Flea Market upgrades for “Good Housekeeping”

Last year “Good Housekeeping” asked if they could do a feature on me and my flea market shopping. Knowing that “Good Housekeeping” is the NUMBER TWO most popular magazine (think about it, every Dr.’s office in the world) with 4.5 million readers I said, “Does Lindsey Lohan love ankle monitors? YES, let’s do that.”  So we shot the “before’s” in January at the Rose Bowl, the “after’s” all styled up in March, and now the feature is in the June issue, which is only on the shelves for 10 more days.



Remind me next time to drink dandelion water or whatever celebs drink the day before a shoot to debloat them. My face could hold up a cruise ship in that photo. Must have been a really good Saturday night the night before.

These were the eight things that we bought below. The idea was that they all needed to be cheap and simple enough that they could be turned into something great. They also needed to be easily doable — not a crazy 14-step process DIY. The magazine wanted nothing mid-century or regency-style, all more traditional or country so I had to keep that in mind, too.

And the question that I kept asking myself (which I do about everything and I think every person in a creative job should) was, “Would I actually own this?” and “Would I actually do this for myself?” Now it doesn’t mean that it has to exist in my current small house right now, but would I keep these in one of my houses if i had 10 houses?  And the answer has to be and was consistently “yes.”

So here are the “before’s” (shot by the lovely David Tsay):


One of my favorite pieces was this bench, below. We reupholstered it in vintage/handmade Hmong fabric and stripped and waxed it to show the natural wood. It’s now sitting in my hallway and I LOVE it.


My job was to redo them (which, yes, I had so much help, namely from Orlando) but also to style them in environments that would show them off the best and give them the right context. It was tricky because I wanted them to look super “me,” but they also need to look right for “Good Housekeeping,” so it had to be kinda a modern version of traditional. Honestly, though, I love all those photos above. We shot at Scott’s house (which is beautiful) so it wasn’t hard to make it really pretty.



The herringbone top trunk was probably the most complicated so I’ll do a separate DIY post on that and hopefully more of them, but I’m not sure how many process photos we got. I’ll see what kinda posts we can scrape together.

So thank you very much, “Good Housekeeping,” for the feature.

And now, friends, which one is your favorite?


  1. Sarah

    Already got my copy as soon as you mentioned you were in it! :)

    • Emily

      Ah, thanks Sarah!!

  2. erin

    i actually quite enjoyed this article in Goodhousekeeping! it was a great article, and i felt like the prices were totally realistic! and it could really work for a LOT of people. I too love the bench!!! it’s such an awesome piece! now, to find a fantastic flea market nearby me (DC/MD). but i need more knick knacks to decorate shelves, I’m not sure how to go about that.

    • Gabby

      I’m in the DC/MD area as well, so if you find any good flea markets, please share! I tried looking some up a few months ago but I heard “it’s not a big flea market area,” so I kind of stopped there. But, I visited Unique Thrift in Falls Church last weekend; Amazing!

  3. Jessi

    1-you look beautiful 2-if you do find the celebrity trick for debloating, you gotsta share. 3-i love the more “country” side of Emily! I’m super looking forward to seeing what you are working on with Country Living-my fav mag!

    • Emily

      Yeah!! I know, lately i’ve been pretty into country. The house is featured in their september issue, but i’ll be sure to blog about it the second it comes out. Thanks so much!

  4. That bench is so beautiful now! And so infinitely useful.
    <3 Kirstin

  5. I love this article. The garden table is very cool. And I really like the simple bistro chair upgrade–I saw some at a yard sale a week ago and now I really wish that I had purchased them.

  6. Jodi

    I love the sleigh bench! I need to find one for myself. Great ideas!

  7. Chelse

    These are all beautiful. Do you have a flea market that you like best?

    • Emily

      The Rose Bowl is great but you HAVE to go early. Man, around 10am it gets so busy you can easily get aggressive trying to push your way through people. But at 7am, its awesome…

  8. Alexis

    The fabric on that bench. *swoon*

  9. Hillary

    First, let me say that I NEVER comment on blogs. I think it may be against my religion? But I’m making an exception here, because I discovered your blog yesterday, I’ve been reading nonstop, and I am blown away by the superior quality and actual INFORMATION you are giving out on the reg. I mean, your blog blows every other kitschy DIY blog I’ve read out of the water. Plus, you adorably look and remind me of my cousin, I obsessed over every episode of Secrets from a Stylist and I just kinda want to be your new best friend. THANK YOU for doing this blog, and also for scanning in these tips because I probably wouldn’t buy that magazine…

    To answer your question, my favorite project might be all of them! You took the old “buy this at a flea and transform it into something that looks totally homemade and crappy” flipped it and reversed it into WOW I’m totally doing that to a bench and I NEED an outdoor area with a wiry plant table, like NOW. Anyway, THANK YOU… seriously. Love, your new best friend.

  10. Emily

    WOW. Thank you SO much Hillary. That totally made my day. Its always so refreshing to hear that people are still just discovering it and liking it without knowing and reading it for years. So thank you so much, that is just so nice to hear. And yes, we can absolutely be best friends, why not. :)

  11. Jenna

    I love what you did with that bench. I would have never bought that because I wouldn’t have thought I could make it less fussy, but it turned out great! I might have to keep my eye out for one like that now!

  12. Laura

    I picked up a copy last week after you mentioned it and fell in love with the bench! I was at Brimfield last week and wish I had seen something like that! Thanks for all the great information – I found your blog a couple months ago and now its the first site I go to every morning. If you’re reading this and have any advice on where to get plain white curtains I would love to know!

    • Emily

      AH, thanks Laura. I’ve bought plain white curtains from ikea, West Elm, Pottery Barn and Country curtains. I think that Calico corners is supposed to have good ones as well. Just make sure you get cotton or linen, nothing with too much polyster in it or it looks cheap. Thanks so much for reading!

  13. Kaaren

    My favs were the neckace perch because it was a simple re-do I probably wouldn’t have thought to do and so practical and beautiful. The other is your herringbone top coffee table. A lot of people use trunks as coffee tables but to add an interesting top like you did, topped it off as my fav. The herringbone made it more modern looking and the rustic finish was a nice contrast to the paint on the trunk. Well done Emily and Orlando!

  14. Sabrina

    Your favorite is my favorite! That bench is great.

  15. I just took my first trip to LA and while I did tons of fun LA-ish things like hiking and seeing celebs at Starbucks, I was totally most excited to go to the Rose Bowl!! I love flea markets and always like to see what you buy there! I got some great stuff and had a blast even though it was eight thousand degrees that day. It’s probably better that I don’t live there because my chair-hoarding tendencies were acting up majorly with all the fab furniture I saw. Can’t wait to see the magazine!

  16. lamamatogng

    Love the curved bench! Beautiful!

  17. Angie Wierman

    The bench – hands down. You made that look totally amazing. Huge transformation. I miss seeing you on TV. Are you coming back on?

  18. Christiana Brown

    1,2,3 and 8
    Nice feature!

  19. Marcela

    I love the final products, however, I think the total cost of the items is way too high… a white wooden box for $ 25? Charming, but expensive…

  20. Claire

    I love all of it! When you first bought the pieces, did you know what you wanted to do with them or did you just love their look & knew you would work something out later?

  21. Keri

    I can’t believe no one has mentioned the lamp! We’ve all seen very country things like this with buckets and bowling pins and stuff but this one actually looked modern. Cool transformation.

  22. Katie

    The sleigh bench is gorgeous! But I’m just wondering how you know if something is ‘painted wood’? I would have seen the sleigh bench and thought the dark was its natural grain. How does paint stripping work?

    I’m new to your blog as well (all the way from Australia) and loving your posts and sense of humour.

  23. Lauren

    what you did to that bench is brilliant! it went from fugly to so cool.

  24. Megan Douglas

    I am just so absolutely jealous of your ability to style ANYTHING! I can only hope one day I can be as good as you are. Amazing! Amazing!

  25. Holy macaroni, you effing kill it every time. There are sooooooo many before and after posts for vintage stuff around the web, but these are legit AWESOME.

  26. Lisa

    I really like the bench…been looking for a nice one and boy, even the cheaply made ones are expensive!

  27. Mary

    Awesome-you did a fantastic job of bridging the modern/traditional. Everything turned out great but my faves were the sleigh bench and the glass top patio table. Well done and congrats on yet another wonderful feature!

  28. patty blaettler

    Just bought the magazine today. (because I knew you were it.) Right after a visit to the local antique-y mall. I liked the bench and lamp best.

  29. Mary

    I thought the head on the box was brilliant! And I liked the lamp too. Could you do a post on how you made it?I have several items (demijohn, mercury glass bottle, tea caddy) that i’d like to turn into lamps. I could use some visuals and sources. Thanks.

    the ankle monitor comment was hilarious…

  30. Dana O.

    I saw this post and fell in love with the little dining chairs. I also stayed the night at a comfort inn in Tacoma, where I saw similar chairs and almost became a clepto maniac. At a comfort inn, in TACOMA, stuck in the 80′s. HOW CAN YOU MAKE THESE THINGS LOOK GOOD. Kudos.


  31. Kellie

    You look absolutely beautiful in this spread. So often I will see this same topic and the pieces chosen are not wonderful, the “makeover” is awful, and it’s all very expensive. However, you have -once again- blown me away. Your style is smashing and your talent and eye for detail is so unique. You are spectacular. This magazine should be so honored to have featured you.

    I love the trunk coffee table. I look forward to reading how you did it.

  32. Lauren

    Can’t tell if serious. You look darling, of course, but you asked! Rid yourself of bloat- fast all day (drink tons of water) and eat a ginormous steak around 6:00. You will drop 2lbs of water weight the next morning.

    This is a one day thing, I’m not advocating eating disorders here. This is a total bloat-be-gone miracle.

  33. Great feature! I’m in love with the bust/necklace holder, followed by the garden table and the Hmong pillows.

  34. Kelly

    I LOVE that bench! Timeless, heirloom quality. My second fav is the garden table.

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