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CHIC TO BE SHABBY A DAY AT THE ROSE BOWL FLEA MARKET WITH DESIGNER RACHEL ASHWELL.

Byline: Barbara De Witt Staff Writer

You need running shoes - and a flashlight - to keep up with Rachel Ashwell at the Rose Bowl Flea Market.

Tagging along with the creator of the Shabby Chic decorating style at Sunday's flea market, we learned she likes to be the first shopper in the gate - that's at 6 a.m. - and she wastes no time as she zips up and down the aisles looking for anything with Shabby Chic potential.

``Today,'' says Ashwell, ``we're looking for old oil paintings of flowers, chandeliers, lamp bases, used china, vases, linens and dining chairs.''

As we trot down the outdoor aisles of this Pasadena flea market that's open the second Sunday of each month, vendors are still unloading their trucks. Ashwell waves at business acquaintances, gives a few hugs and dispenses advice. For instance, she says she likes paintings of flowers without a vase; chairs and furniture she can paint white; almost any kind of chandelier - and she doesn't worry about the wiring as she always rewires them to ensure they're safe.

When it comes to dishes, Ashwell says she likes mix-and-match styles that are predominantly white, perhaps with some feminine flowers. Her favorite finds are Limoges china, white ironstone china, blue-and-white Transferware and Lustreware in primitive pink designs.

Our first stop is the fanciest display in the antiques area, tented, carpeted and decorated with a hotel-size crystal chandelier hanging over an old white-iron day bed covered in Shabby Chic-inspired bedding.

``The chandelier is great, and it's a fabulous price at $7,000,'' she says as she examines it with care. She doesn't buy it, but says it offers a good example of how flea markets have changed in recent years to appeal to customers with more discriminating tastes.

She chats with the vendor, discusses several of his chandeliers, pointing out that a '60s-style metal tulip-shaped chandelier for $240 is a good deal - and then purchases the dainty day bed for $275.

``I'll pick it up later,'' she tells the vendor and off we go to check out the vintage linens - tea towels, table cloths and napkins - stacked on row after row of tables. ``I use linen napkins every day,'' she says, ``but only iron them for dinner parties.''

As she quickly looks through the piles, she comments that she rarely worries about stains because a product called Zout usually gets them out, and she often buys huge tablecloths that can be used as bed covers or curtains.

Ashwell's next purchase is a pale marble-based lamp base with a pull chain that's priced at $46. ``It's great and will look crisp with a new white linen shade.''

When asked if the glossy white ceramic lamp bases at a nearby table are suitably Shabby Chic, she shakes her head.

``They're too fussy, too shiny. They don't talk to me!''

Some new bedroom furniture, painted white with stenciled flowers, gets the same response.

Although she's famous for painting things white, Ashwell is selective. She says the mood is spoiled with things that look too new, referring to both the lamps and tables.

To give an example of what's Shabby Chic, she picks up a small round wicker table. ``You can tell this is relatively new wicker because it's lightweight, but a thick coat of white oil paint will make it (and its twin) look less spindly. And with new glass on top, they can be used as end tables in the bedroom or living room.''

By the time she's finished talking, she's decided to add them to her purchases - a bargain at $85 for the pair, she exclaims.

In the next stall are a bunch of beat-up aluminum flower buckets. ``How much?'' she asks.

The vendor says he'll sell them for $8 each, and she takes all of them, explaining that she'll paint each in a different pastel, then put a glass liner inside so it can be used as a vase.

Before the shopping trip is over, she's taken a quick look at tapestries hanging on lines and says they're rather fun to hang on a wall, then moves to a table filled with dishes. She points out that the top plate looks pretty good, but those underneath are badly stained, and the vendor wants to sell them as a set.

In another row, she spots some blue vases and rushes over. She holds them up to the light, predicts they'd look pretty filled with pink flowers, but in the end walks away.

``They don't speak to me,'' she says with a smile.

TIPS for bargain hunters

Get there early for best selection.

Bring a flashlight for predawn shopping, sunscreen and umbrella (depending on weather), water bottle and a tote bag or collapsible cart to carry your purchases.

When you're surveying a dealer's wares, don't show too much excitement over a ``find,'' because then you've lost your bargaining power.

Bring cash for the best deal-making, although many vendors will take credit cards. For large items, ask if delivery could be included in price, or at the very least ask if they'll hold it until you're finished shopping.

If you see something you like, put your hand on it while you're asking the price so nobody else can have ``dibs'' on it. If somebody else has a hand on an item you want, don't interrupt while dealer and customer are negotiating. Politely wait your turn.

Always ask, ``What will you take for this?'' or ``Is this your best price?'' Most dealers will bargain (about 10 percent) and cash sweetens the deal. Sometimes you can start to walk away, and they'll offer a better price, but it can backfire as the moment you walk, somebody else can buy it at the ticketed price.

Have a shopping list of specific items with measurements, and bring a tape measure.

Study magazines or visit antique stores to know what's in or out, if you're worried about resale value.

Consider repair/refinishing costs when negotiating a price for used furniture and light fixtures. Be cautious about tables and chairs that are very wobbly.

Stay until closing hours if you're looking for bargains on large pieces of furniture. Vendors often will often lower their prices at the end of the day so they don't have to reload the truck.

Pack old blankets in your car to protect any purchases, and bring rope to tie the car trunk lid down.

GUIDES to the goods

Flea market shopping has become such as passion that numerous books have been written on shopping and decorating. Here are a few faves:

Rachel Ashwell's ``Shabby Chic: Treasure Hunting & Decorating Guide'' (HarperCollins Publishers).

Emelie Tolley and Chris Mead's ``Flea Market Style'' (Clarkson Potter).

Better Homes and Gardens' ``Flea Market Decorating'' (Meredith Books).

Harry L. Rinker Jr.'s ``The Official Price Guide to Flea Market Treasures'' (House of Collectibles).

The Shabby Chic MYSTIQUE

Rachel Ashwell is everywhere:

Retail stores: Shabby Chic stores in Chicago, Santa Monica and Malibu. Licensed stores are in New York City and San Francisco.

Books: ``Shabby Chic'' (HarperCollins Publishers)

`Shabby Chic: Treasure Hunting & Decorating Guide'' (HarperCollins Publishers) by Rachel Ashwell

``Shabby Chic Home'' (Harper Collins Publishers)

``Shabby Chic: The Art of Gift Giving'' (HarperCollins Publishers) due in fall 2001

Also featured in the Editors of Victoria Magazine's new book ``Designers in Residence'' (Hearst Books)

Television: ``Rachel Ashwell's Shabby Chic'' airs at 7 p.m. Sundays on Style Network and 11 a.m. Saturdays on E! (check listings for changes).

Licensing: Treasures by Rachel Ashwell, a bedding collection sold exclusively at Mervyn's stores.

Web site: www.ShabbyChic.com.

Alternative SHOPPING

Fans of flea market fashions no longer have to get up at dawn and prowl around for old-fashioned goods.

``The whole flea market decorating trend of slipcovers, dainty tea cups and feminine colors is picking up momentum. I think it's really important because it's complementing the ladylike trend in ready-to-wear, which doesn't often happen ... and retailers are picking up on it with new items that have a vintage look,'' says Kate Rice, spokeswoman for Mervyn's stores.

At Mervyn's, she adds, they've added a special bedding collection by Shabby Chic creator Rachel Ashwell called Treasures, with lots of layering over feminine bed skirts, as well as coverlets and also a collection of floral-patterned area rugs.

Other vintage bedding was spotted recently at Macy's. In addition to goose-down comforters with slipcovers called duvets, you'll find numerous handmade patchwork quilts that look like Grandma might have stitched them, but they're actually new.

At Kmart and Target, you'll find kitchen appliances from the '40s and '50s with updated electronics, and at Pottery Barn are replicas of those old black telephones the Valley used back in the early '50s. Small wind-up clocks with big white faces (very '40s) were spotted at Nordstrom.

Restoration Hardware stores are stocked with nostalgia - from glass door knobs to toys to furniture - while Bombay Co. stores specialize in cherry- or mahogany-stained wood furniture inspired by various decades. Current accessories for that Shabby Chic look are Bombay's white iron boudoir lamps from the '30s.

- Barbara De Witt

FLEA MARKET FAVES

For locations of flea markets around the country, you can find a state-by-state listing on the Internet at www.fleamarketguide.com or www.swapmeets.com. Or clip and save our list of local events:

Rose Bowl Flea Market: 1001 Rose Bowl Drive, Pasadena. Largest open-air market in Southern California with 220 vendors offering new and used merchandise, live entertainment, numerous food stands and restrooms. Open second Sunday of the month (rain or shine). Hours/admission: Early-bird special, 6 to 7:30 a.m. $15; 7:30 to 9 a.m. $10; 9 a.m. to closing (4:30 p.m.) $6. Parking is free. For more information, call (323) 560-7469.

Ventura Swap Meet: Ventura County Fairgrounds. This outdoor market will be held April 29, June 3 and July 15. Dealers and collectors can come as early as 6 a.m. with $10 admission; general admission is $5 beginning at 9 a.m. Parking is $2. For more information, call (323) 560-7469.

Melrose Trading Post: Corner of Melrose Avenue and Fairfax Boulevard, Hollywood. Held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Sunday, rain or shine. Admission is $2. For more information, call (323) 655-7678.

Saugus Swap Meet: Saugus Speedway, 22500 Soledad Canyon Road, Santa Clarita. Held from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Sunday, rain or shine. There are 600 vendors selling old and new merchandise, with live entertainment and food. Admission is $1.50, parking is free. For more information, call (661) 259-3886.

Tuesday Flea Market: Saugus Speedway, 22500 Soledad Canyon Road, Santa Clarita. A smaller version of the Saugus Swap Meet, this event specializes in used merchandise. No food available. Hours are 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission and parking are free. Call (661) 259-3886.

North Hollywood Swap Meet: 7355 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Indoor swap meet with 130 vendors, including jewelers and shoemakers, live entertainment and snackbar. Open daily, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., except Tuesdays. Admission is free. Call (818) 765-8244.

Valley Indoor Swap Meet: 6701 Variel Ave., Woodland Hills. Indoor swap meet with 250 vendors selling new merchandise only, with jewelry, produce and plants in a flea market ambience where bargaining is allowed. Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Admission and parking are free. Call (818) 340-9120.

CAPTION(S):

11 photos, 5 boxes

Photo: (1 -- 4 -- cover -- color) Shabby Chic creator Rachel Ashwell with some of her favorite finds during a recent trip to the Rose Bowl Flea Market.

(5 -- 7 -- color) Colored glass vases, top and above, are typical flea market finds; old chandeliers, center, can almost always be rewired.

(8 -- color) ``With a coat of paint and glass liner, this will make a great vase,'' Ashwell says of a beat-up aluminum bucket.

(9 -- color) Ashwell's signature Shabby Chic look combines slip-covered sofas with elegant flea market finds, often painted white or given a weathered look, and accented with a few watercolor pastels and faded florals.

(10 -- color) ``Rachel Ashwell's Shabby Chic: Treasure Hunting & Decorating Guide''

(11) The Tuesday Flea Market at Saugus Speedway, a smaller version of the Saugus Swap Meet, specializes in used merchandise.

Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer

Box: (1) Tips for bargain hunters (see text)

(2) GUIDES to the goods (see text)

(3) The Shabby Chic MYSTIQUE (see text)

(4) Alternative SHOPPING (see text)

(5) FLEA MARKET FAVES (see text)
COPYRIGHT 2001 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:L.A. Life
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 17, 2001
Words:2072
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