Sunday, June 23, 2024

I’ve Been Going to Round Top Since I Was a Teen—Here’s How I Find the Best Vintage Furniture

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Twice a year in Round Top, Texas, just an hour outside of Austin, the design world descends on one of the biggest antiques fairs in the country, stretched along 17 miles of highway. To those who attend, it’s a boon for weathered wood tables and seriously good mid-century and pristine ’70s-era furniture. In other words, for a newbie like me, shopping the Round Top Antiques Fair can be overwhelming.

Thankfully, for my first-ever trip, I was lucky enough to accompany Sheila Youngblood, the owner of the nearby Rancho Pillow, who’s been going to the fair since high school, when her grandmother started bringing her there. At her property, she presides over Feasts in the Field, an epic outdoor dinner party. Here, Youngblood, who graciously hosted me and Domino cover stars Jonathon Burford and Jesse Rudolph for a few days in March, shares all her secrets for shopping Round Top, along with her little black book of can’t-miss vendors. 

Where do you recommend first-timers start?

The most important thing you can do before you go, especially for the first time, is prepare. Scan Instagram or Pinterest, or create your own mood board and find things that you like. Look at the pages of designers whom you admire and see if they talk about Round Top or vintage. 

Then, once you’re there, move swiftly and make laps, taking photos along the way. [Once you’ve finished browsing their area], show your pics to the respective dealers so you only have one interaction where you’re telling them what you’re interested in. Ask for pricing from there. It’s nice to be respectful of their time and yours. You can make the decisions to buy or not buy based on what you find out in those conversations.

Youngblood has filled Rancho Pillow with vintage finds from around the world.

It’s the thrill of the hunt out there, and I really lose sight of time and all sensibilities. So as long as I have my phone and a backup battery, I can navigate the show pretty well. You don’t need to pack water or food—there’s always a snack you can pick up along the way. 

Can you negotiate price, and what’s your advice for doing so?

The show is changing, and it feels a little bit more like a retail show than a flea market, which is how it began. But some dealers are priced to sell and ready to move things out the door so that they can bring in more containers, even during that show. Others are pretty strict on their pricing and less willing to negotiate. It certainly doesn’t hurt to ask, but I wouldn’t hound them—either buy it or don’t. Don’t try to rewrite the rules of the game. That only frustrates us as buyers and them as dealers.

How do you get, say, a giant dining room table home?

There are plenty of shippers there that go all over the U.S. and beyond. And once you start purchasing, you never know how much space you’re going to take up in a truck. So I would finish shopping and then look at everything that you have—and then call the shipper. Just keep in mind that the shipper has to pack everything up by the end of the show. So if you come near the end, you’ve got to be really swift in setting that up. 

How many days should someone spend at Round Top?

If you can do it, come twice: two or three days at the beginning of the show, like opening weekend or just before because some fields you can get into a little bit early before it’s technically open. Then come back for Marburger, which is near the end of the fair, and it’s where shoppers wait behind tape before it opens at 9 a.m. to get into the tents. It’s like the running of the bulls.

Youngblood’s Round Top Vendor List

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