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Browsing the Brimfield Antique Show

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From July 9 to 14, more than 6,000 antiques dealers will descend on the quiet New England town of Brimfield, Massachusetts, for the Brimfield Antique Show—one of the world’s largest open-air flea markets. Antiques dealers and collectors are an interesting lot (how many 19th-century bundt-cake pans does one really need?), but this is where the talent behind Ralph Lauren Home—and probably your favorite interior designers—comes to find singular pieces and inspiration, whether it’s a year for vintage industrial or Mad Men modern.

The show, made up of some 21 individually owned and operated fields, extends for a mile along either side of Route 20. Warehouse dealers drive in from all over the country to load up semi trucks, paying cash for birdcages, blown glass, mercury glass, Gustavian chairs, tables, consoles, floor lamps, textiles and other finds. Mary-Kate Olsen has been known to visit the fair to buy jewelry.

It is as much a trade show as a flea market, which means the pickers are professional (tip: get there early) and bargaining is common (open the negotiations by asking if the dealer would be willing to go lower). It also means that the apparent trends at Brimfield—like transferware platters, hurricane lamps or Deco credenzas—will probably show up in stores and shelter magazines later in the year, so a good eye can put you ahead of the curve.

Now in its 54th year, Brimfield happens three times annually (May, July and September). Eighteen of this round’s fields will open on July 9, with a few more following later in the week. The larger public usually swoops in over the weekend, after many of the pros have come and gone. July 9–14; Rte. 20, Brimfield, Massachusetts; brimfieldshow.com.

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