I set up a vintage furniture business in 2008 selling, along with many others, ‘shabby chic’ French style furniture on a national auction site. Business was not great! There was so much competition, I realised I needed a unique selling point. I decided that selling ‘real’ French furniture could be the answer.
I have always loved France and all things French. My partner John has family in Provence, we used to visit often and I wanted to weep when I saw the prices beautiful French armoires and beds sold for in comparison to the UK. It wasn’t hard to find the pieces if you knew where to look, but how could you get them back to the UK? After much investigation we reached the conclusion we had no choice but to do it ourselves with a van.
I was getting crazy quotes from couriers and, most fortuitously, we were based in Devon right by a ferry port. In hindsight it almost seems like fate. We made our first tentative trip in October 2011. It was a huge leap of faith, we had no real idea if we would find anything worth buying and the initial financial outlay was scarily steep. The trip was incredibly hard work and stressful at times, but the good news is we found lots to buy – too much in fact!
I was overwhelmed by the beauty of authentic provincial furniture, which I’d never seen in reality. I was converted almost instantly. We came home with several enormous pieces, and I’m relieved to say they sold really well.
Since then we have been travelling to France on a regular basis and have become experts (we think) in French antique and vintage furniture. We have learnt from many, many mistakes! Sourcing pieces in France as not as glamorous as people think. It is dirty, tiring and involves lots of heavy lifting.
I will be writing regularly about our trips to France and things we have seen, bought, didn’t buy and regretted not buying! I’ll also be sharing some of the knowledge I’ve gained about what to look for and how to tell if items are authentic. The sad thing about the world of French furniture for me is that it has become plagued by cheap reproductions. There is no comparison between a provincial French armoire and something made in a factory in China. My overriding message is that beautifully made, time-honoured and care worn pieces place modern reproductions firmly in the shade. They are better quality, better value and they will last for another 200 years.
Accept no imitations, l’original est le meilleur!