Published Sunday, June 9, 2013
I have always been a flea market junkie. The sidewalk sales, the old curio shops and the demolition sites pull me in wherever I am, at home or on my travels. In her new book, “Paris Flea Market Style,” Claudia Strasser has a beautiful way of getting to the core of why the old and the discarded hold such an important place in our hearts: “We relish finding things of beauty, whether in artwork, lace or an industrial remnant. And we want to have those things close to us in our homes. On tattered tables are memories and precious reminders of what we were and what we are, what we value and what we have lost.”
Strasser takes us on a fascinating tour of her favorite flea market haunts in Paris, where she spends days seeking out treasures for her business and herself. From Clignancourt (a maze of 14 different markets that spread out along alleyways) to Vanves (the quintessential French flea market, with loads of eye candy that will fit in your suitcase); from Marche D’Aligre in the heart of Paris (which is set up and broken down each day) to Georges Brassens’ Old Book Market (a covered arcade that overflows with precious leather-bound volumes, mostly in French), there is nothing you can’t find if you take the time to search and discover.
This book is for lovers of French decor, whether you have a passion for Napoleon III, Louis XV, Art Deco, Art Nouveau or Moderne and would love to have even a single piece that would re-create the spirit of that time in your home. However, while guiding us through these sites with their jumble of treasures, Strasser inspires us with the multitude of ways that old pieces from any era and any country can be reinvented and refreshed for new life in a new place. Old chairs may have been stripped of their worn-out stuffing and fabric, but if you like the design of the frame, it is easy to re-stain or paint and reupholster with new fabric that fits the age and style.
A great way to add French flair to your home is to look for mantel mirrors, once mounted over Paris apartment fireplaces, found in every style, from Louis XVI to Belle Epoque. The carved details on mirrors and other old frames large and small make these pieces special and worthy of giving new life. Doors can be decorated with panache to revive a style with push plates, decorative handles, keyholes and hinges that have been artfully constructed and are ready to be cleaned up and re-used.
On a larger scale, old wardrobes may not be in demand as they once were, with present-day built-in storage, but the magnificent carved doors can be used in inventive ways as wall panels, headboards, tabletops or even on a garden gate. Columns and fragments from old building sites are precious relics that add charm to modern-day entranceways, gardens or interiors. A detailed mantel will transform any room and can surround updated fireplaces with ancient style.
Lighting just keeps getting better, but the old-fashioned chandeliers and sconces hold a special place in today’s decor. If you are lucky enough to unearth pendants or chandeliers, sconces or candlesticks, don’t worry about their slightly tattered appearance. These relics can be restrung, cleaned up and rewired, saving the original finery while updating for another life in today’s home. Lampshades are true jewels, but often the fabric has decayed. Use photos of old designs to re-create the look with fabric, beading and fringes.
Take a trip to Paris or a bike ride along a nearby country road, and discover some history to add ageless style to your home.
Debbie Travis’ House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Please email your questions to: [email protected]