Oprah Goes for the Old
Before Oprah arrives, Ellie wants to identify the booths that have the best merchandise. Ellie looks at her watch and worries that she won't get to preview all 144 booths before Oprah arrives. Nevertheless, the list of items that she's confident Oprah will want grows quickly: a worn wooden sign from a public library, a scrimshaw horse, a pair of shiny brass sconces, a stack of Shaker boxes in a rainbow of colors, a rooster weather vane.
"Hi, Ellie-belly!" Oprah says as she and her best friend Gayle King step out of her car. "We're ready to spend some money!" While museum-quality pieces can have "painful" price tags, shopping for folk art is fun. "It's accessible and affordable," says Oprah, who's not enamored of highfalutin furniture or knickknacks with pedigrees. "The dealers who tell me who had it, where it came from—I don't care. I only care that I like it."
When Ellie suggests buying vintage tin stars to hang on the walls of the porch, Oprah shakes her head. "I'm not feelin' it," she says and walks to the next booth, where she and Ellie can't make up their minds about a white porcelain planter that could be used as a centerpiece on the dining-room table. "Doubt means don't," she tells Ellie, "whether it's a man, a table or a pair of shoes."
By following her own dictum and staying true to her taste, Oprah is sure she hasn't made any mistakes today. "I have the best feeling," she says, "no buyer's remorse!"
By Oprah's interior designer Ellie Cullman
1. Call the organizers in advance and ask for a map of the fair's layout. Locate favorite vendors and plan to visit them first.
2. Arrive at the show before it opens, even if you have to wait in line for admission. You want to be one of the first visitors to each booth. There's nothing worse than seeing a sold tag on a piece that you love.
3. Bring accurate measurements of your rooms so you can check whether a table, chair or painting is the right size before buying it.
4. Bring a pen, paper and a tape measure. Write down the price, description and size of the pieces you are considering so you can remember what your options are as you go through the show.
5. Bring a digital camera to take pictures of the things you are interested in but not sure about.
6. Get the dealers' cell phone numbers. After you've gone through the show once, take a look at the digital pictures, descriptions and prices of pieces you liked. When you're ready to buy, you can call the vendors to see if the pieces you'd like to purchase are still for sale.
7. Bring a checkbook and photo ID. Many dealers don't take credit cards.
8. If you're looking for big pieces, ask if they can arrange for shipping and how expensive that will be. Renting or borrowing a van may be a better way to get your pieces home.
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