Antiquing at New England’s Brimfield Fair

covered wagon at brimfield
                This beautiful covered wagon greeted me as I drove into the J&J Promotions fairgrounds.

I’ve been waiting to go to the Brimfield Fair for years – literally.  Held three times a year (May, July and September), the fair’s 55th season did not disappoint.  Granted, I only made it to about one-sixth of the entire fairgrounds, but what I saw was exciting and inspiring.  There’s something about all those beautifully worn items ~ clothes, kitchenware, furnishings, and all the oddities ~ that speaks to the history of so many people’s lives.  How they used these items, what they meant to them, and why they were discarded.  Part of why I saw just a fraction of the fair (besides the sheer size of it and the sweltering late summer heat) is that I met several exhibitors whom I spent a lot of time talking to.  For me, it was a lot like going to a design trade show, in that I knew that I’d find some kindred spirits as I perused the booths and happened upon some truly remarkable objects.

Finding beautifully worn objects is such a thrill for me, and something that is hard to capture in newer purchases.  It’s something that I talk to clients about a lot ~ often times people will try to ignore or make excuses for old items in their home, particularly inherited or “found” ones. But once I start to ask them questions about a particular object, it’s clear that they have an affinity for it, and there’s a strong emotional bond that has kept it in their lives.  It’s why a “perfectly” designed home as we see in shelter magazines is often missing that je ne sais quoi – their use of the everyday items starts to bring meaning to them, and the wear and tear that results tells a story.

Take these charming stools I found, for example.  This pair (displayed below in my living room) was flanking a tall straightback dining chair, and I was immediately drawn to them.  I don’t know their specific story or provenance, but the worn legs and tattered seats clearly show they were well used and possibly well travelled (given their sizes and fold-ability).

Unlike the stools, I found out a lot about this little bench I found in another field.  I was drawn to its patina, in part, but also to its unique shape, with only one side to the bench and a sloping back.  The purveyor told me how he refinished it with a simple linen fabric and exposed nailheads, as would have been the way during its first life.  After quickly measuring it I learned it did not fit in my entryway (alas), and I didn’t have a client with an immediate need.  I hope it ended up finding a wonderful home.

beautiful bench with arching low backThis is one of my regrets from the day – a pair of slipper chairs that sit very low to the ground.  I imagined them refinished in a fun, bright fabric, perfect for a children’s room.  After much research, it seemed to be three times the price to ship to my upholsterer (whom I couldn’t visit on my way home) but it was a good lesson in why one rents a van and plans a visit longer than one day when visiting Brimfield!

slipper chairs at brimfieldBut on that note, “smalls” (as they are often called) can be picked up easily.  These watch faces were displayed by the hundreds in one purveyor’s booth. I can’t wait to arrange them in a shadow box for display on my wall.

old watch faces

I’m happy that I didn’t spend a lot of time taking pictures throughout, as I was busy seeing as much as I could see (while taking the time to speak to the purveyors I connected with).  But I can’t wait until next year, when I plan to: a) stay overnight and take at least two days to walk the fields, and b) take a larger car so I can purchase, and drive, special items where they need to go.

Until then…

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