“My best find last year was a perfectly fitting tuxedo,” says Ken Fulk. It may be 7 a.m. and hammering rain, but formal wear is never far from Ken’s mind. As he and Chairish co-founder Anna Brockway make their way across the muddy fields at the Brimfield Antique Show, Ken is impeccably dressed as ever, making it clear that nothing will get in the way of him embarking on a good, old-fashioned treasure hunt in style.
“Wait—!” It appears something has caught Ken’s eye. “A penguin! I love a good penguin,” he admits, stopping to survey a 1920s papier mâché penguin complete with a top hat. “They’re always wearing a tuxedo! What’s not to love?”
Ultimately, Ken decides against the penguin (more on that fateful decision later) and continues on his hunt. It’s all a notably different look for the renowned interior designer and event maestro, who has long been regarded as one of the most accomplished and visionary designers in the industry. From pulling off the majestic Big Sur wedding of tech mogul Sean Parker, to decorating The Battery, the official stomping grounds of San Francisco’s creative elite, Ken excels at creating spaces that are both arresting and atmospheric. And yet, even with his mind-boggling CV, Ken remains incredibly down-to-earth.
A long-time veteran of Brimfield, Ken guides us through the maze of tents (Dunkin’ Donuts coffee cup in-hand), unearthing gems large and small, greeting antiques dealers by first name and displaying his expertise in the art (and etiquette!) of the bargain. With the day complete, we grilled Ken on his best finds, along with his top tips for Brimfield first-timers. Get the scoop below, and shop Ken’s picks here!
KEN’S BRIMFIELD RECAP
What was your favorite purchase today?
We found this stash of wonderful figurative drawings. We grouped some into triptychs and some we let stand on their own. There is a particular one of an elegant gentleman with elongated features. I can just imagine it in a sexy Deco frame. I nearly kept it aside for myself!
Describe a fantastic score you’ve made at Brimfield in the past.
There are all sorts of legends about priceless items or masterpiece paintings being found buried in a corner of an unsuspecting dealer’s tent – but for me it’s the little things that tend to mean the most. Perhaps my favorite recent find is a silver holder containing two daguerreotype photos from the Civil War – one of a Union soldier and one of a Confederate soldier. It is inscribed to the mother whose sons were fighting on the opposing sides of the war.
Did you have any specific items you were on the lookout for at this year’s market?
There is a team from my studio attending this year to help shop for a few large projects. We’ll be looking for everything from 18th/19th century American antiques to Mid-Century classics. We almost always find good art.
Did you notice any product trends at the market today?
I’m not a trend following guy. In my mind, it’s never a good idea to chase trends. I always shop for what I love, and know that it will find a home.
Looking back, were there any items that you wished you had purchased today, but didn’t?
It’s funny – you truly only regret the things you didn’t get! I found this wonderful papier mâché penguin with a top hat from the 20’s. I picked him up but got distracted. By the time I came back to grab it, he was sold.
Was there anything that surprised you during your time at Brimfield today?
Always surprises at Brimfield! New dealers; running into old friends. Funny, but my favorite surprise this year was the rice truck! Delicious. Deciding where you’re going to eat at Brimfield is a hotly debated topic. Years ago, there were very few choices — now thankfully, there are a plethora.
It poured while you shopped! Was it still fun?
Maybe more fun! It created a real sense of camaraderie amongst the folks who braved the elements. The dealers welcomed you under their tents to get out of the rain and were truly grateful you showed up. Also, it was the perfect time to get a deal!
KEN FULK’S 5 TIPS FOR BRIMFIELD FIRST-TIMERS:
- Go with a group; start a tradition.
“For me, it’s really the camaraderie that I enjoy most,” Ken says. “There’s an extended group of us who seldom miss a Brimfield. We don’t really shop together, but we do text one another if we spot something we know someone else may be interested in. At the end of the day we gather for dinner at our favorite German restaurant (they have Bavarian pretzels to die for!), reminisce about the day, and have a lively discussion of who scored the greatest find.”
- Scope out the pickings early if you can.
“We typically arrive the evening prior to scope out the fields and say ‘hi’ to some of our dealer friends,” Ken reveals. “Part of the real joy is rushing the fields with the masses when they open, so get there early and get your place in line. I typically start at the back and make my way forward.”
- Keep track of what’s open when.
“Make sure you have a plan as to how you will collect your items,” Ken advises. “Some fields are only open a few hours, and then the dealers pack up and leave, or move onto another field. There are porters who can help get items back to your car—but make sure your eyes aren’t too big for your trunk!”
- Bring cash.
“Cash is still king at Brimfield,” Ken divulges. “Only a few dealers take credit cards. Also, you’ll get better prices if you have cash.”
- Know your limits.
“I always wish I started earlier and had the stamina to stay later,” Ken admits, but, “that said it’s good to know your limits. There will always be more finds the next the day!”
All photos by Joyelle West for Chairish