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News isn't the only passion for 'Good Morning America's' Lara Spencer

| Tuesday, March 12, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Lara Spencer on 'Flea Market Flip'
Lara Spencer on 'Flea Market Flip'
Lara Spencer on 'Flea Market Flip'
Lara Spencer on 'Flea Market Flip'

Long before it was considered hip and trendy to peruse a yard sale or thrift store looking for a bargain, “Good Morning America” correspondent Lara Spencer was hot on the trail for a good deal. She attributes it to being “in her blood.” Her weekends as a child were spent tagging along with her mother on the hunt for a treasure or two — or three.

Fast forward to the present, where the self-proclaimed “frugalista” has authored the New York Times best-seller “I Brake for Yard Sales,” and was tapped to host the popular HGTV series, “Flea Market Flip,” which begins its second season on March 15. On the show, two teams of avid flea-market patrons are pitted against each other to compete for $5,000 after she assigns a “flip list” of specific elements to be used during the competition.

As if Spencer didn't have enough on her plate, she manages to find the time to flex her interior-design muscle for friends, family and even co-workers who are looking to inject some much needed style into their homes. Her ability to visualize a discarded piece of furniture or art in a new light has inspired a new appreciation for re-using and re-purposing.

Garage sales, flea markets, even the occasional dumpster are fair game. But there is one thing that not even she will brake for ...

Question: So how did this love of bargain hunting begin?

Answer: I think it's in my blood. I came out of the womb going to yard sales. I'm the youngest of five, and my mom always used to drag me (along with her). I don't remember a time where I wasn't going to yard sales and thrift shops. It was just the fabric of our weekend. I never will forget that feeling of the treasure hunt. It was always so exciting to see what my mother would find and do with it.

Q: Most celebs are all about the labels. Were people surprised to see this side of you?

A: I think so. I think people were surprised that I was willing to admit I love the hunt. But I'll tell you what, now that I've come out of the closet as a hunter of one-of-a-kind finds, all of a sudden, I hear more and more when I'm doing my day job from celebs saying “I love going to yard sales and flea markets!” It's my not-so-dirty little secret anymore.

Q: What is it about yard sales and flea markets? Is it just the thrill of finding a bargain, or does nostalgia play a part?

A: Nostalgia definitely plays a part in it. It's really fun for me, personally, and everyone can relate to finding a board game you played as a little kid or finding a plate that had the same china pattern as a plate at your grandma's. It's a little bit of a history lesson, both personally and historically. I love going and researching the time periods of the pieces I find. So yes, nostalgia is a huge part, and I think everyone loves hunting for buried treasure. Let's face it. Every dollar counts, and I am absolutely an admitted frugalista and bargain hunter. I would so much rather recycle and reuse a piece that has a story behind it rather than buy something new.

Q: What's your rule of thumb for deciding if something can be given new life?

A: I think a lot of it is instinctual – you start to trust your gut. But it takes time, and that's what I'm trying to do on “Flea Market Flip” — look beyond the chipped paint and look at the bones of the piece. I always get under the hood so to speak. I turn pieces over, look for makers' marks, give it a shake. It's not a bargain if you end up not using it.

Q: What advice can you give to people who are in the midst of a flip gone bad?

A: That happens. There is the element of trial and error, both in finding pieces that you will love and will stand the test of time and also learning how to do the little bit of work that it takes to transform them. It's like riding a bike — you gotta get up and try again. The first time I painted a chair, I didn't take the time to sand it first and I learned the hard way — cutting corners can come back to bite you. That's what the show shows you. There's also that point where you might want to leave it to the experts — an upholstery job or a piece that's special and huge. I sort of choose my battles.

Q: Yard sales, thrift stores, flea markets, even the occasional dumpsters. Is there anything you won't brake for?

A: I will not go near a sofa that has been left on the side of the road. Because there's nothing cute about bugs. That's where I draw the line, my friend.

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