We talk a lot about "props" around the office, which is a very loose blanket term for anything we might consider using in a photoshoot. Some of our props, like these porcelain paper plates, are sold in the Food52 Shop, but many of our favorites are treasures amassed over months and years, things that get snatched up when we spot them in a favorite thrift store.
So where do we go treasure hunting? Often, it's not in New York City, since, as our Art Director Alexis puts it, "the prices and the demand are high, making for fewer options at a higher price." We even drove up to Brimfield, Massachusetts this year for one of their tri-yearly road shows. But when we need an antique in a pinch (and yes, sometimes we do), here's where we go for prop shopping in New York City:
Furnish Green (Flatiron)
A few flights up in an office building off of Broadway, Furnish Green is a shop I've been going to since it was a fraction of its current sprawl. The owners clean, restore, and photograph each piece, constantly updating their website so it's a great place to online thrift. The store is far more curated than some junkier shops—and yet they keep their prices fair. Numbers are never rounded, so you'll see a lamp for $23 or a desk for $201.
Go for... furniture and design inspiration.
79th Street GreenFlea Market (Upper West Side)
Our Contributors Editor Sarah is a fan of this open-air flea market near her home, which has been around for thirty years. It's "reasonably sized and organized enough to not give you a conniption," she says, "Plus, there's a Shake Shack (and a farmers market!) across the street." Vendors set up in tents, and the proceeds benefit local public schools.
Go for... tchotchkes or a jar of pickles.
Fleamarket Antiques & Collectibles (Chelsea)
I happened upon this indoor collection of vendors recently when walking on a street near our office. The selection of objects isn't overly curated, meaning it does get junky in places, but I found tons of pretty things—from old mason jars to transferware pieces and decent (if earnest) art—for very low prices. Employees were helpful and fair, but didn't hover: 10/10
Go for... art and tabletop accessories.
Housing Works (Gramercy)
With a dozen appealing locations around the city, Housing Works is perhaps NYC's most well-known thrift store, with a mission of "end the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS through relentless advocacy" through various initiatives. You can bid on higher-priced items in their online auctions, which are addictive, and pick up all kinds of kitchenwares for lower than low prices in the store.
Go for... clothes, pint glasses, and small furnishings like lamps.
Brooklyn Junk (Williamsburg)
Housed in the basement of a corner building near McCarren Park, Junk is a Brooklynite's dream: heaps of furniture, records, and accessories make a maze throughout the space, so you have to do a little digging (the enjoyable kind). Most large pieces aren't restored, which means you can get them for a lower price than somewhere fancier—and with a little elbow grease spiff them right up.
Go for... records and larger unrestored furniture.
Unique (Downtown Brooklyn)
Not for the feeble-hearted, this sprawling thrift store that's part of a nationwide chain has a branch in downtown Brooklyn (not the hipster part). "It's HUGE," says our community manager Madeline Muzzi, and "great for practical home stuff, not just kitschy sweaters." It's inexpensive, and they price art by how big it is, which is funny if nothing else.
Go for... teapots, shoes.
Brooklyn Flea (Fort Greene)
"If you are short on time and/or patience, the Brooklyn Flea is a great place to shop because the items are already curated by the vendors (meaning less junk to sift through," says Alexis, who frequents this market-style flea before photoshoots. You're definitely going to pay up for what you buy, since this is Hipster Mecca Number One on a Saturday morning in Brooklyn, but you're going to find something you want—no, need!—every time you go.
Go for... whitewashed furniture and old, blue mason jars.
Build it Green (Gowanus)
More of a salvage yard than something the term "thrift store" might imply, BIG is located to the right of the Gowanus canal. They source from demos, so there's a bounty of excavated home goods like sinks, tubs, and appliances—plus porcelain doorknobs, handles, and a whole oft-overlooked kitchen section where treasures can be found.
Go for... old wood planks for floors or shelves, or a funky green sink.
The Golden Nugget (Lambertsville)
About an hour's drive from the city limits, The Golden Nugget is located on an otherwise-country road and spills into the parking lots of a few buildings. Being outside of the city, the prices are incredible (chairs for a few bucks, a very good oil painting for $40, old cast iron for as cheap as it comes) but you have to haul it back with you in whatever vehicle you came in.
Go for... wooden furniture and food photography props.
Do you collect old things with as much abandon as we do? How do you find a deal? Let us know in the comments.
Photos by Alexis Anthony, Furnish Green, author, Brooklyn Junk, Brooklyn Flea, and author, respectively.
This post was originally published in October 2015.