In case some of you didn't know, Johan who is one of the owners of Atelier de Campagne is responsible for most of the selecting of merchandise, painting, designing, building, etc. He is also a great "createur d'ambiance"
Johan doesn't just buy and sell, or looks for the "hottest" item of the day, he thoughtfully selects items that he'd be proud to display in his own home and relishes mixing and combining the pieces that he so judiciously selects.
It is a sheer joy running around with him through the markets and brocantes selecting each item with care. As we find some items, I get to learn from him, as he does hold degrees in both interior and furniture design, but I also get to hear sweet stories that come with the recognition of some items from his own childhood. "Meme used to have one of these," he'll share with a sweet nostalgic look on his face. "I remember when I used to go to her house..." Or, "My father used to tell us that during the war, they used to have to store their food in one of these." For me it's a combination of learning about the items but also about Johan's memories and heritage.
Let's follow him as he travels through the markets
It's not only the excitement of going to antique and brocante markets finding things, the bigger thrill for me is combining finds: mixing it up. This mirror can go with that table, that garden urn which I found in Abbeville will work perfect in front of that gray Louis XVI mirror from the South of France, because of its color, age, and style. At the warehouse I have plenty of room to play creating vignettes. Trinidad calls it "playing house" but he knows it's part of creating the look and marketing our items. I use different areas of the warehouse and I usually start with a central piece; this could be an industrial table, a church clock face, large shutters, garden elements, etc. From there, I add elements from the different areas where I have searched, since I shop in Belgium, England, and France. The combination can be varied but it has to work.
Let me share some of my findings of today's marché de brocante in Crévecœur le Grand. This is one of those markets where we sleep in the van, hit the streets at 3 a.m. with the flashlight. I take my little bicycle so I can rapidly move from vendor to vendor as they start unloading their vans and trucks on the streets of this picturesque village north west of Paris.
You can't be at all the places at the same time, and there is always competition for certain items. A lot of the other buyers become occasional friends and we end the afternoon at a cafe or bistro enjoying a beer or a glass of wine accompanied with some exquisite snacks. At the end of the long day of walking and hauling I can go back home, unload the next day at the warehouse,
and see what needs restoration work or a paint job.
In a few days I have another two-day market, and then next week get ready to pick up Trinidad and Martin from the Paris airport for a three-week trip of markets and traveling. Our friends Melissa and Bob will also accompany us this summer and I am excited to host them. It will be a fun and fruitful summer I hope.
I am just as happy as a clam to be coming along on this trip. It is my first time in Europe and I am glad that I am going along with these two who know what they are doing and where they are going. And, yes I know we are not just going to be relaxing along the French Riviera, it's gonna be work, but I am ready. Bring it on! All I need is some great food, good wine, and I am ready to go! We will get to see Bruxelles, Bruges, Amsterdam, Paris and a few other places in France before we embark on our buying trip in the South of France so it should be fun!
We will be doing our best to chronicle our voyage and will be sharing a bit with you, so stay tuned.