6 Tips for Navigating the Brimfield Antique Show
Three times each year, the Brimfield Antique Show convenes thousands of dealers, vendors, designers and collectors from across the country in historic Hampden County, Massachusetts. As a New England stalwart, the show is a veritable treasure trove of antique and decorative objects, sumptuous textiles, unique works of art, and much more.
For designers, Brimfield is a sourcing asset. Its appeal, however, isn’t necessarily rooted in finding furnishings — though it certainly can be. “It’s more about finding accessories; those really unique, finishing pieces that we use for styling a client’s home,” says Tricia Fortin, Senior Interior Designer at Acampora Interiors. “That way a space feels really curated, really collected. It’s not something that you’d find in your typical big-box store or identical to what you see on everyone’s Instagram feed. It’s definitely going to feel different.”
Indeed, each find from the Brimfield Antique Show truly does feel one-of-a-kind. Dealers enjoy sharing the history of the pieces on offer, from the unique estate sales they hail from to the historic buildings they were salvaged from. “You’re getting something more unique and that has fewer siblings out there in the world,” Fortin explains.
When she’s on the hunt at Brimfield, Fortin keeps an eye out for pieces like antique rugs, uncommon accessories, and beautiful works of art that can be acquired without spending a small fortune. But spanning two miles of expansive fields, the show can seem overwhelming to newcomers. Thankfully, Fortin, a Brimfield veteran, shares her strategy for navigating this mammoth treasure hunt. Whether it’s your first visit or your fifth, here are some tips for sifting through the noise to uncover the perfect piece.
Tips for Visiting the Brimfield Antique Show
1. Make a shopping list.
For each room you’re sourcing for, take inventory of any items you need: a work of art for over the console table perhaps, or a vase to anchor the dining room table, for example. Fortin notes that while the chances of checking every box are slim, knowing what you’re looking for ahead of time will prevent you from aimless wandering — or making unnecessary purchases.
2. Know your dimensions.
If you’re hunting for a rug, a piece of furniture, or a work of art, Fortin says to bring your floorplans and know when a certain size just will not fit. All sales are final, so once you buy an item, it’s yours. When it comes to rugs or furniture, she recommends creating a limited range of sizes that your space can bear. Especially with antique rugs, which generally do not come in standard 8 x 10’ size, knowing whether or not your space can tolerate an extra three to five inches on the rug’s length is key.
3. Pack like a soccer mom (or dad).
Get ready. Get set… You’ll be on the go for most of the day, so come prepared. Here’s a checklist of items that Fortin makes sure she has on hand:
✓ Truck or SUV
If you don’t have one, be sure to borrow a truck or an SUV from a friend so you have ample room to transport your treasures.
✓ Collapsible wagon
This is an essential item, and having a collapsible model is key. This way, it takes up far less space in your car on the ride home while you’re carrying precious cargo. There are plenty of models available on Amazon.
✓ Cooler with snacks and drinks
It will be a marathon day, so make sure you don’t have to call it quits early because you’re hangry. Be sure to pack snacks and beverages, though fried dough vendors and other food trucks are available on site.
✓ Wet wipes
One thing is certain, your hands are going to touch a lot of surfaces, and there’s no place to wash your hands. Bring sanitizing wipes and keep them handy.
✓ Tape measure
An essential anywhere.
✓ Newspaper or bubble wrap
Fortin notes that not every vendor offers takeaway bags or packing materials, so bringing a stack of old newspapers or rolls of bubble wrap is always a good idea for safe transport home.
✓ Crossbody bag or backpack
For carrying essentials.
✓ Walking shoes or rain boots
Opt for comfort over style here; your feet are going to hurt at the end of the day. Keep in mind too that the show happens rain or shine, so if it’s a stormy day, the fields will flood easily.
4. Keep your bearings.
For larger items you’ve purchased, some vendors will let you pick them up when you’re done browsing the show. Be sure to Drop a Pin on your iPhone (here’s how) and note where your vendor is. After hours of scouring rows of booths, they can easily start to look a little similar. Thankfully, even if you do lose track, event staff can help you make your way back.
5. Take advantage of shipping services.
For the items that are too large to carry home, some vendors and dealers offer shipping services. For those that don’t, the Brimfield Antique Show offers kiosks throughout the fields that can help with expediting, so don’t be deterred if there’s an item you have your eye on — there are still ways to get the item home if it won’t fit inside your car.
6. Don’t be afraid to negotiate.
Negotiating is all part of the process, so don’t be afraid to ask for a better price. Haggling can definitely be worth your while, especially if you’re buying more than one item from a vendor. “Everyone has a price, so it doesn’t hurt to ask,” Fortin says.
Even better, you can often get the best deal at the September shows as it’s the last of the year and more vendors are inclined to offload their inventory. Fortin says to keep in mind that bigger-ticket items like rugs and art have less wiggle room, so don’t be surprised if the sticker price is indeed your purchase price.
Bringing it All Together
For the Acampora Interiors team, the September 2019 Brimfield Antique Show offered some of the best finishing touches for our Nantucket Seaside Project, which was completed in March of 2020. “When we went for our Nantucket project, we went with a list,” Fortin recalls. “We knew we had a certain budget and we knew we wanted the home to feel unique.”
In the end, the treasure hunt paid off; Brimfield proved to be a gold mine for the design team. “It was the luck of the draw that day; we just hit so many wonderful vendors that had great product. We did so well curating items for that house at a price-point that fit the budget. We made it feel cozy and collected; not like new construction. And seeing it in photos, you really can see the depth of what those pieces can add to a home.”