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. 

Thursday, 14 November 2013

How to identify genuine French furniture

Whilst authentic French furniture is very distinctive, reproduction pieces have flooded the UK market in recent years. The thirst for all things French has led to a flurry of mass produced 'French' beds, armoires and buffets. These pieces, which aim to capture the essence of French style, are often poorly made and tend to retail at higher prices than originals. 

Since starting our business in November 2011 we have invested a lot of time in gaining knowledge about the items we sell. French furniture is unique in its quality, craftsmanship and style. 

Detail from an authentic Demi Corbeille French Bed 

Some sellers may unwittingly sell reproduction pieces believing them to be genuine, however, for the buyer the difference is huge. Authentic French furniture is a great investment. Genuine pieces will always hold their value, and more often than not, the value of pieces will increase. Before making any purchase make sure you ask the following questions: 

1. What Type Of Wood Is It?

Most vintage and antique French furniture is made of oak, chestnut or cherry wood. You will occasionally find pine pieces but they are not as common as in British furniture of the same era. If a piece is stated as being pine, make sure you double check all the other signs outlined below, particularly if the item is painted. Any piece that has a suspiciously 'orange' coloured pine interior should raise concerns!

2. What does it look like inside?

Interior of a genuine painted pine French armoire

Looking inside an armoire, vitrine, buffet or chevet can tell you a great deal about its age and provenance. This is especially important if the item has been painted. Sadly there are some unscrupulous sellers out there who will try and pass off a cheap pine wardrobe as a French armoire.

All genuine French furniture will show its age inside and out. Wood will often have an aged colour/appearance and quirks. Genuine provincial pieces were hand made and you can see the craftsmanship. Later 'revival' pieces, whilst newer, will still have signs of wear and use. 

Perhaps one of the most common tell tale signs is evidence of previous woodworm infection. It's rare to find a piece of genuine French furniture without a single worm hole!

3. What do the handles look like?

Authentic antique French armoires will usually have beautiful adornments, such as brass escutcheons and detailed handles. 

Dealers who specialise in British Edwardian and Victorian furniture will often be able to easily age a piece by the handles. This is also true of French furniture. British and French handles are uniquely different. 

  A handle from a Henri II style French armoire C. 1890 to 1910. 

 A handle from a French Louis revival armoire C. 1970

4. What do the door hinges look like?

 Detail of door hinges from two provincial French  armoires C. 1850 to 1890

Probably the biggest tell tale sign of all! French furniture does not have screw in hinges, as British furniture does. Older French armoires and buffets will have beautiful brass door hinges which simply slide onto the outside frame. Fantastic craftsmanship which doesn't require a screwdriver! 

More modern revival pieces will have no visible hinges at all. Instead they sit on 'pivots' which slot into the base and which allow them to open and close. Like older armoire and buffet doors they simply lift out of the frame with no screws involved.

Does it come apart? 

Nearly all French armoires are 'knockdown', this phrase means they are designed to knock down into smaller, more manageable pieces, making them easy to transport. Some genuine sellers may not know whether a piece knocks down but you can tell by looking at the inside. Older, provincial and L0uis Philippe style armoires will be held together with small wooden pegs. Use a torch to look at the areas where the joints meet, if small round peg ends are visible the item is genuine. 

French revival armoires are assembled using large bolt screws. These should be clearly visible where the cornice meets the sides, and at the base. 

If the armoire has no signs of being knockdown ask the seller for more clarification on the age and provenance of the piece.

To learn more about individual pieces of authentic French furniture and how to date them visit our online: Guide to French Furniture

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, 6 November 2013

Buying Antique and Vintage Furniture: An Antique Dealer's Guide 2

This is the second in a short series where we'll be showing you the pros and cons of buying vintage and antique furniture. This time we'll be focusing on buying from online auction sites, probably the riskiest place in terms of knowing what you're getting, but the best place in terms of variety and price. 

Online Auction Sites

Online auction sites have transformed both the buying and selling experience in so many ways. On the positive side it's now incredibly easy for anyone to set up their own business. Without the need for a bricks and mortar shop, you can start small with very little finance and grow your business in your own time. 

But is this new selling culture also good for the consumer? As we discussed in our previous post, when you visit an antiques shop you should expect the dealer to have an indepth knowledge of the items they are selling and to be able to date pieces correctly and not mislead. If a person with very little knowledge of antique furniture opened a physical shop their inexperience would quickly show, and just as quickly, their sales would falter. 

It's true that there are some great bargains to be had on online auction sites, but beware, not everything is what it claims to be. Antique and vintage furniture, as well as being practical and beautiful, can serve as a great investment. It's important therefore to know that what you are buying is genuine.  

Buying From Private Sellers

Obviously not everyone selling on an online site is a dealer, they are many who simply want to de-clutter or update their decor. The great thing about buying from private sellers is that they don't tend to make grand claims about their items. Indeed, their lack of knowledge can sometimes work to your advantage. I routinely see people mis-describing furniture, usually crediting it as being more modern or less inherently valuable than it actually is. 

You can of course ask the seller questions and ask for more indepth photos. But you should probably be wary of bidding too high. With private sellers you can't return an item, so if you make a mistake that's simply tough. Although you can always relist the item and get your money back that way if you are so inclined. 

When it comes to buying from private sellers there are really only 2 rules: 

1. If it is decorative - buy it because you love it.
2. If it is functional - make sure you educate yourself about the item so that you know the pertinent questions to ask the seller regarding the condition.  

These 2 rules also apply to buying from business sellers, however, be warned - this is more of a minefield! 

Business Sellers

Of course there are great business sellers out there selling on auction sites. We are constantly being told about the death of the high street and high business rates and rents mean that many dealers now have 'virtual shops'. 

It's common for dealers, such as ourselves, to sell from a website but to also have listings on an auction site. It's a great way of showcasing our items to a large audience. Of course the feedback system is there to help buyers make informed decisions, but what other things should you consider? 

1. Always make sure you read item descriptions carefully - sellers will often list items as 'French', but then in the description describe the item as 'french style'. You'll also see 'antique style' and 'vintage style'. This means that they aren't genuine and are probably new items made to look old. 

2. Also be careful of sellers misinterpreting or mis-describing the age of pieces. This might be a genuine mistake on their part but any dealer worth their salt should know the difference between Georgian, Victorian and Art Deco furniture. I routinely see items listed as Georgian, and in the case of French furniture, Louis XVI. If genuine these pieces would be highly collectible and command serious prices. If in doubt, email the seller and ask for clarification on the age of the item. Georgian furniture covers the reign of George I (1714-1727) through to the death of George IV (1830). Genuine Louis XVI pieces are extremely rare on the UK market and date from the 1700s.  

3. If the price seems too good to be true then it probably is. So you've found a 'Georgian' bureau for £150? If it was genuine no dealer could buy it for that, let alone make a profit. Any dealer selling it at that price either knows it's not genuine, but assumes you won't, or knows nothing about the items they're selling. The same is true of genuine French furniture. Because of it's popularity and the dearth of pieces on the UK market it commands a certain price. Often sellers with cheaper furniture will describe it as French in order to aid it's saleability  Again, if in doubt, email the seller and ask to know the date and the origin of the piece. 

To learn more about individual pieces of authentic French furniture and how to date them visit our online: Guide to French Furniture

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, 24 July 2013

Buying Vintage and Antique Furniture: An Antique Dealer's Guide 1

Part 1.


This is the first in a short series where we'll be showing you the pros and cons of buying vintage and antique furniture. We'll be sharing the dealer secrets of how to get the lowest price, where to buy from and, offering tips on what to avoid!  

In this first part we'll be focusing on buying directly from dealers and live antique auctions. 

1. Antique Shops

If you have no knowledge at all about antique or vintage furniture and want to invest your money in pieces that will hold their value or increase, then buying directly from a dealer is the safest bet. Antique shops will always be the most expensive option, but if the dealer is reputable, they will also be the safest. 

A dealer lives or dies on their reputation, selling pieces that are faulty or mis-described is counter productive. If you can chose a dealer who is well established. Survival says a great deal about their honesty and the quality of the pieces they sell. 

Any reputable dealer will be knowledgeable about their stock and usually specialise in a particular era or style. They should be able to tell you about the age of the piece, the materials it's made from and sometimes its provenance (that is - where it came from). 

Don't be afraid to haggle - some dealers will flatly refuse, others will be accommodating. If you are buying more than one item you can almost guarantee a discount. Make sure you ask about delivery fees as well, not all dealers run their own van and many will use costly couriers. You may find that your bill is far larger than you expected. Feel free to find your own man and a van, as long as he can fit in with the dealer and not try and collect outside of opening hours. 

One important thing to note about buying from shops is the difference between 'antique' and 'vintage'. Most people classify antique items as being over 100 years old. Traditionally an antiques shop will sell higher end pieces from the Georgian and Victorian eras. In recent years vintage has become seriously trendy and there are shops popping up all over the high street selling painted furniture. There are some great bargains to be had here, especially if you are queasy about painting pieces yourself. Just remember however, that most painted furniture is sold as a decorative item, unlike higher end pieces, they won't necessarily hold their value or in fact, have any inherent value. The trend for upcycling is really about saving unloved pieces that would otherwise go to furniture heaven. 

Be wary of sellers in these shops marking painted items as French, particularly if they are claiming it is the original paint. French vintage furniture is more desirable than its British equivalent and for that reason it has, and probably will always have, a greater inherent value. Pieces with original paint are extremely rare. Later in this series we will be showing you how to tell the difference between a real piece of french furniture and a British impostor

2. Antique Fairs

If you know your stuff antiques fairs can be a great place to pick up bargains, but beware, they are less regulated. Anyone can hire a stall and start selling antiques. As with antique shops ask lots of questions. Many reputable dealers do attend antique fairs and you should be able to tell the difference between the professional sellers and the less so. 

For vintage items, where the age and condition of the item is less important, fairs are great places. You can handle items in a way that would be frowned upon in a shop and best of all, haggling is expected, sometimes actively encouraged. 

The big draw back with fairs is that you as a consumer are not protected if you buy a faulty or mis-described piece. I recently attended an antiques fair where a stall was selling a pair of candle sconces which were labelled as being French C. 1850. They were marked at £185. I asked the dealer what her best price was. She firmly told me she couldn't move on the price and that £185 was actually cheap for what they were. She then proceeded to spin an elaborate story about how they had been found in a French chateau. As a dealer in French items I knew on sight that they weren't French. They were British piano sconces dating from no earlier than 1910 and worth about £30. You can pick them up on Ebay for even less. 

The moral is be VERY careful and don't always believe what you're told. If you have any hesitation don't buy, as you may never see that dealer at another fair again and getting your money back will be almost impossible. These dealers rely on passing trade not recommendations. Only buy pieces because you love them and want to live with them no matter what they are. 

3. Live Auctions

By far the best place to pick up antique bargains is at your local auction house. Auctioneers have a great knowledge of items and can provide dates and detailed condition reports. If you are unsure do talk to the auctioneer, live auctions are 'buyer beware' sales, if you bid on something that turns out to be broken you can't return it. Make sure you visit the auction preview and examine the item in as much detail as possible. 

Usually catalogues will include an estimate price, although bare in mind this is a guide only. If two people are determined to get one item the bidding can go sky high.  

The secret to succeeding at live auctions is to give yourself a maximum bid amount (remember the auctioneer will add a buyers premium as well, usually about 20%). Whatever you do DO NOT go above your set amount. Auctions move extremely fast and it's easy to lose track of whether you are the leading bidder. With the added adrenalin it's also very easy to get carried away and end up paying far more than you wanted to for an item. 

To get the lowest price possible steal some tips from the dealers. Usually the auctioneer will offer a starting bid. In a room full of dealers no one will take this first bid, in my experience it's a mistake private buyers always make. With no hands raised the auctioneer will go lower and lower until someone jumps in. This forces the starting price to be much lower giving you more scope to get the price you want. If the bidding starts high it will inevitably end high. 

As a dealer I would often withdraw from bidding early if I was up against a private buyer. In a regular auction room most dealers will know each other and have an idea of each others spending power. They will also have an unwritten code about not bidding on items that another dealer specialises in. When faced with private buyers the game changes as the dealer has no idea of that persons spending power. If you bid with confidence and a look of steely determination you can often deter them from staying in the game. Remember that dealers need to make a profit, they want to get items as cheaply as possible and many will set their maximum bid very low. This means that despite having less experience, you will have the upper hand. Just make sure you're bidding on the right lot! In my early days as a dealer I accidentally bought a nasty knackered bureau when I thought I was bidding on a fantastic Victorian compactum. The golden rule: pay attention, you can't turn the clock back once the hammer goes down!

NEXT TIME: The pros and cons of buying from online auction sites and how to tell the difference between a real piece of French furniture and a fake.  

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, 6 March 2013

French Beds

As an online boutique specialising in authentic French furniture we stock a wide range of original French beds. Since beginning to import vintage French furniture in 2011 we have learnt a great deal about these beautiful pieces, and what makes them special. We are passionate ambassadors for real French furniture (over cheaply made reproductions) and here we hope to share some of this passion and knowledge.

Accept no imitations, l'original est le meilleur!

Vintage French Demi Corbeille Bed

Different Types of French Vintage Beds

Demi Corbeille French Beds 

Probably the most recognisable style and the type most associated with French Furniture. Demi Corbeille beds are upholstered frames, with a flat headboard and rounded end. They tend to have decorative cabriole feet and often carved detailing on the headboard and base board frames.

Corbeille beds can be found in a wide diversity of fabrics and colours. Sadly many have been reupholstered over the years in modern fabrics which tend to ruin the antique appeal of these beautiful pieces. Beds with the original fabric can be shabby chic in style, but it's all a matter of taste. Areas of worn fabric, as long as it's clean, add to the charm.

Detail of Original Fabric on a Demi Corbeille Bed

 Rounded end of vintage cabriole bed

The frames also come in different finishes. Some are in the natural wood, others in a cream crackle glaze. 

All French beds come as an unassembled headboard, base board and 2 side bars. In France all beds are sold with the bases separate. This is a cultural difference that often trips up ex-pats when they first move to France and buy a new bed.

Unassembled Demi Corbeille Bed Frames

Detail from Natural Wood Frame

Detail from Cream Crackle Glaze Frame

Capitone French Beds

Capitone French beds are easy to confuse with Corbeilles. They also have upholstered frames with a variety of fabrics. The big difference is that the frame itself is not rounded. Both headboard and baseboard are flat.

Vintage Capitone bed upholstered in blue velour

Capitone bed upholstered in original floral fabric

Like Corbeille beds Capitone have cabriole feet but the frames tend to be simpler in style. They are less ornate and perhaps a little more elegant and understated.

Both Corbeille and Capitone beds are secured with internal bolt screws. This makes for a very sturdy frame which is very easy to assemble. 

Louis XVI French Beds 

These bed frames can be found upholstered and unupholstered. Frames are sometimes solid wood or ratten. What denotes them is the style of the feet and the distinctive shape of the frame. Frames can be either plain wood or painted like the frame pictured below.

Breton French Beds

Breton beds, as the name implies, hail from Brittany. These pieces tend to be very distinctive as they are usually made of heavy dark oak with lots of carved detailing. In keeping with the Breton style it's common to find images with a maritime theme, such are ships wheels, boats and waves, but it's also common to find floral decorations, such as bouquets of flowers and strings of delicate roses.

Detail from a Breton Bed Frame with a Floral Theme

Breton Bed Frame with a Maritime Theme

Breton beds were often made as wedding gifts and as such it's common to find bedroom sets which also include a matching armoire and pot cupboard. These beds are very romantic and look particularly beautiful painted, which helps to bring out the quality and depth of the carving.

Painted Breton French Bed

Detail from Painted Breon French Bed

Henri II French Beds

Henri II furniture dates from around 1860 to 1900. Beds from this era are usually wooden, made of oak or chestnut. The head and base boards tend to be beautifully ornate with finials and pretty carving.

Henri II Bed

In keeping with the Henri style bed frames are rectangular in composition, often quite solid and heavy with either large bun feet or turned feet.

Louis French Beds

The term 'Louis' is a fairly generic term for reproduction pieces in the style of furniture from the reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI. Original Louis XV pieces date from around 1730 onwards, evolving into the Louis XVI style, beginning around 1760. These two styles of furniture have greatly influenced the modern conception of 'French furniture' and many mass produced beds are made in this generic 'Louis style'. The French also made reproduction pieces in the Louis style, but these tend to be of a higher quality and usually date from the early to mid 20th century. The style is romantic and very feminine. Notable features include curved lines, cabriole feet and decorative motifs dominated by shell designs, birds and floral carvings.

Painted Louis Style Bed

Who are we? 

Dazzle Vintage Furniture is an online boutique specialising in authentic French furniture, lighting and accessories. We stock vintage armoires, French buffets, French vintage beds, antique mirrors and chandeliers. All our French furniture and lighting is original, vintage and imported directly from France. 

To see the vintage French beds we currently have for sale visit our French Furniture For Sale page: