8 Flea Market Kitchen Finds You Shouldn’t Pass Up

A person can collect only so many salt and pepper shakers—here are eight more things to seek out at your local flea market (or antique store) that will give your kitchen some spice.

Couple buying stuff at flea marketPhoto: Shutterstock / Kzenon

New year, new kitchen—am I right? If you feel like your favorite room’s décor could use a little facelift, there is a way to jazz up food prep central without breaking the bank—it’s called a flea market. Or antique mall, estate sale, thrift store, your neighbor’s garage sale, Grandma’s basement—any of these will fit the bill. What you’re going for here is reducing, reusing and recycling—taking what was once old and making it new again. Check out eight items (besides fabulous vintage Pyrex!) I always look for at flea markets that can take your kitchen back a few decades, but elevate it far ahead in the style department.

Bright yellow ice cream parlor chairsPhoto: Amanda Kippert

1. Ice Cream Parlor Chairs

You’ll immediately recognize the swirled wrought-iron looping of these endearing chairs. While, like most collectible antiques, they’ve been reproduced for decades, original steel ice cream parlor chairs can be traced back as far as the 1880s. They’d be the perfect addition around a breakfast nook in your kitchen, especially repainted a bright color like these yellow ones I found. Just add an old-fashioned ice cream float and you’re good to go!

2. Griswold Frying Pans

The Griswold frying pan remains one of the best potential flea market finds because they, to my knowledge, have not been copied or reproduced. If you find one, it’s an original,” says New York antiques appraiser Charles Snider. These antique cast-iron pans will, no doubt, last forever—your great-great-grandchildren may still be frying eggs in them a century from now—and can be worth a pretty penny, if you ever want to resell.

trivetsPhoto: Amanda Kippert

3. Trivets

Passionate thrift addict Hillary Hafke swears by antique trivets—those metal tiles or stands that you usually place hot pots and pans on top of to protect your countertop—as one of the best ways to add some flair to your kitchen. “People don’t really think about trivets, so the price for a one-of-a-kind item is generally under $10,” she says. “For example, I found a vintage ceramic and wood trivet in Tucson that gets daily use and also adds a pop of midcentury color to my kitchen. It was $3 at an estate sale shop.”

serving dishesPhoto: Amanda Kippert

4. Vintage Serving Dishes

Elevate your dollar store chips-and-dip bowl with something a bit more eye-catching. Look for midcentury modern wood pieces or retro ceramic tins that could house your utensils for a party. Collect a conglomerate of milk glass dishes that make both a beautiful shelf display and are also functional for holding everything from cupcakes to cashews.

5. Amish Kitchen Hutches

The Amish are known for their superior woodworking techniques, so stumbling upon an Amish-made kitchen cupboard, hutch or sugar chest is a stellar find, says Snider. “Nineteenth-century sugar chests are very highly sought after by collectors as they were meant to be utilitarian, to protect sugar from bugs and vermin, and since they sat out in the kitchen or dining room, they were crafted to be decorative. Present-day collectors use antique sugar chests to store their liquor.” And if you’re feeling really inspired by the handcrafted Amish vibes, try a few of their baking tips, too.

crystal stemwarePhoto: Amanda Kippert

6. Crystal Stemware

Most of us can’t afford Baccarat crystal champagne flutes at $165 a pop, which is why the flea market is a great place to go on the hunt for vintage crystal stemware with flair and personality at a fraction of the price. It’s an easy way to jazz up your Friday night cocktail or add some sparkle to a holiday table. Don’t be afraid to mix and match styles and colors, either. The fun of vintage finds is that each one is unique.

coffee millPhoto: Amanda Kippert

7. Antique Coffee Mills

Antique hand-grinders fit the bill for functional and decorative. There is typically a bevy to choose from floating around antique stores, but some of the oldest ones—think, 100 years or so—can be highly valuable. Coffee purists will also argue that grinding your coffee by hand can produce more flavorful coffee (they don’t heat up the beans like electric grinders do).

spice rackPhoto: Amanda Kippert

8. Vintage Spice Racks

I don’t know about you, but the Lazy Susan spice rack in my pantry is constantly hiding spices from me. I think it’s secretly eating the cinnamon. A vintage spice rack with little spice-holding tins would be a much better way to store spices on the countertop or nearby wall shelf—it’s stylish and adds an adorable pop of color. Just make sure you label which spice is which on the bottom of each, unless you’re a spice-sniffing expert.

How about some vintage recipes, too?
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Amanda Kippert
Amanda Kippert has been an award-winning freelance journalist for nearly two decades. She is based in Tucson, Arizona and specializes in food, health, fitness, parenting and humor, as well as social issues. She is the content editor of the domestic violence nonprofit DomesticShelters.org.