At the heart of Magpie Fields is owner Emily Whittenburg’s unmistakable wanderlust: three years ago, Whittenburg and her husband, Josh, left their home in Louisiana to teach English in the Czech Republic. Over the course of their travels, Whittenburg discovered the bustling Kolbenova flea market in Prague, where vendors spread their blankets along an open field and hawk their one-of-a-kind wares—some new, others centuries old. “I’d never seen anything like it,” she says. “It was inspiring just to rummage through goods that were so well-crafted and had a story behind them.” Upon moving to Austin years later, Whittenburg launched Magpie Fields, an online collection of vintage and global goods named after the open-field market that first sparked her “passion for history and uniqueness.” Today, Whittenburg continues to seek out intriguing pieces from around the world, combing the markets of New York, Canton, Round Top and more for handcrafted goods and vintage treasures. In addition, Whittenburg often adds her own, restorative touch to her antique finds, like the set of old, cast-iron keys she repainted in vivid hues. Ultimately, from Turkish killim pillows to an exquisite, 1940s Italian chandelier, Magpie Fields offers an escape into an extraordinary world of adventure. “It’s quirky and eclectic but timeless,” Whittenburg says. “Magpie Fields reflects the spirit of a traveler.” Emily Whittenburg’s collection is available at magpiefields.com. A portion of proceeds from all sales benefit a charity of the customer’s choosing.
9 Questions for Emily
What is the most beautiful place in the world you’ve visited?
For natural beauty, White Sands National Park—it’s absolutely breathtaking. Architecturally, Venice, Italy. The city is deteriorating in a beautiful, sorrowful way: the colors, the smells, the sounds…it’s all these elements combined that make it the most beautiful.
Who are your style icons?
Jean-Michel Frank for timeless furniture design; Frank Gehry, who pushes the envelope in architecture and Kelly Wearstler, who has mastered interiors and now fashion.
What is your most treasured possession?
The wedding gift from my husband, a memory box that is an antique printing press drawer. His mom still has one hanging in her home in New Orleans, and now we have followed suit in the family tradition. We fill each little slot with our life’s little trinkets—be it a birthday candle, wine cork, rock, etc. This box is an evolving story of our life.
Where and when are you the happiest?
Traveling. Experiencing a new environment and learning about a new culture.
What is your favorite time period?
60s fashion and interiors were both spot-on—a more modern version of the 50s, naturally.
If you were an inventor, what would you invent?
A language-translating earpiece that instantly allows me to understand the native language of wherever I’m travelling (response-translating mouthpiece patent pending…).
If you weren’t in your current career, what would you be?
It would definitely be something in art or design—maybe an art teacher. I loved teaching kids abroad, and it would be even better to throw art into the mix.
What was your favorite article of clothing when you were a child?
A gift from my grandmother—a red, full-length nightgown that I wore until it was above my knees. It was fancy and made me feel extra special!
What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?
My most challenging moment was definitely my most rewarding: leaving my comfort zone of life in Louisiana and moving abroad when we had never left the country before. My husband and I took a leap of faith then, and now, we can’t seem to get rid of the travel bug!