Saturday, 30 August 2014

The weird and wonderful world of French vintage

The French brocante (or street market), has been widely celebrated as a treasure trove for vintage and antique hunters, but for those in the know the back streets of many French towns also hold dark and exquisite magasin d'antiquités, packed to the ceilings with curios. Some of these places can be intimidating, particularly to a Brit with very poor French! But what they do offer is a glimpse into a weird and wonderful world of interior design possibilities.




French brocantes have a reputation for bargains, not so most of France's antique shops. If you have to ask the price then you most probably can't afford it! And, unlike brocantes and vide greniers, haggling is not greatly appreciated and discounts are sparse. 







There are many treasures to be found though and sometimes the pleasure is just in looking. These shops are great for getting inspiration and for learning about true French furniture and antiques. The downside to brocantes is that they are often padded out with cheap tat as well as British and American items, some of which buyers mistake for French. 






The wonder of French magasin d'antiquités is in the sheer diversity of items. Religious iconography sits alongside an antique pair of shoes and a creepy hairless doll. But what is truly wonderful is that everything here is authentically French!








Who Are We? 

Dazzle Vintage Furniture is an online boutique founded in 2008 by Devon based antiques dealers Ali Stokes and John Washbrook.

Specialising in European antique and vintage furniture with an emphasis on quality French pieces, the website stocks an ever changing selection of armoires, French beds, buffets, mirrors and vintage lighting.

Ali and John visit France on a regular basis, scouring brocantes and vide greniers in Provence and Brittany. They are passionate ambassadors for real French furniture and hope to inspire buyers to chose quality, time-honoured pieces over mass produced new. 

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Shopping for French Vintage and Antiques in France

For the vintage lover there's nothing better than strolling through a summer brocante, stalls spilling out onto the streets with every imaginable item. Some are bargains, some are certainly not, but the pleasure is definitely in the seeking.





There are no rules about what the discerning buyer should look for, the only rule is to buy for yourself. Chose something that you love and want to live with, and that you can easily get home. 


One thing to remember though is that just because you bought it in France it doesn't mean it's French! As a dealer specialising in French items I've been approached on several occasions by people hoping to sell items who have made this mistake. There are generations of expats living in France and when they relocate they tend to take their possessions with them. Eventually some of those items will end up in the hands of dealers.







If you want to create a true French vintage vibe it's best to enhance your home with a few choice items. French chalkware is a great purchase. Prices range greatly, so it's easy to pick up a bargain. Don't worry about wear and damage, it all adds to the charm.






Religious chalkware figures are very sought after and some of the larger pieces can be incredibly beautiful. Religious iconography is very fashionable at the moment and France is great place to find individual and striking pieces.



Another great purchase is antique lighting. With different wiring, most French chandeliers and wall lights won't work in the UK. You can pay to have your items re-wired professionally when you get home or simply use candles in place of bulbs. Wall sconces make terrific candle holders and newer vintage rather than antique pieces can be found at bargain prices. 


Other items to look for include china soupieres, mirrors (not that easy to get home in one piece though) and vintage luggage. Not perhaps that practical for today's traveller, vintage French suitcases do however make for eye catching storage.






Who Are We? 

Dazzle Vintage Furniture is an online boutique founded in 2008 by Devon based antiques dealers Ali Stokes and John Washbrook.

Specialising in European antique and vintage furniture with an emphasis on quality French pieces, the website stocks an ever changing selection of armoires, French beds, buffets, mirrors and vintage lighting.

Ali and John visit France on a regular basis, scouring brocantes and vide greniers in Provence and Brittany. They are passionate ambassadors for real French furniture and hope to inspire buyers to chose quality, time-honoured pieces over mass produced new.



Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Beautiful Brittany!



We are lucky enough to shop for vintage and antiques all over France but I always love returning to Brittany. So close and yet so culturally different, it tends to be overlooked by tourists which helps it maintain its truly Breton feel. 


At the end of our last buying trip to France we treated ourselves to a short holiday in Morlaix, a really pretty Medieval town not far from the Roscoff ferry port. After the frantic pace of antiques buying, haggling and lifting large furniture, this small town offered a lovely restful bay in which to wind down and relax before returning to the UK. 


Morlaix has a stunning old quarter with cobbled streets and timber framed houses. In the Summer months this area is buzzing with outdoor eateries and live music. 


Morlaix is best known for its huge viaduct which stands astride the town, dominating the horizon. Artfully lit up at dusk, it makes for a fabulous focal point both day and night. 



Who Are We? 

Dazzle Vintage Furniture is an online boutique founded in 2008 by Devon based antiques dealers Ali Stokes and John Washbrook.

Specialising in European antique and vintage pieces with an emphasis on quality French furniture, the website stocks an ever changing selection of armoires, French beds, buffets, mirrors and vintage lighting.

Ali and John visit France on a regular basis, scouring brocantes and vide greniers in Provence and Brittany. They are passionate ambassadors for real French furniture and hope to inspire buyers to chose quality, time-honoured pieces over mass produced new.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

French Style: The French Kitchen


I love the style and simplicity of traditional French kitchens. Forget fitted units and marble topped work surfaces, it's all about free standing units. A buffet in one corner, an armoire in another. Here in the UK we tend to confuse French armoires with wardrobes, resigning them solely to the bedroom. However, they are a hugely versatile piece of furniture, equally at home in just about every room of the house. 

Most kitchens in France will have an armoire, serving as a larder cupboard or as general storage. They work as a fabulous focal point and can be painted to suit any scheme. The internal shelves mean that they are great for food, china and pots and pans.



My ideal French kitchen is a mishmash of colours and styles. It's all about versatility and storage. When you get bored you can move pieces around with ease and even paint individual pieces to freshen up the look.





The really great thing about authentic French furniture is that it is Tardis-like, often offering surprising amounts of storage. It's ideal in a small kitchen, where space is at a minimum, for maximizing cupboard space without having units on every wall. 



French buffets make wonderful kitchen units. In a really space limited kitchen the bases are excellent for providing work top space and storage. These usually have a long internal cupboard - ideal for pots and pans and for hiding ugly microwaves!



In a larger kitchen a Buffet de Corps - a 2 part buffet, will do the same job as raised kitchen units but look so much more sophisticated. These often come with with upper glazed cupboards, ideal for storing food or china and glass ware.



Next time you revamp your kitchen - try it the French way, buy a dresser, buffet and/or armoire and create your own storage ideal. Forget following trends and free yourself from the tyranny of the fitted kitchen!!




The Author

Ali Stokes is the owner of the UK based online boutique Dazzle Vintage Furniture. The website specialises in selling authentic French furniture and accessories which have been imported from France. 

Monday, 24 March 2014

French Vintage - Accessories and Objet D'Art

We visit France regularly and enjoy scouring all manner of places for vintage finds. Most of what we buy ends up for sale on our website Dazzle Vintage Furniture but I also enjoying just browsing, and bringing home a sneaky piece for myself! 

It's easy to add a bit of French style and elegance to your home with a few choice items. An antique chandelier, some chalkware, a few well chosen pieces of pottery. Accessories can lightened up a dull room, electrify a plain schema and create a talking point. Profiter de la navigation!



Beautiful French chandeliers don't even have to be working to create a focal point







A Louis XVI armchair looks elegant no matter where it is placed




I love the romance of vintage chalkware. This pair of figurines came home with me and will be for sale on the website soon



 

Religious chalkware figures are very sought after, don't worry about wear and damage, it all adds to the charm




Vintage chalkware - head of a girl




Vintage chalkware - figure of a dog 


These night tables are reproduction, but still very decorative. Shame about the price tag!


Soupieres are great pieces to own, splendidly decorative, they are also useful! You can serve soup in them (the intended use), or like us, keep all your keys and Knick-knacks safe.






The Author

Ali Stokes is the owner of the UK based online boutique Dazzle Vintage Furniture. The website specialises in selling authentic French furniture and accessories which have been imported from France. 

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Buying French Vintage


Lovers of all things vintage and French will be well acquainted with images of brocantes and stories of fabulous finds. But are they really as bountiful as we're lead to believe? I've been travelling regularly to France for the last two years buying stock for my website. I've visited lots of brocantes and the quality can be variable. The truth is, it depends what you are hoping to buy.


Much like a UK based flea market, the bulk of the wares are general household goods and small decorative items, such as glassware and china. Don't imagine you're going to find amazing French beds, armoires and buffets. Whilst some brocantes will have furniture, these days it tends to be much smaller items such as chairs and occasional tables.


There's no doubt that rummaging around brocantes is great fun and a wonderful way to submerse yourself in a bit of French culture, but aside from that there are a few items that are really worth looking out for. The first is vintage coffee grinders. These iconic pieces work wonderfully as decorative items, instantly adding a touch of French style to a kitchen. They are also practical (if a little time consuming) making some of the smoothest coffee you'll ever taste!


Coffee grinders can be found in a variety of colours and styles. The most collectible are those made by Peugot Freres, with the distance metal badge (below).


Another maker to look out for is Grulet, easily identifiable by it's diamond shaped masker's mark. 



The contrasting colours and styles of vintage coffee grinders look fantastic lined up together on a dresser or a shelf. If you want to dabble in a bit of dealing, there's also a reasonable profit to be made. They sell for £55 and up in the UK. Depending on condition, you can buy them in France for around 10 Euros. 

The other great item to invest in is lighting. French chandeliers are very desirable but not that easy to slip in a suitcase! Sconces on the other hand are perfect. These are essentially wall lights. You can find them as pairs or mix and match at home with individual styles.



Prices will vary according to the age and condition. It's easy to source replacement bulb holders in the UK so don't be put off by broken or missing decorative parts. The only thing you will need to do is to get them re-wired by an electrician so that they meet UK lighting standards. This doesn't usually cost a great deal. Once polished and lit up they can be a real talking point and add drama and glamour to any room.




The Author

Ali Stokes is the owner of the UK based online boutique Dazzle Vintage Furniture. The website specialises in selling authentic French furniture and accessories which have been imported from France.