Designers share secrets for shopping at Round Top Antiques Fair in Texas

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Photo credit: Amanda Clifford

For the uninitiated, the Round Top Antiques Fair can be a dizzying journey through 20 miles of rural Texas fields along a two-lane country road, fueled by the promise of hidden treasure around every turn. Located between Austin and Houston, the famous Round Top flea market began in 1968 and has exploded in popularity in recent years, attracting antique dealers, celebrities and VIP designers from around the world for its biannual fall and spring events. .

“There is no such thing,” says Houston interior designer Julie Dodson, recalling the moment the bell rings at the Marburger Farm Antique Show to open the show. “It starts the night before – you start to get a little anxious and nervous because you know what you want to get. People are lining up just to get into their cars. “

But no matter how big or intimidating Round Top may seem, it is imbued with the Texan spirit of having fun. A glass of wine and some good music are usually a short walk away – and hopefully your next favorite track. Here are some insider tips to make the most of your next visit to Round Top.

Get an overview of the terrain.

Let’s start with a few basics: unlike other antique festivals across the country, the Round Top Antiques Fair is a set of decentralized venues mostly accessible by car, many in tents literally in the fields (tip: leave your sandals at home and wear closed-toe shoes or boots, as well as layered clothing for changing weather conditions). Consult the list of sites for the opening and closing dates, as these may vary.

Book early.

Despite the wild popularity of its antique festivals, Round Top is truly a small rural Texas town with limited overnight accommodation options. AirBnbs, as well as some of the avant-garde options like FlopHouze Shipping Container Hotel, book early before the fall and spring shows.

Time your visit correctly.

While many designers claim that the best finds can be had on the opening day of each location, on the other hand, buyers can close deals in the days before each show closes, when sellers are impatient. to unload leftover items, says Catelyn Silapachai, an Austin Antique Dealer who once offered private Round Top tours.

Prepare yourselves.

Bring a list of the items you are looking for, being as specific as possible to help you stay focused. Bring a tape measure, house measurements, and fabric samples. Or just prepare to be inspired. “It’s so cool to walk into a dealer’s booth and see a beautiful 18th-century antique piece topped with a mid-century modern lamp,” says Ashley Ferguson, co-owner of Marburger, one of the largest and oldest of the Round Top venues. “I think you can be so inspired by walking into a booth and seeing something that you already have that you can use in a new way,”

Negotiate thoughtfully.

Be aware that in general, items are sold at standard retail prices at Round Top and you are unlikely to find huge deals. However, some suppliers expect customers to negotiate the price; others, like high-end furniture designers, may scoff at the idea. Silapachai suggests a low-key approach to haggling – his rule of thumb is to offer a price that is roughly 20 percent lower than what the price tag says (eg, “Could you make $ 800?” On one item of $ 1,000). If you buy multiple items or pay cash, your chances of getting a discount may improve. “Most salespeople expect to be interviewed,” she says. “The atmosphere is very relaxed; it’s not at all aggressive.

Take COVID Precautions.

Round Top was one of the first U.S. antique shows to reopen during COVID, and shoppers appreciated the natural social distancing due to the mostly outdoor venues, Ferguson says. Although masks are not required by Texas state law, many buyers choose to mask themselves, and vaccinations help slow the spread of the virus so buyers and sellers feel more comfortable.

Find the right things.

Finding the best room depends on what inspires you. Here are a few vendors who often top the list of fairground favorites: Marburger Farm is the most visited place and has beautifully organized stalls with trendy pieces. Check out Amelia Tarbet at Market Hill for eclectic furniture. For Moroccan rugs, head to Heja Home at the Arbors. Excess Field vendors are great for cool architectural salvage pieces like doors and mirrors. Cole’s is a non-flashy warehouse for silver, turquoise, and jadeite dishes. Head to The Compound for mid-century inspiration and Blue Hills for French antiques and fine art prints.

Plan a special delivery.

If you have a vehicle large enough for your items, you can bring them home immediately (some serious buyers rent moving vans just for this purpose). Alternatively, you can pay for a shipping service to ship your finds home (there are usually a few on-site stalls in performance venues). Depending on the size of your items and how far you live, you may have to wait a few weeks for your treasures to find their way home.

Stack your route.

Here are some other things to add to your Round Top itinerary: Pick up a ticket for a Designer Dream Spree discussion, led by Dodson with former celebrity panelists such as Carson Kressley. Enjoy a glass of wine and a cheese board at Round Top’s Prost Wine Bar and Downtown Patioin, or have a picnic at Festival Hill, an opera house just steps from the hustle and bustle of the crowds antiques. Downtown Townsend Provisions is a great year-round stop for vintage cowboy boots, a perfect keepsake to remember your time in Texas.

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