Parlez-vous brocante?

to 10px; WIDTH: 300px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 400px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>Parlez-vous brocante? Do you speak French flea market? While the “Armoire” is the best known piece of French furniture, did you know that if an armoire only has one door then it is not an “Armoire”? Instead, it is a “Bonnetiere” deriving its name from the rounded top which looks like the shape of a bonnet worn by “Breton” ladies ( women from a region in northern France called Brittany). Sometimes you’ll see this bell-shaped armoire top referred to as a “Chapeau de Gendarme” or a police man’s hat. But if that “Bonnetiere” is divided by a drawer then this piece becomes an “Homme Debout” (or “Standing Man”).

to 10px; WIDTH: 400px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 400px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />This Beautifully Carved Walnut Homme Debout can be yours from 1st Dibs Garden Court Antiques

As Anglophones, when we hear “Commode” we think of a toilet, but in France a “Commode” is a chest of drawers and is considered the finest piece of furniture made for a house! While Anglophones tend to use “chest of drawers” for storing clothes, the French would use a “Coffre”. We might be familiar with the term “buffet” used as a side table in the dining room, but did you know a true buffet is higher than a commode with 2 doors on the bottom and 2 drawers at the top? Meanwhile, a “Buffet a Deux Corps” is literally a cabinet with 2 bodies. The bottom is usually traditional, but then a 2nd upper body is placed on top. However, if the top part has a plate rack, instead of doors, then it becomes a “Vaisselier”.

to 10px; WIDTH: 400px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 400px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />This Louis XV Style Commode in Kingwood & Tulipwood, c. 1850 is similar to the one I have at home! Shop like The Diva at 1st Dibs – William Word Fine Antiques

to 10px; WIDTH: 400px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 400px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />This Louis XV Cherry Buffet a Deux Corps, Circa 1760 is from
Richard Norton Antiques at 1st Dibs

A shelf (or even a floor in an apartment) is called an “Etage” but if a piece which sole purpose is shelving, then it is called an “Tagre”. However, if you’re storing books on that “tagre” and it has enclosed sides, then it is called a “Bibliotheque” which happens to be the same word for library in France. Wouldn’t it be confusing to ask how many bookshelves a certain library has?

All this thinking in a foreign language probably leaves you tired. You might as well take a “Siege”!! No, don’t attack a foreign city, instead take a seat – in fact, any seat, this is a general term for “Canapes, Fauteuils or Chaise”. You might know chair is “chaise” in French, but are you familiar with “Fauteuils”? This is nothing more than an armchair from any period. But if that armchair is upholstered, has an exposed wood frame and enclosed sides, then it is considered a “Bergere”. While you might be hungry don’t assume you’ll get an hors-d’oeuvre when you hear canapé mentioned – for a French man is probably asking you to sit on an antique wood-framed couch or love seat!

to 10px; WIDTH: 399px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 400px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Another item you’ll find chez moi, this Pair of French Louis XVI Style Painted Bergeres are from the late 19th Century. From Alhambra Antiques – 1st Dibs

If you want to kick back and relax, you won’t find a Lazy Boy in France, but you will find a “Chaise Longue”, a chair long enough to support your legs! But if the “Chaise Longue” has a back rest at both ends it is known as a “Recamier”. Meanwhile a grand chair with matching ottoman would be called a “Duchess Brise”. If a chair has a footstool but it doesn’t match, that’s “un pouf”! Of course, if you’re looking for a chair that looks like a stool to sit at the side of a chair but not sit your feet on, then that’s a “Tabouret”!

to 10px; WIDTH: 400px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 400px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />I’ll be looking for something like this for my bedroom at Diva Tours French Flea Market Fall Extravaganza. ThisThree-piece Louis XV style Duchesse Brisee was made in 1870 and is available on line from, you guessed it, 1st
Vendor: Alhambra Antiques

Last but not least, you might need a “Lumire” to read by! While chandelier sure sounds like a French word to me, the French do not use this term – they call them “Lustre”. Finally, we come to something simple – a lamp is just “une Lampe”, but that’s where simple stops! If I were to say “Appliques” what would you think it means? Me? I think of an embroidery or iron-on patch, but in French this is the word for a sconce! That’s it!!! I’ve had enough French furniture vocabulary for one day! I’m going to bed, which in French is “Lit” pronounced “lee”!

“Bonne Nuit!” Good Night!

The Antiques Diva™

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Author: Toma Clark Haines

Toma Clark Haines is a Global Tastemaker, Speaker, Writer & Entrepreneur; and founder and CEO The Antiques Diva® & Co, Europe, Asia and America's largest Antiques Sourcing & Touring Company.

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  • Diva, this is such a late comment, but I love this post. I also love the 3-piece Louis XV Duchesse Brisee. Did you find it? Can you post when your next diva tour takes place? Would LOVE to join! 🙂

  • Hello! This is I was just reading my tweets and saw that you are following Antiquescove. Would you like to exchange links with my site. If so, email me at, and I will then add you to my links page.

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  • I agree with everyone – Excellent information. I think I was 20 when I bought the giant book titled 'World Furniture'. Still one of my favorites that I love to sit down and browse through.
    Thanks for your 'chocolate memories', Toma. The mere mention of the word 'chocolate' conjures up all sorts of emotions!
    Give my regards to Paris,

  • I just listened to you via Rhonda's All the Best blog pod-cast! How wonderful that was, what a great story, I just had to come here and view your blog. What a fabulous life, and how much fun it is to learn more about you here!

  • Clever Pup,
    You scored with those Henri II Restoration chairs w/tooled leather – Would love to see pic & what's the name of the auction house you visited!?! Sounds like it's worthy of a writing a DivaScovery-de-Jour about. Email me the details of the auction house and I'll post it with your recommendation and a link to your blog!

  • Tres bien Diva! Thanks for the language lesson – very helpful. Would love to go on a tour with you one of these days!

  • how awesome! I learned so much! I've been wanting to learn French, my Rosetta stone trial is tucked away somewhere in my home office. Anyway, what a life you've lived & still living. I mean perusing antique shops all over?! The life I've been wanting to have! So happy to have found you. I just subscribed to ur posts!

    Oh & thanks so much for the wonderful comment at From the Right Bank regarding the shop, I'll take u up on the offer any day 🙂

  • Toma, thanks for the history lesson.

    We used to frequent a french antique auction they had here in Toronto. We bought some Henri II Restoration chairs – Tooled leather – for the dining room dating from about 1870.

    Thanks for visiting my site – was it because we both had posts entitled Say Cheese?!

  • Bon jour Toma,

    I loved the French lesson today ~ merci beaucoup.
    Learning French at high school was not enough and I would love to learn some more one day.
    The Louis chairs are fabulous and one day I would like to have an Armoire, for my bedroom.

    Enjoy your weekend