Lara Spencer hosting Flea Market Flips

When she's not working as co-anchor for Good Morning America, Lara Spencer is on the hunt for a killer deal. The host and executive producer of HGTV's Flea Market Flip spoke to SheKnows and shared her secrets for navigating the flea market scene.

From trash to treasure

Her day job might be working as Good Morning America's lifestyle anchor, but Lara Spencer is passionate about all things antique and vintage. Over the years, her love for decor turned into a side career where she moonlights as a decorator for friends, including pal Kathy Griffin.

I Brake for Yard Sales

Her love for nostalgic decor has opened the door for other ventures. She wrote a book called I Brake for Yard Sales to share her own shopping adventures and owns an antique shop at Hamptons Antique Galleries in Stamford, Connecticut, a destination must for designers. Spencer's now working as executive producer and host of HGTV’s Flea Market Flip, a show where contestants get $500 to score a flea market find they can buy, fix and flip for a profit.

Spencer first learned the ins and outs of thrift shop decorating from her mom, who would take her to yard sales and thrift shops on weekends.

"Through osmosis, I learned through her how to spot a diamond in the rough and how to transform it," Spencer told us. "I also learned that you don't need to have a lot of money to have great style."

After years of hunting down the best deals and steals, Spencer has picked up a trick or two when it comes to antique decorating. Check out her tips for working the antique scene.

Antique shopping basics

Determine what your style is. Are you midcentury modern or French provincial? "Follow your heart, because it won't be a bargain or a great find if you don't use it," Lara advised. She suggested combing through design magazines and ripping out photos that appeal to you to help pinpoint common themes you're attracted to.

"It's sort of like it's a racehorse. If a table or a chair has a broken leg, it's never going to be the same."

Look for solid pieces. "Give them a shake. Make sure the table's legs aren't wobbly. Make sure there are no cracks and lines," she said. We love her analogy for why you should find the right piece. "It's sort of like it's a racehorse. If a table or a chair has a broken leg, it's never going to be the same."

Check for labels. Spencer says to turn a furniture piece over and look for labels or some indication of who made the furniture. "There are some wonderful midcentury designers like Kittinger and Baker [furniture companies], and if you see a label then you can rest assured that you're finding a great-quality piece of furniture."

What not to look for? Spencer said you shouldn't worry so much about details like finishes, paint jobs or fabrics, since those things can all be changed. You really want to just make sure a piece has good bones, good lines and a classic shape.

Buyer beware. Shopping at flea markets and thrift stores can be super fun, but you still need to do a little work. "You need to do your homework; you need to know what you're looking at, because they're not going to take it back," she said. If you haven't examined an item properly and there's something wrong with it, there's no one to blame but yourself.

Navigating the flea market scene

Flea markets can be incredibly overwhelming. "There's a lot of junk," Lara admits, and it can be hard to find the diamond in the rough. Here's her advice for staying on track during a shopping trip:

Take two trips through. You'll see different things each time.

Train your eye. Regularly browse through design magazines and books and walk around quality antique shops so that when you spot those diamonds in the rough, you'll know it immediately.

You snooze, you lose. If you spot a great piece and don't snap it up immediately, it's gone. These pieces are vintage and one-of-a-kind, so if you see something you like, grab it, or you'll never see it again.

Don't go crazy. Don't buy something just because it's a good deal, otherwise you might end up with a garage full of stuff and have to hold your own yard sale, like Spencer herself had to do.

Buy things you love. Ultimately, you should pick items that are special to you. Don't worry about whether they'll make you a fortune. Worry about whether they're going to make your house a home.

On a time crunch?

If you don't have a full day to spend leisurely browsing a flea market and only have an hour to spare, Spencer says you can still pick up some good finds with the right strategy.

"Dealers often give better prices when you pay with cash versus a check."

Keep on moving. Bring a rolling cart or tote so you can throw your pieces in there and keep on moving.

Cash is king. Have cash so you can better negotiate and move quickly. Dealers often give better prices when you pay with cash versus a check.

Trust your gut. Do your homework and hone your design eye so that when you're running through there you'll be able to zero in on the great gems waiting to be transformed.

Grab it and go. And move on to the next find.

Easiest antiques to flip

One of the easiest items to transform is a dining room chair. Reupholstering dining chairs "could not be easier," Lara told us.

Simply pop out the seat using a screwdriver and apply new fabric using a staple gun. You typically need less than 1/2 yard of fabric per chair, and you can use "any fabric under the sun." Since you need such a small amount of fabric, you can afford to splurge a little.

"Ask your fabric store if they sell remnants, because those are a fraction of the price. Since you don't need a lot, you can get these great little scraps for next to nothing and transform your dining chairs or desk chair."

The power of paint

"Spray paint is every DIYer's best friend," Spencer explained. "Learning how to properly repaint a piece can completely transform it."

She said everyone should learn "how to properly sand, prime and paint a piece." Look it up on online, buy a book or consult a pro. "You will be so happy with the results."

Once you learn the right technique, pretty much anything is game. Dining room chairs, an old table, a random yard sale steal.

"Using bold colors or glossy white can breathe new life into an otherwise tired, old piece."

The best flip?

Bicycle Flip

We asked Spencer to tell us the craziest item she's seen flipped. She said she was "completely blown away" by a team who found an old 1950s bicycle and somehow was able to transform it into "the most fabulous tavern table."

They bought it for only $50 and were able to sell it for almost $100. Spencer said it was "worth every penny."

"It was one of a kind. It was so chic, totally unique, and I would've never thought of it."

Tell a story

Spencer doesn't just flip antique pieces for profit; she regularly incorporates special items in her home. She's lived in everything from a 1901 carriage house in Connecticut to a 1960s home in Beverly Hills and constantly changes up her decor to fit the home. Her current house is a 1920s Connecticut farmhouse where the style is a combination of midcentury modern and antiques.

The key to incorporating older pieces in your home is to mix it up, she said. "When you start to get too one-note, it starts to feel like a hotel room," she explained. "An eclectic mix of pieces that tell a story about where you come from and your history really make your house uniquely you."

"I love a room that tells a story," Spencer said. "Every single piece in my room has a story, and I love to share it with my guests."

watch Lara

Catch Lara Spencer on HGTV's Flea Market Flip, Fridays at 9 p.m.

Photo credit: HGTV

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Tags: antique

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Comments on "HGTV's Lara Spencer offers tips from Flea Market Flip"

Denise Dorne March 27, 2014 | 4:12 PM

Watched your shows aired 3/27/14 and loved every dress you were wearing! Mind sharing where you bought them? Also loved your inspiration! Thanks, Denise

joann September 20, 2013 | 4:03 PM

when does to next show come on. Tennesse

Ana Aaujo September 09, 2013 | 2:03 PM

Love the show! My sister and I have been up-cycling (or as you call it "flip") and selling at the De Anza Flea Market in Cupertino, California and people come up to us and ask "have you seen Flea Market Flip? You should be on it!" Please let us know when the next casting is... you will love what we do!!!

Sherry Zimmerman June 19, 2013 | 4:11 PM

Hi Lara....Just a FAN note to say hello. I intend to buy your book very soon. I enjoy your show and also enjoy you [and the others] on GMA xxoo

Darla June 15, 2013 | 1:27 PM

Would love to know what website you all use to check price/age of furniture pieces. I have several old lamp/coffee tables that are either early American style or Colonial style.

Barbara Briggs June 14, 2013 | 7:15 PM

I am a regular vendor at The Melrose Market Place in Hollywood and have never gotten the prices your flippers price their things for. Come on those prices are unreal. A few years ago before the economy tanked pricews were better but never as high as your show portrays.

Jerry Johnson June 11, 2013 | 7:48 PM

what happens to the items not sold at the flee market there are a few items i would have liked to purchase

Jack Coonradt June 09, 2013 | 3:44 PM

Great show It has giving me some ideas

bob raimondo June 07, 2013 | 7:25 PM

I would like to know how to answer cast call for the Flea Market Flip show. Thank You

joe moe May 31, 2013 | 10:17 PM

She told the winners how to win after their idea failed just put glass on it and make it a coffee table she win it for them winning by 23 dollars don't think that was fair!

janet May 27, 2013 | 8:38 AM

How do you find out about the value of old furniture? I have 2 great pieces,but don't what to pay for information about them.

Patrick May 21, 2013 | 10:52 PM

I like the show but the profit doesn't take into account all the money spent on the supplies to fix everything up. Can be misleading to someone sitting at home thinking that they could make the money that do on the show. Still a fun show to watch.

Misty May 16, 2013 | 5:30 PM

I watch this show every weekend, I DVR it. Today I purchase a 1918 Singer sewing table. I would like to get tips on where to go from here with it. It is in fairly good condition, good bones... please provide tips!

Bridget May 14, 2013 | 6:37 PM

Great show, was just turned on to it, and have watched every episode. Looking forward to new ones!!

susan May 14, 2013 | 6:09 PM

how do i deciede what to paint/spray with my old stuff? help

Pamela Mueller April 27, 2013 | 7:11 PM

It's great that you repurpose items , but you ARE EXTREMLEY unrealistic!! You don't take into account LABOR, TIME, and space rental, and credit card fees ... Boo hoo with your really bad show!!!!

Tom April 26, 2013 | 8:45 PM

Love the show ! As a DIY would love to see more of how the pieces are being refurbished. Need to see more shows. Seen them all already !! Keep them coming ; ))

Danielle April 26, 2013 | 7:42 PM

@Joanne - a tip - it's called, "The Brooklyn Flea" (no "market"). Here's the info: http://www.brooklynflea/2013/04/16/were-expanding-to-philly/

Kim Hancock April 26, 2013 | 6:10 PM

How do contestants apply to get on the show?

Joanne April 21, 2013 | 3:54 PM

Where is the Broklyn Flea Market located? Love the show. I have two French settees and would love to sell them!

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