Raison d'etre

I am enthusiastic about home design and love French antique and vintage treasures.

This blog is about the things I find and use.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Searching for finds in France

From the puces (flea markets) of Paris - especially those of the Porte de Vanves (my favourite) and Clignancourt - to antiques markets (brocantes) in Chartres, Le Mans, Bordeaux, Lille, Montpellier and all places in between, the wealth and variety of goods on offer is astonishing.  Then there are the local fairs and, in summer, the vide greniers (much like our car boot sales but more interesting - although I am prejudiced here!.   With a careful eye and good haggling skills it is possible to find things to suit every budget.  This is one local brocante I have visited regularly in the summer:

I once bought a suitcase full of extremely brown and dirty 19th century children’s dresses from a brocante.  Despite their filthy condition I could see they had delicious frills and lace and wonderful embroidery.  Buying them was a gamble because I had no idea whether I could return them to pristine whiteness.  However, I did and they were the most lovely I have found.  In a later post I’ll share with you how I have learnt to launder and clean old textiles.
Getting around is easy because of the excellent autoroutes. Far fewer vehicles than on our overcrowded motorways means they are a dream to drive on.  It really is worth paying the toll fees!  With more time to meander you can, of course, use the A roads without a charge.  However, getting up at three in the morning to drive a couple of hundred miles to a brocante the autoroute is my choice.  As for Paris I favoured the train which only took an hour in the TGV - no good for buying anything large or heavy though.
Train your eye to look and look, each time thinking how you will use whatever your interest alights on.  Of course, sometimes you just have to buy something but don’t have a clue what use you can make of it - don’t worry - the solution will come in time.  I bought a pile of old sheets on one occasion - they always seem to come in piles - if they are for sale singly and wrapped in cellophane I know the price will be high and avoid them - why pay for someone else’s laundering skills when you can do it yourself?  Much more fun anyway to resurrect what seems a lost cause.  Thus it was with the linen sheet I used as a curtain in my French bedroom.  That was one of the pile and turned out to be pure linen, which drapes divinely, and had a huge white embroidered monogram.  From the rest of the heap at least six of the sheets (draps) were fine and useable while another three were torn but the ends with lace and/or monogram were sound so they could be cut and used for many a project.

I have a penchant for ecclesiastical antiques - mainly because they are high quality and most of those found are 19th century with its richness of historical references from Renaissance to Gothic to Baroque and Rococo.  In the picture of the brocante above there is a pair of pique cierge (pricket candlesticks) on the ground.  I have always loved these and use some as intended but have turned others into lamps.


Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”.  William Morris
My sister, who is an artist, accompanied me one year and took the opportunity to create paintings from the places we visited.   There is a great antiques market in Poitiers on a Friday just by the cathedral - Sheila's painting of flower sellers in the cathedral square can also be seen on the archived works page at http://www.sheilamburyartist.com/ - see link in sidebar - along with other French paintings.

1 comment:

Sue Robinson said...

Deliciously desirable! I feel like taking off for France immediately in search of treasure!