Seasoning Vintage Furniture

P7340782I have a little obsession at the moment that involves wood, velvet, deep dark gunmetal grey and a very specific shade of pink and it all started with a thrift shop and a piece of secondhand furniture.

It took me many years to get to the state of mind where I am now. I always grew up with antique furniture; it was, well,  ‘a part of the furniture’, if I may use the pun. I never gave it a second thought. And between Roddy and I we inherited enough of it to furnish our home. To the two of us it was how it was done, and as we had both grown up with the same mindset, we never gave it a second thought.

But then slowly over the years I started to yearn for something different. I even went through a stage of longing for a minimalist white house, a rather laughable idea with five children, and of course it never even came vaguely close to becoming a reality.

Then at some stage I discovered the excitement of painting wood. Of course we just can’t paint good antiques, that would be complete sacrilege. However, browsing through good quality brown furniture, most often dating  from the 1920’s to the 1960’s, has changed my outlook completely. For my purposes, I look for well-made and heavy pieces, many of which are oak and were originally designed to serve a purpose; as a result they are not typically very decorative but just plain old-fashioned honest bits that have stood the test of time.


In general no one is buying ‘brown stuff’ anymore; it’s not in vogue, and while a nice Georgian lowboy, a Regency sofa table or an early Victorian commode might still sell well at the bigger auction houses, nothing is attaining the exalted pricing of the 90’s anymore. I’m not looking to buy in that league anyway, and as we already have too much furniture I’m really only interested in playing with the treasures one finds in the local thrift store; and here in France one can occasionally pick up a real gem for just a few euros. Then I have absolutely no problem in giving whatever it is I have bought a new lease of life that involves anointing it with glamour via a paint brush. A vintage dressing table or a freestanding baguette box suddenly offer a wealth of possibilities.


This little chair was divine and would have come home with me for sure but someone beat me to it, one has to be quick!


When we bought our first house in France two decades ago, I remember one thing everyone always complained about was French paint; it was quite literally awful, exceptionally thin and to get a decent covering took many coats  – and even that routine was not a guaranteed success. French paint was so poor, that anyone driving from the UK across the Channel would always have a car full of not just personal belongings, but also gallons of paint. At last though I am happy to say that France has caught up, and even if where we are there are no local shops selling Farrow and Ball, we do finally have available some very good quality makes in a huge variety of colours. My ‘go-to’ covering at the moment when I feel the need to feed my little obsession, is Dulux Valentine, and the colour I’m seriously into is simply called ‘Poivre‘. It began in the kitchen when white furniture turned into the deepest, dark grey. The colour harmonises perfectly with wood and makes a striking contrast to our simple modern white cabinets.



In fact this year our guest-house kitchen also got the poivre touch! A makeover which I have loved doing.


Looking back, it was the sitting room in this little cottage that received the first painted item –  we hauled out from the kitchen a huge cupboard in a lurid green that the previous owners had left behind and changed it forever.

IMG_5338 2Visiting out nearest secondhand store is like visiting a treasure trove of a bygone era. So much wood, so many things all discarded, so many things that can be reinvented, painted, spruced up, cleaned and loved once more.


I was really taken by this traditional antique French wash stand with a fully fitted marble interior and mirror. If only I had a place for it!



The huge armoires we find here all the time are too large for modern houses and you can pick them up for around 100 to 200 euros.



You can do far more than just paint if you are handy, especially if you buy a wardrobe with ‘dodgy’ doors – these can be used as an excuse to haggle genteel-ly over the price, and then you can discard them to produce a one off bookcase. They also make wonderful utility cupboards, perfect for a mop, broom, vacuum, iron and ironing board; the list is endless. Surprisingly they can also look fabulous in a kitchen as a ready-made pantry cupboard or somewhere to keep your china.


I also never overlook old marble coffee-tables. We have bought two now, discarding the ugly bases (both were tacky gold painted metal monstrosities), and re-inventing them as standalone island units. As a result both have found their way into the kitchen.



Now these chairs have sorely tempted me. I could snap up all four for under 100 euros. They are heavy (always a good sign) and they are well made. I would strip them down, paint them and then re-upholster them, another thing I have learnt to do this winter. Now if there had been six chairs it would be a done deal, but with only four of them on offer, I am just not sure. I would have had to find another two from somewhere and mix and match. I’m sorely tempted, the shop does not reopen until tomorrow, so I will sleep on it (in itself always a good idea and something I really do very firmly believe in). The number of times I have fallen in love with something, walked away, slept on it, and then awoken only to find I can actually quite happily live without the said item, has grown exponentially –  I am no longer instantly smitten perhaps! Maybe on Friday morning I’ll have made more sense of the situation. I will either forget about them or I will be hotfooting it down there as soon as the children are in school.


How about a refectory table? I think I need to buy another house!!





I think I have inadvertently found a marriage made in heaven, a mix of furniture – some of it touched by a little dark paint to add some va va voom, and some of it the beautiful traditional antiques which I will always love. I admit to sometimes looking at a piece and thinking about how it has been dusted and polished for over 200 years – how many hands and fingers have touched a key, turning it in an ancient lock? This is the furniture I cherish most of all.


Perhaps it is the winter months but I’m also having a bit of a love affair with velvet in a certain shade of pink, it’s almost ‘heather’, a difficult colour to describe. I’m thinking of an old, really old, upholstered sofa or chair –  something our grandparents might have had. I found a roll of material in the precise hue I wanted in a local brocante store, I pounced upon it; however on closer inspection the smell of damp and mildew was unbearable and as I doubted I would ever get rid of it, I passed it by. Incredibly I found a brand new version a few days later, a soft velvet in almost the same colour and I bought a few metres. It changes with the light and it goes perfectly with the grey. I’ve been making cushion covers for days, in between finding time to paint.


Some might call it an obsession, but I can think of worse obsessions to have!


All About France

147 thoughts on “Seasoning Vintage Furniture

  1. I’m going to your shops! The stuff in Vendee is not nearly as nice. We do have Dulux paint, though, and Poivre is a fabulous color. My rental kitchen has a cosmetic upgrade in its future…

    1. I think we are quite spoilt here, I am going back tomorrow for sure, I feel inspired! Deluxe paint seems like such a luxury here now! Stupid really as it is such a normal paint, but it is so good to finally be able to buy decent paint locally. I look at our guest house as being like a life sized doll’s house, it is where I get to play and experiment! xx

    1. Actually it is a mixture of the two. The first two photos of kitchens are in our own home, the third one is the guest house and the sitting room is the guest house. It is a wonderful little cottage, I could move in there quite happily! xx

  2. I really enjoyed this post. I see all these old, once-beautiful wood pieces in the brocante shops here in Provence…and wish I had the floor space to accommodate them and the skills to paint/re-fit them!! Particularly the armoires…they’re so fabulous but soooo big! Anyway, thanks for sharing your current obsessions with us…very nice post.

    1. Thanks so much Julie, I wis I could buy up all of those old armoires, aren’t they gorgeous. But as you say, they are so big, I think that is why no one wants them, no one has the space. I would actually like to buy one and use it as a linen cupboard on our landing upstairs, but we would never get it up ur narrow staircase or through the coffin hatch where we hoist most furniture upstairs, they simply are too big sadly xx

  3. Do you know Annie Sloan paints? I have no idea if they are sold over there, but they are fabulous! No prepping at all. You can do an undercoat and then sand lightly after a top coat of another color to bring out the base. I’ve used them many times…even on Ikea furniture they work wonders!

    1. Yes and No! Annie Sloan paint is available in one or two specialist places, although I have not seen any here, but I can certainly buy it online. I actually made my own chalk paint using plaster of paris and it worked brilliantly. I love the no prep route, it makes everything so much easier! I have done one or two Ikea hacks, great fun, in fact that is what our freestanding kitchen unit is, now a completely different colour and with a marble top!! xx

  4. OMG, it’s a treasure trove of goodies and what fabulous prices. I would snag those chairs. I like to put two different host and hostess chairs with the other ones. My kitchen table which I have called a farmhouse table I guess is a refectory table. Looks just like the first one you shared. Got mine in Normandy in an antique store and it was not cheap three years ago, but cheaper than it would have been here. I love seeing some of your home. I love your comfortable sitting room.

    1. I totally agree with you about the host and hostess chairs, but I already have two really nice chairs that I would not change. I wanted to change out the other six. If I went for these four then I would have two more odd ones in the middle. Not really a problem as I hate everything to be too regulated and predictable, but I am still weighing up the pros and cons. I am sorely tempted. They could sit in the barn and I could play with them at my leisure, although patience is not my strong point! I won’t tell you the price of these two tables it would quite literally make you weep. I want to buy both, I really do, I hate to pass them by, because often they are way more expensive. xx

  5. Bonjour Susan, Your Vintage Furniture post sent my heart a pitter-patter. Alas I am on the other side of the Big Pond and vintage furniture here is nice but it is not the real deal. But never one to turn away an opportunity, 10 years ago I started my business based on our honeymoon and 4 more trips to France. I offer hand painted furniture in a French-style for those who can’t just jaunt over to buy a shipping container of Vintage French Furniture, sadly… including me.
    Susanna … Take a peek of my treasures at

    1. Hi Susanna, I just followed you on Instagram and I will go over to your website when I have some free time at the weekend. I love your story of how you started your business based on your honeymoon in France. We are lucky, there certainly are some wonderful finds here. I would love to be able to buy everything I saw yesterday, so much choice and so many fabulous things. xx

  6. I love all the furniture. I live in a small 1895 Victorian in Texas. I myself am so tired, especially in the U.S. that people buy beautiful old furniture with natural stain, with gorgeous workmanship and paint it. Of course my house has natural wood all over it, but my walls & furnishings reflect a lot of colorful Art Deco. But, I do not destroy my furniture by painting it. We have one piece in my laundry room that is painted. I read articles here with pictures of homes they say are French style & they are all white, gray & beige with one piece of furniture painted blue. It’s like walking in the clouds. I want my home to have color & look at the beautiful wood that a craftsmen years ago spent timeless hours making. I see several French rooms on Pinterest & magazines that have preserved the beautiful furniture.

    1. Deborah, I think what Susan means is having ‘lighter’ furniture, not just ‘painted over’ furniture. We are all tired of the heavy, dark, stained mahogany stuff and in most parts of the world the housing is so tiny that you just couldn’t use these heavy pieces which take so much room and light… Sorry, to add my ‘grain de sel’ – I think we all agree mostly on the general theme 🙂

      1. Thanks Kiki, this big old furniture is fabulous, but very few people have rooms big enough to house them now, so they sit unloved and unwanted. I would far rather repurpose something and see it used than watch it rot. As I said a genuine antique is just that and they cannot be beaten, I love them, but I love to mix things up a little, to give everything a slightly fresh feel, to move with the times. I am sure you know what I mean! xxx

    2. I do very much agree with you. Actually I was lying in bed last night looking at our large chest of drawers and just admiring in, I love old furniture, I love taking the time to apply beeswax once every few months and polish it and I would never ever dream of painting a genuine antique. In fact in the post I said how I love our old furniture, the piece with the key is a sofa table in our sitting room which has two drawers. But every now and then I also love to add something a little different into the mix. I find one dark piece goes really well next to the traditional wood. I also love it in our kitchen and our guest house is full of furniture that was always painted in the first place. But I do think that the painted look has been rather overdosed on in the media, all of our friends here are French and very few have painted furniture if any at all, it really is not as common as it is made out to be. Traditional wood is far more French, certainly here anyway! xx

      1. Thank you! I love French decor & most everything French, especially the language. Maybe people in the U.S. will catch on. Have a great weekend!

  7. Unfortunately, here in Spain, there are very few secondhand shops – the Spanish won’t part with anything, at least they won’t in this area. There were two in the nearby town but both have now closed down for lack of business.

    1. I never knew that. Most of the things here are from estate clearances, which is actually quite sad, but then I also think there is a positive side and someone would be happy to see something loved once more. xx

  8. Oh, what a treasure trove, it would cost a fortune here to buy any of that gorgeous old furniture, I couldn’t resist! I think a coat of paint transforms anything really. I remember a while back we were talking about chalk paint, I had bought some, as had you, but you beat me to it as I still haven’t painted the old table I bought in a local charity shop! I still have the paint, so must try it when spring comes & I can get it dry. It’s amazing how it turns an old piece into something lovely. As for your rental, it’s gorgeous, I want to come & live there- forever! You really do have good taste Susan, do you reupholster pieces yourself? . I love buying old items in the shops locally, so much nicer than new, & much cheaper too. My latest find was a silver colour tray for £5 that I’m going to put candles on, it has such a pretty design. You’ve fired up my imagination again! xxx

    1. P.S. I have fallen in love with the little dressing table with mirror on the 3rd picture, it’s just beautiful. Can you not find a tiny space for it?? x

        1. Isn’t it gorgeous? We can’t get anything like it here except for expensive auction rooms, it’s mid century furniture that’s all the rage here, not so keen as I just about remember it first time round!

          1. Janet, just to but in, mid century is all the rage here too, every new furniture store is selling it, mass made no doubt in a third world country and at a price that brings tears to the eyes, prices start at around 500 euros and go up and up. xx

        2. I know and I want to, but where oh where can I put it. There is no room in the gite, none in the children’s bedrooms and none in ours or the guest room. I tell you I need to win the lottery and buy another house!!! xx

      1. I know isn’t it gorgeous, I did too, in fact I love the wood, I wouldn’t paint it at all, but I just don’t know where it could go, I tell you I need to win the lottery so I can buy another house! Another rental would be fabulous!! xx

    2. It’s funny things sort of go in cycles, I did nothing for ages, no time and then suddenly this January I was all fired up. It started when I decided to paint the gite kitchen and one thing led to another, hence Millie, our second eldest telling me I had an obsession (in a good way!). I have just started to do a little upholstering, I have done a couple of chairs now and really enjoyed it. I bought an old style phone table with attached velvet bench, only a reproduction and so we painted that and I reupholstered it and was really delighted with the result. Your silver tray sounds lovely, it is always rather fun to find treasures like this. It is just why I started the shop, because I love looking for things and it gives me a good excuse! xx

  9. Hi there
    We have a 2nd home in the Tarn region. When we bought our house it came with some furniture but there is always something one needs. What is the name in French for the type of shop you are showing? I would like to find one in our area. I am sure there is one in Albi or Galliac. Merci!

    1. Beautiful region for a second home, lucky you! The shop I was in yesterday was Emma’s, they have branches all over France so yes I am sure there would be one in Albi or Galliac. Some are very much larger than others, we went to one once in the south that was so huge we felt quite overwhelmed and never returned. Ours here is small, mostly just furniture and only one warehouse and a couple of other rooms. The prices are excellent and so long as you look carefully you can find all sorts of things. Good luck and have fun xx

  10. Oh Susan….I’m so jealous. For the last week I’ve been painting furniture. Yes brown furniture…but not such interesting lines that you have a choice of. It’s what I do here in the winter when it’s raining. As you know I do use the Annie Sloan Chalk paint. It’s such a fun way to be creative. I’m looking forward to seeing your upholstered pieces. I’ve attempted small pieces, nothing very large.
    Ali xx

    1. We’ve been painting together on opposite sides of the pond! Do send me some photos. I have only upholstered two small things so far, but I have another two planned. I picked up a small wooden chair for 5 euros, I plan to keep the wood rather than paint it as it is rather nice and very natural but it has an old velvet seat that is stained and not so nice, so I want to change that. I also did a new telephone table in the gite. A few changes, it makes January so much more fun, my least favourite month of the year, plus here too it has been so wet. We’re kindred spirits. Love to you both xxx

    1. Thanks so much, actually I would absolutely love to live there, easy upkeep, not much cleaning and utter comfort! Oh bother, there is only one bedroom and we have five children!!! xx

  11. My dream, I would buy a little house in a french village and then buy up all this furniture you have shown. It would be bursting with history and then the smell of wax as I lovingly polished every square inch.

    1. In my dreams I am going to win the lottery and buy another property and do just this! I too love the smell of furniture wax, I only use it two or three times a year and then I lovingly wax and polish everything. xx

  12. I learned something today (well, every day, really)…. I didn’t know that the French had ‘lousy’ paint at one time! But what I know and miss terribly here, is what, in England, I learned to know as lime wash…. I LOVE that! With much dictionary wielding & google asking I found out what I had to ask for in France and we reworked the staircase in our house in several ‘seances’ to a now satisfactory and acceptable state.
    I’m crazy for beautiful mirrors, not the fancy, guirlanded ones but beautifully worked pieces. They are w/o exception very heavy as the frame and back (mostly) are real wood too, they are the devil to hang and they give the rooms an enhancing quality nothing else can do better. I have one Victorian table mirror, just the stand and mirror, no drawers or such which at one time was painted white. All the others are in their natural state, polished and treated with reference and love and some with considerable amounts of TLC & elbow grease.
    I still have in our garage a number of drawers of a piece of furniture which was of exceptional ugliness but I bought it for the drawers and since ca 8yrs never found a way to use them. Let me know if you could use them somewhere and I’ll make sure they find a way to you. I cd give you measurements and photos, but I’m not going to do that if of no interest.
    Our furniture is mostly ‘contemporain’ – nearly every piece is of blond oak, two or 3 of them are ‘patented’ designs, furniture we both couldn’t ever afford a second time and which we faithfully transport from one place to another, one country to another…. they are the antics of future generations! Having said that; my son, at one stage of his life, was so fed up with the beautiful piece of furniture which took up too much space (from the same collection of Swiss made prime stuff as ours) that he took a saw and sliced it up…. When I heard about that I nearly had a heart attack! It also taught me not to cry over spillt milk; they were his and if he didn’t have more sense in his head, tant pis.
    If you dare refurbishing those chairs, I would buy them and cheerfully and happily mix them with others. I am the mother of all neglected chairs, I would happily do that and I couldn’t walk away from them. Let your heart AND head speak. If it’s too much work to do the reupholstery, don’t buy them for heaven’s sake. If you don’t mind, DO it. I hate that colour but they would look sassy and cool with a cheerful, maybe even large flower-patterned cover! Bisous from here.
    Now I leave some space for the next 100 or so comments 🙂

    1. I love love love your comments Kiki, it’s like I get to read a lovely letter from a friend each time. I know lime wash well, we used it all over the farm when I was a child, it lets the walls breath still which is why it is so popular in old houses, especially those with cobb walls, so common in Devon. I love mirrors, I found one in the attic here which we hung in the gite bathroom, solid wood back and it weighs a ton, chipped paint etc., but I love it all the same. I have my eye on another, but I can just see Roddy asking me why oh why we need another mirror! But can one ever have too many? Children will be children, what can I say!!! Now those chairs, I too hate the colour, so it is a definite reupholster. Now I can do that and they can sit in the barn and bide their time until that moment comes. I love mixing and matching, but this evening I am still not sure. I shall go back tomorrow anyway, I need to look at the mirror and if they are still there I shall look more carefully! I’ll keep you posted! xx

      1. Tell Roddy, you can NEVER have too many old mirrors….. and as he’s such a handsome guy (I guess?!) he should jump on such an occasion generously offered by his lovely wife…. You just have to sell it to him! Good luck you sweet woman. And if the chairs don’t scream to you: Take me with you, they might not be what you need right now. But good luck finding SIX matching (good) chairs…. I wd be happily mix and match .xox

        1. I did and he agreed and I went back today. I had already decided to pass up on the chairs, I wasn’t 100% smitten and that to me means walk away. But I wanted the mirror that I had seen twice before there, so obviously it was going nowhere fast. How wrong I was, it had been sold! Oh well, the saying “if you snooze you lose” came to mind. But on the bright side it means there is always the hunt for another one and the hunt really is half of the fun, the thrill of expectation. Have a fabulous weekend xx

  13. My wife bemoans my affliction. I have had it as long as I can remember. My first purchase, at 14, was a French table clock – a glorious gilt hunter sitting on a barrel holding aloft his kill (a crane of some sort) while his trusty dog looks on admiringly. I named him Armand (the hunter) and still have him (and many others!). I am always in the mood for seat furniture – preferably a Louis – or Empire. Sets and sets of sofas and chairs occupy the basement and two conditioned storage units. Paintings – oils or watercolors. And period pencil and ‘crayon’ drawings – walls full of those. eBay opened the world…….a blessing and a curse. 🙂 Engraved Biedermeier spa glasses and other Grand Tour momentos. ‘Old Paris’ porcelain, especially Jacob Petit. I like to have a choice, “swirl” rooms frequently – just never have mastered the art of ‘deaccessioning’. I like the idea of a garde meuble – give everyone a chance in the sun, then retire for a period………..the difference between a hoarder and a collector is the quality of your junk………I’m asking. I’m definitely an accumulator.

    Loved this post – and the photos!

    1. Steven; A MAN who’s collecting old furniture and stuff – you must be every woman’s dream (well of those I know) 😉
      Lovely comment if I may say so.

      1. Thanks, Kiki – I tell my wife it could be motorcycles or pick-up trucks. I get a wistful smile and a side-eye glance at that. 🙂

    2. I have my obsession and you have your affliction! I am quite sure you have heard the saying ‘one man’s junk is another man’s treasure’ so it is here. Our children love nothing better than a trip to the second hand store, they always ask to come too, it’s fun and interesting and exciting. You would have so much fun if you came over here, but you would certainly need a container to take everything home and another storage unit waiting! It is easy to get carried away and I have to be strict with myself! xx

      1. I would love the opportunity to fill a container! There is an especially good consignment store near us that has very select merchandise. You never know what you will find. And I have fond memories of rambles along Portobello Road ‘in the last century (!)’ and have a couple of treasures found there for a song. It’s odd maybe but I have always enjoyed the hunt more than the ownership.

        1. Perhaps we should work together and fill that container for you!! I have visited several consignment stores in the US, my old thought being the prices are very much higher than they are here. Ahh the Portobello Road and the market, now touted as the world’s largest antique market, not sure if that is true, but it is certainly a fun place if you have a morning free whilst in London. I can quite understand your preferring the hunt to the ownership, it is that little frisson of excitement we get before we start looking, just wondering what we are going to find, is there going to be something incredible. I feel it every time! I think that is why I started the shop, as an excuse to be able to go searching for things! xx

          1. Steven and Susan; just blxxy let’s do it!!!! This gives me a thrill, just to imagine it – we will surely all go along like a house on fire 🙂

  14. I love all the photos and lots the furniture for sale but the photo that speaks to me the most is the one with the key. The colour of that wood is incredible and that looks really old. Is it yours in your home? Please some day can you give us a tour of your house?

    1. Hi Amanda, it is more unusual to still have keys with really old pieces, they so easily get lost. But yes that is a Regency rosewood sofa table we have in our sitting room from the early 1800’s. I will do a post about the house I promise, although you might all be quite disappointed, it’s just a cosy family home! xx

  15. I don’t like painted furniture much and especially not the oh so boring white. Sorry I know you said it was once a dream of yours. But I am rather taken with the poivre. It is gorgeous and I can quite see your fascination with it, especially in the kitchen. Good job.

    1. Sharon, I loved my white stage, although it never came to fruition, but it was also because we were living in a hot country surrounded by palm trees and water so clean and white and modern made sense, with lots of greenery, all very tropical. Our furniture has been with us for as long as I can remember. Now I just like to add the odd painted item to keep things fresh. It works well and poivre is a great colour. xx

  16. Susan, You have given me some real hope for the day that we buy a house and decide to furnish it. I’m not very good at refinishing, painting and upholstering, but maybe with some practice I’ll get the buy too. I love that velvet and think the pink velvet really goes perfectly with the gun-metal gray color too.

    1. You have so much fun ahead of you. Not everything needs painting or finishing at all, many items can be found that literally are perfect just as they are, I just rather enjoy playing! I am really in love with the pink velvet and grey, fabulous colours, that’s the good thing about cushions, we can change them relatively easily! xx

  17. What a pleasure it was to accompany you on this marvelous shopping trip! It’s a good thing I have neither the means nor the space to pick up a number of these pieces, because I would be sorely tempted too. There’s nothing quite like the craftsmanship and artfulness of beautiful old antiques, is there?

    1. I know I could buy so many of them, I tell you, I need to win the lottery so that I can buy another house, then I could buy everything, wouldn’t that be fabulous as I don’t have the space for anything else either! But I love to see them bought and loved all over again because they are so beautifully made and they have stood the test of time xx

      1. S; just another 10yrs or so and your kids will have flown the nest and you will find the time to do all that…. – and then you’ll have a very brief space of no grandchildren before the whole business starts all over 🙂

        1. Ha ha ha!! Every stage has it’s own special moments, just this evening, Millie and I were shopping together in our own unique style, plenty of amusement and frolicking around, I really do enjoy the company of teenagers, far from finding them difficult I find them enlightening, I love their outlook on the world. But I love the baby stage too. I’ll just bide my time and enjoy being super super busy and realise that I am lucky to be so busy xx

  18. @ourfrenchoasis Your comments about the prices for antiques back in the 90’s reminds me of when we were furnishing our first “large” home. We needed lots of furniture. There were several stores in our area that carried both French and English antiques – beautiful armoires, large “farm” tables, various Welsh cupboards, etc. Looking back, the prices seemed astronomical – $1,800 to $3,000 for a French Armoire with a single door and no mirror. Actually, the prices are about the same today in our area, but with inflation, that means they cost 1/2 to 1/3 what they did 30 years ago.

    When we were house-hunting in France this fall, we found several second hand and thrift stores that had some fabulous buys on furniture. I suspect that when old people die, their children are just not interested in the furniture anymore, especially if it is large and brown. I am not a fan of all the white, white, white that people call “chic”. However, I do like some of the blue-greens, greenish gray and blacks. Have you ever tried Jean D’Arc Paint? I found a little shop in the Dordogne that used that paint on their furniture and it was fabulous!

    PS – I heard that it has taken some time for the French to get into DIY. Maybe that’s why the store bought paint was so bad.

    1. Hi Carol, wow those prices you mention are high, but typical of English antique prices back in the 90’s, sadly in England too those prices have dropped. I think you are quite right in your assumption that children inherit the furniture and they don’t want it unless it happens to be mid century and Scandinavian design! My white stage which never was, occurred when we lived in the tropics, so it sort of made sense, although I never did it anyway, it was just a dream. Now like you, I love the odd deep dark grey. I have never heard of or tried Jean d’Arc paint but I am going to google it, the Dordogne is not so far from us, so thanks for the heads up. Did you find a house to buy and if so where or are you still looking? It’s always such a fun adventure, good luck xx

  19. Just bought a small wooden chair with a very tired and stained cushion. It was marked $9.99 but on sale for $5. Couldn’t resist. On the docket for paint and I’m off to the fabric store. Easy peasy.

    1. We are on exactly the same wavelength. I bought a small wooden chair yesterday whilst I was walking around taking these photos. It was 5 euros and like yours had a stained velvet upholstered seat! I couldn’t resist it, so simple and so cheap, I am going to redo it and put it in the family bathroom. Have fun with yours! xx

  20. What wonderful old furniture, Susan. Love the chest of drawers. Keen to know more about the shop, too,
    just like everyone else…

    1. Hi Phil, I loved that chest of drawers too, we looked at it very carefully but Roddy spotted some fairly recent looking woodworm in one of the drawers and so we walked away. The shop is Emmaüs, a goodwill chain throughout France. Where everything is donated, hence prices are very reasonable. Ours is just outside Rochefort and is small by comparison to many in other areas but I like it that way, it makes it easy to nip in and out, have a quick browse and leave. xx

  21. Susan, I have also been obsessed for years with painting furniture, the possibilities are endless, I even painted my timber kitchen that was tired and dark. My husband just rolls his eyes at me when he sees the paint brush come out, wondering what I have in mind next.
    Here in Australia we are spoilt for choice of paint, but lately I have been experimenting with chalk paint and the texture and durability is divine.
    I currently picked up “literally” on the side of the road, an old ornate coffee table, very French looking, that I will transform into my new desk, adding a few pieces of timber to make it higher. Perfect project!

    1. Hi Suzana, that sounds like such a fun project and fabulous to completely repurpose something like that. I can imagine your husband rolling his eyes, I think mine looks at me in much the same way although he’s a great sport and always washes my brushes for me so I am very lucky! Chalk paint is available at specialist shops here but certainly not in mainstream DIY stores, however I have made my own several times and I love the finish and the ease of use. I shall buy some of the “real” stuff, just to compare and I do need to find some of the finishing wax. xx

  22. It’s hard when you have am abundant supply of antiques to show restraint when you see a bargain. I didn’t see many bargains when ‘touring’ the numerous brocante in Pezenas last November, though I did find some fabulous old linen.
    In Australia the brown stuff as you call it is also out of favour. The big prices are paid for what we call Danish mid century furniture- Scandi designer pieces from the 60s. This has been on the radar for around 15 years now, and even though knock off copies are made, the real stuff fetches huge prices. While I often think that the Victorian and Colonial era furniture might make a come back, most people these days live in apartments with smaller rooms and lower ceilings. I used to pay a fortune for antique wood when I was first married and beginning my collection- now this stuff goes for a song and a lot of it ends up in my shed!!!
    The grey looks nice in the kitchen. It is also very popular here.

    1. You have hit the nail on the head, it is exactly the same here. Scandal designer pieces, the genuine ones fetch astronomical prices and every “new” shop here sells mid century mass produced items that are really expensive but hugely popular. No one wants the Victorian or even the Georgian stuff, it’s really rather sad, something valued at 3000 euros in the 80’s is now worth about 800 on a good day. Perhaps it will all come around, I certainly hope so, but I think the Scandinavian obsession has a long way to go yet. We picked up a lovely mid century buffet for 30 euros, we snapped it up the moment we saw it and it actually goes rather well with the older antique items we have. Glad you found some nice linen, that seems to be in rather short supply here, although we do have some other finds that make up for it! xx

  23. Repurposing furniture is such fun and France is a trove of little places to find the raw materials …. you have the imagination and flare to achieve stunning results and I enjoyed immensely this meander through those you have done and those that might get snapped up for the Oasis Treatment xx

    1. Well you know what it is like, temptation is around every corner. The trick is to learn to walk away and to set a price in one’s mind and stick to it, otherwise I would have a house so brimming with other people’s cast off’s that no one would get in the door! Decluttering has never been huge in our family, try though we might, we always seem to add rather than decrease. Now the toy stage is largely left behind the children are now getting into this whole brocante thing as well, excellent on one hand and not at all good on the other, it can be dangerous as I am sure you know only too well! But hey, what is life without a little fun xx

        1. Now you are the sensible one! I did just that, I walked away, and then I decided not to buy the chairs, they didn’t grab me as much on reflexion! But I decided I simply had to have a mirror which I had seen twice, I went back yesterday to buy it, quite determined and it was sold! Oh well, my loss, at least that means I have the excitement of continued searching! Have a fabulous weekend xx

          1. My youngest always says if it’s gone it wasn’t meant to be …. she says this when she is consoling a sobbing mother who has missed out, is wailing ‘if only I hadn’t been sensible’ and is convinced her life is in ruins because whatever it was had gone. This phase lasts about one hour and is then replaced by a rising itch to find something even better! We, my dear are huntresses of the benign variety 😊 xx

          2. Why do our children seem to see things like this so much more sensibly than we do!! I know your feelings only too well, only yesterday I was berating myself for not visiting a brocante earlier, I missed out on several things I saw being carried away, if only we hadn’t had such a long lunch, if only I had hurried a little and rounded the troops up earlier. But then by the evening, I was happy that we all went together, that all four children who are here in France came with me, that we all had fun and who cares that we missed out on things, in the end that wasn’t what mattered at all! I think actually the best part was seeing G’s face when she found a 1950’s wooden Dunlop tennis racket, in great condition, we snapped it up for 10 euros, have no idea if that was cheap or expensive but I don’t care, she loves it, she is now going to try hitting with it just to see what it was like back then. This is the true meaning of family brocantes! xx

          3. PS am in England and had lunch with ALL my girls yesterday… ghastly drive to Wimbledon taking mother but so wonderful. 💕💕💕💕 xx

          4. But well worth the drive I am sure, what fun you must have had. Now you have snow forecast and the coldest week of the winter so I read, but it is the same here too, brrrrr! Soon it will be spring. Enjoy your family time, nothing compares to it, it is the best as we both know xxxx

  24. Am certain that the next time my feet hit French soil I am more likely to be off to search for what you have shown than visit yet another church or chapel! Alright, *big smile*, being North European born methinks you will believe I have never lived with a piece of antique furniture and the Scandinavian minimalist has been all ‘me’ throughout my lifetime. About 3-4 decades back, traipsing to SE Asia continuously, a natural fusion ensued between that and mostly the sparse but elegant Japanese ways . . .Oddly, passing years have brought about an appreciation of the old and ‘noble’ and I have so enjoyed, and I think understood, the interest you have in the age-old beauty so available to you: would love to see and touch and admire . . . love both the grey and very much the heather you have shown: hmm! actually have more than a few pieces of clothing in those shades . . . 🙂 !!!

    1. I think it really is a mindset, we grew up with old English antique furniture, cups and glasses could only ever go on coasters, never on bare wood and we just took it all for granted. Then as I grew up I discovered that there were alternatives, hence my yearning at one stage for minimalism and all white, ok we were living in the tropics at the time so it kind of makes sense! But it never happened anyway. The Scandinavian style is all the rage here now with furniture from the mid century. It is all anyone wants and is on sale in every shop, mass produced and costing a fortune. What is sad is that there are then these wonderful old pieces made from solid oak or mahogany for instance which now no one wants or has the space for. Perhaps things will come around full circle but it is a long way off. Grey and heather/pink is a perfect combination I think, I love a little mustard too although only in soft furnishings, the colour on me in clothing looks awful with my pale type English skin! xx

    2. Eha, Love what you write, it’s like a natter amongst friends. I often have to send HH to ‘get a journal or study the display of properties for sale’ so that I can pop through a market or a brocante… Great comment!

      1. Kiki – I think we all natter on blogs, especially on Susan’s relaxed fabulous site . . . . I have been commenting about six years now without having time to have my own blog as I work and study fulltime and have at last understood that it is not as much the information or recipe or whatever put down on page, but making this world of ours a smaller and friendlier place: I myself have been absolutely amazed how close I have become to my blogfriends who are no longer that but truly have become real friends . . .

        1. Natter away, isn’t this the fun, this is what I dreamt of when it all started. Now what I need to do is figure out how to host some sort of party for those that can visit! You know when you come to France you are assured a warm welcome here, dancing on tables is allowed!! xx

  25. Interesting, “brown stuff” antiques are also not sought after much here. Joy for us! We have a lovely antique shop down the street that’s full of mature wooden furniture. We’ve had our eye on a lovely dining table there, but like your refectory table, it would require a move to find space for it. Oh and that dressing table, we have a similar model less the mirror (stored) that we use for a TV stand. Just the right height. Lovely to see all the furniture. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I wonder why they went so out of fashion, it seems it is much the same all over Europe, prices have literally plummeted. Now if only I won the lottery and admittedly I do have to go and buy a ticket first then I could buy another little house and buy all of these pieces! I went back with the intention of possibly buying the dressing table today, just because I loved it, but it was sold, I was too late! Oh well, there will always be another and that is part of the fun, the looking and the expectation! Have a great weekend xx

  26. I still love the brown French antiques that I bought in Paris. I did paint the inside of a Napoleon III bookcase but left the outside as is. I was thinking I wouldn’t do that to a really old piece like a commode we have. But what about all the painted pieces in the south of France. Love your velvet idea!

    1. I remember that bookcase and also commenting on it, painting the inside was such a fabulous idea and kept the rest original as it should be. I don’t think genuine antiques should ever be painted, it would ruin the patina and it could never come back to how it was. But it is true some antique furniture is painted and was always that way, but I do think it has been rather overdone. There is so much furniture in France that is not painted just like the antiques you bought in Paris. Truly I have never been into a French house with more than a couple of painted items! Most are natural wood. But each to their own, it’s what we enjoy and what makes us happy that should count. Have a great weekend xx

  27. May I confess that I have a weakness (makes me think (and smile at) of the Postmistress in a BBC series I can’t remember the title right now) for those refectory tables. Bought one at the Totnes outdoor market one Friday on my way to work. Nobody can imagine the delight of HH learning in the evening that on Saturday a delivery of a HUGE old table would ensue. NOT…. He did get around to like it, especially when we invited half the village for a Sunday lunch ‘à la Suisse’…. and I was heartbroken to leave it when we returned to good old Switzie. Quite interestingly, we got the large-table-bug badly and invested far too much money in a massive blond oak tree from the Laura Ashley house (always twinned with ‘pots of money’ but so stylish and beeeeautiful!), a table which we still have, which has been moved from UK to CH and then to FR and which has stood the test of time – not the luxurious chairs sadly which are now covered in 3 different families of ‘chair covers’ (Susan, the latest dark wine red one sprinkled with a large array of candle wax – in red luckily – result of a stupid woman gently pushing a new long cylinder candle in the cavity of the candle holder and thus evicting the spurts of hot and furious wax all over Hero Husband’s laptop, table, Xmas tablecloth, a few books and documents and said chair… It was alright HH wasn’t sitting at his computer, or else!) With which we elegantly return to your mismatched chairs, or not, as it would be…

    1. Ahhh, remind me not to let you lose with the candles!! It sounds a bit like Roddy with red wine, although tonight it was gravy that was the culprit all over a chair! It never rains but pours. The chairs I said no to, the tables are still there and are truly gorgeous. But we have a lovely table, we had made for us out of walnut. It is very sentimental, we actually chose the walnut planks, each one individually, so we would get exactly what we wanted. It was made in a boatyard by specialists used to fitting out million dollar yachts, fabulous craftsmen! So we cannot change our table. We will have so much to talk about and much red wine to consume! xx

  28. Can’t wait!
    In our household it’s (normally) only HH who’s a bit of a nightmre to keep in control, but hey, that day was MY day! The worst bit was that I was VERY careful and I stooped the candle very delicately into its place, knowing about the dangers of spilled hot wax (yeah HH again). But, that day certainly was my ‘payday’ for my mockery. Only, if you don’t know about the spillings, you can’t even see it and the tablecloth (from a sale of extras at the Swiss National Museum, no less – I had access to that sale because when the museum’s director approached me for a job, working for him, I ‘sold’ him my sister and she let me partake in that special sale). So, that grey tablecloth (linnen and embroyderies, light grey colour, very ‘in’) will either survive the onslaught or not; I haven’t tried yet to iron the wax out of it, wash it carefully and then check again. If it’s too terrible, I’m not going crazy, I shall put it away in the ‘round file’ (bin). Sleep well beauty, you’ll need all strength for another day in your paradise. Shall send you a mail tomorrow re ‘you know what’.

    1. I’m just about to head upstairs but I had to tell you, wax is something of my speciality. You see we have four out of five children who simply love to play with candles. We light them very often for dinner and always when we have friends with us. Conversation flows and no one notices the children playing with the wax until it is too late, and trust me the nearly 18 year old (beginning of March) is the worst culprit! I have more tablecloths with wax patches than I do with red wine marks. I do not have any magical cure, ironing works really well and then I launder as normal, but life goes on and kids will be kids, actually Roddy’s brother who is ten years older than Roddy was the one who started all of this many years ago, it obviosuly runs in the family! Sleep well, sweet dreams xx

  29. Wow – what treasures! I can’t believe the selection of beautiful furniture – and I still love the brown pieces. I generally go for a more traditional look anyway so I would love to shop there. Also interesting to learn about the quality of paint in France…you must be relieved that it has gotten better! I haven’t attempted many furniture painting projects – only a Windsor chair for my son’s room and the bookcases in my office. Actually, the bookcases were a huge project so I guess I can consider myself an experienced furniture painter! Thanks for sharing at this month’s Take Me Away Link Party! It’s always a pleasure to have you! Enjoy your weekend!

    1. Thanks so much, it is always a pleasure to join in with you. I love a mixture of the two types of furniture and I actually think they tend to compliment one another quite well. We are lucky as we really do have a treasure trove here and it is always exciting to go and look. Hope you have a great weekend xx

  30. I am right with you Susan, I love to visit brocantes and antique stores whenever I can. It gives me a great thrill to buy something and give it a new lease of life and then to imagine who owned it before and what they were like, all antiques and vintage items have many many stories surrounding them, if only they could talk!

    1. I can understand that. I often wonder as I said how many people have turned the key, opened the drawer and polished the surface. Good furniture really does stand the test of time and lasts for generations as we all know. xx

  31. Hi Susan – I finally have some time to catch up on the blog. I thought the churches last week were wonderful, but this post today has made me and Amy quite hungry for finding something and painting it, now! We have a Sunday antique market near us so may go down there tomorrow and see if we cannot find a little something for a hole in the hallway we’ve been thinking of filling with something a little modern – but your idea of repurposing something old sounds far more fun. I know Amy and I will argue about the colour though – she loves her white…..we’ll see.

    Your gite looks fabulous! I’m guessing you’re full all year, knowing your popularity? If we come past this summer can e still stop and say hello? Have a great weekend!

    1. Hi Simon, I can’t think of anything more fun than a stroll down to a Sunday market, maybe stopping for a coffee whilst discussing the pros and cons of what you want to buy. Hope you both have lots of fun and I hope you find something to buy and agree on what to do with it! Yes the gite is full, but not in 2019! but there is always a place for people around the table outside on the terrace so do stop by and come and have lunch or dinner. Would so love to meet you. xx

  32. What a lovely project you’ve set up! Some of that furniture really looks gorgeous! I may have to sink my hands into some paint and wood now, too….!

    1. Yes so do I. I am still so shocked at the prices people pay for something mass produced in China that will probably fall apart in a couple of years. Still each to their own and trends change. Hope you are having a fabulous weekend xx

    1. Old marble is wonderful, I love the feel of it and having made a great freestanding kitchen bench for just a few euros makes it feel even better! Plus it is fabulous for rolling out pastry. xx

  33. I use to paint houses for a living but could never get into painting furniture. The decorating thing is out of my expertise area as well. I love that last chair. Gorgeous. Would be perfect for photography. It’s hard to believe antiques are not as sought after as before, even fine china dishes are selling for less. Hopefully they will come back again stronger than ever, painted or stained!! Nice post

    1. It is rather fun to paint furniture, I knew nothing but have learnt as I have gone along and there are so many ideas on the internet, you should have a go I am sure you would love it. The last chair is a little Victorian nursing chair that we picked up at a sale in the UK about 20 years ago. We had it reupholstered and it has been one of my favourite chairs ever since. I really hope that antique furniture and china and glass do come back into fashion, it is such a shame that they are so unloved at the moment. xx

        1. But very fortunate for you, much better to start to enjoy something when the prices are low than when they are at their height of fashion and the prices are quite unaffordable. Looks like it could work in your favour! xx

  34. Oh my goodness I would be in heaven with all that beautiful stunning furniture. I adore vintage furniture. I finally found a piece here where I live that I could finally bring out my Nana’s bowl and jug. The washing bowl and jugs that would be in every bedroom. It deserved to be sitting on a marble top wash stand however I couldn’t not buy my stand as it was only $50 aud. Its not glamorous but my bowl and jug still proudly on the top. It has a place for a towel at the back and a shelf down the bottom that would have had a potty sitting on it. Not sure. If I lived in France I would have a house full of old furniture. Overhear its so expensive, as everyone wants it.

    1. The washstand sounds fabulous, it’s hard to imagine when life was so simple and so hard as well, imagine just having a potty, a jug and a bowl, we all forget just how lucky we are. But these antiques deserve to be preserved. Perhaps we should fill a container and send it over to Australia! Although I am sure lots of people do that and then hike up the prices accordingly! xx

  35. Oh Susan! I completely empathise with your feelings about all this lovely furniture! I too love the really old and quality antiques but I also love the ‘repurposed’ furniture from slightly more recent times. In our cottage we have a few pieces of character antique furniture, but I have also bought a very small bureau second hand as I needed somewhere for ‘office’ type things – paper, stapler, hole-punch, that sort of thing and only a specific place in which to fit it. It fits perfectly, it’s dark wood, but there’s something about it that is drawing me to paint it. It has a very nice edging of carved wood around the base and at the top of the two long legs which you can’t really see as it’s so dark. But if it was painted…….. So, I’m looking into it. I need to decide on a colour and I have to convince my husband that it will look good as he’s not so sure! Like you, I love wandering around our equivalent of Brocantes and I have to be very strong not to buy some of the things I see as we no longer have a need, or the room to put any more furniture in our cottage!! I just love those large dressers and armoire in your photo and if I had a big high ceilinged Georgian house, I would definitely have one in the kitchen at least!! Your idea of removing the doors and making it into a bookcase is a good one. And old doors can be made into an interesting panel over a bed perhaps, painted and aged. I should have been born in a later decade so that I could plan a hobby or career renovating and re purposing old furniture and selling it from a lovely old barn outbuilding in the country!!! I’d maybe have a cafe attached, full of collected treasures which changed all the time as things were sold. Ah, to dream……!! Have a lovely rest of the week. Snowdrops are out!!!

    1. You know what I often do? I decide on the colour that I think might work and then I cover the piece in a sheet or if I want to paint something very dark grey I cover it in a bin bag and look at it and see whether or not I think it looks better in the place where it is going to be. We were unsure about something in the kitchen, everyone said no, but I pushed ahead, I taped a bin bag over the item and called everyone in, they all changed their minds and said yes!! Your idea of a cafe and a treasure trove of vintage items and antiques sounds like my dream too, but it wouldn’t work here in the same way it does in the UK. Rather like garden centres here don’t have cafés attached as they do in England!! But isn’t that what makes each country so special, each has its own way of doing things. xx

  36. This is so beautiful, and has made me ache to buy a place in France! We’re always toying with the idea. I do love looking through all the thrift stores over there, too. We never seem to have enough space in the car to bring back all I’d like, though! #AllAboutFrance

    1. I know what you mean, I always wanted to bring so much back in the days before we lived here. It’s a great life, not perfect, but then nowhere is really is it? But it’s good! xx

  37. Susan, I love the four chairs, great curves and seat size; they would look great in that mauve fabric. Yes, six would be better but you can find more, hopefully, to add to them. I love painted furniture. i think it adds interest to a room.

    1. I agree with you, six would be better but four would be fine and I could add some different ones, I am quite happy with mix and match, our plates are permanently a mismatch and it works well! I will give it some more thought if they are still there! Thanks xx

  38. Oh I adore your poivre! And the pink! It’s been so long here in the states since we had shops and shops full of furniture that had been scooped up and crammed into shipping containers by the tens of thousands…..
    You still have it there:)
    Another incredible post!!! Thank you!!!

    1. Perhaps we should buy it all and send it over in a container!!! There is certainly plenty here and I hate seeing it so unloved, it is all such well made high quality stuff. Such a shame xx

    1. Oh gosh, I was almost convinced, then I changed my mind and walked away from them the next day, now I am having second thoughts again. Perhaps I will go and have a look and see if they are available tomorrow! xx

      1. I have a theory that you always know if they are right for you if you go on thinking about them days later. I saw some wooden bottle crate with french writing wood burned onto the face. In the end I decided not, and now I’m kicking myself because they would have looked fabulous on top of my kitchen cupboard.

        1. That is pretty much my theory too. I did the same with a mirror recently, I didn’t buy it first visit or second, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it and so I went back having made up my mind it was coming home with me, and it was gone, I kicked myself, it was there for several weeks and just when I wanted it someone else had beaten me to it! xx

  39. JEANNEDARC VINTAGE PAINT locations in France, I first saw it at
    60 Grand Rue
    47330 Castillonnès, France

    The owner, Alexandra, is a fabulous paint artist who sells painted furniture and hand painted murals that she designs herself. She also sells the paint, of course. I was surprised that her prices are so low for such high quality work.

  40. I fully sympathise with your obsession, I could find myself in a similar situation if I had any space at all for more bits and bobs. I painted almost all the furniture for our gite and loved doing it. I also L.O.V.E that pink velvet. Thanks for linking to #AllAboutFrance

    1. I know the problem is indeed space. We have a mixture of painted and traditional wooden furniture in our gite, it is the place where I can play and have fun and design to my heart’s content! xx

  41. I love the look of vintage furniture! Vintage furniture is unique and can add a touch of personability to every room. These are also cost effective. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I tend to agree with you Amanda and now that it is somewhat out of fashion it makes it a very cost effective way to furnish a home. What’s more it becomes unique and very individual, just as I love it to be! xx

  42. Good article for vintage furniture and its services for new generation. People always use direct method to clean vintage furniture but most of time these trick don’t works. Your tips are helpful for the person to make good course. This content is so valuable and surely unique that people are happy and really helpful for them. there is no any other ways to get customers than posting the wedding photos.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.