Mr French and I moved in together in December. I’m a photographer and art director, he reads every design magazine on the racks and studies art. We each have our own, extremely diverse opinions. Decorating our joint abode is going to take some time. Years, probably.
One of our key suppliers is turning out to be the Marché aux Puces at St Ouen, aka the Clignancourt flea market, just north of the city. I know the market well because I used to help art and antique collectors from the US purchase their treasures here and ship them home. My clients collected everything from antique books to Louis XVI furniture, oriental carpets to contemporary art. This trip was personal.
Our mission; a mirror for over the sink in our water closet. The space is awkward because the sink is very close to a wall, but the ceilings are high, requiring something very long and narrow. We had in mind something very traditional; an ornate carved wood, gilded frame from the 19th century; accessories with some serious patina, to balance out our mostly modern apartment.
The visit began at the Vernaison market, where we soon came across Stand 29, run by the adorable Marie B, from Brittany, and her SO. On the walls a collection of 1970’s rattan framed mirrors had caught our eyes. On a facing wall were similar mirrors in a stained, darker rattan. The effect was whimsically quirky. I seemed to recall having seem them in one of Mr French’s design mags. Yes, confirmed Monsieur SO, they were in ELLE Deco, but the stylist purchased the entire collection for herself after the photoshoot, so these were others. I smell a rat. Did she buy this for her own flat, for a gift, or as an investment she could then sell on eBay for a considerable profit, “as seen in ELLE”? Knowing journalist salaries, I’m guessing its door number 3.
We liked the effect a lot, but didn’t think it was exactly what we were looking for. Nobody seemed to have what we were looking for. Across the same allée, two or three stands later we came to another stand with another 70’s display, this time plaster suns, painted in gold. They looked rich and elegant without being extravagant and the price was right. But we’d only just arrived and wanted to see what else was available.
Back on the rue des Rosiers (St Ouen, not the Marais) we visited a truly Louis, gilded boutique with a remarkably extraordinary, ornate porcelain bucket; this bucket was the very bucket used by Marie Antoinette at her Hameau at Versailles. True? I don’t know. The dealer has a shop, and a certificate, and is herself a certified dealer, so I choose to believing I touched Marie A’s bucket. I love the living museum aspect of Paris flea markets!
There were lots of 19th century mirror vendors along the way. All of them told us that what we were looking for would be very difficult to find.
At the Marché Paul Bert we saw a few more rattan mirrors. They were really beginning to grow on me. Then we came across a stand with some very cool 1960’s Italian designed mirrors. Gorgeous, exaggerated ovals framed in a smooth, refined raised wood frame. The only problem was the rough, unfinished hemp cord that was fixed to each mirror for hanging. I found the style incongruous and removing the cord would damage the frame.
Still no traditional gilded frames. We went back to the beginning and bought our rattan mirrors, heading home, ready for the next challenge. The next weekend I was at the Village St Paul. There was an entire boutique FULL of 19th century gilded frames small enough for our bathroom sink. I can now confirm that I love my somewhat kitsch, very fun rattan mirrors.
ps Found the narrow gilt framed mirrors at the Village St Paul a few weeks later… in case anyone is looking!