Design Experts
May 1, 2009

Inside design: Eddie Ross

By: Brett Walther

Inside design: Eddie Ross Author: Style At Home

Design Experts
May 1, 2009

Inside design: Eddie Ross

By: Brett Walther
Move over, Madonna! Meet Eddie Ross -- the King of Reinvention, who's known for his knack for breathing new life into old treasures. At only 31, the master of the flea market makeover -- and HGTV Top Design contestant -- has made a career of " creative upcycling" at the likes of House Beautiful, Country Home and Martha Stewart Living magazines. With burning up the blogosphere and a new Etsy shop devoted to his fab flea market finds, Style at Home talked trash and treasure with the self-professed collectaholic.

eddie-ross-portrait.jpg Style at Home: What makes reinvention such an attractive process to you?
Eddie Ross: It allows you to become your own designer. When I'm out junking or at a flea market, I can instantly see the difference that wallpapering the top of a dresser and layering a piece of cut glass over top will make. A lot of the pieces I find are dated but have really pretty lines. Updating them by changing out the hardware or replacing cracked glass with mirror gives them new life. And when you put all that blood, sweat and tears into something, it becomes your creation. That's what’s so fun about the whole process.

S@H: How do you make the most of a junking trip?
Keep an open mind! For instance, maybe you’re looking for a dresser at the thrift store, but instead you find a secretary with beautiful lines. It may not be exactly what you were looking for, but the piece has drawers and concealed storage, and once you paint it white and change out the knobs, it works.

S@H: What's your plan of attack when shopping?

ER: The early bird gets the worm, but the late bird gets the deals! At the end of the day, dealers would rather make less money and unload their wares than pack them up. The other thing I'd say is to begin in the back of the flea market because everybody starts in the front. That way, you can beat people to all the good stuff!

S@H What’s your bartering style?
ER: Never insult a dealer by offering too little -- that will get you nowhere. Dealers work hard, and you want to work with them. When something is $100, I'll offer $75. I always like to barter at a fair price.


eddie-ross-flea-market.jpgS@H: What kind of homework would you suggest people do before they go treasure hunting?
ER: There’s such a big difference between good and bad silver plate -- there was a ton of stuff made in the '50s and '60s that wasn't as good quality as pieces from the '20s, for instance. Research what you like so that you know specifically what to look for -- markings, weight, patterns, for example. You'll be better able to spot deals, too. Being educated makes you a better collector.

S@H How can trash become a treasure without all that "blood, sweat and tears" business?

ER It's about repurposing: coming up with creative new uses for things. A single glass saltcellar may seem useless, but in a guest bathroom, it’s the perfect cache for earrings. And how many people actually use an antique toast rack for breakfast in bed? But it’s the best way to organize mail and stationery on a desk. Antique flower frogs are great for organizing pens and pencils, and one of my favourite vessels is a pretty teapot I found on the 50-cent table because the lid was broken.

presents with presence

With his hugely popular blog and an online shop on Etsy (, former magazine editor Eddie Ross is the go-to guy for tips on how to make your finds one-of-a-kinds – and do it on a budget.

Shake things up.
"I hate consulting friends' wedding registries and seeing that they've asked for water goblets. I mean, how dull! Instead, I think you should use the registry to get an idea of what the couple is looking for and add your own twist -- for instance, give them antique water goblets," says Eddie.

Do the circuit.
Flea markets, secondhand stores, garage sales and some e-tailers represent wonderful sources for potential deals. Adds Eddie, "The Etsy shop is a great way for my readers to purchase beautiful flea market finds at inexpensive prices, seeing as everything’s priced under $100."

Personalize it. "You can find sterling silver serving spoons for $25, then have them engraved with the couple's monogram, which costs another $25. You end up with a $50 wedding gift that looks like it cost $150," he says.


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Inside design: Eddie Ross