The arrival of spring means that flea markets are reopening for business around the country. Shoppers will hunt for treasures amid acres of used goods. A few will come home with just the right vintage art or quirky piece of furniture to make their home more beautiful.

Many interior designers and decorators will be joining the flea-market brigade, selectively ferreting out the best pieces they can repaint, repurpose, refinish, reupholster and renew.

Sometimes, they spot rare, valuable items in the process.

Amy Anderson of Nest. in Colorado Springs searches for used, battered and weathered metal with an interesting personality that could fit into a modern home. She likes teaming modern, traditional and rustic.

Anderson considers her sale shopping a success when she finds old blue and white items she can mix in. Maybe it's a pillow, maybe an oriental pot.

Her shopping motto: "If you love it, you can find a place for it. To buy something you're not 100 percent sure of, I wouldn't do it. But if you love it, you will find a place in your home for it."

Los Angeles-based interior designer Brian Patrick Flynn, creator of the FlynnsideOut design blog, also hunts for vintage pieces: "I shop second-hand regardless of my project's budget or client's level of taste," he says. "Vintage and thrift is the best way to add one-of-a-kind flair to a space without insanely high cost."

Finding "the unusual, inspirational piece" is the challenge for Sherry Agee of Agee Interior Design in the Springs.

"I might be looking to make a light fixture out of an architectural piece," she said.

Agee is always on the lookout for "fabulous, large seashells because you can't find those anymore. They make beautiful display pieces in cabinets with glass fronts. And you can paint the inside of the cabinet a color, maybe an ocean color, as a great background for the seashells."

There is luck involved, of course. But skill also plays a role. As you browse crowded tables of used things this spring, how can you find the treasures that will give your home an infusion of style while avoiding decorating disasters?

Christy Cassidy of Cassidy Interior Design in the Springs is happy to share her tips.

- Go early in the morning when the best things will be there.

- Take a cart with wheels and canvas bags to carry the treasure trove.

- "Pay cash," Cassidy said emphatically, "and ask for an additional discount. That's what you're supposed to do."

Like the other designers, she looks for pieces she loves. One more bit of advice: "If you're shopping for a specific piece, take the measurements. If you're trying to match something, take paint samples or fabric swatches."


The Associated Press contributed to this story