DC Big Flea is a treasure trove of nostalgia

Its pull is powerful, its ability to delight and move us – timeless! Nostalgia, a bittersweet longing for the past, is more than a feeling or sentiment. In home décor, it refers to a very viable and “happening” new trend. “Things that were made in America, by Americans and for Americans – things that were a part of the fabric of our lives, are giving us pleasure all over again,” says Joan Sides, founder and president of the D.C. Big Flea, in itself big on nostalgia.

This giant two-day antiques event, coming Sept. 20-21 to the Dulles Expo Center, is a trip down memory lane. The bright shiny red metal truck we played with as kids, the kitchen clock that told us that Mom had prepared a savory home cooked meal, the barbershop pole that welcomed generations of young, rascally boys into the first rite of manhood – the haircut – all treasures that today have special appeal.

How big a trend is it? Just visit the pages of Country Living, Interiors, Metropolitan Home and other leading décor magazines. The editorial content extols the idea that today’s homeowner is increasingly paying heed to tradition, delighting in new “old things” that can bring added joy and comfort. Editorial spreads picture home décor that has the feel of a place where traditions are cherished – a quality that makes contemporary interiors more inviting and interesting.

The fact that nostalgia has come back on the market is timely as today’s interiors feature a big departure from traditional decorating themes. It is not unusual these days to opt for an eclectic mix of country with modern and nostalgia plays an important part in this trend. A pine table and folk art centerpiece mixes with a sophisticated sectional sofa – a rustic dining room table features a mix of Modern parsons chairs. Rather than throwing away that gateleg table that was in Grandma’s house for years we’re fixing it up and refinishing it. An antique in a stark modern environment not only adds warmth, it’s an extra friend at a cocktail party. No need to come up with a special story when one of the grandest storytellers is sitting in the corner of the parlor. What a story an old Zenith radio can tell!

Those now, hard-to-find wooden and tin childhood toys command top dollar in today’s market. “Tin toys are delightfully unusual,” adds Sides. “The perfect gift for a family member of any age. They stand out as being truly creative and whimsical.” Tin toys are leftover riches from long lost childhood toy boxes. Just like the Play Station and X-Box, a simple tin toy could keep a kid entertained for hours. Repro tin toys are actually made in some of the same factories that were producing these toys at the turn of the century before plastic was even in our lexicon. However, it is the originals that bring in top dollar. They were called tinplate because they were made of thin sheets of steel covered with tin. Many were mechanical – they could be wound for movement or pulled to make sounds.

Many of the nostalgic delights at the D.C. Super Flea were found in long-ago general stores where you would be greeted with a smile and leave with anything you needed. Before the days of huge supermarket chains, the general store was the local gathering place – where you would say hello to your neighbors, exchange gossip, pick up a brand new shirt, a new pair of socks or a quart of milk.

Chuck Johnson of Emma Jean’s Attic will be bringing a collection of general store fixtures like those in his old-fashioned general store – a real working store – in the Smokey Mountains of West Virginia. “We found this old, run down general store on a one lane road in a small town with only one stoplight. At first, we thought we would simply acquire the antiques and sell them on our own. But, we just couldn’t abandon this wonderful old store with its original shelving and display counters.” Emma Jean’s General Store has become a legend in this small town and the very fixtures and antique finds that make it so special are now coming to the D.C. Big Flea this September.

Vintage advertising signs that kicked off the cultural phenomena of the cola wars between Coke and Pepsi are one of the fastest growing collectible categories. Who would have thought that those tin signs that advertised our favorite soft drinks and staples such as Wonder Bread, would become such a hot, decorative item in the home? Old advertising signs displayed in a den, family room or office is a sign of the times – an indicator that the oldies are still goodies. Eye-catching, colorful and often playful they remind us of days when a haircut cost under a dollar, and a Snickers bar could give you a lot of pleasure for just a dime. Mitch McCaffery’s collection of advertising memorabilia includes highly collectible coke buttons and signs that will be sure to wow you at the D.C. Big Flea.

While weather vanes have been popular in the folk art market for years, it is the Black Hawk weather vane, named after a famous horse owned by Justin Morgan in the early 1800s that is currently attracting interest in collecting circles. Hand-stitched quilts with the names of those who made them written or embroidered on the quilt, are now in demand.

Hours for the show are: Saturday, Sept. 20 from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 21 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is $8 good for both days. So come and join us at the Dulles Exposition and Convention Center, 4368 Chantilly Shopping Center Chantilly, VA 20151.