Last week I checked a trip to the huge Brimfield flea market off my bucket list! Today I am sharing everything about my experience. Let’s go!
What is Brimfield?
Brimfield is a huge multi-day “antiques and collectibles” show held three times a year in Brimfield, Massachusetts.
I have wanted to go for years, especially since moving to New England.
Somehow it never seemed to work out though. Last year I even thought about doing a crazy get-up-at-the-crack-of-dawn and drive-down-for-the day trip.
Better judgement prevailed…
I have made a number of trips this year to visit grandbabies, but May turned out to be wide open. I was just thinking of reaching out to a friend and partner in shopping crime about Brimfield, when I received a message from her. (Great minds think alike!)
Patrice and I have done a lot of shopping together! We went to the Roundtop Antiques Festival in Texas back in 2009. We also used to hit up the DC Big Flea Antiques Market in Chantilly, Virginia several times a year. And we made many an outing together to local Maryland and DC clothing consignment shops.
And now we would get to experience Brimfield together! Yipee!!
If you missed the May 9-14 show we attended, don’t despair! There are shows July 11-16, and September 5-10 too!
Read on, so you will be ready to go!
Once we were set on going to “Brim” (as those in the know call it), the plan fell quickly into place.
The town of Brimfield is about a 4 1/4-hour drive from my home in Maine. It is a 6-hour trip from Maryland, where Patrice lives. Of course driving is best, because you want to be able to easily transport all your treasures home! And who knows, you just might find that perfect large furniture piece.
That said, we did fly when we went to Roundtop in Texas, and still came home with plenty of (small) goodies.
How Long To Stay
I would say that two days at the market is just right. We arrived at our motel on Thursday night and were ready for a full day first thing Friday morning. Up early again on Saturday, we shopped until mid afternoon and then hit the road, We were both home before 10:00 that night.
By mid afternoon on Saturday, I was pretty much shopped out. I don’t think I could have done a third day, but maybe you are hardier than me! And really, though we didn’t make it to every vendor, we covered a lot of ground. I don’t feel like I “missed” anything.
Patrice and I opted to stay at a very basic local motel about a 20-minute drive from Brimfield. Swankier places closer to the show were at least double the price. I preferred to save my money to spend on antiques!
However, I don’t know if I would recommend the place we stayed, as I am still a bit traumatized by the state of the bathroom floor… But, it was adequate and we survived two nights there. We did make our reservations kind of last minute.
Next time I go, I will try to plan further in advance and maybe look a little farther afield.
The Best Fields
There are 16 “fields” listed on the Brimfield map, with thousands of dealers. There are multi-dealer tents and barns. Some vendors have their own tents, and others are just set up out in the open.
Based on recommendations from people I know who had been to Brimfield, these are the fields that we focused on: May’s, New England Motel, Quaker Acres, and Shelton. These are all on one side of Rt. 20, which runs right through the middle of the show. We wandered a bit on the other side of the road, but didn’t explore those fields in depth.
Patrice and I agreed that Shelton was our favorite! But all the fields had some great vendors!
What Kinds of Things Are For Sale?
From the weird to the fantastic, common to rare, old to new, and junk to treasure, you can find it at Brimfield! Whatever your style, they will have something for you!
I was surprised by the amount of clothing for sale. And not just vintage clothing (there was plenty of that), but also upcycled and new and unique . I actually did buy two new clothing items, which I will share below! And Patrice went home with mostly clothes!
There was also more new home decor than I was expecting. I lingered in several booths selling colorful African baskets and beautiful blue textiles. And there were large tents that looked like upscale home furnishings boutiques!
I also wasn’t expecting as many handcrafted items as there were.
Some of the most fun was seeing the purchases other people were carrying or had loaded in their carts. I am always interested by what strikes others’ fancy! I am certain that there are those who scratch their heads about the things I bring home! There is at least one grouping I bought that I know some of you might wonder “what the heck?” But I have a plan…. I think!
Since you spend the whole day at the market, I wanted to add quick note on food.
In the center of the market there is a large area with multiple food trucks. In addition to the ubiquitous burger and fries, I noticed sandwiches and Jamaican food. We got Thai one day. There were plenty of stands selling homemade lemonade. At the end of the first day we enjoyed a “Lime Ricky” and a pickle on a stick! And before hitting the road on Saturday we got ice cream.
As a vegetarian, I found there was decent variety. I can’t attest to other dietary restrictions, but they seemed to have a lot of choices in general.
Lastly, the lines for food and prices were what you would expect, but neither was excessive.
Overall I would rate the food experience as pretty good for an event like this!
Oh, and yes, there was wine and beer for sale too!
Tips and Takeaways
Here are my tips and takeaways from the experience!
Brimfield is definitely more a flea market than a curated antiques show. There were beautifully displayed booths, but there were also vendors selling what I would call junk. Like I said above, though, there is something for everyone!
I generally found the prices high. That is not to say that there were no bargains to be had. I think I paid fair prices for everything I got, but there are many things I passed up as soon as I saw the price. This is a huge market for dealers, though, so I understand why they would try to get a premium. Living and shopping where I do, I am used to lower prices. Still, as you will see — I did not come home empty-handed!
Always ask “What is your best price?” These dealers expect you to bargain! My neighbor was at Brimfield first thing on the first day this year. Right out of the gate a dealer dropped the price on a table by half for her! I repeat: Always ask!
Cash is king! You can often get a better price (and avoid sales tax) if you pay with cash. I was told that most dealers take cards, so I did not bring a lot of cash. I ended up writing checks instead. Next time I will bring more cash. Cash is also a good way to stick to a budget! ATMs are available.
Get there early, but not too early. We got to the market both days between 8 and 8:30. Some fields open at “sunrise”, but others don’t open until 9. The dealers were still setting up for the day at the first field we went to on Friday. Arriving around 8 we had no trouble with traffic or parking.
Speaking of which, there are multiple parking lots. They charge between $5 and $12 day, depending on where they are located. We splurged on the parking and went for a lot right in the center of things. This made it possible to easily drop purchases off at the car during the day.
It worked out well for us to stay South of Brimfield in the opposite direction from Sturbridge. We were actually in Connecticut. The drive wasn’t bad and we came in a back way, avoiding traffic coming and going. I drove through Sturbridge on the way home on Saturday afternoon and sat in a lot of traffic!
Many people had carts and wagons (you can rent them there) to carry their purchases. I thought about bringing one, but decided I did not want to be pulling it around all day. I had a small backpack and shopping bags. As I mentioned, we also parked centrally. Maybe next time I will give a cart a try.
This probably goes without saying, but wear comfy shoes and bring water! It is a LOT of walking on uneven surfaces. Patrice and I were both pooped at the end of the day!
We had perfect weather, but I have heard that the July show can be hot. Don’t forget your sunscreen and maybe a hat!
My biggest takeaway is that I definitely want to go back! Next time, though, I will plan to go earlier in the week — ideally the first two days of the market, when selection is the best.
For more info on Brimfield, visit their website here.
What Came Home With Me
If you know my home, (and since you are here, you probably do), you know that I don’t “need” anything. There are a few pieces that I am still looking for, but generally the house is pretty much set.
However, you also know that I am a collector. And a collector is perennially on the hunt! I am always happy to welcome unique objects into the fold, items that add an additional layer of interest and continue to tell the home’s story.
You can see that my purchases have a definite Molly-in-Maine style to them! Hence, they have settled right in!
So, what did I come home with?!
These were my first purchase, and the only things I sort of regret. For one, they weren’t a great deal. And it turns out that the larger one was the same as one I already have, just in better condition. So these really did not add much to my home. I will consider this purchase the jump start of my Brimfield experience and move on.
Metal net float
I have a collection of these round metal floats that I keep outside — several on the front stone wall and the rest in a metal basket. I got a very good deal on this one and added it to the basket. Win!
Vintage oil painting and German bread board
I had originally intended to hang this oil painting off one of the shelves of the hutch. I loved the way the brown and white bowl echoes my lone brown and white Cornishware bowl and how the blues in the jug and crock pick up on the blues in the rest of the hutch display.
And I had planned to lean the breadboard against the kitchen backsplash with my other wooden boards.
However, once I got these items home, I realized the scale was off on both of them (too big).
I then came up with the idea of layering them together on top of the hutch. I love the height and interest they add here! Yay!
Antique tin basket
I didn’t hesitate a minute when I saw this tin basket. With its embossed faux wicker design and interesting history, it is everything I love in a piece! It is English, dates to around 1900, and was originally made to hold “Victory Chlorodyne Lozenges” “always reliable” to combat “chills and colds”. Chlorodyne was a combination of opium, cannabis, alcohol and chloroform. Yikes! Potent stuff! Right now I have it sitting on my kitchen island. It might just stay there permanently!
Antique Ship Lithograph
This antique lithograph was another no-brainer. Especially when the dealer cleaned it up a bit and we got a good look at the original wavy glass. The design around the edges of the lithograph is actually reverse painted on the back of the glass. I love the chippy old frame, and the large stain on the paper just adds to the patina of the piece in my opinion. It is a perfect addition to the “Captain’s” (aka the “Head Banger”) bedroom!
I was thrilled to find these Victorian drawer pulls and cabinet knobs. They will be replacing some ordinary handles on the cabinets in the mudroom. I purposely chose knobs that were “mix and match”.
I bought these as a set from one dealer. You might wonder what I am going to do with them! I wasn’t sure when I saw them either, but their quirkiness spoke to me immediately. Right now I am thinking that I will display them in a shadow box. Stay tuned!
Not what I expected to get at Brimfield, but I did purchase a pair of linen overalls and a dress with intricate Mexican embroidery on the yoke.
What I wished I had gotten
I have to say that I don’t really regret anything I left behind.
There was a vendor who had gorgeous pillows made out of antique and vintage linens. None of them called out for a spot in my home, though I would have loved to find one that fit in.
I have admired the art by Mary Maguire for years, but all her pieces were more than I wanted to spend.
There was a seagull decoy that tugged at my heart a bit, but it was also on the pricey side.
I am content with what I did bring home!
What Patrice Brought Home
Just for fun, here is a picture of what Patrice went home with. We have very different styles, but I love all that she got! I was the one who spotted the Canadian Mounty print that she added to her Mounty collection. And I adore the beautiful floral fabric of the three pillows she got for her screened porch. I tried on the jeans with the quilt embellishments first, but ultimately decided they were more Patrice!
We both went home happy from our first Brimfield experience.
I don’t think it will be our last!
This Week Into Next
I spent the past week settling back in after being away. There is a kitchen project that I have been working on that I can’t wait to share with all of you! I am hoping to finish it up this weekend. Then I am waiting on some wallpaper and a new rug. Have I piqued your curiosity??!
Can you believe next weekend is Memorial Day?! We narrowly escaped a frost the other night here on the coast that hit those inland. It has been a generally cool week here, but the grass is green, the perennials are starting to grow, my lilac bush is about to bloom, and the trees are leafing out. All this new growth and color bring me such joy!
My daughter Leah, her husband Adam, and their sweet baby James will be arriving for a visit on the 31st, so I will spend some time in the coming week prepping for them!
With summer and the accompanying visitors just around the corner, I think I will write about the guest cottage in next week’s blog post.
But I have been known to change my mind about blog posts. Remember that one about my spring living room that I haven’t written yet?? At this rate, I will have to change it to my summer living room!
If you missed the two-part series “Chasing a Dream: Our Coastal Maine House Story” that supplanted my living room post, you can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here! Thank you for your interest in our story!
That’s it for this week!
Be well, friends!