25 Apr 2013

DIY… Antique Dealer Style… Paris Flea Market Style

Fashion is not the only thing that morphs and changes with the season. The French antique dealer does too.

Not so long ago the mode was for rich, dark furniture… patina was king… and oak was polished to a see-yourself-in-the-tabletop shine. Armoires were admired for their age old, worn history… lovingly restored… imaginations peaked… the romantics dreaming of all that had passed long ago.

Commodes were coveted for their golden tones, their delicate inlays… their bronze hardware… Tables and chairs and the turn of their legs were what held the eye. That has all changed.

Natural wooden furniture is out.  I mean really out… no more…flea market style is in.

The markets down south are DIYing in a major way. Matt white paint sales must be through the roof in France because nearly every piece of furniture…not only the reproductions but the also the real thing… is painted, whitewashed into the shabby chic. Any dealer selling the ‘old’ style must be rather lonely… because right now it would appear that we all crave the painted look… the light touch.

I must admit to falling into this way of thinking… all my recent furniture buys for Le Petit Bijou are painted… are ‘shabby chic’… Is it because I am furnishing a village house and I am attempting to create a feeling that is light and airy? Or is it simply that I am subscribing to the trend?

 I suspect those antique dealers have me wrapped around their little finger.

Yes, I love the look… and even if I wanted to fill Le Petit Bijou with original timbers I would be sourcing them for a very long time.

When I look around our home in France I want to change all the pieces… lighten it up… remove the patina and let the light in… I sense that the style is no longer à la mode… a little like wearing massive shoulder pads… we just wouldn’t do that anymore… we wouldn’t be caught dead wearing those… The antique dealers have moved with the times… but can I?

I couldn’t paint over our very old furniture… I don’t know why… but I just couldn’t. It would feel very wrong… I would be consumed with guilt… all those years of protecting the patina, of waxing and polishing… gone with one stroke of the paintbrush… No… not me… I will leave others to do that… I should be braver…  have the courage to follow my instincts… I can’t see it happening.

However… I would like to mix it up a little… put some of the darker pieces into storage… and add some painted pieces. This way I won’t feel guilty… and when the ‘darks’ come back into fashion… I will be set.. Or, if they don’t… they can stay there.


There is always something to change when it comes to interiors.
What do you think… Could you paint your wooden furniture to keep in with the flea market style? xv


VA In Your Inbox

subscribe for updates from vickiarcher.com

In This Post: ,



Brittany Ruth

I love all of these finds, they are beautiful! I am decorating my home in antique and modern style. I live in Bavaria. What are your favorite fleas in France?

-Brittany Ruth


I know the areas around Avignon the best… and Paris… so they are my favourites… :)

Heather in Arles

Oh gosh, as much as I have been craving white and light lately (good to know I am ‘on trend’ ;), there is no way on Earth that I could paint over our big table. It’s patina tells so many wonderful stories–cigarette burns and fork scratches–and I love the way light slides across it. It is staying as it is!!


J’ai constaté comme vous ce changement et le massacre des vieux meubles cirés, mais je ne peux toucher aux miens, ce serait un crève coeur… Je suppose qu’il faut que j’accepte de vieillir,avec ce genre de signe, et je panache un peu avec quelques achats modernes, comme vous le faites.


I love this look – it’s really been popular here too. While I haven’t been able to paint over any of my darker, natural wood pieces (can’t do that to Grandmother’s things!), I found a dealer who paints his own flea market finds. I bought our new dining set from him. I wasn’t sure at first, but I’m really loving having the mix of finishes in the same room!

Anita Rivera

I have NO problem painting over old furniture to give it that brocante look! I just did that to a dark French armoire in my dining room and the gray color has now made such a difference! Vicki, your blog, your selections, your FRENCH LIFE lend themselves to a link party that I am hosting. I would love it if you came by to see what it is all about. Your creativity and just WHO YOU ARE would be perfect for the link party. Come on over when you can.

All the meubles here are TDF. And as always, I am cheering you on for the completion of Le Petit Bijou; it will be une maison digne de mentionne! Anita

The Enchanted Home

Hi Vicki, I know what you mean about painting over furniture, there are some pieces I could never ever bring myself to do that too, call me a chicken. Its important to keep evolving and stay true to what we love…..seems like you are good at doing that! All the pictures have me dreaming of visiting the French flea market, we were there for a day but I really need 2 weeks! An amazing place…..


No, I will NOT paint my good wood! However, I will buy something someone else has already finished, and the idea of storage, if feasible, is ideal. Mixing lighter textiles, paints & accessories will have to be my recipe with original woods, and I think it’ll be tasty. ;)


I agree with you, I could never paint over some of my antique wood pieces. I am basically a traditionalist but I have been reading blog sites that give suggestions on changing up that look by adding contemporary pieces to the mix and the newest trend is to change out smallish lamps for big bright ones. It really works. I now have an eclectic mix and it looks younger and fresher. I am trying to add a few painted pieces here and there too. Change is progress! Please let us see pictures of what you have purchased.
Dallas, Texas


dealing in antiques, this is an easy one for me. I am lucky to have inherited some beautiful true antique pieces, ….. step back cupboards, gentlemen’s chest, a secretary,…. all in gorgeous old beautiful woods with fabulous patina and wavy glass. I would never paint these pieces. Only if a piece has some serious issues and bad veneer, would I paint it. And newer pieces of lesser quality but in a pretty French style, I would paint also. I love a mixture of light, dark and painted pieces in a room. In our family room, one wall had dark pine paneling and the floor to ceiling fireplace was an ugly brick color. I did not hesitate to whitewash it to lighten up the room and never regretted it. :) xo


I am surprised to see this practice so prevalent in France. It has been here for some time, and while I was attracted initially, it has grown old on me. Yes, maybe a few pieces to brighten an area. I agree with you that painting something I have treasured is impossible. It especially pains me to see beautiful French furniture treated this way!
Nina in Michigan


I so agree, Vicki! Just can’t paint over those gorgeous patinas. I have no talent in painting although my husband does, but would consider it a SIN to paint quality furniture. As a result we have purchased a few painted pieces to mix it up, storing beloved others to do so. Like you, we believe the trend will someday revert back to those “saged” pieces.

Veronica Roth

I love it Vicki, really I do, but I couldn’t do it. I have some serious antiques and to distress them with paint would be to destroy their value as treasured aged pieces. Then again, the very few not-serious antiques in this craftsman cottage of mine would be screaming out-of-place-shabby-chic at me from their creamy little hearts and would look like the white elephant in the rooms…literally…lol. And then what would I do with the deep red velvet curtains, the old Persian and silk rugs? Bleach them? (wince)I think the whole shabby chick lightening up trend has to be a wholehearted or nothing venture perhaps. A starting over, a commitment to a really big yard sale. :)

Karen T.

No. I could NEVER paint my wooden furniture. Not a true antique with a rich, beautiful patina. Why… that would almost be a sin in my opinion. Now a less expensive piece that already needs some TLC, then yes I would. Like you said, I think home fashion trends come & go ( just as in apparel fashions). Those desiring a change can satisfy it by adding a painted piece here and there, which may be more interesting a way than an all of one or the other.

Karen T.

Emily @ Town And Country Shuffle

LOL – I so enjoyed this post Vicki. I’m with you, I could not paint dark furniture. This is why I have two homes, a city and a country home (and a beach one – but that’s another story)

I do like your idea of mixing some light pieces in with the dark. I love eclectic rooms…I’m sure you can do it very well. Would love to see what you come up with.

regards from a Sunny and cold (still) NY

Emily @ Town And Country Shuffle

A Gift Wrapped Life

Though I have thought of it with a few pieces, I don’t think I could ever paint any of my good wood pieces that we have collected over the years. I like a house that looks like it has grown and evolved over time with furniture and collections and the mix of wood and paint finishes is what gives it that look for me. But if it came to furnishing a cottage, then I would be totally game to go with the trend but even that makes me a tad nervous as if it is everywhere, it often meant in the design business that the saturation point was very near. Right now I am getting ready to re-paint the whole house and freshen up a bit and will do a greige colour scheme for walls and then add in some crazy fabric colours and patterns in varying rooms of the house. Going for a very vibrant, artsy but mis-matched look. Wish me luck!……It’s been a while since I have done this!
Do not touch a thing at mas bernard, it was exquisite and perfect. much love Vicki and happy weekend. xx

24/7 in France

I agree with you in not painting over a piece. There are other ways to lighten up a room and add a little splash and mix of new-ness. Trends come and go, so staying true to an antique’s soul is vital in my opinion.

Karen in CT

.. oh heavens no, I wouldn’t take white paint to any kind of furniture. I think too much surfing Pinterest has caused this ‘maybe’ trend. Many imagines of kitchens, drawing rooms, bedrooms look like a snowstorm, a complete whiteout. I don’t find it attractive at all. I do however like to mix it up with light and dark woods, it texturizes a room. Flea markets are so much fun this time of year, good luck.

Karen in CT

kandee acuna

I love painted furniture but I have so many truly beautiful inlaid woods in my Louis XVI furniture I won’t paint them. The darker or tougher woods like oak, dark walnut, I have no trouble painting–I can always strip the paint. The beautiful ebony stringing and variety of woods used to make designs like my Napoleon III writing table, paint would ruin the value and the design–just a thought.

Anita Rivera

Tu es une perle; merci for coming to see my link party. I will put you on my link page and all you have to do is just be YOU. Everything you post is FRENCH ESSENCE so all you have to do is enjoy and visit the others if you wish. I sure appreciate it! I meant to ask and I was unable to add this to my post since I had not asked you, but would I have your permission to have a give-away of a copy of your book, French Essence? I have an extra and would love to celebrate your work. Let me know.

Bonne journée Vicki! Anita


Oh Vicki this is exactly my current dilemma. I’ve been unable to make a decision regarding our bedroom furniture, a beautiful dark set that belonged to my husband’s grandmother! It has curves and lovely features but it’s so “old’ looking – I see a Grandma bedroom every time I look at it. I’d like to it lacquer black or take one piece and paint it in a geranium pink – also lacquer. We hardly keep clothes in the furniture anyway. Help!!! I need the guts to paint it.


I love this look! I think it is beautiful. Much like you I have many antique piece that I just do not think I would feel comfortable painting as they have been passed to us from both of our families.

I am looking forward to seeing all of the wonderful finds for your new little house.

Have a great day, Elizabeth

Suzanne de Cornelia

I like flow from outside to inside and generally have lived on the California coast with a ocean view so like white and blue…it’s fresh and it flows. I love white.


I would NEVER,NEVER paint my antique wood pieces. Forget the trends and fads…stay true to your instincts. Be brave, do not be swayed! You will not regret it.

Esther George

Hi Vicki I love your finds. Looking at your home I wouldn’t change a thing to me it’s perfection. It’s a female thing to walk around and start looking at change and I think this is great life would be boring otherwise. I am scared of colour on walls always been a neutral girl but colour on furniture I can handle except for the beautiful woods that you tend to wax and polish now they I would not be brave enough to paint. Thank you for sharing this was wonderful . Regards Esther from Sydney.


I think the Shabby Chic thing is rather old hat in America now, unless you have a beach house. I wonder how many men really like that style of decorating too as it seems too feminine for a man to live in comfortably?

Peggy Braswell

When I was in London, last month, they also have adopted the idea of painting. They call the dark furniture brown furniture I like it mixed up with the dark colored furniture. If I was buying new I would look for light painted but find it hard to paint (Funny that way) over most things especially if they are $$. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com


Hi Vicki,
Maybe a bit of “Shabby” for Le Petit Bijou, but stay with the great patina of your treasured pieces. “Shabby” is a fad and once you paint something, it is painted forever and you simply cannot get that original and treasured patina back, Now if it was originally painted,,,,,,that is another aesthetic and to be treasured. xoxoxo

Karen Albert

Hi Vicki, like you I love to mix it up and there are pieces I Could Not paint. Some of the newer painting techniques are so enticing though. I will be watching for bargains at Estate Sales this spring and summer.

PS I am having a “Paris Flea Market Style” Book Giveaway!
Art by Karena


I have a lot of painted furniture in my home as a life- long lover of white. But I could never paint over a true antique. Vintagey, repro, thrift shop pieces, yes. But not a true antique with a lovely fine patina. Thank you for bringing this up, Vicki, it made for lively conversation with my mother. We’re for saving the paint for those pieces that need covering up and letting the old treasures be as they are.

sharon - my french country home

HI Vicki,
I am also amazed at how quickly trends change for interior styling – at the moment anything fifties is in major demand here and in Paris.
I hesitated long and hard about painting a cherry wood sideboard where I store my china in the dining room, but finally took the plunge and painted it with black chalk paint – I haven’t once regretted that decision.
What I never do is put furniture into storage, it either stays or goes, but there’s no point hoarding in a container ‘just in case’!
my two cents worth :)
have a lovely weekend



Frances Russell

Vicki such a great post. I know … I love the traditional antique of dark wood be it walnut or mahogany with its glossy patina and stories to tell. Armoires rich in history still gleaming with elegance and pride ….. BUT these little painted numbers are calling us all!!!! I believe and I have tried to achieve in my interiors for myself and my clients, that there can be a happy “Marri…aage”!! I love mixing it all up and it works because these pieces be they cleanskinned or painted are meant to be together and are working because people need to have their antiques, but also the beautiful flea market finds that are covered in paint but have an elegance and lines that you know will work! So yes I have been confronted with do or don’t I … but I think of the great elegance of 18th century France where painted furniture was a la mode! I believe it can all work together beautifully and as with all make-up we can always take it off!!!
have a great weekend
best wishes


I think shabby chic is old hat now, its been done to death here. I don’t follow fads so I probably shouldn’t comment. A family member loathes the style so much we are discouraged from even saying the name. LOL. Like others have said don’t paint your beautiful furniture.


I too like the white wash look,
but tremble about doing it to a wonderful old Antique.
Maybe a repro. Wish I could do the Paris Flea Mkt again.
It was fabulous. I wanted to buy the old Art Nouveau street lamps.
My Husband thought I was nuts, wish I had them now at my Entrance.


Chichi Furniture

Wow, what amazing pieces. I agree about painting over traditional items, so things are better left, but then thats why furniture is great, you can add new items and mix it up a bit or put some in storage. The great thing about white is that its not too overpowering, it allows heavily carved ornate items to be used in rooms where perhaps if dark wood, they would have been too much. Some items are now painted in vibrant, bright colours which are great feature pieces and a wonderful way to instantly inject some colour and charm into that lost space, or boring hall way. French Furniture, is charming, full of character and detail, an art form :O)


Such beautiful pieces! I love a good antique look! I recently did a splurge at my local flea market. It’s amazing the great deal you can get on pieces that seems “worn”. All they need a a fresh coat!


Dawn Lyons

Dear Vicki,
I am so happy for you and your new property. I am arriving in Paris on September 19th for 5 days and would love to know which Flea’s I should not miss! I would also love to do a short trip for example Avignon seems to be a must see, it may be a bit too long a travel though. I did look up the schedules although I really do not know vendors and price points.
I’d love some names of great fleas and any suggestions of the must do’s outside Paris.
A faithful reader always,


I suppose the answer is subjective. I have an antique dresser and night stand that I will be refinishing for my daughter’s bedroom but it’s not an very expensive piece so I don’t feel guilty… however, I could not paint over an expensive antique. Like you, I will let the dealers do that. Some feel that is lessons the quality of an antique if it is refinished in any way. I have the mindset of “if it makes you happy…” After all, you should love your home, right?
xoxo, Brenda


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

powered by chloédigital
Read previous post:
Jenna Lyons And The J. Crew Style