Antique Hunting Heaven: Exploring Brimfield

A Day At BrimfieldFrom the time I moved to New England in 2005, I’ve heard people talking about “Brimfield”. I had a vague idea that maybe it was a town filled with good antique shops, but until a couple years ago, my understanding was hazy, and come to find out later, totally wrong. The Brimfield Antique & Collectibles Show is one of the most massive antique and collectible shows I’ve ever witnessed. Literally ACRES of antiques, vintage steals, jewelry, clothing, textiles, etc.

A Day At BrimfieldLocated in the sleepy, small town of Brimfield, Massachusetts the three-times-yearly show sprawls over 20 “fields”, hosting around 6,000 dealers. Lining either side of Route 20 for about a mile, half of the fields are open access, and half are paid admission only. I packed up my camera, a few snacks, grabbed some cash, took a big breath and hit the road for the 2.5 hour ride down to Brimfield.Exploring Brimfield

I knew Brimfield was going to be big. I knew it was going to be jam-packed and helter skelter, but arriving was still completely overwhelming. I should tell you right now that I am not, and have never been, a yard sale girl. I avoid department stores, because I get totally overwhelmed by the sheer volume of choices. I quickly get overstimulated and exhausted. That being said, my tastes have evolved over the years and I find myself yearning for eclectic, one of a kind, not in stores kind of finds. If that’s what you’re looking for, Brimfield is THE place to go.Exploring Brimfield

I should also admit that while I have a pretty defined style of my own, I did not go to design school, I am not an interior designer, and I have no art background. I can’t spot a classic from a thousand yards. I’m no design eagle eye, and I don’t pretend to be. I do, however, often unwittingly find myself drawn to pieces that are classics, designed by famed designers, and worth thousands. I’m a moth, drawn to a very, very, very expensive flame. Can’t be helped. But I’m learning about the big names of design as I go, so even if I can’t afford those pieces right now, at least I’m learning each time.Exploring Brimfield

When I was researching Brimfield, I picked up a few good tips:

  • Haggle – yes, even if it makes your squirm. 
  • Wear comfortable clothes – boots if it’s been rainy, walking shoes if it’s dry. Bring layers, including sunscreen and a hat.
  • Bring a cart – I saw wagons, pull carts, wire grocery carts, etc. You can leave large purchases behind or even arrange to have them shipped, but it’s not easy to navigate a car to a dealer’s booth. If it’s small enough to put in a cart, that’s one less trip you have to make and more time to shop.
  • Bring cash – parking is cash only, so right there, you need to have $5-15 on hand. There are ATM’s on site, but if you grab your cash before you arrive, you can hit the ground running. Plus, haggling is MUCH easier when it’s a cash transaction.
  • Delivery – you can make arrangements with the dealer, or one of the enterprising delivery companies who set up shop to manage your larger purchases.
  • There’s an App for that – after years of old school DIY scouring, Brimfield has gone high tech with the Brimfield Flea Finder app. Created by Ryan Servant, the app helps you locate basic necessities like food, parking, bathrooms, and ATMs, but even better, it allows dealers to sign up and create a profile. You can call a porter, remember where you’ve left purchases, locate a specific dealer, even check out daily “Hot Items” and track them down via GPS.
  • Schedule your trip so that you can hit May’s – the field opens to both dealers and customers at 9am sharp on Thursday, so it’s a level playing field. Stories of once-in-a-lifetime finds abound.

Exploring BrimfieldI was only at Brimfield for one short day on Tuesday, so I basically saw the tip of the iceberg. Even though I was absolutely wiped at the end of the day, I’m so glad I went and can’t wait to go back. And I’m more than a little proud of myself for braving the enormity by myself. I think it would be fun to go with a friend, but going alone allowed me to wander wherever my interest took me and not concern myself with accommodating a schedule. Maybe I’ll even try a little solo yard sale-ing this summer….Exploring Brimfield

Don’t live near New England? Here are a few similar shows that might be near you:

  • Alameda Point Antiques Faire – California
  • Walnut Antique Show – Iowa
  • Brooklyn Flea – New York
  • Santa Monica Airport Outdoor Antique & Collectible Market – California
  • Country Living Fair – New York, Ohio, Georgia
  • Marburger Farm Antique Show – Texas
  • New Hampshire Antique Show – New Hampshire
  • Dixon’s Furniture Auction – Maryland
  • Raleigh Flea Market – North Carolina
  • Hawaii All-Collectors Show – Hawaii
  • Farm Chicks Antique Show – Washington
  • Sparks Flea Market – Kansas
  • Downtown Oronoco Gold Rush Days – Minnesota

Curious about what else I saw that caught my eye at Brimfield? Here are a few more treasures:

Exploring Brimfield

Bent wood chairs I died for, but didn’t take home…

Exploring Brimfield

You never know when you’ll need a flock of plastic chicks…

Exploring Brimfield

Chairs that invite serious lounging.

Exploring Brimfield

I wanted these baby blue lockers BAD, but have no place to put them.

Exploring Brimfield

This low slung coffee table screamed out to me, but our Cape style house is anything but mid-century modern.

Exploring Brimfield

Vintage metal signs were EVERYWHERE. And I loved each and every single one.

Exploring Brimfield

I loved these guys. Why do we not own a mid-century house that would give them a place to live?

Exploring Brimfield

Good dog.

Exploring Brimfield

These woven blankets were the perfect balance of color, pattern and texture. Perfect for cool New England evenings by the fire pit.

Exploring Brimfield

I had a little moment with textiles, can you tell?

Exploring Brimfield

I call him “Suitcase Man”.

Exploring Brimfield

So many treasures hiding in here.

Exploring Brimfield

I’m a sucker for old tools.

Exploring Brimfield

Just…. yeah.

Exploring Brimfield

These bags were the hardest thing to leave behind. I’m still thinking about them and regretting not splurging on one for myself.

Exploring Brimfield

My name is Ellen and I’m addicted to woven blankets.

Exploring Brimfield

Bags of all shapes and sizes made out of feed bags.

Inspired by Brimfield? See endless amounts of amazing vintage finds and flips in the photo gallery below.

16 Responses

  1. Nathan says:

    Would love to visit this show! Looks live some great finds!

  2. You just can't beat having a rummage around these antique fairs, I could spend my days doing this easily. It's a shame I'm based int he UK or I would have attended some of the above mentioned antique fairs.

  3. A handyman's/builder's paradise. This can be a huge inspirational boost.

  4. Joanne Palmisano says:

    Ellen! Next time I'll go with you. I was there the last couple of years — it was a blast — I agree with all your suggestions. Going alone is kinda fun too but if you do go with a friend — cell service is spotty — so bring a walkie-talkie – to meet up if you get separated. I also wear a baseball cap — just in case it gets really sunny :) Last year I found some amazing old turkey feeders that were made into lights — I bought 8 of them for a design project I was working on! Fun, fun… I'll see you there next year! Joanne

    • Minnow + Co says:

      Joanne, I will absolutely take you up on your offer to let me join you for the next Brimfield trip! And GREAT suggestion about the walkie talkie. As a newbie, tips from a pro like yourself are invaluable! Thanks! Ellen

    • Vyk says:

      markets like Brimfield who claim to offer antiques are a scam! In fact most flea markets and similar attractions, around the Massachusetts are nothing more than places where people, either having property in New York, or, have moved here and continually pack their vehicles to the roof with their nailed together two by four ladder which did not work out for them very well, and they did not want to pay for disposal. Mostly the real reason is the are smart enough to know if they dob a little paint on it and gouge it up with a hammer and leave it out in the rain, they can put it on their car lug it up to mass and some female in need of an antique ladder for her rose trellis ( she saw one just like it on Martha Stewart ) will buy it! Now, they just put twenty bucks in their pocket and heading back to their backyard barbeque to tell their other New Yorker buddies.( Who also have a knack of getting rid of their old paint cans and other useless garbage. I myself for instance happen to live in an old (1750's) house. Would I bring anything that I own that has serious age to it to a flea market???? HECK NO! I would as most of us savy old salts do, I call a big name auctioneer, he comes by, pays me and then me 100% genuine "antique Sandwich glass, or flip top tea table with hand carved lions claw legs puts big buck in my pocket, and I sit back with a steak a cold beer and watch all the programs showing this housewives break their frenched nails at the Brimfield Antique shows and flea markets, and laugh the afternoon away.

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About Ellen Foord 

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As the founder, designer, and one-woman workforce behind Minnow + Co, a tight budget has never stopped this DIY-girl-at-heart from creating a beautiful, modern, creative home and treating every ...

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