If you’ve ever run across a room decorated by interior designer Patrick Mele, then you know the Vogue-recognized pro has a knack for mixing idiosyncratic objects with more traditional pieces for a look that’s uniquely Patrick. From the homes he designs for private clients, to his IRL shop in Greenwich, Connecticut, to his own Upper East Side apartment, Patrick has honed the interplay of eccentric finds and knock-out color, adding up to a fresh take on maximalism. So, when our co-founder, Anna Brockway was searching for a shopping partner to comb the stalls of Brimfield with, Patrick was an obvious fit. After hitting the fields with Anna (and curating a killer Chairish collection), Patrick sat down to give us the 411 on the experience, including his favorite finds of the trip, his best tricks for driving a bargain, and how to conquer Brimfield with style.
Tell us a bit about your personal history with shopping Brimfield. What keeps you coming back?
I was introduced to Brimfield probably over a decade ago during my time with Ralph Lauren—they were big Brimfield shoppers. Multiple teams of people would come, with trucks—it was insane. We would buy, buy, buy for the department stores and for the flagships. And that was kind of how I got introduced to it. It’s just an amazing assembly that you can’t find in this part of the country, otherwise. There’s a lot to see and a lot of great value.
What makes Brimfield special?
For me, it’s based on location. It’s only two hours from Connecticut and New York. Plus, it happens three times a year.
What were some of your favorite finds from the trip?
I love that Italian pottery head. He’s a beauty. It was a great buy, too. I love that little white Lightolier desk light, too. I just thought that was so fun and functional. Fun and functional. How about that? Great form; great shape. I really loved that oil landscape, as well. It’s sort of Gaughin in color. The Danish hassock is great, and I like the rattan magazine rack, as well. The bronze bust was great; beautifully done. Another great value. And my oyster plates—perfect for the end of summer!
Anything that “got away”?
There was one towards the end there, it was right after we bought the purple short glasses with the white swirl. There was a beautiful piece of 1930s Viennese ceramic. But it was really expensive.
Was there anything in particular you were looking to source for Chairish shoppers?
I love tabletop, and I think we nailed that. The yellow citrine vase? That was a really pretty piece. I was surprised by that wicker, sort of Victorian lamp. That was great. Overall, I was looking for great-looking pieces that I wouldn’t normally get for myself.
On that note, did you end up buying anything for yourself?
I got a beautiful book of plates The Floral Art of Japan from 1899. The colors are so saturated and well-maintained. I plan to take the book apart and frame the prints in a series. Maybe in thin, black bamboo frames for my shop? Or maybe for a project, or my own home? And then—also staying in a Far East theme—I purchased a Japanese bowl from the late 20s early 30s. I just love the color, and the sheen, that kind of mirrored effect.
Patrick’s Top Tips for Shopping Brimfield:
1. Arrange for Your Haul
If you have any intention of sourcing furniture at the fair, be sure to either bring a car with ample haul space, or arrange prior transportation with a trucking company. As Patrick advises, nothing will damper your new purchase high more than the realization that there’s no way of getting your new piece home.
2. Scale Your Day
Don’t try to do too much in one day, say Patrick, who likens visiting Brimfield for the first time to visiting a new city. “Like when visiting a new city, I’d rather not go and go and go,” says Patrick. “I’d rather really look in one area.” If you’re a first-timer, Patrick recommends centering the core of your day around Heart of the Mart and Dealer’s Choice.
3. Listen Up!
If you’re looking to strike a deal at Brimfield, Patrick has some sage advice: be nice and listen! “I think you catch more bees with honey,” he says of dealer interactions. “You have to be sweet and kind and patient. And I think it helps to listen to what these people are offering. That’s why they do this: to engage.”
4. The One-Hour Rule
While it might sound ambitious, Patrick says, “I wouldn’t make my first purchase for the first hour or so.” His reasoning? It can stave off impulse purchases you might regret. “I’d just take a minute,”says Patrick. “Get out there and see. Get a feel for the people; what they’re all about; what they’re selling. Nine times out of ten, the item will still be there. So just give it a bit of time.”
5. Go With the Flow
As much as you can plan ahead, a successful Brimfield experience really just comes down to going with the flow. Patrick himself says, “I just see what I see. I come with a few things in mind, but I don’t focus on those necessarily. It’s whatever catches my eye.” After all, the fun is all in the treasure hunt!
All photos by Kyle Knodell