Bob and Cortney Novogratz are a design duo—and parents to seven children—who recently bought a 1920s-era castle in the Hollywood Hills. Check back regularly on PEOPLE.com as they blog about the rewards, risks, messes, and successes of the project, giving their expert tips and tricks for home renovation. You can follow them on Twitter at @TheNovogratz or on Facebook.
We’ve been going to flea markets for 25 years.
It’s something we’ve always loved doing together, and that we now love doing with our kids. It’s a great way to spend a Saturday or Sunday even if you don’t buy anything, and it’s great people watching.
From all of our years frequenting flea markets, we’ve got a few tips to help make your adventure as easy and enjoyable as possible:
1. Get there really early — some fleas are open as early as 6 a.m. The great things get sold first, and you don’t want to miss out.
2. Bring a big cup of coffee — you’ll need it to deal with the big crowds and endless booths.
3. Buy what you like — your gut instinct is usually right.
4. Don’t take the vendor’s first offer; if he asks for $20, offer $10. You can always walk away and come back later.
5. Definitely bring your kids- it’s a great activity for them too. Get them to hunt for something, like vintage baseball cards or dolls, to buy yourself some extra time in the hot sun.
6. Speaking of sun, put on SPF.
7. Do your due diligence- ask questions about what you’re buying. Not only are you finding out about the quality of the piece, you’re learning its history, which is half of the fun.
8. Bring cash; a lot of vendors don’t accept cards.
9. If you find yourself at a flea market in a different country, bring a pad of paper and pen so you can negotiate your price without knowing another language. I’ve even negotiated for handmade necklaces on the beach by writing in the sand.
For this project in Austin, we used a lot of vintage pieces. We found these horse shoes, which were so Texas and so appropriate, and used them as wall art. Some flea market booths carry old rolls of wallpaper, and there’s often not enough. Pair it with a complementary wallpaper and you’ve got gorgeous, interesting stripes. These chairs were also a great find. We loved that the chairs felt lived-in, and not perfect. They looked like they had been at this venue for years.
We loved this orange chair from the second we saw it. We believe in pairing vintage and modern pieces, so we paired this chair with a modern lacquered table to give the room soul.
Flea markets are the best for finding affordable extra seating. On any given day, these stools are great sculptural pieces along the wall. But in our family, there’s always someone joining us for a meal, and these are so easy to pull up to the table. Keep an open mind about shape and color; the more mismatched your chairs are, the more interesting.
Art doesn’t have to be a painting or a print. We love finding unique old street signs, outdated maps, old baseball card collections, and beautiful vintage mirrors. This scoreboard is one of our all-time favorite finds. It was perfect for the little boys’ room.
This was a brand new bathroom in a pool cabana we designed. We found this old French basin and thought it would be perfect for the space. Keep your eyes peeled at flea markets; most things can be refurbished, even if it’s a bit of a headache. Pair a sink like this with hardware finished to look like it already has a patina. Old touches like these give character to a space and tell a lot about the owner, especially if incorporated into new construction.
The toile we used for these pillows was from a flea market, as was this schoolroom chalkboard. Most people would put an old chalkboard in the kitchen, but don’t be afraid think outside the box.
Everyone has to shop commercially for things, but a home mixed with vintage, quirky, unique pieces is what makes your home a reflection of your personality. If you don’t have flea markets close to where you live, sites like eBay and Etsy are a great way to find old pieces.
Don’t be afraid to go big — stained glass windows, old French doors, and antique mirrors are definitely a splurge, but you can make an amazing statement by integrating them into your current home. The same way you go with your partner to Home Depot, make going to flea markets part of your weekend- you won’t regret it.