The Buenos Aires barrio of San Telmo is well known for being a centre for the buying and selling of antiques. Its Calle Defensa is lined with shops selling all manner of memorabilia from the city's golden age, and each Sunday it hosts a huge street fair where dozens and dozens of vendors hawk their goods.
In a quieter part of town, though, on the edges of bobo Palermo Hollywood and emerging Colegiales, the Mercado de las Pulgas sees a lot less traffic, and most of its patrons seem to be wholesale buyers. Yet everyone is welcome to browse and it's a fun couple of hours spent exploring aisles perfumed with paint stripper and lined with stalls crammed full of old furniture and bric-a-brac.
The Mercado de las Pulgas is more furniture focused than the shops of San Telmo. When we first visited five or six years ago there was an incredible bounty of pristine mid- century modernity awaiting the frugal and savvy buyer. We fantasized about renting a container and stuffing it full of immaculate teak credenzas and Scandinavian- style bent wood chairs that we would sell at incredible profits to a hungry North American market. It seems we weren't the only ones with that dream, and others apparently were able to make good on our shared vision, because there is a lot less of the good stuff here today than last time around!
There's still the odd ugly duckling from the 60s waiting to be rescued, though, as well as a few tons of beautiful solid late 19th and early 20th century wood and iron and spectacular Spanish- style chandeliers from the salons of this country's finest homes.
We also observed a trend in the market to constructing new furniture pieces from reclaimed wood. We saw numerous sideboards of a similar mid-century style but in various wood species and all in an unfinished state. Buyer beware, we say of these. As well, there were pieces composed of intricately assembled lumber cuts that looked like patchwork quilts, proudly showing off their repurposed heritage. Quirky, but not for everyone!
Finally, if you're a fan of welded filigree garden furniture this is the place for you. There is the odd piece with a Jetsons vibe and a plethora of the more expected Latin- flavoured chairs and tables, all just waiting to be funkified and placed nonchalantly on your deck where they'll let you're visitors know at a glance that you are a master of ironic good taste!
El Mercado de las Pulgas is located in Buenos Aires at the corner of Avenida Dorrego and Calle Conde.