April 14, 2016

A French Flea Market

For anyone who has any interest whatsoever in vintage decor, thrifted style, or finding unique pieces for your home or closet, you know flea markets can provide all of this, and often times at discount prices. Well folks, let's just say last week I met the mothership of flea markets. With almost 2,000 merchants (75% of those being antique dealers) divided into 15 different markets, I was on sensory overload! I spent the better part of my day walking around with my jaw dropped in amazement at the mass amount of furniture, home decor, and fashion accessories all brought together in one place. But, before I get too far ahead of myself, let's take a step back and start from the beginning.

Last week Kyle and I spent the week in Paris. Nope...didn't visit the Louvre, didn't tour Notre Dame, didn't even make my way up the Eiffel Tower. BUT...I did check out Paris's shopping scene...and it is (pardon my French) OFF THE HIZZY! No pun intended! :) I have long heard legends about French flea markets, so when I found out we were going to be spending a week in Paris, visiting a flea market quickly skyrocketed to the top of my to-do list. Hey, Mona Lisa isn't going anywhere, I'll catch up with her next time! The destination: Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen.

To brief you with a bit of history, the flea market was founded in 1885, marking it the first of its kind. It got its name literally from the fleas that would infest the used furniture that would be off loaded and sold at these markets. It has since shed the fleas and grown into the largest concentration of antique dealers in the world. Over 5 million people visit this market each year, and it has grown to be not only a popular shopping venue for the locals, but also a destination spot for international visitors. Bottom line, I could probably sit here and write a novel about everything I saw, however, I'll try and keep this focused on furniture, specifically painted furniture.

I know some people are still a bit skeptical of this whole painted furniture thing, and think it's a fad that will quickly fade. Well, for all you critics out there, I can assure you, painted furniture has been around for a long time. As much as I may not want to admit it, I'm not creating the wheel over here, I'm just keeping a good thing going!

If you've been following me for awhile, you know I'm a big fan of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. If you've taken the time to study her color pallet, color names, or even techniques, you'll know she puts a lot of influence on French inspired style. To me, this became even more evident as I walked through the streets of this market. I kept thinking, "Wow, this lady really knows her stuff after all! There is definitely some thought and process put into these colors!"

I was so inspired seeing pieces similar to what I paint, but created years ago. It's assurance that this is a lasting look that can withstand the test of time. The color and style were spot on for French style.

The soft color pallet, the curved lines, the ornate hardware. I loved all of it! So many ideas were running through my head. I couldn't wait to get back into my studio and try to replicate designs and techniques that I saw.

After spending the day admiring all of the furniture, there were a couple key takeaways I left with. 

1) There is beauty in imperfection. It's the quirks and flaws that make each piece truly unique. Embrace the brush stroke lines, don't worry about the chipping...it's all adds character. 

2) Don't be afraid to add layers and depth. I noticed the pieces I was especially drawn towards were painted in a two-tone effect. Whether it was one color over the other, or two colors being used separately, I loved the contrast it created.

3) Although these pieces all seem to fit into a specific style mold, I believe they can transcend over many different decorative styles and can create a statement piece if used in the right setting.

4) It's all about quality. One of the big motivators that keeps me loving my job is finding solid, vintage pieces that are still in pristine condition. It's really hard to find this kind of quality in today's market, at least without having to donate your left kidney for a chest of drawers! Invest in quality pieces, and they will last you a lifetime. Although these pieces were old, they were solid and structurally sound, making them much more durable than most stuff you'd find today brand new.

5) I freaking love flea markets! I'm already dying to go back! Until then, I'm just trying to figure out how I can incorporate monthly trip to Paris into my business plan!