Monday, 4 January 2016

French Cupboard Love

Is there any piece of furniture more fabulous than a cupboard? Here at Dazzle Vintage Furniture we specialise in selling antique storage and our favourite pieces are authentic French armoires. I fell in love with armoires because they are so versatile, sitting happily in any room of the house. Beautiful on the outside, they are tardis like on the inside, the perfect storage solution!

Many people confuse armoires with wardrobes, whereas in truth are large French cupboards. The word cupboard descends from the practice of storing cups and plates on a table or sideboard. In French homes armoires are found in the dining room and kitchen as well as in bedrooms and bathrooms. They are ideal to use as a larder and brilliant for storing china and glassware.

Traditionally, in English homes the linen press was used to store blankets. In France the reliable armoire serves the same purpose.


One type of cupboard specific to France is a bonnetierre. Far slimmer than the traditional armoire, these are ideal for use in children's bedrooms, landings and small awkward spaces. Originally bonnetierres were used to store outer garments, such as a ladies bonnet. Hailing from Brittany and Normandy, these useful pieces are akin to the English hall cupboard.

Many authentic French armoires come with internal and external drawers as well as shelves, making them excellent for storing smaller items such as socks and underwear. Although, traditionally antiques armoires such as the one below would have stored far more valuable items. For this reason many had lockable doors as well as lockable drawers.

French armoires aren't just beautiful, useful and versatile they are also fabulously engineered - each 'knocksdown' - meaning that they can be taken apart and reassembled. Unlike bulky English wardrobes and compactums, French armoires break down to almost flat pack dimensions. This means that they are easy to transport and can be placed in any room of the house without the stress of heavy lifting and tight stairways! Is there any piece of furniture more fabulous than an armoire?

Who Are We?

Dazzle Vintage Furniture is an online boutique specialising in authentic French armoires, antique mirrors and decorative accessories. We personally source all our items in France, scouring flea markets, fairs and antiques shops in Brittany and Provence.


TWITTER: @DazzleVintage



Friday, 4 December 2015

Peugeot Freres Coffee Grinders

Not many people realise that Peugeot Brothers, the famous car makers, started out making coffee mills. Coffee was introduced into France from Turkey in the 18th Century, but the only way to grind it was in the large mills designed for grain. It was not until the early 19th century that the small household mills started to emerge, mainly produced by the Peugeot Freres.
The Peugeot Brothers owned a foundry at Valentigny where they designed and patented the now famous ‘box and drawer’ design in 1840. The box contains a hopper for the raw beans which feeds them into an Archimedean screw. The screw cracks the beans open before the mill wheel grinds them to a fine powder.

The factory at Valentigney about 1925

Their invention was an immediate success and by the time of the Great Paris Exhibition in 1889 they were producing half a million grinders a year. It was around this time that the brothers started making car parts for Mercedes. They later manufactured complete cars, but the production of coffee mills continued until 1974 in a variety of designs and sizes based on the same principles.

Vintage and antique coffee grinders are eminently collectible. They add grace and French charm to a kitchen whilst also producing a wonderful cup of coffee. True coffee aficionados will tell you that a cup of coffee you have ground yourself tastes so much better, due to the freshness and the way the beans are cracked open without becoming 'burnt' by the high speed mills. 


A lovely example of the original Peugeot Freres design


 There were many variations on the original design. This one is in a beautiful lacquered blue that was popular in the early 1930s.

Another fine example from about 1908. This one has a rare and beautiful external hopper and is made from a lovely warm honey coloured wood 


The Cube type. This grinder from 1940s has a very attractive steel hopper and a straight elegant handle typical of the Art Deco period.

Another very rare Peugeot Freres grinder with a Flemish theme. This one is engraved and enamelled with a scene of two windmills and a boat. It dates from around 1930.

Whilst it’s true that Peugeot Freres were not the only makers of coffee mills they are the most sought after amongst collectors. Since they ceased production in 1974 these coffee grinders are at a premium and becoming increasingly difficult to find. So just think as you enjoy your morning ‘croissant et café’ that your ‘moulin à café is only going up in value!

Who Are We?

Dazzle Vintage Furniture is an online boutique specialising in authentic French armoires, antique mirrors and decorative accessories. We personally source all our items in France, scouring flea markets, fairs and antiques shops in Brittany and Provence.


TWITTER: @DazzleVintage



Saturday, 24 October 2015

Authentic French Armoires: A Buyer's Guide

What is an Armoire? 

There tends to be a general misconception that the term 'armoire' is simply the French word for 'wardrobe'. In fact there is no literal translation of the word armoire into English, the closest translation would be 'shelved cupboard'. Armoires are found throughout Europe, but specifically in France, Belgium, Austria and Germany.

Exterior of Painted Henri II Style Vintage French Armoire

Interior of Painted Pine Louis Philippe French Armoire with original shelves

In their essence, French armoires are really large multifunctional cupboards. If you peak through the windows of many traditional French homes you'll see huge armoires inhabiting dining rooms, kitchens, hallways and bedrooms. Basically they serve a use in every room of the house, which is why they are such terrific pieces to own. In the kitchen they can be used as larder cupboards, in dining rooms they serve as great storage for plates and serving bowls and in bedrooms and on landings they serve to store clothes, bedding and other linens.

What are the different types of French armoire? 

Under the umbrella term armoire many styles exist. These mostly represent different eras and different areas of production. Perhaps the most familiar style to British buyers is the often reproduced 'Louis' style.

'Louis' Style French Armoires: These pieces are made to emulate the style and opulence of the French court of Louis XVI and his queen Marie Antoinette. They usually have double mirror doors, stand on decorative scrolled feet and have a domed shaped cornice, often with a large crest. This style probably epitomises what most people think of when they visualise French furniture, in particular, armoires. However, it isn't that typical of true French furniture and much of what is seen on the market today is mass produced in countries such as China and India for the UK and American market. Any real armoires surviving from Louis' reign are now worth a small fortune. The Louis armoires that we find in France, such as the two pictured below, date from the early to mid 20th century and are French 'revivial' pieces, made to emulate the original 18th century styles. These vintage pieces tend to be of far higher quality than the new ones being produced today.

Small Louis Style French Armoire

Large Louis Style French Armoire

Louis Philippe Style French Armoires: In the style of furniture popular during the reign of Louis Philippe I (1830-1848). Known as the 'Citizen King', Louis Philippe was a popular figurehead. Noted for not leading the usually lavish lifestyle of a royal, furniture named after him is beautiful for its simplicity. These pieces epitomise elegance and tend to be less ornate and more refined than other styles. Armoires are recognisable by their wide cornice, tall body and raised feet. Like the Louis style, these are much imitated, but originals tend to be beautifully constructed and cleverly fully knockdown.

Louis Philippe Style French Armoire

Interior of a large provincial French armoire

Provincial French Armoires: Provincial furniture was made in the provinces, as opposed to the furniture made for the King and court in Paris. Court fashions often took a while to filter to the provinces, and as result French provincial furniture displays an array of overlapping styles. Most notable are pieces showing the influence of the countryside, with simplified carving representing wheat sheaves and foliage. Provincial French furniture is often highly rustic in finish and style but beautifully made. Large armoires such as the one pictured below are fully knockdown and held together with chunky, hand made wooden pegs.

Original Provinicial Armoire

Art Deco French Armoires: The Art Deco movement first appeared in France during the 1920s. Reflecting a new modern era, Deco embraced geometric forms such as rectangles and zig zags. French Deco furniture is often quite chunky, with chunky feet, geometric lines but also strong floral motifs that are far bolder and heavier than previously seen. 

Painted Art Deco Armoire

Henri II Style French Armoires: Also known as French Renaissance, Henri II furniture is notable for its size and solidity. Armoires tend to be huge and rectangular in composition, with heavy carving, dark wood and large bun feet. They are notable for their often elaborate cornices with large finials and crests, and show a strong Italian influence in their carving and design. Armoires have either solid wooden doors, such as the piece pictured below, or glass mirror doors.

Henri II Style Armoire

Breton French Armoires: Breton furniture is highly distinctive. Often made of heavy, dark oak and highly carved, with fretwork a notable feature. Squares and rectangles predominate, with intensely carved human figures and faces, animals, plants and ships wheels. Maritime motifs predominate, reflecting Brittany's close association with the sea. Armoires are often shorter than other styles and many come as bedroom sets with matching beds and pot cupboards. 

Why should I buy an original French Armoire rather than a modern reproduction piece?

When there are so many reproduction armoires on the market it's tempting to ask why buy originals? Possibly one of the most unrecognised points is that often the real thing is far cheaper! Many repro armoires retail at far higher prices than antique and vintage ones, despite often being quite poorly made. French armoires of all styles tend to exhibit exceptional craftsmanship. As well as being beautiful and practical, they will never devalue (unless you ill treat them!). French furniture never goes out of vogue and purchasing an authentic armoire is a solid investment as well as a beautiful storage solution. 

How can I tell a real French armoire from a reproduction one? 

As with most antique and vintage furniture we can age pieces according to their construction and their apparels. Look at feet, hinges, handles, keys and locks and such give aways as depth and wood patternation. Most authentic French armoires will fully knockdown, that is, disassemble completely. Antique French armoires, pre-1900 will often knockdown into very small constituent parts are held together using a mix of wooden pegs and inbuilt large screws. Very old armoires will have pegs only. More modern armoires (post 1930) will usually be held together with large removable screws and will knockdown into less pieces, often with intact bases, cornices, sides and back panels.

Who Are We?

Dazzle Vintage Furniture is an online boutique specialising in authentic French armoires, antique mirrors and decorative accessories. We personally source all our items in France, scouring flea markets, fairs and antiques shops in Brittany and Provence.


TWITTER: @DazzleVintage



Monday, 5 October 2015

Visiting the antiques fairs in South West France

The antiques fairs in South West France are a magnet for dealers from all over the world. September is a special month in the buying calendar when 3 major trade fairs happen concurrently. Beziers, Montpellier and Avignon each hosts a sensational fair, attended by some of France's top dealers. Scheduled one day after the other, each is a feast for the eyes, with weird, wonderful and beautiful sights everywhere you turn....

Who Are We?

Dazzle Vintage Furniture is an online boutique specialising in authentic French armoires, antique mirrors and decorative accessories. We personally source all our items in France, scouring flea markets, fairs and antiques shops in Brittany and Provence.