I love going to Paris, I love shopping, and I love finding a fabulous bargain! Please understand that I love the thrill and individual service a fine, independent antique shop offers as much as anyone, but the shopping experience of a Parisian flea market is a different sort of antique exploration.
The marché aux puces—or Paris flea market—supposedly got its name from an onlooker standing above the area filled with furniture, metal and various sundry items, who exclaimed, “My word, but it is a market of fleas!” Not an appetizing thought to attract shoppers, but the name has stuck for general purposes—and attract shoppers they do!
Since I don’t live in France, and my desire as an interior designer (and collector) is to find the most interesting pieces I can for my clients, I have found a marvelous resource (one of many) in St. Louis that gives a similar shopping experience: Warson Woods Antique Gallery has 135 dealers with price points for every treasure hunter. With different aisles to explore, cases to peruse, and a frame shop and garden center, you can literally spend hours admiring and learning from the entire inventory made available.
Walls of various colors (selected by each dealer) create the backdrop for their wares. Upon entering the first ‘stall’ (or booth, as we Americans say), vivid aubergine walls highlight a Venetian mirror, Nagel poster, or amber glass balls that once formed a chandelier, among other unique items. Some of the dealers are purists and specialize in Mid-Century Modern or Primitive American. However, most of the dealers have a wide range of periods and items from large-scale furniture to what is known in the trade as ‘smalls,’ items that our grandmothers called tchotchkes or knick-knacks.
Fine china, Depression glass, Shirley Temple tumblers, Vaseline glass, Steuben, Waterford, Orrefors and antique glass so old there aren’t identifying marks, are available to the collector here. If you are doing a media room, there are vintage movie posters to adorn your walls. If you want to create instant ancestors, there are both fine 17th- and 18th-century portraits, or black and white photographs that can be framed for your family tree. Need lighting? Table lamps, chandeliers, sconces and floor lamps are available in every metal, wattage and period. You can furnish a room full of seating, or select one side chair—the choices are many. If a holiday is approaching and you are short a table or table-setting, look no further. Need a vintage fur or jewels for a night out on the town? This is the place.
Like the marché aux puces, some discounts can be made to merchandise, and they vary from dealer to dealer.
Individual style is created, not copied. Create your own style, mix it up and have fun!