Photo Gallery:::

With the flea market season upon us, we decided to ask our resident flea-ing expert, stylist Barri Leiner, to take on a challenge. The mission: to create a room on-site at the opening weekend of the Chicago Antique Market. She immediately started thinking about who, hypothetically, would live in this space. "We decided it would be a couple, and that it should have both masculine and feminine elements," she said. "Often, people associate flea markets with the shabby-chic look, but that is not what we were going for." Leiner succeeded in creating a sitting room that’s both livable and unique, with a sense of humor to boot. We encourage you to try this at home.

Photo Gallery:::

The Playbook

8:00 a.m.  Leiner and crew report to the show two hours early to check out the wares and snap digital pics of their favorite pieces as dealers unload their trucks. A pair of Swedish-looking armchairs with a distressed gray finish make the grade immediately. A Miesian black leather side chair is filed under "Maybe." 

8:15  Leiner spots a red and gray Turkish rug that’s a sure bet to anchor the room. Bonus: The dealer claims it has mystical powers. 

9:30  The search for a couch comes up dry, but a lovely chaise upholstered in cream linen fits the bill. A modern Saarinen-like coffee table and two rustic occasional tables (one has an old grate from a New Orleans street repurposed as its top) balance the prettiness of the chaise.

10:05  The set is ready to be arranged. The basics—Swedish chairs, coffee table, chaise, and occasional tables—are positioned. A fortuitous start. What’s missing, aside from the accessories? That filed-away Miesian chair . . . where did it go?

10:30  Still searching for the chair. Panic sets in. Did it sell?

10:35  An inspired alternative to a console table has been spotted: a vintage ironing board just high and slim enough to serve as both bar for occasional cocktail-making and landing strip for fun, yet-to-be-determined accessories.

10:45  Panic subsides as the elusive chair is located. Along the way, other finishing touches are discovered: vintage books, a bunch of seashells ("no home feels right to me without them," says Leiner), a sculptural glass candelabrum, and an old leather suitcase ("it functions not only as storage but also as another occasional table"). Leiner also loves the primitive quality of an old wooden feed scoop, and uses it to hold more shells.

11:30  A think-outside-the-box moment: Leiner decides to rotate an abstract painting on its side to better suit the space above the ironing board/console. Similarly, she opts to hang a modern chandelier off to the side of the room, instead of front-and-center.

11:45  Just as our photographer is about to start snapping the completed set, Leiner comes across a crucial last-minute piece: a soft-gray mohair ottoman. "We needed something in the foreground," she explains. "This was it."

12:05  Mission accomplished: The room is complete. Before long, people are lining up to buy pieces directly off our set.

For resource information see Buyer’s Guide.


Next: Leiner’s Flea-ing tips


Photography: Matthew Gilson