August 07, 2022
I can still remember the first Brocante I went to in France. In fact, I think it may even have been a Vide-Grenier. For the uninitiated, a Vide-Grenier literally means 'empty the attic' and is the French version of our beloved car boot sales, but it's so much more!
Generally speaking, many French homes have an abundance of beautiful and practical vintage homewares that have stood the test of time over many years and look delightful in a modern rustic setting. Of course, there's a lot of plastic and tat along with it, but French car boot sales really deliver when you know what to look for...
There's always a good vibe and a great buzz in the air during the weekend mornings when Vide Greniers and Brocantes (flea markets) are taking place. If you're lucky, the sun will be shining, there'll be some sort of live music playing and of course, great food and snacks on offer!
If i'm with my daughter, who's 8, I'll give her five euros and set her a treasure hunting challenge! It's a great way for her to practice her French, build her confidence and find some little treasure for her shelf at home.
Then it's down to business...Elbows sharpened, lots of change at the ready and my eyes peeled
I tend to look for items that I know I'd love to have in my home, either for display or practical use. That's my litmus test on whether i'll buy something for the shop, along with the words I always use as my personal interior style mantra: "Rustic, earthy and full of character!
Here are the types vintage wares I look for and ways you can use them in your home to add that French flair and rustic style we all crave...
Pots, pitchers and vases
You can never have too many and I find a use for all of them! Look for character, shape and patina and a range of sizes. Old marmalade jars are great for holding pens and candles, while larger confit and other pots can hold utensils. Small mustard jars can hold buttons or be repurposed into match holders (add strike paper to their bottom as one of my clever customers did!) and oil and water pitchers can be used to add character in unexpected ways - one of mine sits in the bathroom where it lends a lot of charm to such a functional space!
Vintage glass jars
One of the first things I started collecting for the shop. I am mad about the green glass canisters that hold sauces and dry goods in the kitchen. Look for embossed lettering on the lid or the side (Solidex is a great French brand) and really heavy, thick glass, so you know they are good quality. A supreme example for me of the marriage of beauty and functionality!
Antique and vintage art
Good quality art is getting harder to track down at affordable prices, but unless you're a serious collector, you don't need to go crazy for the right artists or school. Be guided instead by your own taste and instincts. I use these as my own guide when sourcing art work for the shop and often go for something a little more subtle, such as seascapes in sludgy greens, which are a wonderful way to add depth and interest to your walls.
Quirky one-off pieces
Forget that prefectly curated collection for a moment. Ever spotted anything that made your heart skip a beat? Even though it had no discernible use? I love functional items, and believe they can be beautiful, but you can add the odd curveball in too! On a recent buying trip, I spotted a pair of tiny vintage clogs, with perfect patina. They are so charming, look fantastic and have no use at all! But I love them and they are the perfect way to add a dose of the unexpected to my home.
Be ready to haggle (respectfully of course!) and enjoy the process. Markets like this are super fun and you never know what you might find..
Of course, I can also do the hard work for you if a trip to France isn't on the cards soon, or if you prefer to be by the pool (and who can blame you!), and source items for you. My recent finds are listed on the website, so let me know what you think!
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