Vases. In my case as seductive as shoes, as mint chocolate thins, as the very mention of “fancy going to Chambon resourcerie”?
I inherited a lot of hand painted vases from my mother who collected them in abundance. By the time she passed on, her house was a crowded display of nick-nacks and charity shop finds. Many were lovely. Much was buried in cupboards. It was an addiction in a way. Here in France that rabbit hole is very easy to slip down. The Brocantes are vast depositories sucking in an overflow of relatively good quality left overs from the local skips, charitable donations and ‘vide grenier’ house clearances.
Back in UK the split is cheap charity or antique shop with the latter charging extortionate prices for dressers, amoires and similar. In France these pieces of furniture that would cost between £400 and €2000 in UK, come in at just a mind boggling low price of €40 to €350. You can imagine how tempting that is!
Well organized, and even now open with a one way system to cope with Covid-19, the Brocantes are bustling with house restorers like me. Its saved us a tonne of money and actually helped enormously with creativity. The eclectic mix gets the design juices working. The 1850’s rubbing shoulders with 1950′ and even 80’s.
Each Brocante has a free section where you nominate value your prepared to pay. It’s a great way for them to clear out old stock. Within most have a simple ticket system. You take the item to a central or section specific desk, leave it there and get a ticket. You pay at the checkout point and go back with your receipt to collect. Simple. Others have shelves where the staff accumulate your items. In our case we often hog a whole 2 metre bookcase worth and end up filling our van till the doors barely shut!
Much of our rural area of Creuse, is depopulating. The middle-aged and young do not like renovating old stone barns. They moved away to more modern towns or cities leaving this area to agriculture, pasture and cattle. The small villages are often ghost towns. Back in England our villages bustle. Day trippers, locals doing business, tea shops, antique parlours, hickers dropping in to get provisions. Here it’s shutters closed tight. Not a soul.
But this is rural. The neighbours have to be sought and invited to coffee. It’s a slow friendship. Over time we have connected to a varied bunch of ex-pats and locals.
So my little vase came home. A snip at €3. I have a sort of criteria with ceramics. Hand painted, European and colours that work with pretty soft shades. This one is for the farmhouse. Everything is floral and French style. Chalk paint, bit worn and sun bleached. If I find a 1950’s one it heads off to the Attelier. My mother’s ate more brash in colour, Italian and Spanish. They will add some punchy colour to our barn where the interiors are more industrial with iron work, blue denim, yellow sacking, coir matting and heavy oak.
A four property project is quite ambitious over three years but we have made huge inroads. The Brocantes have made this possible no doubt. Financially a life saver and also my favorite reason…giving a home to history.