Thursday, May 26, 2011

First purchase!

It's that time of year when quite a few of us have antique-hunting on the brain. For Remi and I, it is a regular activity and has been as long as we have been together. When we first met both of us were starting over and so each piece that we acquired had a story, a provenance. At the time, we lived a short walk away from the Porte de Vanves flea market in Paris and would scour the rows of sellers each weekend, occasionally on both days. It was a wonderful introduction to French design for me as every conceivable period was represented. More often than not we couldn't afford to buy, but would go for le plaisir des yeux, a feast for the eyes. After our first visit to Arles, we both started being attracted to things that were very different from our Art Deco style. More Louis XV and much lighter. We realized eventually that we were buying for a new life, one in the South of France. It took us two years to actually make the move but when we did we were already well-equipped, almost as if we had forced this major life change into being.

And that process is already happening again with our next move. Yesterday afternoon, I pulled Remi away from his computer and we drove out to Troc-Soury. A little bit of everything is crammed under the tin roof of a hangar that is stiflingly hot in Summer and freezing in Winter and yet I love to go--namely  to be fussed over by Michel and Jean-Philippe. Sure enough, Michel pushed Remi out of the way jokingly when we arrived saying "Excuse me, I need to say hello to a beautiful lady." My hair was pulled back in a bumpy bun, I was floating in enormous wrinkled lined shorts and yet I gratefully offered up my cheek to be kissed. Let's just say that unlike our experience this weekend, the welcome put me in a shopping mood. 

And it didn't take long. Within fifteen minutes, I spied a gorgeous mirror stuffed into a crowded wooden chest. Napoleon III in shape, it has an air of the 1920's with its delicate etchings scratched into a gold frame. The mercury mirror is completely faded and splotched. En bref, patina. I haven't had such a coup de coeur (think love at first sight) for a piece in a long time. And to top it off, it was a true steal. Vendu! 

Other pieces tempted me. The wall sconce with its lovely pampilles could be charming if given a Gustavien touch. Maybe with candles in it for a hallway? Not bad for 30€. Sadly, all of the chandeliers need to be rewired but again for 40€, the delicate Marie-Therese could be interesting as a candelabra. For the furniture, I was initially drawn to the massive teak Indian bookcase. Remi nixed it as kitschy. We both felt that the Henri II buffet (only 120€!) would be quite something if well painted, not that we need it. Just fun to imagine.

Once home, Remi set to work. Look how the mirror glowed once he stripped away the black layers of dust and grime. 

I had a little "aha" as to why I had wanted it so immediately. Its rough around the edges-ness reminds me of one of our very favorite pieces--a fantastic lithograph of Henri IV riding back into Paris that is currently pushed off to the side due to its heft since we are not allowed to put any holes into the walls of this Monument Historique building (and yes, there is a very good story to go with the crocodile skull beside it, in case you were wondering). I have been missing Henri and all of the other unusual characters parading about. Hopefully, they will return to the spotlight soon. As for our first purchase for our next apartment, it is sitting on the bedroom mantle, reflecting the headboard that we made out of old shutters.  The mirror isn't appropriate for the room and suddenly everything else is starting to  look awkward to my eyes. Out of place. A sure sign that I am getting ready to move on if ever there was one. 


  1. Hello Heather:
    The new purchase of the looking glass is WONDERFUL! No, it is even better than that and if, for the most unlikely of reasons, it fails to please at any time, then do please advise us at once. It is so very, very stylish and has, as our friend Paula would say, that highly desirable, much sought after, 'knocked back' look - something we go for all the time.

    And, of course, this post has found us peering, with the teeniest bit of what we hope is acceptable envy, at your other treasures, skull included. Such an eclectic mix - perfect!

    Troc-Soury sounds and looks to be magical. A veritable Aladdin's Cave in which we could be happily lost. Sadly, there is nothing like that in Hungary.

  2. I haven't shopped for house finds for decades, since all around me are things belonging to generations past and if I did buy anything I'd have no where to put it, but my my. That mirror.
    Gorgeous.. absolutely gorgeous. How do you get around the "no hole" thing? Not that it needs holes. It's perfect where it is, but I'm nosey/curious

  3. Your mirror is perfection. I'm sure you know that it is just my style. Great first purchase...


  4. Oh hooray! I didn't think that it would be that much of a hit. Well, actually I did think of Brooke when I bought it. If I were a better human being and if it weren't so fragile, I would just box it up and ship it to her because it is so her. The next time I take it down, I'll take a photo of the back of it which has even more patina than the front! One of the cross boards is missing and light shines through the holes in the mercury. Amazing. Probably not so great for the health but so be it.

    Les H's (and I always think to tell you this but never do, but I hope that you don't mind your nickname--in my head I pronounce it à les francaises which comes out sounding "lez aches", as elegant as you deserve) then perhaps you should just plan a trip here? Troc Soury is really hit or miss (which makes it all the more fun) but there is so much more to see in our corner of Provence!

    Trace, you are so fortunate to have family pieces, how beyond wonderful. i don't have anything, unfortunately. I think that is why I am collecting my own. As for the hole issue, we gallery hang from the ceiling--happily the equipment from our gallery was good for something! ;)

  5. Oh yes, yes, yes. I instantly see why you fell in love with it and had to make it yours to protect, to cherish and to adore.

    I am loving this theme of natural textures + gold for the new apartment. Going to look wonderful! And the more mismatched the better, because each piece will be picked for its own merits & charms, which always makes for a richer interior space.

    This spot you have discovered sounds like antique hunters paradise. I would go absolutely nuts there!

  6. Antiquing...or Junking...The most fun one can have on a weekend..."What are you looking for"?...Followed by..."I'll know it when I see it".

  7. Dear Ms. Robinson,

    Well, that's a really lovely mirror.

    TRUE STORY: those mercury-mirrors (along with any piece of old mercury glass...vases, etc) used to be remarkably inexpensive and fairly common. That was until Martha Stewart took a fancy to them and featured them not once, but twice on her magazine's cover, 10 or so years ago.

    A friend of mine who's a very canny, surprisingly rapacious "Southern Antiques" broker (with offices in Washington DC and Atlanta) got a tip from another friend who just happened to work in the editorial offices of "Matha Stewart Living".

    the tip was simply the news that Martha was about to publicly LOVE mercury glass mirrors. My friend promptly dropped everything, scoured every antique store between Richmond and Savannah, and bought every single mirror he could lay his hands on. Most were very inexpensive. He bought LOTS of them, to say the least. He dropped everything to spend his time scouting-out and buying old, "damaged" mercury-glass mirrors.

    Six months later (cover stories, as you'll know, are generally not just-something-that-popped-into-Martha's-head-the-previous-week).....the issue came out. He'd contacted every interior decorator from Dallas to Kennebunkport to say that he had JUST WHAT THEIR CLIENT WANTED.

    He claims that, in a one-year period, he made five times what he spent on all those mirrors.

    In any case, you're a lucky girl. Those mirrors (even small ones) are practically impossible to find these days.


    David Terry

  8. Love your purchases. I have two Louis Philippe style mirrors very similar to yours - a smaller and larger. Purchased decades ago they have traveled with us to various residences always adding a stylish to wherever they end up!

  9. Oh my, so much to respond to! Hooray! I love having a blog for this very reason. :) The exchange!

    Virginia, yes of course you understood that I wanted to take care of this beautiful but forgotten object. I am so grateful for your guidance too--how incredible to have such a band of professionals as friends now!

    LaughingSalmon, you hit the nail on the head. It really is junking but because it is France...well, sometimes we get lucky!

    Mr. Terry, as always, what a story. But here they are still available for a song, especially those that are in such shape. And oh, the power of the press! Sigh. Not what it was then, sadly.

    Q, yes, she of the HBC rose blankets! And of course you are right--Louis Phillipe! I am still learning. This makes our second such mirror. Oops, third! But the other big one cost ten times as much. I love the type of light and reflection of ourselves they bring.



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