Yesterday I enjoyed a trip to Warrenton, TX, where I shopped for retro finds at a mega-big festival known as Texas Antique Week. It takes place in multiple small towns that are roughly an hour and a half east of Austin. Dealers from all over the country flock to the area each October and April, and the event draws thousands of shoppers, who browse row after row of tents. My mission: to come home with a bag full of retro finds. Read on for more about my adventures…
Let me start by saying that for the purpose of this post, I will define “retro” pieces as ’70s and ’80s finds. Similarly, I’ll use “vintage” to refer to items from the ’20s through the ’60s. Yes, the definitions often vary, but what I’m getting at here is the public’s overwhelming fascination with vintage finds, especially Mid-Century modern. I LOVE Mid-Century modern pieces. But I also love ’70s and ’80s pieces. How do you find these “new retro” items in a world that is obsessed with “vintage”? Here are a few hints…
A little context: For Texas Antique Week, I usually forgo the pricier shows such as Round Top and Marburger Farm. That’s right–I head to Warrenton, where you can still get a good deal! One of my favorite stops is Excess Field, a series of tents and overhangs packed with chic industrial finds, from old warehouse signs to architectural antiques. AMAZING. A must-see for every design lover. But there’s very little ’70s and ’80s decor to be found here. Above we see one of the festive spreads at Excess Field. But to find the real “new retro” stuff, you really have to venture further out. Here’s where I spent most of my day…
Yes, to some it’s “no man’s land.” To me, it’s where dreams come true! When it comes to antique festivals, antique malls and shows featuring a collection of dealers, here’s a rule to live by (at least for now): The more well-curated a booth/tent/space, the more expensive the merchandise. And the harder it is to come across ’70s and ’80s finds.
That’s right–until people really start going crazy for late ’70s and 1980s merchandise, you really have to find dealers who feature an eclectic mix of pieces when you want to purchase “new retro” items. Dealers with flawless, meticulously curated spaces often snub ’80s pieces, especially small ’80s decor. Those who have it tend to be less discriminating about what they sell, often not realizing that they’ve inadvertently picked up a piece from the decade of decadence.
I’ll give you an example! Yesterday, I was making my way to the outer edges of the Warrenton antique show, and I stopped into a booth that was completely shabby chic. You know–pastels, distressed furniture, pitchers of roses, floral pillows. Pretty, but definitely not retro. I knew I had to keep going. A short walk later I found myself surrounded by wagon wheels and tables of tarnished silverware. Soon I was in a booth filled with the most random collection of clutter I could ever imagine. A 1950s vase. An old bedpan. A Furby. That’s where you stumble upon finds like the ones above!
No, you don’t always have to dig through crap to get to the good stuff. But you do have to have a good eye. And you have to have patience. We know that there are plenty of amazing ’80s finds online. You can go to the search box, type in “80s jewelry,” and have a beautifully curated collection of pieces, thanks to sites such as eBay and Etsy. But if you’re shopping in person at an antique fair like the one I spent time at yesterday, it may be awhile before you stumble upon a gorgeous space filled with 1980s items. Did I mention that I was once an antique dealer specializing in small furniture and decorative finds? It was the second half of the aughts, and I decided to begin filling my booth with ’80s pieces. Guess how many of those sold? Maybe one day…
If you’re thinking that the vases above (from Delft, Holland) look more Mid-Century than ’70s or ’80s, your’e right! They’re likely from the ’60s. But I love pieces featuring brass and marble-like surfaces, so you can bet I’m finding a spot for them on my retro menagerie! There’s nothing like going home at the end of a long day and being thrilled with your purchases. An ’80s Deco vase, a crystal bowl, two brass and porcelain vases, and one mineral sample filled my bag. Now that’s what I call living!
Happy Thursday, everyone!
Evan Collins says
Very neat! I’m pretty fascinated with the 1980s postmodern-luxury aesthetic, so this site is like a goldmine! I guess it’ll only be a few years or so before items from this era become popular again, just like mid-century is now.
Happy Birthday to your amazing blog! I’ve learned so much here, and it’s a treat to keep discovering more! 🙂