Listen up, vintage homeware fans. Do you know about Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair? They organise events across the UK for lovers of all things retro but occasionally they run one that’s solely dedicated to interiors, known as The Vintage Furniture Flea. Yep, that’s right, an entire space filled to the brim with more Ercol than you could shake a stick at. (What does that mean anyway? Be warned please – if you do go around shaking a stick at the furniture you’ll probably be asked to leave).
Their most recent event was on Sunday at York Hall in Bethnal Green. I hot footed it down there for early bird entry and already the queue was spilling onto the street. Some people had come with IKEA bags to stash their goodies and a couple even had trollies. I suddenly felt rather unprepared armed with only my Cath Kidston handbag and a Sainsbury’s carrier.
Any concerns were soon forgotten, though, as the doors opened and I was carried with the throng into a mid-century wonderland. The hall was crammed full of lamps, stereos, armchairs, tables, kitchenalia, maps, prints, books and more, all dating back to the 1950s and beyond. Out came the elbows and tape measures and off we all went in search of treasures.
Prices weren’t quite as affordable as I’d hoped but entirely reasonable for genuine vintage furnishings and accessories. Armchairs and sideboards were upwards of £150 but old Penguin books were just £4, Observer ‘Book of…’ books went for £8 (though you can get these on Amazon for less) and cutlery was available for as little as 75p. Floor lamps cost anywhere between £60-£150 and original magazine covers varied depending on age, availability and level of demand.
I didn’t go with anything in particular in mind but I did happen upon a beautiful picture frame from an old French farmhouse which I snapped up without even a whisper of consultation with The Husband. It cost £40 which in my opinion was well worth it regardless of his protestations that he could easily find something similar in a skip. (Please lead the way!)
The trend for empty picture frames is just starting to take off, with designers like Julien MacDonald using them as part of their autumn/winter 2016 homeware promotions. I’ve never really been a big trend follower but it’s reassuring to know I’m not the only one who thinks it’s perfectly reasonable to adorn my walls with purposeless pieces of wood.
The fair wasn’t massive but I happily spent a couple of hours browsing the stalls because there was so much to look at. We went around a few times and each circuit revealed trinkets and gems we’d missed previously.
Most of the stall holders were lovely (though there was one who took exception to photography and made it clearly known…) and they were more than happy to discuss the history behind items. One told me all about a portable typewriter that his grandfather used for thirty years and another shared details of the excursions he arranges to faraway places in search of bargains.
The venue was just the right size to ensure it didn’t feel overcrowded and being located just around the corner from both Bethnal Green and Cambridge Heath train stations meant it was easy to get to. Much needed sustenance was available in the form of bacon rolls, tea and coffee, and the cakes on display looked almost – almost – too good to eat. There were also lots of chairs available to collapse onto at the end of your spree and the tables were adorned with vintage china and pretty tablecloths, making the whole experience feel like a proper event.
The next Vintage Furniture Flea is in South West London on 30th July but they’ll be back in Bethnal Green in September. If you get the chance I’d highly recommend dropping by. Just make sure you take your tape measure and be prepared for the occasional strange look on the tube home…