideas you bring out are good for all shopping, not just vintage shopping, and no one does it in such a funny way as you do. Made my day!

Cris S.

I LOVE this post! I feel like this was written just for me: 1. I’m the person always asking for more vintage/flea market posts and this was a fantastic one 2. Your buy it or not criteria is sooooooo spot on. If I’d done more of this I wouldn’t have spent a bunch of money on stuff that is now blocking my car from getting in my garage and must be sold cheap in a garage sale (thus starting the process all over again for someone else) 3. I bought a bunch of the above stuff because for YEARS we… Read more »

Linda P.

That dough bowl would like GREAT with a plant cascading over the sides. I think you should go back and get it!! And, I swear I saw a black sculptural piece just like that one at HomeGoods the other day. ??


Yes, I saw it at Home Goods too but it was silver. Same though.

WHAT. was I had AGAIN???? it was $60. please tell me it wasn’t that much cheaper at homegoods but I’m sure it was. mother f******cker


Go back and get that picnic set! I think it’s so cool!!


Awesome post! AND I love your clogs! .. target?


Please do more posts like this! Super helpful and one of my favorite posts yet. Although I’ve been shopping them my entire life, it is SO easy to get caught up and buy things you love with no place for some they are usually one of a kind. I love the tip to think of a price before you check the tag, and having pics of your home to visualize (I do this too!). Would love to see more on buying vintage/antique fabric, logistics and tips on buying furniture if the place doesn’t deliver, and any other tips I’m sure… Read more »


Am I the only person that immediately thought the dough bowl would be a great planter for succulents?! Line it with wax paper, use rocks for drainage. It needs very little water and would be so cool!!


If that dough bowl were in my house my cat would be sleeping in it.


Thank you for breaking down the value of original art! When you factor in materials and framing, the artist is practically doing the work for free!
That niftily-designed picnic set is the kind of thing I would bring home for (yes, fantasy) picnics, but then I think this stuff was produced before BPA was banned from plastics…
Fun article!


I just wanted to say I REALLY enjoyed this post, your voice today and the COMMENTS. “I have bad news” with just the link be may the best comedy of the day, so simple, so deadpanned (in my mind). Thanks Emily and EHD community, this made my Friday 🙂


I think that dough bowl is actually a salad bowl. I know someone who has one and actually uses it.


Haha, on the guac bowl. But it would make a great planter, knitting bowl, or storing your farmers market haul as previous commenters said.

I love the design on the paintings but wasn’t crazy about the colors. It looks very dark/brown in the post. But then at the end, the picture taken outside makes it look totally different. I love the colors! Enjoy.


You need to come visit Austin! Shop at uncommon objects ! Great finds await!

Suzanne Bonser

I think your big score is the “scrap of indigo fabric” which looks to me like a hand woven American double weave coverlet-
Not only are these usually heirlooms but in good condition, they can be worth thousands of dollars!


Exactly! It’s not a scrap of indigo dyed fabric. It’s double sided coverlet. They were all over the decor world in the “country blue and duck decor” of the 80s.
Not the $1400.00 kind, but repros were abundant everywhere.


This post could have come straight out of my head. From the flower pots (don’t get sucked into the fantasy!) to the NFS (EVERY ITEM I BEELINE at our local flea market — NFS.) to the kids messing with moms french string dispenser I have a (maybe) helpful rule for vintage plastic. I don’t buy it ever b/c BPA. and I’m ok with that because I almost always need a good solid reason to say NO otherwise, I’m buying vintage plastic picnic goods and then end up sewing misc red pompoms onto some random white sheet because I can’t find… Read more »


Great post, and so true. I tended to buy antique stuff because I found it cute, and then at home I was like “what was I thinking, when do I ever use this?”. Now, I have two kids that have a lot of junk, so I certainly don’t need more of my own. I can’t resist going into these antique malls though, and they look similar all over the country – I have been to those in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and in various places in California. I love looking, these places are like little museums of daily life of the past.… Read more »

Ellen M

OK I am going to show my age. You are my daughter’s age I think by the way. The “dough bowl” is really a Caesar Salad Bowl I think. When I was growing up in LA during the Brown Derby era you went to an expensive restaurant and they made the Caesar salad at your table while you watched — including cracking a soft boiled or raw egg into it 🙂 Your husband was close.


1985……..I can taste that delicious Caesar salad now.
Anchovies? No thank you.
Who could ever finish their dinner after the salad?
So what happened…..the left overs were put into a beautiful tin foil swan made by your waiter.
Thanks for the memories!

Paula Carr

Anchovies are necessary for a depth of flavor and the right saltiness. Anchovy paste is perfect in sauces. You don’t need a lot, and you really don’t taste any fishiness.

Now, an old co-worker of mine loved the anchovy pizza at a place that put WHOLE anchovies with the HEADS and TAILS on them. Now, that’s yuck!


PLEASE go back for the dough bowl! It’s so rad and unique. I totally agree with the other commenters suggesting a greenery/ natural situation going on in it.


hmmm someone already suggested plant stand for the dough bowl, but that’s my best suggestion. I love it.

Paula Carr

I’ve been to the Pasadena Antiques Mall a few times, but it’s a bit of a drive, so I haven’t been in ages. Since The Folk Tree closed, and I can’t combine a trip to both places, I haven’t bothered. There was a great place in Westchester that I got a ton of things from, but it closed years ago, too. Le sigh. I’m always a sucker for original art…even if my particular taste is not precisely the same as yours. I’m sure those paintings look great in your bedroom. We had that plastic picnic ball back in the day!!!… Read more »


That “French” string holder looks exactly like one Williams Sonoma sells for $30 too. Hope yours is truly old!


Is that fabric called linsey-woolsey? (See Wikipedia for description.) I’m not sure if it is but I love it!!!


Please…GO GET THE DOUGH BOWL!!! There are soooo many things to do with that sucker. I would totally use it as a planter or even filled with moss and seasonal decorations. Love that it’s big and gorgeous.

Also laughed so hard at the string holder gotcha. I’m ordering that thing from WS!!


That primitive indigo fabric looks a lot like a woven Welsh tapestry blanket. I like it! Ace & Jig do too. ????

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