Jennifer’s Guide to the Round Top Antiques Fair
In early April, I made my annual trek to the Round Top Antiques Fair, mecca for interior designers and collectors in search of unique home furnishings and accessories at bargain prices. As I drove 85 miles southeast from Austin, Texas, the capital city skyline was quickly replaced by views of cattle grazing vast acres of green pastures.
Every spring and fall, more than 350 antiques dealers set up shop in tents, event venues, and barns that stretch for 25 miles from Burton to La Grange, Texas. Round Top — population 90 — is nestled in between the two towns along Highway 237. Since the 1960s, antiques junkies and flea market fanatics have descended upon the tiny town of Round Top to score treasured vintage items sourced from all around the globe.
While I didn’t have a chance to visit every vendor during my day trip, I thought I’d share some highlights of the fair and give you some tips to help you make the most of the event. Whether you have a day or a week to spend in Round Top, you’re sure to find design inspiration. You may even snag the perfect piece to take home.
Round Top is a quaint town with limited dining options, especially for those of us who are vegan. Fortunately, you can get a good cup of coffee at Espressions Coffee and Art, which is always my first stop when I get into town. For vegan fare, your best bet is a baked potato or salad from one of the food vendors. For a day trip, I typically pack my own lunch and take a couple of snacks to fuel me throughout the day.
Regardless of whether you attend the spring or fall fair, it’s likely to be sunny. Be sure to take sunscreen, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat to protect your skin. And be prepared to walk a lot, primarily on gravel and grass fields. To avoid blisters, wear comfortable, durable shoes. Don’t forget to throw some hand sanitizer in your bag. Many of the restroom options are of the portable variety, and not all of them have handwashing stations.
Wandering around the tents and venues can be a lot of fun, but it can also be overwhelming. To keep yourself focused, make a list of furniture and accessories to scout while you explore. Before I make my trip, I jot down some items I may be able to find for clients. I inevitably pick up a few things for myself along the way, too.
Finally, if you plan to buy several large items, consider renting a trailer to drive your purchases home. If that’s not possible, ask the antiques vendors to recommend a reputable local shipping company. If you’re hauling items in your car, use tarps to avoid tearing or staining your upholstery.
Bargain and Browse
If you’re the kind of person who thinks variety is the spice of life, then you’re going to love the Round Top Antiques Fair. Looking for a creepy, old-fashioned baby doll head? Check out the Scary Baby Hotel tent at the Bar W Antique Flea Market. On the hunt for a midcentury Italian Murano glass chest with brass accents? The Big Red Barn is a good spot for finding high-end, collectible pieces.
Whether you’re buying a formal dining set or some antique biscuit tins, don’t pay full price. Most of the dealers are eager to sell their inventory, so don’t be afraid to haggle to get the best deal.
So far, I’ve had great luck sourcing from the antiques fair. I’ve purchased two rugs for a bathroom and an office, a brass elephant to add to my collection, a pair of Chinese foo dogs, a walnut slab for a client’s custom headboard, and a table by well-known Italian designer Willy Rizzo. This trip, I scored a gorgeous Turkish rug for a friend and a vintage Stetson hat (with original receipt) for myself from one of the vendors in Warrenton, which is a few miles south of Round Top.
One of my favorite places for curated finds is Marburger Farm, a massive expanse of tents and barns that house items ranging in style from traditional to industrial. Many of the sellers buy their inventory abroad and sell it here. You’ll find anything from vintage cowboy boots to fine art to rare jewelry.
No trip would be complete without stopping by The Compound, which features five barns, a gazebo, and a food court. Eneby Home, a midcentury Scandinavian vendor, is always a highlight. The unique selection of furniture, lighting, art, and decor have a refined, hip vibe that makes it a go-to resource.
Like what you’ve read and want to check out the Round Top Antiques Fair for yourself? Mark your calendar for the next show, which is set for Oct. 1–6, 2018.
If you really want to immerse yourself in the Round Top, Texas, flea market experience, consider staying for several days. The Round Top Area Chamber of Commerce has a lodging list. Reservations fill up fast, so book early.
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