Since moving to France last year Ian and I have taken to the art of brocanting with a vengeance. If you are not yet familiar with this French pastime, basically every weekend throughout spring and summer (as well as a few in the winter) there are literally thousands of flea markets held in villages and towns all over France. Aside from this however there are many permanent brocantes many of which are a combination of antiques and junk, but quite often after a good rummage there are bargains to be had…………. a stylists ‘Aladdin’s cave’
Hours of pleasure can be had in amongst cracked plates, dust covered pans and piles of old sheets, napkins and tea towels and I have been known to whoop with glee and jump up and down at something that even the owner considers worthless!
A few minutes drive from us is the small and very pretty village of Bors de Montmoreau and at it’s heart is one of my favourite such places L’Incontournable Brocante or The Essential Brocante. It is a collection of out buildings and barns in the courtyard of a family home. A warren of small and large rooms packed to the rafters with everything from tables, chairs and cupboards to shelves of antique glassware, plates, objets d’art and paintings.
The owner Benoit Le Grelle is always on hand to offer his advice on his latest acquisitions and can often be found in his workshop repairing and renovating old pieces. ‘My favourite pieces are the old original pieces in need of some TLC from house sales that would otherwise end up as fire wood’ Benoit told me.
He has been sharing his love of the old at Brocante L’Incontournable for the last 6 years and although many of his customers are visiting English holidaymakers he also sells to a loyal following of French, British and Dutch locals. He tells me that he scours ‘vide maisons’ or house sales around the area for the majority of his pieces and has a particular love of old paintings, which you can tell by the amount he has pinned to every spare wall.
I usually pop over when I need plates or glasses for a shoot as he has a great selection of both at very reasonable prices, although occasionally we will buy something larger for the house or garden. On my most recent visit I was delighted when I uncovered a stack of pretty dessert plates, a few off cuts of lace and lovely little mother of pearl handled tea forks, which I will no doubt inspire some wonderful French fancies or desserts – new blog post to follow soon.
Benoit also has collected masses of fabulous galvanised pots that are perfect for garden planters and other non food related items and this time Ian found the perfect old ships bell for the front door. No longer will our visitors have to bang long and loud on the window, this toll of this old beauty can probably be heard in London!