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
AD&CO Art Tours
The Antiques Diva™ & Co is proud to announce we are now offering art tours in select cities in Europe and Asia, launching with our Paris Art Gallery Tours. AD&CO CEO Toma Clark Haines explains:
Our philosophy at The Antiques Diva is ‘the design is in the mix.” In my own home, I display my global design viewpoint #MixAntiquesAndModern by integrating modern art with my Asian and European antiques, while in other rooms my antique art collection juxtaposes beautifully with my very modern furnishings and loft-style interior. Many of the interior designers and dealers we work with have long been requesting that we coordinate art gallery tours, both to add to their inventory and for design inspiration. I have waited until now to launch our very 1st curated art gallery tour in a city renown for its art, Paris!
Exclusive Galleries and Private Rooms
Our expert Guide meets you at your hotel and takes you to “behind-closed-doors” galleries. While some art galleries are open to the public or offer appointment-only access, our Guide has relationships that can gain you entry to exclusive galleries and in many cases, even to back rooms where works aren’t on display to the public. This tour specializes in modern and contemporary art galleries, mostly grouped in the Marais district and Belleville.
While each tour is customized for the client and based on what exhibitions are on at the time – often a mix of lesser known and established artists – there’s always the chance that the galleries can arrange private viewings of particular artists that they represent but don’t necessarily have on view. For the seasoned art buyer, our guide could arrange to take you to the suburbs where some galleries have larger spaces in which they show monumental works. To complement this tour, we can also finish the day with a museum tour.
Our Paris Art Gallery Tours are highly customizable based on the client’s interests but expect to see some of the biggest, museum-grade names in modern/contemporary art such as Rauschenberg, Kiefer, Cragg, Gormley, Cattelan, Murakami and JR as well as Picasso, Buffet, and more!
If you purchase artworks, The Antiques Diva offers our own in-house fine art and antiques shipping services, AD&CO Logistics.
Half Day or Full Day Tour, Available Saturdays
Our Paris Art Gallery Tours are available on Saturdays, for a full or half day, by appointment only. Custom curated art gallery tours will be launching soon in Venice, Bangkok and London.
Toma Clark Haines – The Antiques Diva
In September, The Antiques Diva & Co held our first giveaway, Tell Me About Your 1st Time at The Paris Flea Market. Our 1st Place Winner is Daphne Dunn, who won an Aidan Gray Paris Flea Market Candlestick.
I read Daphne’s story as quickly as I could to reach the climax: a Louis Seize salon chair! I also have a chair fetish, I love that it came home to London with Daphne on the Eurostar. One of my first Paris flea market purchases was a tea cart – with one sadly injured wheel – that I brought home on the metró, then had to carry up 6 flights of stairs to our apartment. AND IT WAS WORTH IT!
Meet Daphne Dunn, 1st Place Winner
KISMET: My 1ST TIME AT THE PARIS FLEA MARKET
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! My first time will forever be etched in my romantic dreams. I couldn’t sleep the night before as the anticipation was so intense. I wondered if it was going to be as good as I hoped, as good as I expected and as good as I wanted it to be. My expectations were high and the promises I had heard made me think it would be memorable. But I was not prepared for the overwhelming excitement and heady endless choices that awaited me, feeling the thrill down to the bottom of my toes. Les Puces de Clignancourt was everything I had hoped for and more, much much more. So with the clock ticking as my train back to reality was looming ever closer, I made the most of my affair with Les Puces…flirting and carousing, teasing and almost submitting, but then…… in the pale October sun right there in front of me – KISMET. I spotted the delight of my eye, the one I had been looking for all my life. My negotiation skills were undeniable that day, the day I met my destiny with Louis, charming, romantic Louis. I couldn’t leave him even if I thought perhaps he wouldn’t fit into my life back home. I stubbornly refused to take no for an answer. So I cajoled him into accompanying me on the Eurostar back to London. He even had his own seat on the train and attracted much attention. He still thrills me to this day and on his seat I feel forever young. A perfect gilded Louis Seize salon chair who gives me endless pleasure. We have just celebrated our 20th anniversary and the feelings are as high and mutual as on our first meeting that fateful autumn day at Clignancourt.
Kismet is the perfect word to describe what happens when our eye spots the perfect antique that our soul has been searching for. In fact, I call our role antiques matchmakers: We bring together antiques and the people who want to buy them!
Thank you, Daphne, for sharing your first time at the Paris Flea Market… I know more visits to les Puces are in your future!
Congratulations to our winning entries! And thank you so much to everyone who entered our giveaway!
Toma Clark Haines – The Antiques Diva®
French Christmas Traditions
I love Christmas! It is the most wonderful time of the year! A magical time of twinkling lights and tinsel trees, lords a-leaping and ladies dancing. A time to splurge on fine wines and feasts with friends and family. It’s also a time of year steeped in traditions that have been passed down through the generations – holiday traditions that bring back childhood memories of popcorn strands, paper chains, colored lights and a shiny tin foil star atop the tree; of eight tiny reindeer and a song about dancing merrily.
My holiday traditions encompass much more now, however. Just as Santa takes on many shapes, many sizes, Christmas traditions do also, varying from family to family and country to country. You won’t find an “elf on the shelf” wreaking havoc on our household and our stockings are still hung by the fire, but with our own jolly French elf… uh, I mean cook… in the family, we do indulge in a little more food and fun. From foie gras and the Bûche de Noël to French santons and the nativity scene, this Southern family has added some à la française to our pa-rum pum-pum-pum.
In France, Advent is usually ushered in with the opening of the Christmas markets. French towns and villages light up, vin chaud flows freely and the merriment begins. Christmas in France is a grand and joyful time, with celebrations focused on the birth of Jesus, family, friends, and food, of course.
French culinary customs have a tendency to be over the top, and Christmas is no exception. There’s nothing like celebrating with friends and family around the dinner table after the Christmas Eve service until the wee hours of the morning. With only five days until Christmas, I’m sharing five Gallic traditions that will have you and yours dreaming of a French Christmas. Try a few…
Postcards from Père Noël
Each year in late November, children around the world begin sending their Christmas wish lists to Père Noël by way of a postal office in the small French village of Libourne. About 60 volunteer La Poste “elves” sort through and reply to every letter – over 1 million from 140 different countries. Santa’s first official response was in 1962 when Le Sécretariat du Père Noël was started by the Ministère des Postes et des Télégraphes. For more than 50 years, letters addressed to “Père Noël, France” have been answered. Postal officials say this French station probably gets more letters than any other country because it’s the oldest of its kind. The operation costs an estimated $1.4 million each year.
Shoes by the Fire
French children don’t hang stockings by the fire on Christmas Eve. Instead, they leave their shoes or slippers by the fireplace, filled with hay and carrots for Père Noël’s donkey to eat. Père Noël takes the hay and carrots and refills the shoes with small presents, candies, fruits and nuts for children to find Christmas morning.
Three Kings Day
The people of France gather together on January 6th each year to celebrate the day the Three Wise Men or Magi visited baby Jesus in Bethlehem. They mark the end of the holiday season much like they do all celebrations – they chow down on food that’s fit for a king. A traditional galette des rois (Three Kings cake) is offered as a gift during the feast of the Epiphany, also known as La Fête des Rois or Three Kings Day. Inside the cake is a small object or bean, known as a féve. The person who discovers the hidden féve is declared King for a day and wears a gold paper crown.
Le Réveillon de Noël
Le Réveillon de Noël is the traditional late night feast held to réveiller or wake up again once families return from la Messe de Minuit (Midnight Mass) on Christmas Eve. While the menu varies from region to region, delicacies including oysters, lobster, foie gras, escargot and a turkey or goose stuffed with chestnuts are common. Dessert always includes la Bûche de Noël.
55 French Santons
La crèche de Noël (the nativity scene) is very popular in France. It’s usually displayed from the first Sunday of Advent until February 2nd, the date of the presentation of Jesus at the Temple, known as la Chandeleur (Crêpe Day). During the French Revolution, public nativity scenes were prohibited so small figurines called santons (little saints) were created in Provence for display in the home. The Provençal crèche includes the Holy Family, shepherds, animals, angels and Three Wise Men, as well as bouchers (butchers) boulangers (bakers) and various other village people – for a total of 55 characters – all waiting to welcome Baby Jesus, who isn’t added until midnight on Christmas Eve.
The countdown is on! As you finish decking the halls, wrapping the gifts and making the menu, there’s still time to add some French cheer to your home this year. You can read about more French Christmas traditions on our home page. Be sure to let us know if your holiday plans include any Francophile festivities. But wherever you are and however you’re celebrating….
Just east of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Saint-Emilion in France lies a beautiful home called Villa Le Priotlet. The family home, which has been lovingly restored and furnished, is owned by my friend, Doni Belau. Doni is the author of Girls’ Guide to Paris and is a fellow antique lover. One thing she’s done at the villa that I absolutely love is incorporate Asian antiques she purchased in Bali. Since we recently launched our Antiques Diva Asian Tours (including Bali), I thought it would be fun to show how Doni has used pieces she sourced in Asia to decorate her French villa!
This centuries old authentic stone villa is set dramatically on the banks of the Dordogne River in a region which has produced some of the world’s best wine since Roman times. The villa, which is available for rent, consists of 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, ideally set up for three couples or a small family. The perfect setting to relax and enjoy the peaceful views, the cosy villa has been thoughtfully decorated with a mix of modern pieces and antiques from Europe and Asia. It’s this mix of styles and time periods that I think is so smart and reflective of the way people live now.
Aside from statues and accessories, one piece that I particularly adore is a bed Doni purchased from Bali. Having just returned to Europe from Bali, I can tell you that Bali is the one place in the world that competes with the Paris Flea Market when it comes to offering the creme de la creme of antiquing! There is such a great diversity of inventory that you could buy containers of antiques and have them shipped home. I think Doni’s Indonesian bed is the perfect example of how to use statement pieces from exotic parts of the world in a more classic country setting. Can’t you just imagine sipping a glass of wine while lounging on that regal bed? And while Doni is at home in France… picture this by a pool in Florida or in lieu of a cabana in California.
If you would like more information on planning a custom one-on-one buying tour with The Antiques Diva in Asia, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to help make your antiquing dreams a reality!
Toma Clark Haines, The Antiques Diva®