Today is my actual move day as I depart Berlin for my new home in Venice. Mimi’s post takes me back to my first magical years living as an expat in Paris, visiting the marchés de Noël in Paris and the French countryside. I won’t be celebrating Christmas in Paris this year; thank you Mimi for my souvenirs de Noël à Paris…
Three French Guilds
The Golden Age of French Furniture
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Merry medieval towns all over France are twinkling with magic. The little wooden stalls resembling mountain chalets that make up the marchés de Noël (Christmas markets) are open, and Père Noël’s lutins (elves) are hard at work sewing doll clothes, crafting toy sailboats, and carving wooden dollhouse furniture — all by hand.
Santa and his elves aren’t the only artisans who have been handcrafting fine furniture for centuries. Some of the most beautiful furniture ever made was created in Paris during the eighteenth century. It was a joint effort between numerous carpenters, carvers, and cabinetmakers, with a little help from some sculptors, painters, gilders, and upholsterers — all members of an elite Parisian trade guild system that was established during medieval times. Just like Santa’s elves learn woodworking, candy making, and toy making skills in order to join him in his workshop, eighteenth-century French craftsmen meticulously trained under master furniture makers on their way to becoming members of the Corporation des Menuisiers.
The Corporation des Menuisiers (which became known as the Corporation des Menuisiers-Ébénistes in 1743) was divided into two trades; one for those who made boiserie (paneling for buildings) and another for the actual furniture makers. The furniture makers were then split between the menuisiers, responsible for the making of solid wood furniture such as chairs, beds, and console tables, and the ébénistes (cabinetmakers), makers of veneered case pieces such as desks, cabinets, and commodes.
The skills needed to be accepted into the guild took enormous time and effort, and years of training. Families with enough means would ask a maître-menuisier (master carpenter) to take their child on as an apprentice around the age of twelve to fourteen. The master would be paid to feed, clothe, and house him throughout the rigorous training process, which lasted six to nine years.
Life as an apprentice was not easy. For the first three years, the apprentice worked six days a week, from sunup to sundown in the workshop of the master, often sleeping there. Only the truly committed managed to gain enough expertise and knowledge to reach the next rank of the guild — compagnon or journeyman. Although considered official members of the guild, journeymen had limited access to the guild’s resources. Those who trained in Paris as apprentices continued working under their master for another three years, while those who trained outside of Paris were obligated to train an additional six years.
To earn the title of master, each journeyman had to prove his competency by creating a chef-d’oeuvre, or masterpiece, that would be submitted to the guild for approval. If successful, the journeyman would receive the rank of master. He was then eligible to become a full-fledge guild member and free to open his own atelier — as long as his guild fees were paid and a vacancy was available.
Paying guild fees was not always an easy feat, however. The various guilds didn’t function like today’s American trade unions. Fair wages were a concern, but making sure that each specialist maintained the highest level of artistic and technical standards was priority numéro un. While these humble craftsmen worked tirelessly honing their skills, they received no salary, yet were forced to pay fees at every stage during training. The fee to become a master was high, and often took years to pay, delaying official guild registration. Many were so broke by the time they earned the title of master that they had to borrow money just to pay their guild fees. For this reason, they decided against setting up shop in Paris, preferring to go to the less expensive provincial regions like the Loire Valley or cities like Lyon or la Rochelle. The provincial furniture they crafted was scaled down for more modest interiors, but the craftsmen were just as skilled as those that gave it a go in Paris.
The menuisiers who set up shop in Paris could be found in or near the rue de Cléry and were usually French-born, often descendants of well-known French carpenters or chairmakers. The ébénistes who decided to open their own ateliers often came from Germany and Flanders and worked in the faubourg Saint-Antoine, which was flanked by the River Seine on one side. This was a perfect place for woodworkers to operate from since much of the timber that was shipped to Paris arrived there. The fact that most of the ébénistes were foreigners only intensified the rivalry between the two furniture making groups.
Beginning in 1743, the guild required that every piece of furniture that was for sale be stamped with the maker’s name – ensuring that foreign craftsmen weren’t excluded and allowing for at least one of the creators of any given piece of eighteenth-century Parisian furniture to be identified. An additional stamp, JME, for jurande des menuisiers-ébénistes, would be added after a committee of elected guild members, who inspected the workshops four times a year, had approved the quality. This rule was strictly followed in Paris until 1791, when the guilds were abolished, putting an end to the most artistic and opulent period of French furniture making. The strict rules and guidelines that had governed the training of craftsmen for centuries were over.
The superb furniture handcrafted by eighteenth-century masters filled everything from royal residences to Parisian pieds-à-terre, from country châteaux to hunting lodges. Hundreds of hours went into the making of each piece of furniture. The various trade guilds or corporations were very strict about each member’s role. Unlike most furniture made today, furniture makers and various other craftsmen and artisans from several different guilds were needed to make a single piece of furniture during the Golden Age of French Furniture.
For example, to make a chair, a menuisier (carpenter or joiner) would create the frame and would eventually be the one to stamp his name or mark to the chair. If any ornate carving was needed, it was done by a sculpteur (sculptor). If bronze mounts were part of the design, they were provided by a member of the guild of fondeurs-ciseleurs (smelters). Lastly, the opulent fabric was applied by a tapissier (upholsterer). Each of these experts was a loyal member of a different guild that trained long and hard in his own particular specialty… And these are the guilds that made the chair that sits in the palace that Louis built.
At The Antiques Diva we not only love antiques, my Diva Guides and I can be a bit style-obsessed; we love vintage fashion and accessories. J’adore Chanel – both new and vintage – but I am NOT a label-snob. Just as in interior design, in my wardrobe it’s all about the mix: I love to carry a Chanel bag with my H&M coat; I remember once I was chatting with Lynn Yaeger, contributing editor of Vogue and she complimented my fushia jacket – I confessed it’s origin and she said “Good design is good design regardless of the label.” On our Paris Tours we offer Antiques Diva® Paris Vintage Chanel and Vintage Fashion Tours for the equally design obsessed! (And yes, even on that tour you’ll discover the high low mix – unknown designers being sold next to the divine.)
If you’re in Paris December 1 and 2, don’t miss The Vintage Collector’s Fair at the fabulous Hotel Le Bristol. In its 2nd year, this curated high-end vintage fashion and accessories event for lovers of luxury and design will have amazing designer pieces from Hermès, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Balenciaga, Givenchy, Paco Rabanne, Courrèges, David Webb, Patek Philippe and designers you’ve never heard of – but want to know, presented by expert international vintage dealers and collectors. Featuring handbags, leather goods, couture and fine jewelry, watches and haute couture fashion and accessories, this event is perfectly timed at the start of the holidays to buy a gift for someone special… or for yourself. (Hmmm. My favorite presents are those I buy myself. After all, don’t we deserve to spoil ourselves?)
Fair organizer Catherine Lecomte, whom I know from from her vintage stall at The Decorative Fair in London, is well-known for her passion for style and vintage or rare fashion, having launched Katheley’s in 2010. A kindred spirit, she wants to make beautiful things accessible and launched the website and social media platforms so designs often only found in Europe are now globally available.
Our style-spotters have been able to preview the collection that will be available at The Vintage Collector’s Fair, and here are a few of my personal favorites:
Vintage Collector’s Fair Details
- FREE ENTRANCE
- Preview event on the 30th of November
- Friday 1 December 2017: 11 am – 10 pm
Saturday 2 December 2017: 11 am – 7 pm
If you’re in Paris, this special vintage fashion is not to be missed! If you’re planning a trip to Paris and want an insider’s guide to buying vintage fashion in Paris, contact me for an Antiques Diva Vintage Fashion Tour.
Toma – The Antiques Diva
Bastille Brocante –> Place Joffre Antiquité
- November 9 – 19, 2017
- Place Joffre, 75007 Paris, France
- 11am – 7pm daily
- tickets: Joel Garcia Organisation 10€
Book an Antiques Buying Tour with The Antiques Diva
Lolo’s Travel Tips
“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”
– Lao Tzu
Hmmm… Lolo and I must be great travelers! We left Birmingham for our carefree summer getaway through France with way too much luggage (mostly mine), one carry-on going clickety-clack as we rolled it out the door (also mine), and no hotel reservations at all — anywhere (my responsibility). The reason for our trip was to shop three large antique fairs in the South of France and visit Lolo’s family afterwards. Since I had made no reservations other than our flight to Paris, things could have really gone awry, especially with all of France about to embark on les grandes vacances. Fortunately for us, they didn’t. We filled a 40-foot container full of beautiful French antiques and spent a lovely week with family.
Since returning home, I’ve had a little time to ponder some of our decisions. While I strongly suggest getting off the tourist track and experiencing the “real” France as we did, I have to admit we might have approached some things a little too carefree, resulting in foils and fumbles, smiles and tears. In the end, however, our work-cation was just as I’d hoped (minus the little red convertible) — one filled with family, food, fun, and romance. It wasn’t about the destination, it was all about the journey!
Imagine the art world if Monet had only painted water lilies in Giverny, without ever learning to paint en plein air? What if he never visited the Louvre or never traveled to Algeria or never lived in Argenteuil or Vétheuil? There are so many great destinations waiting to be seen. I hope these travel tips help you enjoy your next journey and that you will always take time to smell the roses!
What We Learned From Our Work-cation
Lolo French Antiques Guide to Experiencing the Real France
It’s August and back to school time. Those lazy, crazy days of summer are slipping away — in America, that is. But not in France. Vacation is sacred to the French. Five, seven, even nine weeks of vacation per year is not unusual for them. From the first week of July until early September, the French are “hard at vacation”… not, “hard at work!” Les grandes vacances (the summer holidays) are generally divided between the juillettists (Julyists), those who take the month, yes “month,” of July off, and the aoûtiens (Augustians), those who begin their month-long vacation in August.
Lolo and I experienced this sacred rite first hand during a recent buying trip/vacation in France that took us from the picturesque villages dotting Provence to the coastal scenery and seaside resorts of the Loire-Atlantique. I had dreams of driving through France in a little red convertible. But, that was not to be!
We were very “hard at work” buying in the South of France, traveling back-and-forth between three large fairs and two major marché aux puces. We were in France, however, and “when in France, do as the French do.”
Meaning we shopped the antique fairs and puces all morning, then lingered over delicious lunches, eating our fill of crusty baguettes, crevettes, huîtres, and ratatouille while sipping fabulous regional wines, and more often than not, chugging a Coke Zero avec de la glace (as one needs to stipulate, “with ice”). Afternoons and evenings included more shopping, more food, and a lot of driving, whether sightseeing or traveling to our next destination.
Driving in France… that’s a sore subject! Not because we were traveling in a big box truck instead of a shiny red sports car, not because the box truck we rented for the fairs and markets was too high for many of the bridges we needed to pass beneath or too wide for the narrow streets we had to maneuver, but because the air conditioning wasn’t working during the unexpected summer heatwave! Now, I’m a country girl at heart. I’ve ridden plenty of miles in a pickup truck with the windows down and a cooler of ice cold beverages in the back, but after two days in a big box truck with no a/c, no cooler (because you can’t buy bags of ice), temps over 100 degrees, and nights spent in hotels that were “climatized” (to nothing lower than 73 degrees), my split personality was beginning to rear its ugly head. Laurent realized it was in everyone’s best interest to repair the air — ASAP! After several desperate phone calls, he found a dealership that could fix it. In less than three hours, “we were on the road again, the best of friends, goin’ places that we’d never been.” Hallelujah!
We continued on our buying trip. The best moments were when we veered off the suggested GPS routes and stumbled upon hidden antique shops, quaint medieval villages, and a 12th-century Benedictine abbey that was converted into a wine cave in 1791.
We made new friends, took selfies in lavender fields, sunflower fields and random vineyards, and dined outdoors along various riverbanks and canals. We gaped in awe at the beautiful surroundings, living life comme il faut.
Once we were done being “hard at work,” it was time to claim our own les grandes vacance. We hopped a short flight to Nantes from Montpellier and spent a fun-filled week with Laurent’s wonderful family. It was magical.
There was tons of laughter, lots of story telling, despite my terrible French, and more delicious food! We shopped the local seafood and produce markets instead of antique markets. We ate langoustine straight out of the Atlantic and fresh vegetables right out of the garden.
We took a riverboat cruise down the Erdre with Laurent’s sister acting as our personal tour guide. She’s a remarkable local historian and was so generous sharing her knowledge with me. It made the days Lolo and I ventured off by ourselves much more fascinating and enjoyable.
We continued to linger over lunches, after all, we were still on French time — everything was closed from noon until 2:00 pm. We saw dungeons and jails, salt flats and saltwater marshes.
We walked (and walked and walked), and climbed all 350 steps of the Grand Degre that leads to the Abbey at Mont St. Michel. We piddled around his mom’s house, watched French TV, and slept with the windows open. I can’t wait to return in the fall!
For almost three weeks we wined and dined in sun-drenched towns and fog filled villages. From the Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence-Alpes-Cote-d’Azur regions in Southern France to Brittany, Normandy, and the Loire Atlantique in Northwestern France, we got a “taste” of the real France, with its gorgeous countryside, narrow, winding cobblestone streets, castles and cathedrals, bubbling fountains, outdoor cafés and of course, beautiful antiques.
While there’s nothing more quintessentially French than the Eiffel Tower (or the Louis XV bergère), every Francophile should get off the tourist track for a carefree getaway full of fun, romance, and incredible seafood (I’m talking every kind of little shelly creature you can imagine) paired with the best wines in the world. As the title of this summer’s dramedy starring Diane Lane, Alec Baldwin and French actor, Arnuad Viard suggests…. Paris Can Wait, there’s so much more to France.
Here’s a look at three of our favorite South of France side trips.
Have you experienced the real France? If so, tell us where your carefree getaway took you. And look for Lolo’s Travel Tips From Our Carefree Summer Getaway next. We had a few foils and fumbles along the way, but managed to go with the flow and have one of the best work-cations ever!
Lingerie, opulent embroidered sheets, and treasured textiles — these are just a few of the pieces a young French mademoiselle would have made or collected as part of her bridal trousseau, a centuries old wedding tradition that originated in France. The family heirlooms and handmade linens that a bride-to-be was expected to bring to her new home as part of her trousseau was often an indication of her family’s wealth and typically included twelve pieces of each: napkins, tablecloths, dishtowels, bed sheets, nightgowns and petticoats, all hand sewn and hand embroidered. Since wealthier families often had live-in seamstresses that would do most of the sewing (instead of the bride and her relatives), well-to-do brides might bring hundreds of pieces of linens with them — including linens for the servants — as well as custom dresses and gowns sewn by dressmakers in Paris. Oh la la!
When fourteen-year-old Catherine de Medici arrived in France in 1533 to marry into the French royal family, her uncle, Pope Clement VII, spared no expense on the many trunks of lace, linens, bed hangings, gowns and silk included in her bridal trousseau. It’s said her sparkling gowns were embroidered with three pounds of gold and two pounds of silver — that her sheets were made of the finest silk and her lingerie from the most delicate lace and gold and silver cloth. Catherine may have been considered an Italian commoner at the time of her marriage to Henri II, but her bridal trousseau was nothing less than dazzling. Of course most young girls didn’t marry royalty, but being sent off in style was of such importance that a wedding would often be canceled if the trousseau was incomplete. It was often more expensive than the wedding itself, as it was expected to contain all of the clothing, including gloves, hats, stockings, dresses and gowns, that a young madame would need for her married life.
I’m sure you read Toma’s recent blog post on the tradition of the trousseau and how families often began preparations at birth. Once the “I do’s” were said, a new bride was expected to have all she needed to set up her new home — from linens and lace to petticoats and parasols. Preparations for the armoire de mariage (wedding armoire) that would store this carefully curated collection throughout a girl’s lifetime also began at birth. Neatly folded antique linens, ruffles of delicate lace, family heirlooms, and countless napkins and table cloths that were once part of treasured trousseaux can still be found stored in elaborately carved marriage armoires in master bedrooms across rural regions of France today. And you can be sure they’re stacked from the bottom, not the top, to ensure strict rotation.
Similar to a hope chest, the beautiful armoire de mariage is much larger and hand carved with motifs of wealth and prosperity that represented good wishes for the newlywed couple.
Intricate carvings include lovebirds evoking love, baskets of flowers representing fertility, pairs of nesting doves symbolizing the “nest,” sheafs of wheat and grape vines describing abundance and domestic prosperity, and musical instruments and sheet music as an allegory for harmony.
Traditions vary, but it is said that in parts of Normandy it was common for a father to cut down a large tree when a daughter was born and use planks from the tree to make the armoire de mariage once the daughter was engaged.
In other parts of France, it was common for a father to make a wedding armoire when a daughter was born and give it to her during adolescence. As the girl grew up, she would fill it with items from her trousseau and take it with her to her new home after she was wed. By the 18th century, wedding armoires were made by craftsmen and given to the newlywed couple as a gift from the bride’s parents. In Brittany, it was customary before a wedding for the marriage armoire and the bride’s trousseau to be carried to her new home in a brightly decorated cart drawn by a pair of oxen draped in flowers. The bride’s mother would fill the armoire with the trousseau once it arrived and the father of the bride would then throw open the doors in a dramatic fashion to the “oohs and ahs” of all the guests. Afterwards, the priest would bless both the marriage armoire and the marriage bed before the two families sat down to dinner together.
Wedding bells are ringing and the bridal season is in full swing now.
Why not consider giving your favorite bride and groom some lovely home spun, home sewn, and home embroidered French linens that were part of some young girl’s trousseau many, many years ago? Nothing feels and smells like good linen that has been freshly laundered. And even if you don’t have a marriage armoire yourself, try storing your favorite linens in an antique French armoire. You’ll be surprised what a difference it makes! It’s a perfect blend of French charm and modern storage. Everything looks nicer and you’ll find yourself using your linens more. After all, they’re meant to be used every day!
And if you’re lucky enough to have an armoire de mariage, take some time to really look at the carvings and see what all you can discover. You’ll be surprised! A whole lot of love went into these armoires!
Lolo French Antiques Bergères at Home
It’s no secret I have a thing for chairs, especially French chairs. From the House of Bourbon to the House of Bonaparte, stiff and straight backed to padded and tufted, fancy fauteuils to chic chaises, I’m obsessed with French chairs. They’re so much more than just functional objects to sit on. They’re like pieces of art — colorful canvases within exquisite, hand-carved frames, some gilded, some painted, some á la capuchine. With their beautiful upholstery and regal frames, French chairs are the perfect combination of style and function. They work as well with traditional interiors as modern interiors. They bring to mind visions of king’s thrones with ladies-in-waiting, smoky gentlemen’s clubs, and memories made at holiday gatherings.
Sit up and take notice of eight of my favorite French chairs.
Thought to be the oldest existing example of European furniture, the Dagobert chair began as an “X” shaped or curule stool in the 7th century. It wasn’t until the Renaissance that backs and arms were added and heavily carved wood versions with grotesque figures appeared. The most notable example, now in the Louvre, is the alleged gilt bronze throne of King Dagobert I (603-639 AD). Though not the comfiest chair, it’s a classic French chair that can easily be incorporated into any decorating style. If it’s fit for a king, it’s fit for you. Grab the Dagobert chair when you need extra seating.
Often Seen… tucked in a corner, in pairs, in a hallway.
A Closer Look Reveals… most often dark wood, carved grotesque figures frame the back of the chair and grotesque faces are found at the ends of the arms, distinctive curule design of the base, where intersecting curves or an “X” define the legs and the seat, they sometimes fold, cushions often added for more comfort.
Os de Mouton (Louis XIII)
During the 17th century, grand dining rooms in châteaux all across France were filled with os de mouton (sheep bone) chairs. Their stately stature and shapely legs give them a classic, timeless appearance — while graceful carvings, paired with upholstered backs and seats with nailhead trim, add elegance. With legs shaped like those of a lamb, this classic Louis XIII chair is the perfect dining chair. Take your seat in an os de mouton chair with friends and family ‘round the dining room table.
Often Seen… at dining tables, as an accent chair, next to a side table.
A Closer Look Reveals… sturdy, heavy, fixed upholstery, decorative gilt or silvered nails, more comfortable and were more commonly used for ordinary domestic purposes, os de mouton chair is the most notable example of the era.
Fauteuil (Louis XIV)
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Every chair should be a throne and hold a king.” The high back upholstered armchair with heavy carvings and rich upholstery, known as the fauteuil, was more like a throne during the reign of Louis XIV. While the Sun King ruled, chairs were status symbols and commoners could only hope to own one. A hierarchical seating system featured a fauteuil, majestic and royal by design, for the king and queen to sit upon. Original designs were often signed as proof of their significance. Be the king of your castle. Select the fauteuil as your throne.
Often Seen… in pairs, flanking buffets or armoires, as fireplace chairs or library chairs.
A Closer Look Reveals… upholstered armchair with straight lines and open sides, elaborate ornamentation reigned supreme, legs were figural, baluster and claw, many with pied de biche (hoof foot), most have stretchers, pads were later added to the armrests for more comfort.
Bergère (Louis XV)
Besides a crusty baguette or a fine Bordeaux, there’s nothing more quintessentially French than the en vogue Louis XV bergère (shepherdess chair), with its signature “S” shaped cabriole legs. The 18th century was indeed the Golden Age of the chair, and unlike earlier regal seats, the smaller and more feminine bergère was designed to accommodate the opulent fashions of the day. Chair arms were shortened to account for hoop skirts, while chair backs were lowered to spare huge coiffures. The embroidered silk upholstery was meant to complement the patterns and colors of the boiserie. The carved wood frames, closed arms and loose seats of the bergère blend style and comfort seamlessly and add a touch of noblesse to any room. The bergère’s ability to fit in anywhere speaks to the influence of royal mistresses. You’ll be sitting pretty in a plush bergère.
Often Seen… in pairs opposite a sofa, grouped in a formal seating area, or tucked into a corner of a bedroom
A Closer Look Reveals… included fabric covered panels between the arms and seats, there’s no mistaking the legs, shaped like an animal’s hind legs, stretcher supports disappear, easily adapted to suit the needs of all classes, from royal to provincial, every refinement in comfort was attained.
Bergère Corbeille (Louis XV)
Another popular 18th-century French armchair, the bergère corbeille, with it’s carved, basket-shaped wood frame above short padded arms and upholstered, loose cushion, was also designed for cushy lounging. Great care was given to the upholstery work in order to achieve the maximum of comfort. Don’t let someone else get your seat. Put all your eggs in this basket. Choose the bergère corbeille every time.
Often seen… in pairs, opposite a sofa, tucked in a corner.
A Closer Look Reveals… feminine, closed arms, a wide seat and basket-shaped back, short padded arms, cabriole legs.
Bergère à Oreilles (Louis XV)
Amongst the wide range of accent chairs available today, the 18th century French wing chair, the bergère à oreilles (with ears) is easily recognized by its upholstered side “wings” which were originally introduced to shield the face from the heat of a roaring fire or to protect the upper body from drafts in cold, damp houses. It also provided support in case one nodded off. This popular chair is sometimes playfully called a bergère confessionale, as if the occupant were hidden from view, as in a confessional. Cozy up with a book by the fire in a bergère à oreilles.
Often Seen… in pairs, as fireplace chairs, in a library or study
A Closer Look Reveals… protruding, upholstered wings, enveloping and closed forms provide support and comfort to the head, back and arms, as sophisticated now as it was two hundred years ago.
Primarily used for decorative purposes and not usually thought of as an accent chair, the prie-dieu (prayer chair) — the seat of which is not intended for sitting but kneeling — makes a great seat for tiny tots. Pull them up under the coffee table and they’re great for playing games, doing puzzles or coloring. They also make a good seat for kids to sit in while eating in front of the TV. Need extra seating for the little ones? Pull up a couple of prie-dieux next time.
Often Seen… used for decorative purposes, in a corner.
A Closer Look Reveals… very low, serves as a kneeling chair for prayer, upholstered seats and carved wood backs.
Fauteuil Confortable (Art Deco)
Now referred to as simply a “club chair,” the famed French fauteuil confortable (comfortable armchair), was an essential part of 20th-century luxury furniture, introduced during the late 1920s by way of trendy gentlemen’s clubs. These timeless club chairs exude luxury and character, evoking an era when well-dressed men met and relaxed in plush leather chairs with a good cognac and a Cuban cigar. The original round form was legendary, but it soon evolved and new forms such as the “moustache” back with lip-like curves across the back were introduced. Rugged, yet handsome with its clean but, sinuous lines and refinement, the fauteuil confortable is still very much admired today, offering an instant sense of history. Everybody will want to sit in it, so you’ll want more than one, or you’ll have to share. Relax in comfort while watching the big game in the fauteuil confortable.
Often Seen… in pairs or groups of four, in libraries or studies, tucked in a corner, opposite a sofa.
A Closer Look Reveals… variation of the arm chair that has low seats, arms, and backs, the curved back and armrests are heavily upholstered (usually in leather) and decorated with nail head trim, large seat and plush cushion provide the utmost comfort.
How do you decide which chair is right for you? Do you like sexy curves? Or bold, straight lines? Whatever your preference, there’s a little (or large) French chair that’s perfect for you. Like the perfect little black dress, the perfect French chair will add personality and charm to any space. It will also add a little color and maybe some drama, as well as extra seating. Next time you want to curl up in a corner with your favorite book or create a conversation area to share secrets and charcuterie with your bestie, consider a stylish French chair — or two. I chose two Louis XVI style bergères for my corner. I love the fact that they have a history and a story to tell. One day I’ll upholster them, but for now they work with just burlap. What’s in your corner of the room?
Tips for Shopping at Paris Brocantes
Today’s post is by Jennifer Balmadier, one of our Paris Diva Guides. She is a native to Boston, however she traveled to France most of her life helping her parents shop for their antique store. On one trip while attending a French friend’s wedding, the fates aligned and she met the Frenchman she would marry… You’ll have to have her tell you how if it weren’t for her mother-in-law, she might have married a French Duke instead! Utterly smitten, Jennifer gave up her career in insurance in Boston and moved to Paris for love. Her life story is romance on a plate. Once living in Paris she returned to her roots, sniffing through flea markets finding trinkets and treasures helping to buy for her parents, doing personal shopping which led to her becoming a Diva Guide. Her particular passion is vintage fashion (she got her first Hermès when she was 13 years old!) and she knows every vintage Chanel shop in town! She’s also wonderfully down to earth and has a dry humor that will have you laughing before you even hit the shops. She loves nothing more than sharing with Diva clients the ins & outs of Paris, teaching them the metro, telling them where to go to shop, wine or dine (or not) and letting clients know inside details on life in Paris… Details you can only learn from a local!
April Showers Bring May… Brocantes!
Warmer temperatures bring all sorts of nice things to Paris: blooming window boxes, crowded terraces and our favorite at AD&Co Headquarters, brocante season! A brocante is a one-day or short-term flea market that pops up in neighborhoods around Paris (and the rest of France). Longer days and sunny skies are the perfect combination to start the day with a walk around a weekend brocante. Whether you are just browsing or want to do some serious damage, you will find the Parisians out in force. If early mornings aren’t your thing, most of the brocantes stay open until 7:00 pm making the perfect segue into apéritif hour at your favorite local terrace.
Check out https://vide-greniers.org/75-Paris and http://brocabrac.fr/Vide-greniers-75 for a comprehensive list. In French, but you can search by date and district. Just keep in mind that a vide-grenier is more like a garage sale, and a brocante will have mostly professional dealers. The city also has a clear website with some brocante information: http://quefaire.paris.fr/brocantes.
Check out https://vide-greniers.org/75-Paris and http://brocabrac.fr/Vide-greniers-75 for a comprehensive list. In French, but you can search by date and district. Just keep in mind that a vide grenier is more like a garage sale, and a brocante will have mostly professional dealers. The city also has a clear website with some brocante information: http://quefaire.paris.fr/brocantes.
Bric a brac and books at Paris brocantes.
Tips for Shopping Paris Flea Markets and the Local Brocantes
- It is easy to forget the exact size of that space you need to fill, bring photos and measurements of anything specific that you have in mind. If you’re booking a tour – sending photos to your Diva Guide in advance of items that you like or are looking for is very helpful on a tour.
- It is easy to forget the exact size of that space you need to fill, bring photos and measurements of anything specific that you have in mind. If you’re booking a tour – sending photos to your Diva Guide in advance of items that you like or are looking for is very helpful on a tour.
- Dress comfortably and don’t advertise that you are a (wealthy) tourist. It can rain on and off, even with a sunny sky, so always have your sunglasses and a travel umbrella handy.
- As logic dictates, arriving at a brocante at the start of the show will get you the best selection but dealers might be more willing to bargain if you go as they are packing up.
- Cash is king and brings you greater negotiating power, but occasionally vendors will take credit cards. Considering splitting a purchase between cash and credit for a better deal on larger items.
- Most things aren’t marked so it is always okay to ask the price. Just don’t start to negotiate if you aren’t sure you want the item as it is considered bad form.
- Always ask before taking pictures, whether to show your spouse for approval or for your scrapbook. It is a sign of respect to the dealer.
- If you are shipping things home (and don’t forget about our new Antiques Diva In-House Shipping ) you can arrange for the shipper to pay the dealers so no money changes hands when you are shopping. This old-fashioned custom also means that you “own” the item, even though no money has changed hands.
- Buying an extra suitcase and paying extra to send it on the plane with you can be a decent way to get purchases home.
- You might think you will remember the exact location of that vendor you wanted to go back to, but after awhile things start to look the same. Ask the dealer for their carte de visite. Usually they will offer to write a description of the item for you on this business card.
- If you want to remember the history and details of your purchase, ask the dealer to write it down. This can also come in handy at customs.
- Reproduction is not always a nasty word. Many French reproductions date back to Napoleon III based on styles from earlier periods, still making them true antiques.
- Last but not least, buy what you love. For many things the value is how much you love it.
Toma – The Antiques Diva®
Paris Antiques Diva Guide Danielle: What’s New At the Paris Flea Market
Spring is blossoming throughout Paris, and the Paris Flea Market is blooming with wisteria and budding trees. Antiques Diva Guide Danielle took a stroll through les Puces, and along with the new vendors and stalls, discovered a new hotel just a couple streets away from the market.
The MOB Hotel is a great place for a drink, a lunch or even to spend the night after shopping at Les Marché aux Puces. Danielle suggests MOB Hotel is the perfect location to spend the night after a long day at les Puces and a convenient short ride to Charles de Gaule airport. MOB Hotel is part of a boutique chain of hotels launched by entrepreneurs and hospitality businessmen Cyril Aouizerate, Michel Reybier, Steve Case, Phillippe Starck, and Glynn Aeppel.
Our Paris Diva Guides … we’re just fun. Not only do we take the stress out of your day by translating and negotiating on your behalf but we tell you inside stories about living in Paris, our favorite haunts, secrets about Parisian life. But buyer beware… the very first Paris Guide hired was a client who was so obsessed with shopping the Puce I asked her, why don’t you come on staff and help lead these tours! You too might just fall in love with Paris and decide to move overseas!
Book a Private Tour of the Paris Flea Market
As the only official Exclusive Guide of the Paris Flea Markets Paul Bert Serpette, The Antiques Diva® & Co has been chosen because of our long term relationships and close contacts with les Puces. The best way to get a bargain at the Paris Flea Market is to be a local… And it just so happens we are! We can typically save clients via negotiations on antiques what they pay for our tour. Plus we save you time in addition to money. We custom plan a tour for you, helping you navigate the many markets and thousands of vendors to find just what you’re looking for. You don’t waste time digging through things you’re not looking for, but rather maximize your shopping time (and dollar) on a pre-choreographed tour.
The Antiques Diva & Co offers custom planned Antiques Buying Tours for tourists and trade professionals. Whether you’re looking to buy one specific piece or wanting to fill an entire container, our personal shopping antique buying guides share their vast knowledge of secret sources to take you to all the right places.
See you in Paris,
Toma Clark Haines, The Antiques Diva®
How To Shop For Vintage & Antiques at French Flea Markets
Marché aux Puces and Brocantes
In France, flea markets are known as marché aux puces or simply, les puce, (the fleas). But googling “brocante” will take you off the beaten path to traveling flea markets that are only held a few weekends a year. They can be held anywhere from 1 day to a full 2 weeks. Bigger traveling flea markets in France will have billboards all over town advertising them – so when you see a sign stuck to a lamp post or a giant poster in the metro with the word brocante highlighted, get ready to shop! Brocantes attract vendors from all over France, selling everything from high-end antiques to vintage pieces and simply second-hand junk. Prices here are usually better and take you into neighborhoods you might never have reason to visit on your own. A great website for finding brocantes is www.brocabrac.fr. While the Paris Flea Market is a personal favorite and must-do (and The Antiques Diva & Co are the only official tour guides of Paul Bert Serpette at the Paris Flea Market), visiting other French flea markets in Paris and across France is ideal to shop for antiques and vintage pieces. Here are my top 3 brocantes in Paris – and my all-time favorite French flea market starts next week!!
tip: Check out our Antiques and Design Markets and Fairs 2017 Calendar for flea markets in France and across Europe!
While there is nothing more fabulous than getting lost in France and discovering some place (or something) magical, shoppers in the know research where to go before traveling overseas. We suggest you book an Antiques Diva tour so you can shop on the arm of a local who knows the area like the back of their hands – plus more importantly – has relationships with the vendors which allows you to get the best prices possible when negotiating. But if you decide to give it a go on your own, be prepared and do your research. Google the cities where you’re planning to antique, using keywords for the antiques and vintage pieces you want to buy.
On brocabrac.fr you will also find vide-greniers – essentially attic sales – set up in the center of town with anywhere from 50 to of 1000s of people participating. These aren’t professional vendors, but instead they private people wanting to sell their goods – think of it as a town-wide garage sale where anything and everything is for sale. While you’ll have to dig through second-hand clothes and used toys you can also find gorgeous antiques going for a song!
Salon des Antiquaires
If you’re looking for high-end antiques you want to go to a salon des antiquaires – a step up from a flea market or brocante – which can have second-hand and decorative objects. This will be more high brow and have higher quality pieces – but don’t let that phrase scare you – there are still bargains to be had. Remember French antiques are often 3 to 5 times less expensive in France than they are in America or Australia. Something selling for 2,000 Euro in the North of France might go for $6-10K in the USA. You have to spend money to save $$$!
Key French Shopping Phrases
Now that you know where to go whether it’s a puce, brocante, vide-grenier or salon des antiquaires you should know a few key phrases in French to get the ball rolling! Even if you don’t speak French, learning some basic vocabulary is worth it’s weight in golden Louis 15th antiques.
- Always start the conversation with a simple, Bonjour Madame or to catch the vendors attention try S’il vous plaît (SVP) Monsieur.
- Point then to the item you are interested in and ask how much it costs: C’est combien, SVP? or try Vous voulez combien?
- Ask how old it is? Quel âge a cette chaise? Ça date de quand? What wood it is? C’est quel type de bois? And where it comes from: Quelle est sa provenance?
- Don’t be shy – negotiation is expected. Ask for a good deal. Vous pouvez faire un meilleur prix? Will you make a better price? or C’est votre meilleur prix? or Vous pour faire mieux? Is that your best price? It’s best to ask the Vendor to tell you their best price BEFORE you offer a number – because sometimes they offer you more of a discount than you would have expected. If the piece is 100E and you ask for a best price, the vendor might come back and say 80E. You can then continue the negotiation – Will you take $70? Prenez Vous 70E? If said this way, the vendor might compromise on 75E. 25% is a reasonable amount to expect for a discount.
Be willing to walk away in order to get a discount. Leaving then returning to the piece helps with negotiation… but beware… you might just return and find your item SOLD to someone else!
- Verify they are giving you the export price – C’est le prix pour exportation? Is it too expensive? C’est trop cher! (said while batting your eyes!) A good deal? C’est bon marché – C’est un bon prix – C’est raisonnable. I’ll take it! Je le prends!
- And don’t forget to say Merci! Au Revoir!
Toma Clark Haines, The Antiques Diva