Brocantes, Treasure Hunting and Your Advice Please.

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Rummaging through someone else’s possessions or scouring makeshift tables for illusive treasure may seem like an odd way to spend a perfect hour, but I’m a bit of an addict. Sometimes I’m on the lookout for something specific, and sometimes I’m merely browsing, looking for items which I can repurpose; searching for relics of the past, for vintage bric-a-brac or genuine antiques. More often than not, I walk away without buying anything. But no matter what reason one has for browsing Brocantes I always feel a tiny frisson of anticipation as we arrive at our destination and see a bubbling crowd thronging around the stalls.

I often wonder what the real fascination is; what draws so many people week in, week out? Are they hoping to find a Fabergé egg amongst the second hand rubble, and if they did what would they do? What would you do? Walk away feeling thrilled knowing you had seized a real gem or would you feel guilty handing over a five euro note for something you knew you could easily add a few noughts to and resell? As I wrote this I pondered what I would do. I couldn’t just wander off, I would have to split the sale proceeds with the vendor, for surely I would have to sell it!

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Which brings me to my ongoing disappointment with Brocantes here this summer (no I’m not upset that I failed to find a Fabergé egg, well perhaps just a little!) No, the truth is I’m growing slightly disheartened by the enormous increase in pure ‘tat’ that seems now to be the norm. It seems that at least 75% of anything on sale this year has been junk made in China and half of it is not even second-hand. We are far from Brocante regulars; we don’t go every weekend and I don’t think we visited one at all during July and August, but we do have our favourites that we go to each year. The girls nearly always come too, but even they groaned a few times this year at the lack of anything interesting for sale. At one of our local annual pilgrimages they amused themselves instead at some tables with old-fashioned wooden games; remarkably these seem to have had something of a resurgence in popularity in France in recent years.

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On the plus side though, I recently made three purchases in a short half-hour visit at another immensely popular local event. I swept through row after row of stands like a whirling dervish and quickly snapped up this old zinc watering can which stood out like a rose among the thorns,  a steal for €10

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and this old enamelled milk-jug for €5 from a really delightful lady who was keen to stand and chatter

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it’s definitely one of my favourite finds this year and is already in use on the kitchen table.

p4880948Then there was this pair of silver-plate wine coasters for €5 which will be quite at home in our guest-house. The wooden bases are in perfect condition and so is the baize on the bottom. I know some people like the patina of tarnish

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but I prefer to polish my silver and I was really pleased with the way these cleaned up, none of the silver had worn away.

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If you are on the hunt for a bit of a challenge or want something special to complete a project, another good place to visit is Emmaüs. Emmaüs was founded in Paris in 1949 by the Catholic priest and Capuchin friar Abbé Pierre to combat poverty and homelessness. The charity provides formerly homeless people with a home and work, usually collecting, sorting and reselling donated furniture and household goods. There are centres all over France and our relatively local one is very small by comparison to a great many others.

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Outside there is crockery and glass of every colour, shape and size, and most individual items can be bought for a few cents. It would be incredibly easy to stock an old-fashioned kitchen with a box or two of these original gems.

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The real fun is inside a huge purpose-built hangar which serves as a warehouse; here there is everything including plenty of big pieces of everyday brown furniture. There is nothing particularly remarkable amongst the armoires, sideboards, buffets, headboards, tables and chairs, but there are plenty of bargains if you want plain honest traditional furniture and some pieces just simply have to be admired for their old-fashioned craftsmanship and construction. Much of the heavy country furniture is post-war from the mid-20th century. The only negative is the sheer weight of some items and sometimes it takes several strong men to move a piece.

Personally I think the piece below is quite ugly, but it is solid wood throughout and well made with dovetail joints in the drawers and at €92 I am tempted to imagine what could be done with some paint and a little imagination. Would you keep the two upper cupboards on either side of the shelf? I think I would take them out so that it was open shelving above the four base drawers and cupboards and then because it’s not an antique I would have no problem wielding my paintbrush and giving it a new lease of life.

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The outer veneer on the ornate piece below is flaking in places, but again think of what it could look like with a little hard work – and it was on sale for just 20 euros! I’m thinking of buying it as a fun winter project for Millie and I. Most importantly, Roddy and I can move it between us and it would fit in the car. I don’t need it but it could sit in the barn for the winter. I am fairly positive it is from the turn of the century, before WWI. I don’t even know if I like it that much but it intrigues me, every figurine is hand carved, think of the work and time and effort that went into this. But I need some help and I know many of you are way more creative and artistic than I am, especially with furniture. What would you do with it, because before I rush out and buy it (if it’s still there) I need some ideas as to what to do, would you paint it and if so how to paint it?

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Moving away from second hand collectables, another fun outing was the Pottery Fair last weekend at Mornac sur Seudre.

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Vendors came from all over the region and even further afield, all of them individuals  from small potteries selling their own handmade items, and to a man (or woman) true artists.

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But even though it was fun to walk through the stands looking at the colours and unique shapes on offer, by far the most interesting spectacle was watching the vendors sit down together for lunch. A long table had been placed right down the middle of the main square and here people sat. They had brought their own food, their own wine and water, and they sat together like one big communal family; after all it was lunchtime and a quick sandwich whilst standing behind a stall simply would not suffice for any discerning French person. Selling one’s goods or not, lunch is lunch and in addition to the food it’s a convivial time to sit, chat, eat and be social. What was most remarkable of all was that every vendor would keep an eye out for their neighbour or friend’s unattended stall, alerting the owner with a nudge or a foot under the table that there was a prospective customer lurking.

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134 thoughts on “Brocantes, Treasure Hunting and Your Advice Please.

  • What a lovely post, so much treasure. I would buy the carved furniture just for the sake of it, but like you I don’t know what I would do with it, I’m not very creative, sorry not much help but have a blessed Sunday with your beautiful family x

    • Thank you so much Sheri, I am sorely tempted to go and buy it, the problem is we really don’t have room for it anywhere in the house, we would have to make room somewhere! Hope you have a lovely Sunday too xx

  • I love brocantes, especially in France. They leave the aussie ones for dead! A couple of years ago during our trip to Brittany we found two beautiful silver candle sticks and a small silver tray. We use them all the time and it is lovely to remember happy times with my folks who were with us fossicking around!

    • They are such fun, over the years we have found some real treasures, no great value as such, but fabulous finds that we really wanted and I love being able to think of the fun that went into buying items each time I look at them. So much more enjoyable than just going into a shop and buying something. Hope you have had a great weekend and some good sailing?? Xx

      • I remember reading that now, have you solved the leaks? Oh the fun of boats!! You would be right at home with Roddy, his passions are boats, fishing and bird and wildlife photography; next time you are in France you will have to visit! Xx

      • On-going saga with the leaks… will write about it in a future post! And yes, we will have to meet up… may be we’ll have more time next year when we have ‘retired’. Hate the word… makes me feel old!

      • Ha ha, we have many good sailing friends, who retired a long time ago and are so fit and incredible, sailing keeps them that way. Some of the friends Millie sailed down the west coast of France with were in the 70’s and yet she, a mere 16 year old, loved their company so much and they were so agile and just as able as she was. Perhaps we should sell the house and buy a boat, I am almost convincing myself!!

  • I am sure as more people have become internet aware so more people are selling real treasures online, hence the increase in general household goods versus antiques. I would have snapped up those coasters in a heartbeat!

    • I think you have a very valid point there Jane. I am sure there are many big Brocantes which specialise in pure vintage and antiques, we only visit our local ones in nearby towns and villages, it’s just a fun past time during the warmer months and it’s always fun to look, one never knows what one might stumble upon. Xx

  • The carved piece is so beautiful, and I am not sure that I would paint it. Perhaps a good cleaning and rubbing with lemon oil would be enough. I can see storing linens in it. The pottery fest reminds me of the wonderful pottery we found in Chateauneuf du Pape and in the market in Pernes this summer; I brought a few pieces home and delight at looking at the colors and artistry.

    • Thank you so much Kelly, you see this is why I needed to ask, I knew everyone would have ideas, now I am researching Lemon Oil, thank you! I love Pottery Fair’s like this, each piece so beautifully mae and as you say the colours are incredible. Sounds as if you found some lovely things. Have a great Sunday xx

  • Buy it, clean it, scrape off all the old veneer and see what the wood is like underneath. Then you can do another post with lots of photos!

    • I like that approach Amanda, first I will have to go back and see if it’s still there and it’s not open again until Wednesday! I am very tempted and you are right, take it slowly, step by step and see what happens! Have a lovely Sunday xx

  • Love old stuff — especially vintage pieces that I can decorate with. Your bucket caught my eye. As to what to paint and what not to paint — that’s a good question. I don’t paint things that have value in their original form — anything handmade, pegged, etc. But nearly new things — I splash on the paint. We’re using chalk paint now, but I just visited a shop where oil paint — about 8 coats per piece — made everything look lovely. Great post!

    • I agree, I would never paint anything or value or a real genuine antique. Sometimes I long for an all White House, they look so clean and soothing but I could never paint our inherited antique furniture of course and so it remains but a dream! Perhaps this is why I rather like the idea of this little challenge, it would be fun to paint something for once! I have read so much about chalk paint but have never used it. I think if we bought it we would have to experiment a great deal more once we had stripped it down! Xx

  • It truly is an hideous item. (‘an’ hideous he said. God, what a pedant) But, to continue. Suggestion: remove all six doors, paint them a matt white and then paint the central diamond in each a different colour of choice. Hang the doors in a pattern you like on the neglected inside wall of one of your outbuildings.

    Paint the now open shelved sideboard (?) in a colour/colours to suit the room where you plan to locate it. No, don’t tell me; it will be against the neglected wall, beneath the multi-coloured doors.

    Or, of course, you could wait for an attractive sideboard to come along.

    I continue to enjoy the blog. Well, how could one not?

    • I am so pleased someone else thought it was hideous! It is! And no we don’t have any intention of buying it but Roddy just said to me when I read this out to him that he thought one should take off all the doors and paint them too. On a happier note, so glad you are enjoying the blog, it’s time consuming but great fun and the best part is ‘chatting’ to everyone. But now, I am off to enjoy another perfect sunny autumn day, we’re off on the bikes, maybe to steal a few more apples!!! Xx

  • My thoughts were 1. Take it quickly and get it home and worry about the rest later, because it’s gorgeous.
    2. Now where to put it…that may take some figuring out but it deserves a spot in your home. You have the winter to figure that out.
    3. I agree with just bringing out the beauty of the wood. It is a beautiful piece Susan and well worth a Millie/Susan Winter project.
    Hope it’s still there.
    Love the addition to the kitchen table. Holly branches with red berries at Christmas will be lovely in it.

    • Thanks so much Debra, you are spot on right, now I just hope it’s still there and if we wanted to paint it Millie is the person to ask!!! Thinking of you with Hurricane Matthew bearing down, fingers crossed for everyone in the Islands and Florida xxx

  • I love flea markets and brocantes. I have gone to many while in Europe and have found some treasures, of course I had to be sure they fit in my suitcase!

    I love your finds. I especially love the carved piece of furniture. I am curious to see what suggestions make for painting it.

    Have a wonderful week.

    • Hi Elizabeth, they are such fun I agree and there are always small things that fit well into suitcases! I am glad you liked the carved piece took, it seems to be popular but as I said I have no idea what we would do with it and I am hoping for lots of inspiration!!! Have a wonderful Sunday xx

  • Susan, I have used chalk paint a lot. I love it. One has to use the waxes as well. I think I would paint it an old white….then distress it a bit/scuff it up….use the clear wax and the dark wax. If you hate it after put it on Craig’s List for a lot of money.

    We are over Jet Lag and headed to points north of here before we head west…..so excited….

    Ali Xx

    • So excited Ali, we shall go back on Wednesday when it next opens and see if it is still available and then you can give me advice when you see it in person, how incredibly exciting is that, let’s hope this gorgeous weather lasts. So looking forward to meeting you both and have fun on your travels xxx

  • I dream of visiting France and visiting these Brocantes that I read so much about. I could happily spend my entire time wandering around soaking up the atmosphere and picking out treasure – fabulous post as always

  • I’d love browsing at any or all of these, although having to go home to the State via air puts a definite damper on what I could buy! I love what you got and I love the carved furniture piece. I agree with Kelly that I wouldn’t paint it. What fun to look and dream and then make a dream or two come true!

    janet

    • Hi Janet, Fortunately there are plenty of small treasures to be found that fit quite easily into a suitcase! I always think my best purchases whether they be things like this or clothing come when I walk away, think and then realise that I simply have to have them and then go back, so on Wednesday when Emmaus next opens we will go back and hope it is still there. Then we can decide what to do with it, at least we have a big barn!! Have a lovely Sudnay xx

  • The carved ornate cabinet I would leave it in its original state but shine it up. Place marble or water proof or marine varnish on top and make it into a liquor cabinet, or a mini bar. I have found a great cabinet at a flea market and made it into a great server for liquor and service ware on our patio for entertaining and I cover it when not in use it looks great and with the front cabinet shelves I place extra linens and serving pieces for easy reach . Winter time it will go into the garage with other patio furnature SNOW TIME …. My cabinet has a bohemian look with panache.

    • Hi Sallie, what a great idea, thank you. I have to go and have a really good look and see what it is like inside and I have to hope it is still available, if it is, we will buy it, bring it home and then see what the winter brings, it would certainly be excellent for outdoor entertaining but we don’t have any cover so it might not survive, I think I could possibly find space upstairs or in Roddy’s study!!! Have a great Sunday xx

  • I love flea markets and thrift stores. I often leave empty handed as well, but I find the hunt thrilling and almost therapeutic.
    I agree that you should purchase the carved cabinet and strip it first to check the condition of the natural wood. I like the fact that the people are partying in the top carving! It was meant to be in a happy home!

    • Hi Julia, I agree they are almost therapeutic, even our youngest daughters love to wander around. I am going to buy the piece, so long as it is still available! Everyone has convinced me, thank you! You see I never even realised they were partying, but I like the idea of a happy piece in a happy home, that is a good enough omen for me. xx

  • I would buy the carved piece, hope it is still there for you. The entertainment value alone is worth
    the price. I would find a place to put it where I could stare at it, the piece will tell you what it needs.
    Let it ! Speaking as a former antique dealer.

    • Hi Mary, I hope it is still there, I shall go back on Wednesday and have a look and you are right, we shall bring it home and just look at it. As a former antique dealer do you have any idea on dates? or what the carvings depict? I am sure we will learn more over time. Great advice, thank you xx

  • I so love reading your blog. Thank you for always taking us along on these wonderful adventures! I dream of coming to France one day and going to the Brocantes. I have a few French treasures that I bought from a local vendor, and I treasure them so! I hope that you have a wonderful Sunday!

    • Thank you so much Shannon, there is something really rather great about vintage French things and I just love the history, the fact that everything has a story to tell even if we don’t know what it is. I really hope one day you get to live out your dream and come to France, let me know, I’ll gladly show you around. Have a wonderful Sunday too xx

  • Lovely post, and a girl after my own heart, I love these places, they are known as Rastros here in Spain, it’s the buz about them and of course the treasures to be found, Have a great week !

    • Rastros, I have learnt a new word and one I can now test out on Millie who is pretty good at Spanish and I am sure she won’t know what this means! I can imagine they are rather fun in Spain, does everyone lay out their portable tables and eat beside their cars their too, proper food as opposed to a sandwich. I always feel almost guilty interrupting someone to buy something at lunchtime, but they are always so gracious, no one minds, it really is very civilised! xx

  • I agree with pretty much leaving the carved chest alone except for a little love and some polish. The first chest, you’re on the right path. Remove the upper doors and paint that beast.Look at Pottery Barn online for some ideas on paint and finishes. I’d likely change the hardware as well.
    Fun to have a project! I do hope you give us a follow up post about what you found when you went back. And the rest of the story …

    • Thanks so much for really good advice Patricia. We are not going to buy the big piece, I don’t like it and we have no need for it, but I just found it interesting that such a huge item of solid wood could be bought for way less than a cheap set of modern DIY put together yourself shelves! I love browsing Pottery Barn, haven’t done it for a while and when we were in the States I could spend ages just wandering through their shop and picking up ideas. Now as to the carved piece, we are going to go back when it opens on Wednesday afternoon, hope it is still available and yes, I will follow up with what we decide to do! Have a lovely Sunday xx

  • Oh Susan, I’d be tempted to buy that piece too. I’d probably do nothing to it either, except make sure it lost no more flakes. It’d be a great addition next to the stove in my little den down in the net shed. I would doubtless keep a bottle or two of Glenmorangie in it for those cold winter days when the wind whips over the shingle and my fingers are tired from back-splicing rope – purely for medicinal purposes, of course. I love furniture with character and that piece has it in spades.

    • I do agree Phil, it is a very interesting piece, the carving no doubt tells a story and I am sure we could work out what it is if we had it at home to look at for long enough. I am sure Roddy would love to store Glenmorangie in it too, I wonder is that a fisherman thing!!! Susan xx

  • Oh my heavens! Such treasures…how can anyone decide? I find the best way to determine a potential ‘treasure’ is to ‘see’ it in its spot at your home. If you can’t do it, all the work to repurpose it and then try to make it fit in is for naught. That said, the carved piece is quite lovely. If you have a place you can see it at, then I say go for it. If not, you may want to pass. Good luck!

    • Hi Sarah, I think sadly even that and it would struggle! I should have added that the saddest thing is that you can’t even buy a cheap set of mdf shelves from a DIY shop of this size for this price, something of solid wood and so solid would cost five times as much. Hopefully somebody will find a good use for it. Susan xx

  • I was horrified to see about 4 years ago iron garden repro’s made in MEXICO in your area!They were selling them as if they were an ANTIQUE.I had sold them in my vintage shop years earlier and realized these vendors had gone to the GIFT FAIR and purchased.I was SADDENED and HORRIFIED at the same time!

    • I think our area is maybe lacking in the antique/brocante department! I know there are many more treasures to be found in Provence and certainly up north in Normandy. I can quite imagine how horrified you were to see such copies, it is really really sad and even worse for the poor unsuspecting buyer who doesn’t realise they are buying a rip off. xx

  • it’s not easy to find the right thing not overpriced and the best is to go without any imagination. I was looking for a
    special oval shaped tray in silver where I can put all my nice parfum bottles on it. It tooks me some years and I forgot
    this desire already since I saw it in a brocante in Nice. My joy was two times as big and I enjoy it every day when
    I wake up and walk into the bathroom.

    • I agree totally, it’s best just to keep an open mind, if I see something that has to be bought then so be it, but otherwise walk away. I can imagine your excitement when you finally found your silver tray and also the immense pleasure it must now give you every day, so much nicer than having bought something in a shop, it has a tale to tell. xx

  • I do a vide-grenier every year as a seller. When our kid was smaller and growing fast, there were lots of clothes and toys to unload. It’s true that many were barely used. And it was sometimes heart-breaking to see the families scrape together their centimes to buy a toy for one of the kids. Even though romantic antiques are few and far between, these events are a great way to match up people who don’t want to just toss their old stuff with people of limited means.
    When we want furniture or larger items, we tend to look online first. That’s how we found some ancient carved stone sinks that now work in our garden, as well as many other finds. One man’s junk is another’s gold.

    • I totally agree with this that is what a vide-grenier should be and good for you for selling things rather than just trashing them. I tend to take all of our cast offs to Emmaüs, with five children we have quite a lot of stuff to unload sometimes and I am far too lazy I’m afraid to set up a stall. Don’t get me wrong, I admire anyone who can sit for an entire day in the hot sun and you are right it helps so many families, I had never thought of it that way, it would break my heart too watching someone scrape together a few cents for a toy, I’m such a softie I’d just give it to them! It was the Brocantes that actually advertise themselves as just that and not as a vide-grenier that disappointed me. In the village we have a Bourse aux vêtements each year where everyone sells their children’s second hand clothes, things recycle round in circles and it is good to see. Our girls always go with a few euros in their pockets and meet up with friends and nearly always come home with a t-shirt or summer top, it’s all in a good cause. Where do you look online for heavy items like stone sinks? Leboncoin is the only place I can think of.

      • I do end up giving them the toys. But I kind of let it drag on a while to make sure I’m not being taken for a ride.
        Definitely on leboncoin! It’s where we acquire and dispose of anything too bulky to take to a vide-grenier.
        Actually, it’s pretty fun to be a seller. You see all kinds of people. Once a year is plenty.

      • Oh my goodness, I think I should go through our barn and garage we have far too much large stuff in there that is too bulky to take to Emmaus and I would love to get rid of it.

  • I’m like you Susan as I often see lovely pieces but the cost of transporting them back is just not worth it. I’m a bit of a traditionalist and not mad keen on painting old furniture unless it’s worthless. As for the brocantes I have to see I’m seeing a lot of tat but there are some really poor people out there with children who seem to be buying.

    • I totally agree with you Amanda, I have absolutely no problem with stalls set up by families selling their pre-loved clothes, their old toys or anything else and it is good that this gives people the opportunity to buy these things, there are some people who really do need help and I’d do anything to give a child any opportunity possible. But so much of this seems to be carted from brocante to brocante by semi professional sellers and lots of the things are not even second hand, in fact goodness only knows where the cheap watches and stuff comes from! As for the furniture, I can’t paint anything either unless as you say it really is worthless, it would seem like a crime, but for 20 euros I might be tempted to strip the piece down and then see what we have! hope you have had a lovely day xx

  • As far as the furniture you were looking it my motto is to buy now and figure it out later. If not, by the time you decide to make the purchase it may be gone. Another thing I believe in is NOT painting good wood. I, too, have no trouble painting over veneer or a reproduction, but I am careful when it comes to the real thing.

    This weekend my husband and I went to the Arezzo Antique Market. I was not disappointed. We were just going to go for Saturday, but there was so much to see we went back on Sunday as well. Really nice antiques, no China reproductions.

    • I agree, I can’t paint real antique furniture, but if it was repro I wouldn’t have a problem. We shall go back and have a look and if it is still available we shall bring it home and see where we go from there! Sounds like you had lots of fun at the Arezzo market, there is nothing better than something so good you want to go back for more the next day. I just love the atmosphere and wandering around. Xx

  • This is a fascinating post, and close to my heart, Susan, for I’d like to be nothing more than to be a keen searcher-out of ancient pieces on the French landscape from the front seat of an old Renault van. However, you’ve hit the nail on the head. I have a friend in Jersey who takes a van to France and he brings back pieces on a regular basis for people he knows in the trade. He has been doing it for years, but just this summer he was telling me how things have changed so much, particularly in the past few years since the advent of eBay and Paypal. It seems the days of ‘good stuff’ being sold for fair prices at country brocantes is long gone and he complained of the very thing you speak of – lines of white vans with stall-holders that move from brocante to brocante selling the same rubbish, year in and year out. Semi-professional or even professional ‘stall-holders’ who acquire stock from various sources – including Emmaus, funnily enough – who sell the good stuff on-line or direct to dealers who the internet had introduced them too, leaving the rubbish to be wheeled around the country at the weekends. I fear the same thing has happened here in UK. It seems the line between ‘brocante’ and ‘vide-grenier’ and flea market has become much blurred now into one and I think it’s a great shame, there is a place for each but separately.

    • Interesting Simon, perhaps it is the sign of the times, things change, I do understand people need to make money where they can, and if there is more to be made by selling online then truthfully who wouldn’t take that route. I don’t actually even mind the second hand clothes and toys to an extent, if a family is making a few honest bucks to put food of their table and another family is gaining a few necessary or even luxury things at a price they can afford then it is a win win situation and I am all for it. It’s the semi professionals selling cheap knock offs that are illegal to sell on eBay that I don’t like. I truly hope thought that this doesn’t start to be the downfall and end of brocantes throughout the summer months as we know them, they are so much a part of the French scene. Xx

  • I think the carved piece is calling your name. This happens to me very often. The people on this piece want to come home with you. A place in your home will open up for them. You could always hang the doors as art work. Friends of mine bought antique carved wardrobe doors and hung them in their entry to the kitchen for the doors to the combination pantry and coat closet ! It is beautiful!! Hope it is still there. Have Fun!!!

    • Hi Martha, what beautiful words, I want to go and look at the people again, I find I am already impatient to see them and I know I have to wait until it opens on Wednesday afternoon. I want to see if I can work out what the scene depicts, I want to find out more, I am more intrigued than ever now. I just so hope it is still there! I will let you know. Xx

  • Like most gardeners, I believe one can never have too many vases — sizes, shapes, colors 🙂 I love the white enamel milk pail. Truth be told, I love white enamel and have gobs of it, but again, maybe never enough?
    The Mister brought me such a large bouquet last week, I had to spread it out in three different vases, and I decided one of the things I’ll be thrifting for is a large bucket of some sort. Something with a stock pot type girth. The bouquet was amazing en masse and I wished I could have displayed it that way.

    • First of all lucky you, sounds as if you have a perfect husband! But I do agree you can never have enough vases, I used to use a really pretty cut glass water jug on the kitchen table but it’s been fun to swap this out with the white milk pail for a while, a change is as good as a rest and with the informality of the yellow flowers it works rather well. I am so happy to have found it. Perhaps a half sized milk churn would be really nice for this type of huge arrangement? The best thing is now you get to hunt for something and it is always fun to have something in particular to search for. Hope you are having a lovely weekend xxx

  • Although my husband and I are currently focused on the out-going, rather than the in-coming, it would be hard to resist some of those treasures! I’m sorry that online venues like eBay have taken some of the soul out of treasure hunting. I love to poke around at garage sales and flea markets.

    • I am always trying to focus on the out-going as you say. Half of me would love to live in a minimalist house but it would never work with five children! Then the other half of me loves possessions and things with a story, it’s always a bit of a contradiction! There is nothing as much fun as messing around at garage sales, I have always loved them, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure! Xx

    • Thanks so much, I am getting impatient now, I can’t wait to go back on Wednesday when it opens again and have a look, I’ll let you know. Hope you have had a lovely fun weekend xx

  • The second wooden piece is interesting, and I’m guessing well-priced? The doors are a problem with the first piece. It looks 1970’s to me?

    • Hi Judy, yes the second piece is the equivalent of about $23, so really nothing at all. I am going to go back on Wednesday when it next opens and bring it home so long as it is still there, fingers crossed. The first piece is just ugly! I have no intention of buying it, but it intrigues me that something of such solid design and solid wood can cost way less than a modern set of flat pack put together yourself shelves from a DIY store! Xx

  • Hello, I am fascinated by the carved relief piece with the figures of people. You mentioned it was probably made pre WWl. I decided to investigate and I started with French Renaissance Revival, dates of 1850-1880. I read that most of it is made from Walnut with some lesser woods, even pine, being used, but all the examples I saw seemed to be walnut.Did you identify the wood on this piece? I could see a grain from your photo and it looked like oak, but I am not sure. I also researched English, German, and Italian Renaissance Revival. All of the countries named had carvings with similar features, such as carytids, the human-figures at the sides as though supporting horizontal pieces, fruits,flowers, animal heads, medallion/cartouche type features. I could not find any examples that showed provencial interior scenes like the one you showed us with one exception. The closest examples I found were called French Brittany Renaissance Revival with similar interior scenes with people/rooms and made from chestnut. To be sure this piece of furniture wasn’t a true Renaissance piece from Elizabethan era, I looked for examples with the interior scenes and could not find anything to compare with details.of the piece you showed us I noticed that the French Brittany pieces sold for several thousands of dollars (US). You mentioned, also, the veneer was flaking off. Veneer is actually very thin strips of finer/ rarer woods that would be covering the flat surfaces, such as the tops and sides. I am wondering if you mean the stain finish is flaking off as it looks like all of the relief work that projects out has been worn with age/use. I found a company called EuroLux that carries the French Brittany pieces. Perhaps you can email them a photo and solve the mystery! If it is being sold on the cheap, I’d get it, not paint it, and find out its retail value, then sell it for profit! That’s my advice. I am not an antique expert, but I am an interior designer who is a preservationist, history lover, and I read up on architecture, furniture, and textiles of the past. Please let us know if you discover anything about this wonderful piece of furniture. One of the going trends is having one heavier stained piece in a room as a focal point, then lightening up with colors, fabrics, and contemporary furniture. Personally, I would leave this piece as it is, flaking finish and defects and all. Anytime a piece is refinished, the value goes down. Maybe Antiques Roadshow in Britain could identify it for you!

    • Wow thank you Melanie, that is so incredibly informative, I am more intrigued than ever now. We are going to go back on Wednesday afternoon when Emmaus opens and, fingers crossed it is still there, we shall buy it and bring it home and then we can have a very good look and also take a lot more photographs and work out a lot more, I shall give you an update! I have no idea where this piece would go in our house, we would have to find room, I have a feeling it may end up in my husband’s study! Have you ever visited France, or do you plan to do so in the future, it would be fun to show you around! Susan xx

      • Merci à Mélanie pour ses recherches approfondies ! On se rend compte que vos followers , Susan, forment une vraie communauté amicale. Je voudrais compléter les conseils de Mélanie en vous invitant à contacter un Commissaire-priseur pour évaluer ( sur photos ) ce meuble si finement sculpté quand vous l’ aurez acheté . Voici par exemple une adresse à Rochefort ( merci encore à Google ! ) : http://www.interencheres.com/fr/informations/nos-services.html#ancre-estimation . Ce site web est traduit en anglais/ voir onglet en haut de page.// Thanks to Mélanie for her in-depth researches! We realize so that your followers makes a friendly community. I would like to add to the advices of Mélanie by inviting you to join an auctioneer to estimate this piece of furniture so finely carved ( with pictures to start ) when/if you ‘ll have bought it. For example ( thanks again to Google ! ) , here is an adress in Rochefort : http://www.interencheres.com/fr/informations/nos-services.html#ancre-estimation . This Web site is translated into english ( see Tab on the top of the page ). Philippe

      • Merci à Mélanie pour ses recherches approfondies ! On voit ainsi que vos followers , Susan, forment une vraie communauté amicale.Je voudrais ajouter aux conseils de Mélanie en vous invitant à contacter un Commissaire-priseur pour évaluer ( sur photos ) ce meuble si finement sculpté quand vous l’ aurez acheté. Voici ( par exemple )une adresse à Rochefort : http://www.interencheres.com/fr/informations/nos-services.html#ancre-estimation (Ce site web est traduit en anglais/ voir onglet en haut de page).// Thanks to Mélanie for her in-depth researches! So we can see , Susan, that your followers makes a friendly community. I would like to add to the wise advices of mélanie by inviting you to join an Auctioneer to estimate this piece of furniture so finely carved ( with pictures to start ) when you’ll have bought it. Here is ( for example ) an adress in Rochefort : http://www.interencheres.com/fr/informations/nos-services.html#ancre-estimation ( this Web site is translated into english/ see tab on the top of the page )

      • Merci Philippe, what a fabulous friendly group of people, I couldn’t agree more, this is why I keep writing, it’s such fun, our little OFO community as Millie liked to think of it! We shall go back to Emmaus on Wednesday when it next opens and hope it is still available, if it is we shall buy it and bring it home and it can sit in the barn which is secure and dry. I shall certainly take some photos and send it to the auctioneers, thank you so much for this, it would be lovely to know what it is worth and a little more about it. Cannot thank you enough for this, what a fascinating website, having looked through a few pages I shall bookmark it for sure, so much information about so much going on throughout France. Looks like being a gorgeous week of fine autumnal weather. Susan xx

      • Hi, Susan, Yes, I do come to France periodically as I am seriously a Francophile as well as an Anglophile! I took two semesters of British History in college and am always reading French history as well. I actually am contemplating a near in the future trip back to France. Have not explored the western side where you live. I will give you heads up when i make final plans. I would love to meet you and your beautiful girls! I am an oil painter…your photographs are so beautiful perhaps you will give me permission to paint one or two? You definitely have talent in your composition. Do you happen to paint? You have an artist’s eye! Best regards, Melanie

      • Hi Melanie, an Anglophile and Francophile, I like it, we’ll get along just fine!!! Do let me know when you make your plans, it is lovely here on the west coast and we are within half an hour of all four of the Atlantic Islands which make for some wonderful day trips. You are more than welcome to paint whatever you like from my photos, I would be honoured. Sadly I don’t paint, I have an ancestor who was quite an accomplished artist in the early 1900’s and many of his watercolours hang in our house, but the gene sadly completely bypassed me and went straight to our children instead who all put me to shame! My mother in law was also an artist in her own right and exhibited in London, Paris and Provence and actually studied in Connecticut, her genes have again passed to our children! My husband (her son) doesn’t paint either!!! But I do love design and anything to do with it. Susan xx

  • What fun outdoor venues to shop. I remember my shopping trip to France three years ago and how fun each day was. Not sure what to tell you about that piece. It is very unique and I have always heard and said to buy what you love and what to do with it will come later.

    • Hi Kim, I could spend days going around all of these fair’s and brocantes, it’s the atmosphere that is so special. I was rather hoping you would comment when I wrote the post as you always seem really good at this sort of thing. We will go back when it opens on Wednesday and hope it hasn’t sold and then we shall buy it, bring it home and then work out exactly what to do with it! There’s no rush, it can sit in the barn which is totally watertight and dry and we can decide over time what to do. Your trip three years ago sounds like it was great fun, any plans to come back again?? Xx

  • I am totally addicted to second hand ‘outlets’ of all kinds and managed to equip my whole house with gorgeous finds. There is an art to looking and finding. I think you have mastered that art Susan , especially with that beautiful little enamel lidded pot. ( I confess to having many of those myself). I am also worried about the volume of rubbish and chinese fakes entering the markets.We also have the same dilemma in Australia. Heavy wooden pieces are now very cheap- even older Victorian pieces go for a song as the modern eye seems to favour mid century Danish furniture.
    The piece in your photo with the figurines I would definitly buy- perhaps you could strip it and paint it in milk white paint- but this would be a tedious job, getting all the varnish from the figurines. Hard one! The other larger piece with the top[- I wouldn’t personally go for that one.
    Love your blog. It takes me back to France in a flash.

    • Hi Francesca, I was so happy when I saw the milk jug, I wasn’t looking for one, I wasn’t looking for anything, but I knew I had to have it the minute I saw it, I love it. Heavy brown furniture as it is called by the experts in the UK also goes for a song here, no one wants it, a beautiful Victorian chest in oak can be picked up for next to nothing. We will go back on Wednesday when Emmaus opens again and if the little piece is still there we will buy it and bring it home and then decide what to do with it. I have no intention of buying the other one, I just thought it was good to show how you can buy a solid wooden piece of furniture for way less than a set of flatpack MDF shelves in a DIY store! It is solid but ugly! Any plans to visit France again? A friend in Austrailia said the same to me last week about the amount of fakes entering the market, sadly it is a worldwide problem. Hope you had a great weekend and have a lovely week. Susan xx

      • Yes, next year we will split our time between France and Italy for three months. Still deciding what region of France to find a small house. Last time I was quite taken with the area around the Dordogne or the Vezere river around Le Bugue. But who knows….

      • Do let me know if you need help finding accommodation if you should decide on this area, it is beautiful here and the beaches are fantastic, but much flatter and nowhere near as green as the Dordogne which is far more like the rolling hills of England in places. Sounds as if it will be a wonderful trip, I can imagine you are looking forward to it already. Xx

  • I love the piece with the carved figures. Who cares if you don’t know where to use it, you’ll think of something. The diamond-pane doors one, however, is pretty ugly.
    Your wine coasters look exactly like the one I bought in London a gazillion years ago.

    • Hi Emm, yes the big piece is really ugly! The smaller carved piece is very interesting, we shall go back on Wednesday when Emmaus is open again and hope it hasn’t been sold and hopefully buy it and bring it home. It can sit in the barn which is quite dry and then we can decide what to do with it and where it can go, I am sure we will find somewhere! We have a pair of wine coasters in sterling which were a wedding present and these are almost identical except they are not hall marked. But I just thought they were well made and traditional and they are always useful, I couldn’t not buy them! Have a great week xx

  • Wow. What a lot of opportunities to buy interesting items. It’s too bad that you are finding more knock offs. I have no idea how to improve that wooden piece, but I’m sure you’ll come up with something.

  • What a fabulous post! I live in a rather ‘old’ rural part of settled Australia south of Sydney – so am overjoyed when I can get to ‘garage sales’ when owners pass on or move. If one is not really interested/knowledgeable one may pass by the most fabulous ‘finds’ at throw-away prices: I would probably try to keep . . . have to think about selling for profit and sharing with original owners – they set the price at the door 🙂 ! Altho’ I do not use much dark furniture absolutely love both furniture pieces you have shown: the second above the first. To each their own: NO, I would not remove any doors etc: all well balanced . . . and personally I would just clean and reoil: I absolutely loathe any such piece being repainted . . . but that is me and you did ask 🙂 !! Just love your wine coasters . . .

    • I am not one for painting furniture either particularly, mostly because we have old inherited antiques and it would be a crime to paint them. I think we shall be going back when Emmaus opens again on Wednesday and if they still have the small carved piece we shall buy it and bring it home and then work out what to do with it and where we can put it, in the meantime it can stay in the barn which is dry and secure! I rather loved the wine coasters too, they cleaned up perfectly and they will always be useful. Have a great week xx

    • I love this too, I have heard of people finding great things by the side of the road that others have put out as rubbish, as you so rightly say one man’s trash is another’s treasure! Xx

  • i am old school, i only clean never paint. Of course even ages ago, folks painted old pieces when it was the fashion and felt that the current style was more sophisticated. i have a hard time with “chippy” finishes, why all want to look the same. 2 weeks ago i was visiting Marche aux Puches in the 18th. I could have purchased a container load, prices were good even by Paris standards. I have been to many brocantes in France and love them all. Love the carved cabinet, just clean.

    • I must admit I prefer original antique pieces and it would be an absolute crime to paint them, at least they are individual.I hope you had a wonderful time in Paris, can’t believe it went by so quickly, you must have had great weather too, it’s been beautiful here. Hope you found one or two things small enough to go in your suitcase and take home with you! We shall go back and buy the cabinet so long as it is still there when Emmaus reopens on Wednesday and then clean it and see what it looks like, I’ll keep you updated! Xx

    • Hi Sarah, I don’t have room for the large piece anyway! But the small piece we might find a space for somewhere, I do rather like it and it does intrigue me, hopefully it is still available when we go back. Once we have cleaned it I think we shall have a better idea what to do with it, I agree paint would probably spoil the carvings which appear to tell a story, I can’t wait to really look at it and find out more. Xx

      • I was think about the tale they tell, may they could be the inspiration for one of your short stories? And maybe that could be painted onto the inside of the doors, so the outside is traditional and the inside is a surprise? Discovered an amazing Broconte on the drive up to St Malo to catch Condor last week, barn after barn, full to the rafters with stuff, all covered in dust, cobwebs and pigeon poo! It was only the tiny size of our car that stopped us going mad……

  • and here the latecomer….
    I only hope not to voice what everybody said before because I haven’t read the comments yet. I am very intruiged by the hand-carved meuble. What you should/could do is carefully clean it (yeah, that’s a project on its own, but so worth it – and it wd be mother-daughter talking time!) and then slightly lime-wash it. The lime-wash is something I discovered throughout my UK time and I absolutely adore it. It gives a lovely patina to wood, goes with the ‘old world’ style, adds luminosity and is cool at the same time as warm, cosy, friendly….
    And I WOULD buy it in a heart beat – if it’s still available…
    As for buying-for-selling, that’s not my thing at all. It even angers me sometimes and your analogy with the Fabergé oeuf is a good one. I only ever buy stuff I personally lose my heart over and then don’t sell it on or, if needs be, only to a loving new owner. Once my heart is attached to an item, a tory is too, and for me it’s quite important that in case of a sale I also sell the story/history.
    Hope to find time to read it all – you have a lovely bunch of faithful readers. I prepared two other comments some time ago, but they went haywire and a truck pulled down a low hanging branch of a tree (we had alreay asked the Mairie to do something about those trees!!! – They will react in November/December, Bonjour la France…..), which, in turn, ripped off our phone/internet cable and w2e were off circuit for the longest time (encore une fois; bonjour la douce France)
    Then when we finally were ‘connected’ again, I had mountains of urgent matters to attend to. There….. but I DO so enjoy your style, your personality and your stories. And you’ve got a lovely family and love pets – so I love you too… It’s that easy 🙂

    • I cannot believe you have been without Internet for so long, as I believe you said you were relatively close to Paris so not even out in the back of beyond! Well I hope you stay connected now and the problems are over because it is great to have you commenting and being so helpful. I’ll chat about the lime wash in the next comment, but in the meantime if you are ever over on the west coast, let me know! Susan xx

  • BTW; I used lime-wash on our really not very beautiful and quite butched stairs when we took the ugly glued-down carpets off, it was difficult to find because nobody knew what I was talking about but in the end I found it (if you need name, I can find out ‘again’ and mail you) – it added great charm to those stairs and we re-did it now, some 7 yrs later – it’s easy, takes no special care for keeping in order (I just clean the stairs with a damp rug or in between, push the ‘hoover’ over….) and it did lighten up the dark mounting steps!

    • Growing up in the UK in a very old farmhouse there was a lot of lime wash used, especially outside in the stables. It’s not something I have really thought about much since to be honest but now that you have mentioned it I have just done a little research and can fully understand why it was used to much on the farm as it allows old buildings to breath and interesting that wood worm and the like hate it! I would love to know where you bought it in France if you can please send me an email susanourfrenchoasis@gmail.com I would love to use this in our summer kitchen on the walls which are very old and really do need to be able to breath and also then think about the possibility of this as a finish for the carved cabinet. It might be the perfect solution. Look forward to hearing from you and thanks again for the great advice. Susan xx

  • I love browsing through antique shops and flea markets, but I would imagine the treasures that can be found would be quite different than from here in Canada. Only occasionally will I buy something … I have neither the space in my home, or the imagination to repurpose the previously-loved.

    I admire your desire to refinish either or both pieces. It would be completely beyond any of my talents!

    • Hi Joanne, I would imagine maybe things are very different here but wherever one is in the world I think it is always fun to browse antique shops and flea markets. I don’t need to buy, I just love the atmosphere. I will keep you informed if we managed to buy the carved piece and what we decide to do. Xx

  • well I’m too late as usual, but here’s my take! Firstly, like you Susan, I love browsing antique fairs, fleamarkets etc. Endless fascination about the previous lives of some items. But I know what you mean about more ‘tat’ appearing. It seems the same here in England, a lot of either rubbish or new things, or already ‘done up’ and costing a fortune! Now, on to your two pieces. I don’t like the first one, two geometric, nothing particularly interesting, but could be useful and if painted well, would increase the interest a little. The second piece, well – what an amazing story that must hold! The work that went into it. ANd what is it telling us? Those figures represent something or someone in history. I would buy that without a doubt. Now painting it will not be easy. Because the figures and tableaux are key to the piece and must not be blurred away by paint. I think it would be good to paint it in a neutral, a soft grey, soft blue-grey, soft buff colour, and then rub the tableaux so that they are ‘shabby chiced’ but cleverly so that the scene is brought out, or visible and not lost. It would be something that would always invite questions and I’m sure some research would result in some fascinating facts. Someone needs to take this into their care and love it for a few more decades! The insides of the cupboards.drawers? could be painted in a contrasting or darker shade to the outside maybe. I think it would be a fascinating project. I can’t wait to hear if you did buy it or not!!!

    • Hi Marian, no I don’t like the first piece either but what I thought was interesting is it is cheaper than anyone could buy a set of flatpack MDF shelves from a DIY store! But the carved piece I find rather intriguing, as you say so much work went into it and the carvings tell a story, there seems to be some sort of party going on, hopefully it is not sold and we will be able to buy it and bring it home on Wednesday and then we will be able to look a great deal closer and find out a little more I hope and decide what to do with it. I haven’t even looked proeperly at the insides, so much more to find out, I am rather excited! I will keep you informed as to whether we do manage to get it! xx

  • You are a girl after my own heart Susan, for I love a brocante or a vide-grenier. You scored some great pieces at sensible prices….the brocante I visited in the summer was crazy, one vendor wanted €245 for an A4 sized enamel sign, I had a job not to laugh! I go to the Antiques fair at Ardingly quite often and the prices there are mad, although you can occasionally get a bargain at the end of the day. In France I prefer the small village vide-greniers, which are much less likely to have commercial traders with new tat. I love the carved piece, but personally would not paint it, I think it would be difficult to get a professional result on the figures and I agree that the geometric piece is hideous! I guess one reason why these big brown pieces are going for a song is that nobody these days has the room to accommodate them. I hope you manage to get it when you return to Emmaus and will look forward to seeing what you do.

    • Hi Fiona, just the word Ardingly brought back so many memories, I was born in Cuckfield! I cannot believe the price of the enamel sign! The small vide Greniers are indeed much the best, the white van men, as we like to call them, don’t visit so much and it really is just the locals. Last year we bought two lovely chandeliers in our next door village for the princely sum of 15 euros each and he even threw in a pair of brass candelabra! I think you are right about the big brown pieces, no one wants them, no one has the space, they are so out of fashion that they are hard pushed to even give them away. I shall keep you informed about the carved piece, fingers crossed it is still there when Emmaus opens again on Wednesday afternoon. Susan xx

  • Great photos and I do like that carved furniture if one has the space for it. At the moment, I couldn’t even contemplate rummaging through other peoples’ unwanted stuff, as I’ve just donated 10 boxes of my surplus kitchen items. Maybe you’d like to come and look through all the furniture, mirrors, and pictures stacked in my spare bedroom. 🙂

    • Thanks Sylvia, I know how you feel, I have a barn full of things to donate myself, the little carved piece just sort of had my name on it, going back today to see if it is still there and if so it will become yet another item in the barn!!! Xx

  • I would be in so much “trouble” here… dishes, glasses, carved furniture, what’s not to love? Question becomes ultimately, where to keep it all? There is an American TV show “Fixer Upper” (Chip & Joanna Gaines) whose interior designer, Joanna, is very clever and talented at transforming these re-purposed pieces and antiques. I love how you have expanded the blog… unlimited by your imagination but still having the flavor of French Countryside 🙂

    • Hi Serra, I have heard so much about Fixer Upper but never seen it, I know I would love it! I am so glad you are enjoying the blog, it has just evolved quite naturally and with such fabulous feedback from everyone and all these wonderful comments I am enjoying it immensely. Susan xx

  • Oh please do purchase the carved piece if it is still available. My friend’s godmother in Sciez has a piece like this which is from 1870 or so. I would not paint this piece, but consult a furniture restorer regarding what type of oil/wax could be used to clean and restore it. As for not having anywhere to put it, with such a wonderful handcrafted piece, you must MAKE room.

    • Hi Kathleene, we went back yesterday to buy it and it had gone! We were so disappointed. It is of course our fault, we should have gone when it was open on Saturday afternoon and bought it then, we left it too late. But we will be on the lookout for another, and as you say we would have made room, somewhere! Xx

  • That meal looks very civilised. I’d be inclined to clean the carved piece up with meths and fine wire wool, then just oil it. I am sure it would look pretty spectacular, though not really to my taste. It’s just nice to bring things back to life sometimes and someone would love it, I’m sure

    • Thanks. Sadly it was sold when we went back! I had no idea where we would have put it anyway, we already have far too much furniture! But that means there is always something else to search for at some other time! xx

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