Our guide to buying French antiques

Our guide to buying French antiques

Stephen and Kathryn have a second home in France, where they enjoy spending time relaxing, but also sourcing for the business from various antiques auctions, brocantes and house clearances. We asked Stephen about the secret to The French House’s buying and sourcing success.


How do you plan your buying trips to France, or do you just visit and hope for the best?

When we decide on our travel dates, we will always give notice to our regular sources and let them know our arrival dates. We plan our trips and try to coordinate with antiques fairs and auctions that are taking place in the region.


What is your best source of antique furniture?

We have really good relationships with five or six dealers who know our taste and they will source and hold things for us to view before offering pieces to others. This loyal service that we receive has come after many years of supplying The French House. We return this loyalty with purchasing much of the stock they hold for us and returning time and time again. These sources of supply will normally account for 50% of our purchases on each visit.


French village fair     French village fair

Do you purchase from village fairs?
Normally called “Vide-greniers” (emptying of attics)?

Although village fairs are uncertain in so far as certainty of good quality items, they are a really enjoyable part of our visits. Many of the interesting objects that can be found in our showrooms have been found at such fairs. Objects that may well have spent many years in the attic or outbuilding of the owner’s property. The key to finding the best things at the fairs is to be the first there, which requires taking a torch and be at the fair at daybreak!


Do you visit many auctions on your buying trips?

Auctions are increasingly providing a fresh supply of our stock, especially of furniture. Having said that it’s essential that you are bi-lingual and have an extensive vocabulary as no allowances are made for non-French buyers. It’s also imperative that you have an established bank account in France as cash is not always acceptable. Any item bought must be taken on the day of the sale, so having suitable transport and people to load to take purchases away is crucial. It is very rare especially with home contents auctions that delivery or items being held can be arranged.


What do you do with all your purchases in France?

We have two warehouses in France that we bought some years ago and these are very useful in that they enable us to purchase an unlimited amount of stock without having to transport it back immediately. They also allow us to select stock for shipment that is needed in York or London and other purchases can be left in safe, dry storage for the future. When we return from the visit, normally two to three weeks after arrival, we tend to carry back the most valuable and fragile things and other stock can be brought back to England via one of our regular shippers.


French antiques    Loading the van    

As it is just yourself and Kathryn on these buying trips, do you have help with the transportation of stock in France?

For the last couple of years we’ve acquired a local helper who has proved invaluable in that he loads the transporter if we are not in France and should a piece of “too good to miss” furniture turns up, he can collect it from the seller and take to our storage facility.


What do you think makes The French House different from other dealers?

It’s taken a long time to achieve the business model that suits our business and our life, but it enables The French House to acquire a constant supply of fresh stock at competitive prices for both our York and London showrooms. We source pieces for individual and trade clients, making several trips a year to ensure that our stock is constantly changing. We keep up to date with interior trends to ensure that we don’t get stuck in a style rut and become complacent. For example, heavily carved beds were very popular when we first opened, but more recently lighter framed or Louis style and cane beds prove more popular, so we adapt to these trends. It’s important to us as a business and as individuals to keep growing and developing.

À bientôt!

Words by Caitlin Hazell - caitlinhazell.co.uk 

Also in Blog

The French House York - Choosing the right dining table for your home
Choosing the right antique dining table for your home

Whether you’re looking to upgrade your dining room before the winter creeps in or need a bigger table to accommodate additional guests this holiday season, a farmhouse / antique dining table is a sustainable option to enhancing your dining space. French farmhouse tables are built to last, and always offer tons of character. We rarely turn down an opportunity to purchase farmhouse tables during our buying trips in France, and we usually find them in house clearances, auctions and through our large and reliable network of antique dealers.  

Continue Reading

6 ways to add French style to your home
6 ways to add French style to your home

We are all spending more time at home than ever before and as we tentatively start to open up, we have put together a simple guide to help you add a French touch to your home; small details and statement pieces that will work well in the modern contemporary home or the more traditional.

Continue Reading

Recreate the look: Top tips and advice
Recreate the look: Top tips and advice

Since we started The French House, over 25 year ago, we have made countless trips to France, sourcing the hard to find, restoring the ‘past its best’ and keeping our prices low and stock current with trends. 

Here’s a few of our favourite ‘must-haves’ and advice on recreating this French style in your home.


Continue Reading