Story and photos by Claudia Strasser
Because I hang out at flea markets in Paris, I tend to hear the same comments over and over from American tourists. Yet it never ceases to amaze me:
Men: “There’s nothing but old junk here.”
Women: “There are no bargains in Paris anymore.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. These people are just scanning the surface, not honing in on the delicious layers that create the Paris flea markets.
Truth is, it’s impossible to go to a Paris flea market and not find a one of a kind, museum-quality trinket for 1euro.
In fact, you could shop any of the flea markets in one weekend and furnish your entire home as if it were a château or a cottage en Provence for next to nothing.
Basically, the flea markets are the treasure chests of the world, brimming with everything from entire paneled rooms to a century old diary. The trick is finding the bargains, then getting them home. C’est simple!
What to look for:
It’s easy to stroll by a table and dismiss it but there’s a lot more to a dealer’s wares than meets the eye. In fact, I’m willing to say that almost every vendor has something uniquely special if you look very close. It may be the size of a button, but it’s there. At all markets, there are two kinds of vendors. Those who practice the art of display and lovingly curate their collection, and those who don’t.
How to find it:
You can find good deals with either type, but those who don’t are generally more interested in sales volume than what the actual item is. Sure, they may know a set of dishes is Limoges or the silverware is sterling, but they don’t take the time to clean them because they’d just rather move it. If you’re on the hunt then get down and and dig in.
Paris fleas aren’t like ours where a box of kitchen junk is filled with Tupperware. In Paris a box of junk may have iron candlesticks, antique serving trays and letters from the 1700s.
If you just want a souvenier or memento, check a dealer’s tiny boxes they have on the table. You never know what can turn up, from a monogrammed stamp with your initials to embroidered pillowcases, a love letter or a locket.
How to buy it:
Bargaining is acceptable in any market around the world and France is no exception. If you make an offer, just be respectful. Flea marketers are hard working people who travel to find unusual things, clean, repair and research them. They haul out, unpack, and face the elements each weekend to bring this magic right to you!
You’re bound to fall in love in Paris, so why fight it? But what you fall in love with will determine how to get it home. If it’s furniture, you’ll need a shipper, so I recommend a to visit Clignancourt before all other markets. And the shippers are all there so you can so you can visit a few and see what services they offer. It’s a good place to start cause it’s the mecca of markets you’ll never see it all.
Some deliver door to door and others drop at a port and you pick it up. See what works best for you). You’ll set up an account for free and get book of receipts. When you buy something, the dealer will write out his information on one of the copies and deliver it to the shipper. You’ll give the shipper your book to confirm those and any items you’d like picked up. Then you can pay when it’s all been collected. Strange as it is, a ‘hold’ is often as good as a ‘sold’ cause you can work things on a handshake. Just be sure to honor it!
Once you have a shipper, you’ll have an account number and can tell vendors at other markets where to deliver your gems for consolidation without hesitation.
Clignancourt is open Fridays and Mondays till 1pm and all weekend till about 6pm.
For shippers, I recommend Camard or Hedley’s in the center of Cligancourt.
Of course shipping furniture can add a bit to the cost so negotiate that in when you’re bargaining and always ask for the price ‘pour export’.
Shippers charge by cubic meter, so if you have an armoire, you’re free to fill it with all your goodies from linens to chandeliers.
Finally, forget your misconceptions about shipping; That you need to fill a container, that it’s expensive, there are taxes…once you get past the unknown a new world opens up. You may just find yourself with a brand new hobby.
Do you have a question about flea market style for Claudia Strasser? Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and you may find it answered in a future column.
Claudia Strasser is the author of The Paris Apartment: Romantic Decor on a Flea Market Budget. She moved her famed New York City Boutique, also called The Paris Apartment, online and just recently released her iPhone app, Keys to the Fleas, on iTunes. And on top of managing a thriving business, writing another book (or two) and planning her frequent trips to Paris, Claudia still finds time to keep her blog—also called The Paris Apartment—constantly updated. Claudia’s followers—and there are many—have learned how to bring Paris style to their homes in the U.S.
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Our friend Claudia Strasser of The Paris Apartment is up in NYC at the New York International Gift Fair. Check out her blog at The Paris Apartment for some great insider information (and delicious photos). Today is the last full day of the show, and Claudia has a few fabulous finds that are left over, some that were created just for the show. The prices are ridiculously reasonable for some of these high-end furnishings, so I encourage you to check it out before these treasures disappear.
In related news…
I’ll be interviewing some amazingly talented artists and designers in the coming weeks and featuring them here on Parisien Salon. If you know of anyone – an artist, fashion insider, designer, etc – in Paris that you think should be featured, let me know in the comments below.
A la prochain,
Linda Donahue, Editor in Chief
By Linda Donahue, Editor in Chief
In the course of following my dream of bringing Parisien Salon to the masses, I’ve discovered that the best part of my job is meeting some really incredible and inspirational people. That trend continued yesterday when I shared a cup of tea with Claudia Strasser of The Paris Apartment.
I really don’t remember how I initially found Claudia. All I know is that once I saw her blog, I was mesmerized. Here was a woman who created a whole world around Paris style. After 20 years in NYC, Claudia has brought her boutique, The Paris Apartment, down to Miami. Next month, Claudia heads to Paris for the Maison et Objet…and she’ll be bringing back great information and stories to share with Parisien Salon.
You’ll be seeing more of Claudia and her fabulous style on Parisien Salon. In the meantime, visit her site at The Paris Apartment.