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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Les Soldes Paris – Part 1

to 10px; WIDTH: 200px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 112px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />

Late Breaking News!

Get your charge cards ready… On your mark, get set, it’s time for the Paris Sales!

Les Soldes start June 24th and run until July 28th, 2009

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 303px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Dear Diva Readers,

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>All over Paris (and France for that matter) prices will be slashed, cut and discounted and rumor has it that the discounts will be unbelievable this year – tout le monde is discussing la crise economique and shoppers can cash in on unbelievable savings!

An American friend visiting me once when I lived in Paris asked, “What’s up with everyone being ga-ga over the Paris sales? What’s so special about them?” After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I explained, “In France, the sales are state mandated. The government regulates the sales and so les soldes occur only twice a year. It’s not like America where there is a sale every week!” My friend, grasping that it was important she understand the finer points of this discussion, inquired “But why would the government care if there were sales all year? Don’t they know it’s good for the economy?”

“Economy-Smonomy!” I responded, “The socialist democracy of France has higher pursuits than the economy!” Barb Wilde, author of The French Gardening blog and owner of the online-shop L’Atelier Vert explains this phenomenon better than anyone else I know. She writes:

“Without government regulation, stores were buying in cheap junk merchandise just for their sales and then pretending that it was good stuff they had marked down. (Imagine!)

To protect the French populace from such outrageous and unfair treatment (on the part of merchants–government bureaucrats are neatly excluded here), the state mandated that sales would take place only for a period of about 5 weeks in January and February, and again in July and August. Only pre-existing merchandise–ostensibly end-of-the-season stuff–is allowed to be marked down.

In fact, this has become an assimilated part of French commercial culture. Before the winter sales, for instance, it’s nearly impossible to find anything springy, for example. May the gods of French shopping have pity on you if you need summery clothes to go someplace warm over the holidays. “Resort wear” simply doesn’t appear at least until the soldes begin–well after the holidays. The markdown of the old wintry stuff miraculously allows the nouvelles collections to start appearing. Out with the old and in with the new. Literally.

The markdowns begin rather modestly–usually at 10%–and then become deeper as the sale weeks roll by, finishing up at a whopping 50 to 70% on whatever’s left at the end. Thus, shoppers play a sort of solde roulette, gambling on whether their desired purchase will stay around long enough to be marked down more deeply. Or if like me, they’re too busy to get out early, they simply get lucky–or unlucky, as the case may be. Wealthy international shoppers are of course crazy about the soldes, and in the large department stores during the first couple of weeks of the sales, you hear almost any language but French spoken by the shoppers who have descended on Paris from all over the world to get a bargain.

But the state-mandated soldes, like so many French rules, have a loophole – promotions.”

Typically stores sneak in mini-mid-year sales called Promotions and thus get around the loophole that stores are only allowed to have sales twice a year.

to 10px; WIDTH: 240px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 320px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Prior to le crise financieres you never saw the words “Les Soldes” used outside of the designated period… but when I was in Paris this April taking Travel+Leisure on an antiques shopping tour with Claudia Strasser of Paris Apartments, I saw something that I have never seen before – Quelle Horror! Les Soldes signs were hanging outside of Galleries Lafayette NOT DURING the official sale period!!! What has happened to France? On recent trips to Paris I’ve noticed that vendors – as soon as they heard my American accent – responded to my French inquiries in English (something which pre-Sarko never happened to me!) and they even smiled whilst doing so! Is it possible that France is changing? And now this… sales during a non-sale period?

Discussions with friends surmised that the economy was so low that the big vendors were willing to face the risk of government fines for “soldes-ing” out of “season”. Further supposition among friends-in-the-know indicates that this summer’s Paris sale might just be the best sale yet! And I’m going to miss it!!! Tant pis pour moi! But, my loss is your gain for this year in a special Les Soldes Antiques Diva blog, I’m going to let you in “behind the scenes” on my typical shopping route for the first day of the Paris sales!

And for those armchair travelers out there – never fear, I haven’t forgotten you! Courtney Traube, Paris Travel Expert on, writes:

“Many top Paris stores, including Galeries Lafayette, have online stores offering sale items. If you’re not too daunted by the French, you can also try navigating specialized websites like 1000 Bonnes Affaires or L’internaute, which provide quick overviews of the best deals being offered in hundreds of stores. Remember, though, that not all stores ship outside of France.”

In other words, you might want to verify shipping options before you start online shopping!

In the meantime, TaTa for now, I’ll blog to you later!

Bonne Shopping!

The Antiques Diva™

Guest Blog: Mantiques – The Professor Shops Chatou

Regular Diva Readers know how I adore the twice annual 10 day tou/foire/acc.htm” target=”_blank”>“National Fair of the Flea Market and Ham” held in the Paris suburb of L’ile de Chatou. You’ve heard me tou” target=”_blank”>wax poetically about this market on numerous occasions and in numerous publications and you’ve even read a guest blog from Lady Lotus on the subject. Now, Lady Lotus’ husband, The Professor, has taken time to add his 2 cents in this blog titled:

“Mantiques – The Professor Shops Chatou”


top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>When a man says something about getting wood, some minds may wander down more prurient paths. Clearly, these people have never been shopping for antique wooden furniture at Chatou, the grand antique bizarre to the West of Paris.

The real pleasure may not be shopping for some table made of an old worm-eaten bit of bark, but instead the ham. The very name of the event, Chatou Foire au Jambon (Chatou Ham Festival), tells the tale: the event is not merely for dainty antique-o-philes of stereotype. It is also – even primarily – a place to go for ham. Ham choices are various. They include a ham sandwich that is so piled with add-ons that it is a food grenade for anyone who dares try to eat it while wearing good clothes. There is usually some form of ham-and-cheese mixture in a hot pot, typically to be served with boiled potato slices. Roast ham is everywhere. So, too, is a selection of mostly white wines and beers. All this is central to the market, self-righteously occupying the central rows of the grounds.

The antique shopping itself is rather enjoyable, possibly because the goods for sale are not antiques by French standards. In France, an antique is old. The people in the paintings on sale at a real antique market died before your great-grandparents were born. At an antique shop, “second empire” is hardly old enough. There, a chair on sale might have last suffered an ass more than a hundred years ago.

The market at Chatou is a brocante, which might be something like a junk sale to the blasé French. “What, less than a hundred years old? Mon dieu, it’s still trash.” The objects for sale at Chatou, excepting the ham of course, tend to be anywhere from a few decades old to a few hundred. This garage-sale material from France may be mouthwatering to the shopper from the Western US, where some states themselves are not quite a hundred years old. At lunchtime, the merchants shamelessly sit on the very chair you might want to buy and spread their hams and drinks on the table you are eyeing. “Excusez-moi, but would you try not to get any condensation rings on the table I am buying?”

There are challenges of shopping at Chatou. First and foremost, there is the fine balance between eating and drinking too much and effective shopping. Clearly, every man must face this burden in his own way. My preference is to arrive in the morning, shop for a while, and end with a late lunch.

This sequence leads me to throw caution to the wind when choosing my heaps of ham and accompanying liquids as my shopping is finished. After that, I am useless for shopping and it’s time to nap my way back to Paris by train. The only interruption for the rest of the day is my own quiet belches – and my wife nudging me and telling me to stop belching, even quietly.

The second challenge is the shopping. This entails two steps: scouting and negotiating. I particularly enjoy the scouting part because I cheat. My wife, knowing that I am a lousy shopper, will have already scouted at the event with more patient friends earlier in the week. This may seem bizarre: why, this man wonders, would anyone go shopping twice? I’d go twice for the ham, but not for shopping. Perhaps it is a mystery of the universe not to be solved here, but why do women bother to identify the things they want to buy, but not buy them? Yet she claims to enjoy this method. I enjoy not scouting.

The negotiations can be a chore. It typically starts before you know it. By the time you have come within 10 meters (must be metric in France), the merchant will have sized you up and decided how much can be wrung from you. As a visitor from the US, you are stamped with the word “sucker” until you prove otherwise. This can be accomplished by showing a modicum of appreciation for the object in question, rather than a lackadaisical interest as might suggest itself when your wife’s fancy falls on some frilly whatever that you know will mock you from the wall beside your television until you accidentally break it while she is away. Speaking a bit of French is always welcome, even if the negotiations end up devolving into typed numbers on a calculator for want of any real foreign language abilities on either side.

The verbal negotiations are fraught. Just how much is the thing worth – taking into account the type of wood, the Louis-Philippe style, the crack on the side, the evidence of worm damage, the replacement of the handles, and so on – is irrelevant for most people. As we usually plan to keep it, the question is how much it is worth to the buyer and whether or not
we can get it cheaper. This requires seeing the prices on comparable pieces at the market and some pre-negotiation negotiating among the buying spouses.

Chatou negotiations tend to be good natured as far as such things go, particularly as compared to, say, the markets of Marrakesh or the rug merchants of Istanbul. But the vendor would probably be willing to let you pay much more than you should. Negotiations can often be complicated if you add in an object mid-way through. However, one will ideally have identified any “throw-in” beforehand lest, as in the case of one infamous shopping expedition, one’s wife identifies some trinket off-hand that leads the merchant’s eyes to widen as multi-digit price calculations race through his mind.

The third challenge of the shopping expedition is getting the object home. Even for ex-pats in Paris, this can be a bit of a chore, as anyone who has tried to arrange their day around a typical French delivery time knows. The statement that the delivery will be “sometime next Wednesday” often leads to boring days awaiting a delivery, rescheduling after they do not show up, and so on. For the international traveler, modern airline restrictions may constitute more than a mere nuisance. For example, I was quite concerned that the airline staff would not let me carry an old cane with a brass handle onto the plane. Fortunately, it passed the test: one staff person glanced at it, then rapped it against her own head before judging that it was safe. The challenge of getting the loot home would be amplified if one sought to buy some nice big armoire of walnut with mirrored front doors.

Chatou is a place to go for ham, drinks, and old stuff. It can be a cheap few hours or an immensely expensive expedition. In either case, this twice-a-year event is fun for all – or, at least, for me – and is to a worthwhile trip for anyone who may have already ate and drank too much in Paris during previous trips and is looking for a new location for such indulgences. The antique shopping, frankly, is pretty fun, too.

MARCH 6 – 15, 2009

Dealer’s Come Early – March 5, 2009

Last Minute Diva! Guest Blog – Bastille Brocante

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>This weekend I will be attending The Pier Antiques Show in NYC, but my heart will, as always, be in Paris. My 2nd favorite antiques show, the SALON D’ANTIQUITES BROCANTE PLACE DE LA BASTILLE, closes this weekend after 10 days. This indoor/outdoor antiques show at Bastille has always been a personal favorite, second only to tou” target=”_blank”>the famous ham and flea market fair in Chatou. With over 400 dealers and everything from fine antiques to junk, it’s a shopper’s paradise. Plus, with the cold autumn weather, my favorite Vin Chaud* was always purchased at Bastille, usually accompanied by a merguez sandwich with mustard and fries.

Salon d’Antiques Brocante Place de la Bastille
Daily November 6-16
Paris, Place de la Bastille
11am – 7pm

At Bastille my favorite purchase was my first armoire, discovered at the Spring show, and leading to a 7 year association with the vendor, Monsieur and Madame Nakhechkerian (The business is listed in the wife’s name – Mme Florence Mallion-Nakhechkerian – contact +31.(0) who became one of my personal favorites (partly because I spoke with him only in French for the first 4 years I knew him, and then discovered he spoke English! He told me my French was fine, which, in the Spring of 1998, I assure you was NOT!) In addition to being so kind and patient with me during my first purchase from him, he invited us to his home in the country to see how it was restored, all the beautiful furnishings he and his wife had found and restored (he went into antiques restoration with his father-in-law, so it was a long-term, well-established business.) He visited our home several times to help us with our purchases: he modified one armoire so that it could easily hold our TV, but then be restored to original state; another armoire he added a coat bar so that it could serve as our entry coat closet. After a guest left a wet glass on our buffet and I got a restoration quote of 900 Euro from another restorer, he came by, pulled out his handy can of wood wax, painted over the spot and voila! The spot was gone. The name of his miracle furniture wax: Pate Duqay Rustique Moyen (my preferred shade) found at the Clingancourt flea markets, 92, rue des Rosiers.

Bon weekend a tous!
La Reine

*My favorite Bastille show “vin chaud” vendor shared his recipe with me! I now make it at home and enjoy it many times each autumn!

1 bottle of inexpensive, but drinkable, red wine
1 small plastic cup filled with granulated light brown sugar
1 small plastic cup filled with orange juice
1 cinnamon stick
Heat until bubbly, stirring well, serve and enjoy!
Bon Ap!

One Minute Diva – An Hermès Extra

Extra, Extra! Read all about it!

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>With all this HermèsTalk in last week’s blog, I couldn’t help but add my 2 cents — although, as we are discussing luxury goods, perhaps I should add a bit of inflation to cover the cost of my ponderings. My personal policy is to never buy new when I can buy vintage. Thus, last weekend in Paris when I was looking for a “new” red scarf, I found myself inside Les 3 Marches de Catherine B – a chic shop in St German des Pres specialising in vintage Hermès & Chanel.

Whether you want a Birkin or a to-buy-an-AUTHENTIC-Hermes-Birkin-or-Kelly-Bag_W0QQugidZ10000000000110367″ target=”_blank”>Kelly, a Coco-suitable suit, gloves straight off Mademoiselle herself or silver champagne cocktail stirring sticks marked with a classic Hermès “H”, these 2 tiny stores located right next door to one another are the place to find exactly what you’re looking for.

While it’s certainly more fun to go to Paris and shop in person, armchair travellers can now become armchair shoppers. Internet shopping with worldwide shipping is available so you won’t have to wait until your next Parisian trip to peruse the French finery at Les 3 Marche de Catherine B. And if you’ve a Chanel or Hermès accessory lingering unworn in your own wardrobe, you can also talk to Catherine B about selling your own high-end inventory. Unlike most sales-room policies, “Les Marche” pays cold hard cash to private clients and vendors – giving her an edge on capturing the best vintage inventory around the globe.

Les Trois Marche de Catherine B
1 & 3 Rue Guisarde
75006 Paris
Metro: Mabillion
Open Monday to Saturday 10am – 7:30pm

From my address book to yours…

The Antiques Diva™