Antiques Blog

Marie Antoinette’s Desk Returned to Versailles

In March 2011, nearly 225 years after the French Revolution, a desk made by royal cabinetmaker ‘Jean-Henri Riesener’ was returned to the Versailles Palace after being acquired by the French state for 6.75 million euros ($9.4 million) from the ‘Rothschilds’ family.

Another source claims the desk was bought from a major art dealer in Paris (who may have been representing the Rothschilds) with the help of Bernard Arnault, the head of LMVH Paris who controls almost all luxury brands (Louis Vuitton for one) in the world. Whatever the case, the desk was turned over to the French culture minister ‘Frederic Mitterand’. (The nephew of Francois Mitterand, the ex-President of France)

Frederic Mitterand. Nephew of former French President Francois Mitterand.

Frederic Mitterand. Nephew of former French President Francois Mitterand.

The very happy ‘Mitterrand’ turned the desk over to the Versailles palace and the elegant piece was classified as “a work of major cultural value”.

A writing desk made for Queen Marie Antoinette by Jean-Henri Riesener was sold in the Revolutionary auctions of 1793-94

A writing desk made for Queen Marie Antoinette by Jean-Henri Riesener was sold in the Revolutionary auctions of 1793-94 for almost nothing.

The desk was composed of an apron with four drawers decorated with the four gilt-bronze low reliefs – a trademark of the celebrated German cabinetmaker Reisener.

The purplewood, sycamore, and rosewood veneer is decorated with gilt bronze ornaments including the four low reliefs depicting allegories (Music twice, Painting, and Sculpture) and two escutcheons representing baskets of flowers.

According to Jean-Henri Riesener’s account ledger for May 28, 1784, this table was ordered for Queen Marie Antoinette’s private apartments in the Tuileries Palace, Paris. Detailed descriptions and measurements, as well as a court inventory number inked underneath the tabletop, confirm its identity. After the French Revolution erupted in 1789, the royal family was held for three years in the Tuileries. Marie Antoinette must have used this piece during that imprisonment before she was guillotined in 1793.

Marie Antoinette confronted by French protestors at the Tuileries Palace in 1789.

Marie Antoinette confronted by French protestors at the Tuileries Palace in 1789.

(The desk is currently displayed in the private apartment where Queen Marie-Antoinette (1755-1793), wife of King Louis XVI, used to entertain her children and friends.)

The private apartment of Marie Antoinette in the Chateau Versailles.

The private apartment of Marie Antoinette in the Chateau Versailles.

At the time of the French Revolution in 1789, the Versailles Palace’s furniture was auctioned and more than 17,000 pieces were scattered around the world.

Many are now found in royal residences, particularly in Britain, or in major foreign museums, notably in the United States. Some are owned by private collectors or antiquarians who depending on when they bought these piece may have acquired them for a song.

The favourite cabinet-maker of Marie-Antoinette, Riesener was the uncontested master of Louis XV and XVI furniture. Before Marie Antoinette was ever on the Versailles scene, Reisener made one of the most fabulous pieces of furniture in the world: the desk for King Louis XV inner study in Versailles.(shown below)

Roll Top Cylinder Desk by Reisener for King Louis XV

Roll Top Cylinder Desk by Reisener for King Louis XV

Riesener however, produced his most graceful and innovative pieces for Marie-Antoinette: for the Salon des Nobles in Versailles, he supplied two corner pieces and a chest-of-drawers for which he replaced marquetry by a simple veneer of mahogany. The bronze details were reduced and lightened. For her boudoir at Fontainebleau, he produced fragile furniture decorated with mother-of-pearl that was unique in its genre. For the Petit Trianon, he provided a series of original pieces: a writing table with rounded corners, an identical dessert console table in mahogany and bronze, etc.

In fact, Reisener became the exclusive cabinetmaker for the Queen of France as his prices skyrocketed out of reach for even the most wealthy clientele of France.

Jean-Henri Riesener

Jean-Henri Riesener

With the French Revolution, Riesener was retained by the ‘Directory’, and sent in 1794 to Versailles to remove the “insignia of feudality” from furniture he had recently made: royal cyphers and fleurs-de-lys were replaced with innocuous panels. During the French revolutionary sales he ruined himself by buying back furniture that was being sold at derisory prices. When he attempted to resell his accumulated stock, tastes had changed and the old clientel was either dispersed or dead. He retired in 1801 and died in comparative poverty in Paris.

As a result of the French Revolutionary Sales in the early-19th century, UK collectors had bought, for the decoration of their stately homes and palaces, significant numbers of French royal furniture (mobilier royale), which today forms the basis of the great collections that still remain in the UK.

Towards the end of the industrial age until the agricultural depression of the 1920s, large numbers of works, predominately in UK collections were auctioned off and made their passage to American collectors. Still to this date UK collections are especially rich in the works of French furniture and decorative arts, particularly of Royal provenance, and the UK continues to enjoy perhaps the greatest repository of Riesener’s works outside Paris.

Thank you for reading my blog.

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Mark LaFleur
The Antique Warehouse
226 SW Marine Drive,
Vancouver, BC

Biennale des Antiquaires, Paris. 2014.

Bandeau-Biennale-2014 def

It’s one of the most glamorous and prestigious events of the year. Now in it’s 26th year, the ‘Biennale des Antiquaires et de la Haute Joaillerie’ features some of the most expensive and coveted antiques, artwork and jewellry in the world.

“For us the Biennale is a consecration. You have to be selected, you can’t just participate,” said Jean-Bernard Forot, jewelry marketing director at Piaget. “It’s a place to exhibit our best, it’s not a boutique. It’s an opportunity to showcase our work next to art pieces that have a history, it’s an opportunity to spend time explaining each piece to the client and we think our pieces have a lot to say.”


Hong Kong-based jeweler 'Wallace Chan' showcased an enormous jade and diamond necklace, priced at a startling 56 million euros.

Hong Kong-based jeweler ‘Wallace Chan’ showcased an enormous jade and diamond necklace, priced at a startling 56 million euros.

When it opened to VIPs and press on Sept.10th, the Biennale was a model of refined elegance, all natural light, champagne, and airy aisles. Interior designer Jacques Grange tapped the core of the French heritage: he reimagined the Grand Palais as a pleasure garden, loosely inspired by Versailles. The interior designers transformed the glass-and-steel Art Nouveau masterpiece into an all-white, late 19th-century-style shopping street, complete with wrought-iron lanterns, arches, and lattice windows. A huge, striped hot air balloon hung in the center of the space— the “town square”— while two enormous Lagerfeld watercolors, depicting the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, held court at each end of the street. “The French know how to do display better than anyone,” marveled designer David Kleinberg.

“We’ve been told that we were too classic,” SNA president Peyre told artnet News, “I say, no, we are people who love our past.”

Grand Palais 2014

Grand Palais 2014

The Biennale des Antiquaires, now in its 26th year, is a celebration of the best in luxury from around the world and a major highlight of the Parisian fall season. In addition to the classic 17th- and 18th-century antiques one expects, it spotlights a variety of works, including African art, Impressionist paintings, and show-stopping jewelry.

Organized like the flowerbeds in a jardin à la française, the booths of the 89 exhibitors are covered with a trellis-like motif. These, combined with the skylight and delicate perfume coming from a fragrant fountain courtesy of Francis Kurkdjian, make for an almost-bucolic experience.

Grand Palais Interior

Grand Palais Interior

The Biennale des Antiquaires is a veteran of the fair world. Organized by the SNA since 1962, it fiercely defends its unique character and appeal, fueled by the perceived romanticism of the French capital and the exceptional location of the Grand Palais. Peyre brushed off any comparison with competitors like Maastricht’s TEFAF or London’s Masterpiece: “People come here looking for quality, like at the others fairs, but also for this little extra that the French have.”

In Paris, the Biennale is an unmissable event in the social calendar. Over 1,500 guests came to the gala dinner, including actress Juliette Binoche; the Prince of Venice and Piedmont, Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia; model Natalia Vodianova; and luxury magnate Antoine Arnault (“French Stars Shine at Biennale des Antiquaires Gala“). Although business is rumored to be brisk, money talk is frowned upon here. Dealers are tight-lipped but smiling. Several confided that they were “very happy.”

Juliette Binoche at the Gala Dinner.

Juliette Binoche at the Gala Dinner.

“Bijou” is the first word that comes to mind when attempting to describe the atmosphere of the Grand Palais; “scholarly” and “focused” shortly follow. Dominique Lévy has collaborated with Peter Marino Architect and tribal art dealer Bernard de Grunne for a spectacular booth teasing out formal links between modern and African art. The star of her display, which also features works by Hans Arp, Yves Klein, and Nicolas de Staël, is a large oil on canvas by Joan Miró, Femme et oiseaux dans la nuit (Woman and Birds in the Night) (1968).

Women and Birds of the Night by Joan Miro

Women and Birds of the Night by Joan Miro

“The Biennale remains an extraordinary place to show extraordinary things,” said decorative art dealer Michel Giraud, who sees the event as a “real statement about the place of French dealers in the global market.”

Art Dealer Jean-Michel Giraud.

Art Dealer Jean-Michel Giraud.

He’s come with an exquisite, tiny clay sculpture of a faun by Pablo Picasso, one of only eight known worldwide. The piece has an impeccable—and romantic—provenance: Picasso gave it to the French mountaineer Maurice Herzog, who stopped at Vallauris on his way back from the Himalayas. It had remained in the same collection ever since.

Mountaineer Maurice Herzog.

Mountaineer Maurice Herzog.

At Richard Green, a large painting by Marie-François Firmin-Girard, Le Quai aux Fleurs (1875), shows Paris’s flower market in such vivid hues that it seems like a snapshot of the late 19th century. It is particularly moving presented here at the Grand Palais, located less than a couple of miles away from the scene it depicts. The piece was a great success when it was first shown at the Salon in 1876, and it immediately entered an American collection. It is now back in Paris for the first time in more than a century.

Marie-François Firmin-Girard, 'Le Quai aux Fleurs' (1875)

Marie-François Firmin-Girard, ‘Le Quai aux Fleurs’ (1875)

Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne, best known for their sculptures at the crossroad of fine and decorative art, are well represented here—and it’s no surprise. Their prices shot up in the wake of the Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berger sale at Christie’s Paris in 2009 and their popularity took a global turn with the inclusion of Claude Lalanne’s furniture in Peter Marino’s design for the Chanel boutiques.

Brother and Sister design team Claude and Francois-Xavier C. began designing in the early 60's. Their work is some of the most creative and bizarre, and commands prices in excess of $1M.

Brother and Sister design team Claude and Francois-Xavier C. began designing in the early 60’s. Their work is some of the most creative and bizarre, and commands prices in excess of $1M.

The artists’ historical dealer, Galerie Mitterrand, has created a garden-within-a-garden, showcasing François-Xavier Lalanne’s utilitarian bestiaries: a bird-chair, a crocodile-bench, and grasshopper-bar, with prices topping at $1.5 million. The artist is also featured prominently at the booths of the Galerie Jean-David Botella and Galerie Xavier Eeckhout.

A display of Claude and  François-Xavier Lalanne's mid Century furniture. Pieces sell in excess of 1M Euros.

A display of Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne’s mid Century furniture. Pieces sell in excess of 1M Euros.

Claude and Francoise-Xavier Lalanne now.

Claude and Francoise-Xavier Lalanne now.

Larry and I never miss this show, as well as the ‘Fete des Puces’ (which I see my invitation in my inbox this morning) which happens at the end of this week. This year the theme will be ‘Voyage comme Jules Verne’ which means actors and dealers will be all geared up in bizarre and creative costume as well as the usual smattering of parties and the flowing of Champagne.

Until next time!

Mark LaFleur
The Antique Warehouse
226 SW Marine Drive,

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Guerlain – The Oldest Parfumerie In The World.


I fell in love with Guerlain when I started using one their men’s Colognes about 25 years ago. But I didn’t realize until recently, that this famous French parfumerie was touted at one of the ‘oldest perfume makers in the world.’

Four centuries ago, in India, Emperor Shah Jahan fell hopelessly in love with Princess Mumtaz Mahal and had the enchanting Gardens of Shalimar built for her. Inspired by this passionate love story, Jacques Guerlain created the legendary Shalimar in 1925.

Four centuries ago, in India, Emperor Shah Jahan fell hopelessly in love with Princess Mumtaz Mahal and had the enchanting Gardens of Shalimar built for her. Inspired by this passionate love story, Jacques Guerlain created the legendary Shalimar in 1925.

As much as I like Guerlain Colognes for men, it’s lofty claim as ‘the oldest in the world’ is not exactly accurate. Actually, the oldest perfumery in the world (on an industrial scale) was discovered on the island of Cyprus in 2004. An Italian archaeological team unearthed an enormous 4000 year old factory with a surface area that covered over 40,000 sq ft! The perfumes were scented with extracts of lavender, bay, rosemary, pine or coriander and kept in tiny translucent alabaster bottles.

Perfume bottles found on the Island of Cyprus dating back 4000 years.

Perfume bottles found on the Island of Cyprus dating back 4000 years.

The news of this discovery was reported extensively throughout the world and many artifacts are currently on display in Rome. For more information on this discovery you can click here.

A short history of Guerlain

Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain opened his first shop on Rue de Rivoli in Paris in 1828 where he created different perfumes for each individual client. In 1840, Mon.Guerlain moved into premises on the fashionable rue de la Paix, and continued to develop custom fragrances for many famous personalities of the time. Assisted by his two sons, Aimé and Gabriel, he became the official supplier of the Queen of Belgium and the Empress Eugenie of France thus securing his name as a ‘luxury’ brand.

Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain

Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain

In 1853, The ‘L’eau de Cologne Imperiale’, dedicated to the Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III, earned him the patent of “Royal Supplier”. The bottle is decorated with the imperial bees ornamented with gold, and is still made today.

L'eau de Cologne Imperiale made made for Empress Eugenie in 1854 is still manufactured today.

L’eau de Cologne Imperiale made made for Empress Eugenie in 1854 is still manufactured today.

Pierre-François Pascal passed his skills on to his son Aimé, who in turn taught his nephew Jacques (the latter being responsible for Guerlain’s signature Shalimar scent). Years later, Jacques handed down the family secrets to his grandson Jean-Paul, who in 1994, sold the company to the multinational LMVH for around $500M.

In the 184 years since its inception, Guerlain has created more than 325 different fragrances and still holds its own in the luxury perfume market although many Guerlain patrons remark the line has now become too commercial and has cheapened their image.

According to Guerlain folklore, 'Jicky' was named after an English student who Aimé Guerlain fell in love with. It was in fact named for his nephew. Apparently a fave scente of Sean Connery's

According to Guerlain folklore, ‘Jicky’ was named after an English student who Aimé Guerlain fell in love with. It was in fact named for Guerlains’ nephew.

Sean Connery C.1964.

Sean Connery C.1964 loved ‘Jicky’ by Guerlain.

Just recently, this past February to be exact, Guerlain did a multi million dollar renovation to their ‘Maison Guerlain’ on 68 Ave. Des Champs Elysees. The historic town house, updated by the architect Peter Marino, has a bright and lively first floor devoted to cosmetics and skincare; a fragrance-focused second floor displaying archival scents dating back to the Napoleonic era, as well as a bottle-monogramming bar; and a third-floor spa that offers a wide range of facials and massages. If you really want to do it up, go for the aptly named Voluptuous Experience ($1,060), a five-hour indulgence that includes a body massage, hand and foot treatments, and a deep-cleansing facial—with a three-course lunch.

The Hall of Mirrors at the Maison Guerlain.

The Hall of Mirrors at the Maison Guerlain.

I’ve actually never stepped inside the townhouse at 68 Ave. Des Champs Elysees. I seldom have the time or inclination to do facials or massages and I know I’m not the type to spend $1,000 for a five hour ultra luxurious pampering treatment ( although suprisingly I know men that will ).

The 'Maison Guerlain' at 68 Ave. Des Champs Elysees.

The ‘Maison Guerlain’ at 68 Ave. Des Champs Elysees.

Now when I pass by this address (which is frequently) and glance at the monumental townhouse (that’s every bit as impressive from the exterior as it must be in the interior) I will have the pleasure of knowing that it’s one of the oldest and most distinguished perfume makers in the world. I may even stop in for a look, although as most things on the Champs Elysees they tend to be touristy.

If any of my readers ever do splurge for the 5 hour luxury treatment please fill me in on the details and if it’s at all worth paying the extravagent price-tag.

Have a look at their beautiful website by clicking here. And be sure to watch the video. So typically French.

Mark LaFleur
The Antique Warehouse
Vancouver, B.C.

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French Furniture Making in the 18th Century.

Some of the most beautiful and refined furniture ever made, displaying the highest level of artistic and technical ability, was created in Paris during the eighteenth century. Much admired by an international clientele, it was used to furnish residences all over Europe and also influenced fashions of cabinetmaking outside France.

Furniture-Making Guild (Corporation des Menuisiers)

French furniture of this period was the collaborative effort of various artists and craftsmen who worked according to strictly enforced guild regulations. Established during the Middle Ages, the guild system continued with little change until being dissolved in 1791 during the French Revolution. The Parisian guild to which the furniture makers belonged was called the Corporation des Menuisiers. It had great influence on the education of furniture makers by requiring at least six years of training that led to a high degree of technical specialization and ensured a high standard of work. First an apprentice spent three years or more in the workshop of a master furniture maker, followed by at least as many years as a journeyman.

Commode, ca. 1745–49 Charles Cressent (French, 1685–1768)

Commode, ca. 1745–49
Charles Cressent (French, 1685–1768)

In order to become a master, a journeyman had to prove his competence by making a chef-d’oeuvre, or masterpiece. Once that was successfully completed, he could open his own workshop only if a vacancy existed (the number of masters allowed to practice at one time was strictly controlled by the guild, as was the size of their workshops) and he had paid the necessary fees. The dues were lower for the sons of master cabinetmakers than for people from outside Paris who had no relatives in the guild. From 1743 onward, it became the rule to stamp every piece of furniture that was offered for sale with the maker’s name. An additional stamp, JME (for jurande des menuisiers-ébénistes), would be added once a committee, made up of elected guild members who inspected the workshops four times a year, had approved the quality. Any furniture that failed to meet the required standards of craftsmanship was confiscated.

Commode by the talented Adam Weisweiller 1785.

Commode by the talented Adam Weisweiller 1785. Weisweiler, who like a number of other ébénistes was born in the Rheinland, was one of the most talented and successful ébénistes in eighteenth-century Paris. Working in a refined Neoclassical manner, his pieces of furniture were sold through marchands-merciers both to the crown and to members of the French nobility as well as to foreign royalty. This commode, together with a matching pair of secretaries also in the Museum’s collection, belonged to King Ferdinand IV of Naples and was used in his writing cabinet at Caserta.

Menuisiers and ébénistes

The Corporation des Menuisiers was divided into two distinct trades, that of the woodworkers who made paneling (boiserie) for buildings and coaches, and that of the actual furniture makers. The latter can be subdivided into menuisiers (joiners), responsible for the making of solid wood furniture such as console tables, beds, and chairs, and the ébénistes, from the word ébéne (ebony), makers of veneered case pieces. Most of the menuisiers were French born, often members of well-known dynasties of chairmakers, and were located in or near the rue de Cléry in Paris. By contrast, a large number of Parisian ébénistes were foreign born, many of whom worked in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine. Although not forbidden, it was rare to combine the professions of a menuisier and an ébéniste.

Some of the most famous French ebenistes of this period were:
Joseph Baumhauer
Pierre-Antoine Bellange
Guillaume Beneman
André-Charles Boulle
Martin Carlin
Adrien Delorme
François-Honoré-Georges Jacob-Desmalter
Pierre Garnier
Antoine Gaudreau
Pierre Golle
Jean-Pierre Latz
Jean-François Leleu
Pierre Macret
André Jacob Roubo
Roger Vandercruse Lacroix
Jean-François Oeben
Jean Oppenord
Jean-Henri Riesener
Bernard II van Risamburgh
Adam Weisweiler

Commode, ca. 1710–20 André-Charles Boulle (French, 1642–1732) This commode is of the same design and construction as the pair that was made by Boulle for the bedchamber of Louis XIV at the Grand Trianon in 1708. Although this model was copied a number of times during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this example appears to be an early version made in Boulle's own workshop. Appointed to the ébéniste du roi (royal cabinetmaker) in 1672, Boulle did not invent but perfected the marquetry technique of brass and tortoiseshell that has been named for him. So-called Boulle work is created by glueing together sheets of tortoiseshell and brass which are then cut according to the desired design. Once cut, the layers can be combined to form either a tortoiseshell ground inlaid with engraved brass or a brass ground inlaid with tortoiseshell, known as first part and counterpart respectively. André-Charles Boulle was one of the first cabinetmakers to make effective use of gilt-bronze mounts. The mounts not only protect vulnerable parts of the carcass but also add a great deal of sculptural beauty to the piece. The three-dimensional acanthus-leaf scroll mount on the upper drawer beautifully echoes the two-dimensional design in the brass and tortoiseshell marquetry. Particularly noteworthy are the female figures at the corners, with their feathery matted wings contrasting with their highly burnished faces.

Commode, ca. 1710–20
André-Charles Boulle (French, 1642–1732) This commode is of the same design and construction as the pair that was made by Boulle for the bedchamber of Louis XIV at the Grand Trianon in 1708. Although this model was copied a number of times during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this example appears to be an early version made in Boulle’s own workshop. Appointed to the ébéniste du roi (royal cabinetmaker) in 1672, Boulle did not invent but perfected the marquetry technique of brass and tortoiseshell that has been named for him. So-called Boulle work is created by glueing together sheets of tortoiseshell and brass which are then cut according to the desired design. Once cut, the layers can be combined to form either a tortoiseshell ground inlaid with engraved brass or a brass ground inlaid with tortoiseshell, known as first part and counterpart respectively.
André-Charles Boulle was one of the first cabinetmakers to make effective use of gilt-bronze mounts. The mounts not only protect vulnerable parts of the carcass but also add a great deal of sculptural beauty to the piece. The three-dimensional acanthus-leaf scroll mount on the upper drawer beautifully echoes the two-dimensional design in the brass and tortoiseshell marquetry. Particularly noteworthy are the female figures at the corners, with their feathery matted wings contrasting with their highly burnished faces.

In addition, there were two other groups of furniture makers active in Paris, working outside the framework of the guild. The so-called royal cabinetmakers, who were given special privileges and workshops either at the Louvre palace, at the Manufacture Royale des Meubles de la Couronne at the Gobelins, or in other buildings owned by the crown. Royal cabinetmakers were free from guild regulations. The second group consisted of the so-called artisans libres, or independent craftsmen, many of them foreigners who sought refuge in certain “free” districts of Paris outside the guild’s jurisdiction.

Secretary (secrétaire à abattant), 1783 Jean-Henri Riesener (French, 1734–1806) Oak veneered with ebony and black and gold Japanese lacquer, tulipwood, holly and black stained holly, amaranth, gilt-bronze mounts, white marble.  Ordered from Riesener together with a matching commode and encoignure (corner cabinet) for use in Queen Marie Antoinette's cabinet intérieur at Versailles in 1783, the secretary and the commode were sent several years later to the Château of Saint Cloud. With their Japanese black and gold lacquer panels and exquisite gilt-bronze mounts, the secretary and the commode, now also in the Museum's collection, are among the best known pieces of royal furniture outside France.

Secretary (secrétaire à abattant), 1783
Jean-Henri Riesener (French, 1734–1806)
Oak veneered with ebony and black and gold Japanese lacquer, tulipwood, holly and black stained holly, amaranth, gilt-bronze mounts, white marble.
Ordered from Riesener together with a matching commode and encoignure (corner cabinet) for use in Queen Marie Antoinette’s cabinet intérieur at Versailles in 1783, the secretary and the commode were sent several years later to the Château of Saint Cloud. With their Japanese black and gold lacquer panels and exquisite gilt-bronze mounts, the secretary and the commode, now also in the Museum’s collection, are among the best known pieces of royal furniture outside France.

So what are the prices of these magnificent stamped pieces from some of these wonderful cabinet makers? (IF you can find them). A pair of Louis XVI ebony-veneered cabinets with brass and pewter marquetry stamped by Étienne Levasseur (1721-1798), one of the first Parisian furniture makers to use mahogany with inlays of brass sold at auction for $1.6M. Obviously, making 18th Century stamped and rare pieces by French ebenistes among the most expensive furniture in the world. Even good 19th Century copies can sell for several hundreds of thousands of dollars.

We will examine this prestigious group of fine royal cabinetmakers in upcoming blogs. But for now, I hope you’ve enjoyed a brief glimpse into the magnificent work of these fine cabinetmakers of the 18th Century France. Their work is unparalleled and second to none and has been the inspiration to furniture makers throughout the ages to the present day.

Thanks for reading!

Mark LaFleur
The Antique Warehouse
226 SW Marine Drive,
Vancouver, B.C.

Please visit our website

Who Was Louis Vuitton?


We’ve all seen the iconic LV initials stamped on everything from handbags to teddy bears. But did you know the fascinating history about this luxury brand company and it’s humble beginnings. Please allow me to introduce you to the incredible man whose initials grace the multi billion dollar industry of today.

Louis Vuitton (1821 - 1892 ) was born in Anchay, France.

Louis Vuitton (1821 – 1892 ) was born in Anchay, France.

Designer and entrepreneur Louis Vuitton was born on August 4, 1821, in Anchay, a small hamlet in eastern France’s mountainous, heavily wooded Jura region. Descended from a long-established working-class family, Vuitton’s ancestors were joiners, carpenters, farmers and milliners. His father, Xavier Vuitton, was a farmer, and his mother, Coronne Gaillard, was a milliner.

Vuitton’s mother passed away when he was only 10 years old, and his father soon remarried. As legend has it, Vuitton’s new stepmother was as severe and wicked as any fairy-tale Cinderella villain. A stubborn and headstrong child, antagonized by his stepmother and bored by the provincial life in Anchay, Vuitton resolved to run away for the bustling capital of Paris.

On the first day of tolerable weather in the spring of 1835, at the age of 13, Vuitton left home alone and on foot, bound for Paris. He traveled for more than two years, taking odd jobs to feed himself along the way and staying wherever he could find shelter, as he walked the 292-mile trek from his native Anchay to Paris. He arrived in 1837, at the age of 16, to a capital city in the thick of an industrial revolution that had produced a litany of contradictions: awe-inspiring grandeur and abject poverty, rapid growth and devastating epidemics.


The teenage Vuitton was taken in as an apprentice in the workshop of a successful box-maker and packer named Monsieur Marechal. In 19th century Europe, box-making and packing was a highly respectable and urbane craft. A box-maker and packer custom-made all boxes to fit the goods they stored and personally loaded and unloaded the boxes. It took Vuitton only a few years to stake out a reputation amongst Paris’s fashionable class as one of the city’s premier practitioners of his new craft.

On December 2, 1851, 16 years after Vuitton arrived in Paris, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte staged a coup d’etat. Exactly one year later, he assumed the title of Emperor of the French under the regal name Napoleon III. The re-establishment of the French Empire under Napoleon III proved incredibly fortunate for the young Vuitton. Napoleon III’s wife, the Empress of France, was Eugenie de Montijo, a Spanish countess. Upon marrying the Emperor, she hired Vuitton as her personal box-maker and packer and charged him with “packing the most beautiful clothes in an exquisite way.” She provided a gateway for Vuitton to a class of elite and royal clientele who would seek his services for the duration of his life.

Napoleon III and Eugenie de Montijo

Napoleon III and Eugenie

For Vuitton, 1854 was a year full of change and transformation. It was in that year that Vuitton met a 17-year-old beauty named Clemence-Emilie Parriaux. His great-grandson, Henry-Louis Vuitton, later recounted, “In the blink of an eye he exchanged the cloth frock and hobnailed shoes of a worker for the courting outfit of the day. The transformation was spectacular, but it required all the know-how of the store’s department manager, since Louis’ shoulders were much larger than those of Parisian bureaucrats.”

Vuitton and Parriaux married that spring, on April 22, 1854. A few months after his marriage, Vuitton left Monsieur Marechal’s shop and opened his own box-making and packing workshop in Paris. The sign outside the shop read: “Securely packs the most fragile objects. Specializing in packing fashions.”


In 1858, four years after opening his own shop, Vuitton debuted an entirely new trunk. Instead of leather, it was made of a gray canvas that was lighter, more durable and more impervious to water and odors. However, the key selling point was that unlike all previous trunks, which were dome-shaped, Vuitton’s trunks were rectangular—making them stackable and far more convenient for shipping via new means of transport like the railroad and steamship. Most commentators consider Vuitton’s trunk the birth of modern luggage.

Louis Vuitton Trunk ebay_1a

The trunks proved an immediate commercial success, and advances in transportation and the expansion of travel placed an increasing demand for Vuitton’s trunks. In 1859, to fulfill the requests placed for his luggage, he expanded into a larger workshop in Asnieres, a village outside Paris. Business was booming, and Vuitton received personal orders not only from French royalty but also from Isma’il Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt.

In 1870, however, Vuitton’s business was interrupted by the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War and the subsequent siege of Paris, which gave way to a bloody civil war that destroyed the French Empire. When the siege finally ended on January 28, 1871, Vuitton returned to Asnieres to find the village in ruins, his staff dispersed, his equipment stolen and his shop destroyed.

Asnieres sur Seine in 1871.

Asnieres sur Seine in 1871.

Showing the same stubborn, can-do spirit, he displayed by walking almost 300 miles alone at the age of 13, Vuitton immediately devoted himself to the restoration of his business. Within months he had built a new shop at a new address, 1 Rue Scribe. Along with the new address also came a new focus on luxury. Located in the heart of the new Paris, Rue Scribe was home to the prestigious Jockey Club and had a decidedly more aristocratic feel than Vuitton’s previous location in Asnieres. In 1872, Vuitton introduced a new trunk design featuring beige canvas and red stripes. The simple, yet luxurious, new design appealed to Paris’s new elite and marked the beginning of the Louis Vuitton label’s modern incarnation as a luxury brand.


For the next 20 years, Vuitton continued to operate out of 1 Rue Scribe, innovating high-quality, luxury luggage, until he died on February 27, 1892, at the age of 70. But the Louis Vuitton line would not die with its eponymous founder. Under his son Georges, who created the company’s famous LV monogram and future generations of Vuittons, the Louis Vuitton brand would grow into the world-renowned luxury leather and lifestyle brand it remains today.

The Louis Vuitton building, the largest travel-goods store in world, was opened on the Champs-Élysées in 1914 and counted Coco Chanel as a patron. Bag shapes that remain popular fashion staples today were introduced throughout the 1900s. The Steamer bag, a smaller piece designed to be kept inside the luggage trunks, was introduced in 1901.

Vintage Steamer Bags

Vintage Steamer Bags

The Keepall bag was debuted in 1930 followed by the Noé bag, which was originally designed to carry Champagne, in 1932, and, in 1966, the cylindrical Pappillon bag.

The 'Papillon' bag was originally designed to carry champagne. How typically French.

The ‘Papillon’ bag.

The 'Noe' bag was created in 1932 for a champagne company in order to carry five bottles of champagne. Four upright and one typically French.

The ‘Noe’ bag was created in 1932 for a champagne company in order to carry five bottles of champagne. Four upright and one inverted….how typically French.

Thanks to advances in technology and a new coating process, a supple version of the monogram canvas was created in 1959. This allowed it to be used for purses, bags and wallets.

In 2012 the house of Louis Vuitton won a landmark ruling in the US protecting it from large-scale international counterfeiting. The ruling helped stop the import of goods into the US that illegally bear the brand’s trademarks, and penalises companies that facilitate the trade of those goods.

In the same year Louis Vuitton was named the world’s most valuable luxury brand for the seventh year in a row in a study conducted by Millward Brown Optimor. Valued at $25.9 billion (£16.5 billion) it beat Hermes, valued at $19.1 billion (£12.1 billion) in second place and Rolex, at $7.17 billion (£4.57 billion) in third place.

Even I’m guilty of owning a couple of pieces of LV. My black Louis Vuitton Black ‘Taiga Leather Viktor Messenger Bag’ travels with me to France on every trip. It assures me good service in any French restaurant.:)

I love the discretion of my bag with only the LV stamped on one corner. It's the leather people recognize immediately.

I love the discretion of this bag with only the LV stamped on one corner of the bag. I was surprised when a female friend told me she loved my bag. I asked her how she knew it was LV. to which she cooly responded…it’s the leather. I’d recognize it anywhere. Trust the French.

If you have $42,000 to burn, you may or may not want to consider buying the ‘LV Tribute Patchwork Bag’
Twenty are available in Louis Vuitton stores in Europe and Asia but the 4 in the USA have already been sold.

American born singer, Beyonce is one of the  proud owners of the 'patchwork bag'

American born singer, Beyonce is one of the proud owners of the ‘patchwork bag’

I don’t know what Mr. Vuitton would say about the amazing global expansion of his name created back in 1812. I don’t know what he’d think about the ‘patchwork bag’ either. But no matter what anyone, (including Mr. Vuitton) thinks that iconic LV logo created back in the 1800’s will no doubt remain a symbol of luxurious living for decades to come. Something I’m sure Mr Vuitton would be proud of.

Thanks for reading!

Please see our Louis Vuitton suitcase that just arrived to our store at 226 SW Marine Drive in Vancouver, BC. Canada

You can also visit our website at:

The Newly Opened ‘Peninsula Hotel’ in Paris.

I first remember hearing about ‘The Peninsula’ hotel from some of my well-healed friends who travelled to Hong Kong decades ago. Stories of unparalleled luxury made it sound as exotic and glamorous as Hong Kong itself.

Since then this 5 star chain has opened in several cities around the world including Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, New York, Chicago, Beverly Hills, Paris, Bangkok, and Manila.

Just this August, ‘The Peninsula’ chain opened it’s first hotel in Europe, and chose ‘Paris’ as the city for it’s debut. Little wonder that one of the most beautiful hotel chains would choose one of the most beautiful cities in Europe as it’s launch pad.

Since it’s opening on the 1st of August the hotel is already drawing reviews and criticisms.

Located at 19 Avenue Kleber, The Peninsula’s building and was built originally for a Russian nobleman in 1864. The Russian nobleman sold the palace in 1868 to Queen Isabella II of Spain, who established the palace as her home in exile during the First Spanish Republic. She continued to live there for the next 36 years and the palace was known as the Palais de Castille.

Queen Isabella of Spain.

Queen Isabella of Spain.

After the queen’s death, the property was acquired by hotel magnate Leonard Tauber.

Tauber constructed the luxurious ‘Hotel Majestic’ on the site. Designed by Armand Sibien, construction began in 1906 and the hotel opened in December 1908. The hotel was commandeered for use as a military hospital at the outbreak of World War I in 1914, and served in this capacity for five months. It was damaged during its hospital service, and was not renovated and reopened until 1916. The 1st unofficial Chess Olympiad was held at the hotel in 1924. George Gershwin wrote An American in Paris while staying at the hotel in 1928.

Hotel Majestic C.1900.

Hotel Majestic C.1900.

The hotel was purchased by the French government in 1936 to serve as offices for the Ministry of Defence.It served as the headquarters of the German military high command in France (Militärbefehlshaber Frankreich) from October 1940 to July 1944 during the occupation of Paris in World War II.

It served as the first headquarters of UNESCO, from September 16, 1946 until 1958, when it was converted into a conference center for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, known as the International Conference Center.

The French government sold the building in 2008 as part of a cost-cutting measure to the Qatari Diar firm for $460 Million. It reopened on August 1, 2014, following extensive rebuilding by Vinci Construction costing E338 million, as ‘The Peninsula Paris’. The architectural designs are by Richard Martinet of Affine architecture & interior design, while the interiors are by Henry Leung of Hong Kong-based Chhada Siembieda & Associates Ltd.

The Peninsular Paris at night.

The Peninsula Paris at night.

You can stay at the Peninsula but it will cost you. $1400/night for a regular room (that’s not a large room either), but hey, small expensive rooms are nothing new in Paris.

The rather small, unimpressive room at  $1400 Cdn. rate at the Peninsula Paris.

A regular room at $1400 Cdn. at the Peninsula Paris.

The price of rooms goes all the way up to $33,500 per night which gives you the Peninsula Suite that includes 24-hour butler service, on-hand massage, access to an underground spa, and a 1934 Rolls-Royce Phantom at your beckon call. Sounds expensive right? Well yes, but it’s not the most expensive around.

The deluxe suite at the 'Peninsula Paris'

The deluxe suite at the ‘Peninsula Paris’

The ‘Royal Penthouse Suite’ at ‘Hotel President Wilson’, in Geneva tops that off at a cool $67,000/night. The 19,376-square-foot suite features four bedrooms, 12 marble bathrooms, a billiard room, a “royal boardroom,” and an outdoor patio that offers panoramic views of Lake Geneva and the Swiss Alps. A private security team, private elevators, bulletproof windows, and waiting limos are just some of the “extras” that provide protection and privacy for A-list guests.

The 'Royal Penthouse Suite' at the President Wilson Hotel in Geneva

The ‘Royal Penthouse Suite’ at the President Wilson Hotel in Geneva

Anyway with all these ‘stratospheric’ hotel rates, you’d think you’d have appreciative people giving rave reviews. Well not exactly. Since it’s opening people have already started complaining about the Peninsula Paris. Everything from shoddy service to not so great dining have already surfaced on travel website’s such as Trip Advisor and Hotel Chatter. Some people are just so spoiled.

Shoddy service is usually a result of obnoxious people, particularly of the English speaking kind, exhibiting bad behaviour in the form of self entitlement. This type of attitude will insure you bad service no matter where you are in Paris. (or the world for that matter)

Anyway, I have my apartment in Paris so staying at the Peninsula (or any hotel for that matter) is not required. Maybe I’ll stop by for a drink with my friends or even splurge for lunch/dinner. If I do, I’ll be sure you give you my first hand review of ‘The Peninsula Paris if I have the time or inclination to actually go.

Until then…

Over and out.

Have a great September.

Mark LaFleur
The Antique Warehouse
226 SW Marine Drive,

Jules Leleu Sconce

Jules Leleu Sconces

Being a lover of most things “Leleu” I just had to post this comment by Alessandra Branca, an international interior designer based in Chicago. We’ve had “Leleu” and “Leleu inspired” furniture pieces through the store in the past and intend on bringing them to Vancouver, along with our other gorgeous things, whenever we can. As you may or may not know, we are friends with the former Directrice Madame Siriex featured on one of my past blogs. Read about her by clicking here.

That’s all for now!

Mark LaFleur
The Antique Warehouse
Vancouver, B.C.


The Color ‘Blue’

I’ve always loved the color blue. It can be formal or very relaxed depending on the shade. But the color applies to one of my all time favorite foods. The ‘blueberry’. Chocked full of flavor and those ever so important ‘antioxidants’ it’s worth having blueberries almost every day of the year.

You may think it odd that I’m writing about blueberries. But I discovered something quite wonderful this week that I felt I just had to share with all of you.

This year, like most years, we travel up to the Shuswap and stay my great friend Brian who has a wonderful place on the lake near Blind Bay. He was buzzing about this super place he loves called ‘Onninks Farm’. When he mentioned all they farmed was blueberries my interest suddenly peaked.

Brian suggested we stop in on our way back from the Shuswap. And that’s exactly what we did!

When we arrived at the farm the first thing I loved was the blue fence surrounding the property! The drive up to the sorting house was like discovering something special that we’d only see in Europe. We were greeted by the proprietor below (who’s from Rotterdam) who proceeded to tell us how her blueberries were washed, sorted, ( by an amazing computerized sorting and cleaning maching you can see right there ) and then packaged in boxes that were freezer ready.


The charming owner of Onninks Farm

The charming owner ‘Arina’ of Onninks Farm. (Everything was spotlessly clean and new) She also told us she loved our store and had purchased many things in the past.

The boxes are only $26/box for all these organic pre-washed blueberries!

The 'Birgitte' Berry at Onnink's Blueberry Farm

The ‘Birgit’ Berry is one of her best and in season now. Large, plump and very sweet!

They also sell these fabulous blueberry bonbons. ( I bought a small box and they are delicious!)


Blueberry Chocolates

These delightful little creations are boxed in the cutest little boxes that are so pretty they could be given as gifts.

Sadly I discovered their ‘blueberry tea’ after I left. I will definitely be ordering bottles of this!
No added sugars, no preservative and chocked full of antioxidants!)


Blueberry Iced Tea

Blueberry Iced Tea!

So if you’re a blueberry lover as I am, it’s worth the trip to Abbotsford just to take advantage of these wonderful berries. Click on this link to see the Onnink’s Blueberry website for more information.

Enjoy the rest of our fabulous summer in beautiful British Columbia no matter where you are!

P.S. our antiques 25th Anniversary Sale is ending soon….if you haven’t stopped by do it soon before it’s too late!


Who was Maggy Rouff?

This last time I was in Paris, I discovered a small folder, worn and weathered, in an antique dealers shop. It had “hiver 1951″ (Winter 1951) hand scrawled on it’s yellowed cover, so I quickly opened it up and had a brief look. Being a trained fashion illustrator I could tell it was something special. I purchased it without hesitation.

What I found inside, after bringing the folder home, was an exciting discovery of original fashion designs and photographs from top Paris fashion houses of the mid 20th Century. Designers like Jacques Fath, Pierre Balmain, Christian Dior, and Maggy Rouff.

I’d heard of all the others, but knew little of Maggy Rouff. What I loved however, were her fashion sketches which were marvelous, simple and very well executed. As any artist will tell you the mark of a well trained artist is simplicity. One stroke of a pen, if done well, can convey volumes.

Such was the case of the design illustrations or ‘croquis’ of Maggy Rouff. (Note the lack of details needed to convey legs, shoes, face etc.)

A fashion sketch in pen and ink by 'Christian' a designer working in the house of Maggy Rouff, C.1950.

A fashion sketch (just one of many I bought) done in pen and ink by ‘Christian’ a designer working in the house of Maggy Rouff, C.1950.

So who was she? Well after some research I discovered she was considered one of the most famous and celebrated designers of her time.

Maggy Rouff C.1940

Maggy Rouff C.1940

Maggy Rouff (1896–1971) was a French fashion designer of Belgian origin. Born Marguerite Besançon de Wagner in 1896, her parents were a Belgian couple (though Madame Besançon de Wagner was German-born)who lived and worked in Paris as managers and in Madame de Wagner’s case, as fashion designer for the Paris branch of Drecoll, a Viennesse fashion house launched in 1902 by Christoff von Drecoll, who opened the Paris branch in 1905. Maggy’s parents managed the fashion house and eventually Maggy Rouff (their daughter) took it over.

Rouff was known for her understated sportswear designs at the beginning of her career, and later, for the feminine detailing in her garments such as ruffles, shirring, and the bias cut.

In the 1930s, Rouff headed PAIS (Association pour la Protection des Arts Plastiques et Appliques, also known as the Association pour la Protection des Industries Artistiques Saisonnieres), one of the most important anti-piracy and counterfeiting trade networks in Paris couture that had been founded by Madeleine Vionnet in 1922.

Harmony and simplicity were cornerstones of Maggy Rouff’s belief in elegance as a way of life, and the way of fashion.

A truly elegant woman was in harmony with her environment and herself, and to Rouff this meant being properly dressed for every occasion. Never fussy or formal, but appropriate for the occasion

Even in her early work at Drécoll in Paris, Rouff addressed a basic longing in the relationship between many women and their clothes. Patrons of her salon were secure in the knowledge that they would emerge with the right clothes, clothes that were fashionable, flattering, and appropriate. This did not mean she was conservative; rather, she believed novelty, and even surprise, were good for fashion. Novelty when allied with taste yielded chic, but novelty without taste was only eccentric.

Maggy Rouff fashion design
As a result, a Rouff design considered “too much” was rare. She took care to establish a focal point in every costume. An evening gown in which the skirt was trimmed with a crossover hip wrap and little side puffs had simply-cut sleeves and bodice. Afternoon dresses with plain skirts might have an asymmetrical cowl neckline with a jeweled clip at one side, or a platter collar and shaped belt in a contrasting color. She enriched some surfaces with shirring, quilting, or trapunto, as in her 1936 “plus four” playsuit and 1938 button-quilted evening dress, but very lush fabrics and furs were handled in accordance with her less-is-more philosophy.

Common themes ran through Rouff’s designs, always enhancing the underlying sense of femininity. She had a fondness for draped details, whether the sarong-like side drape of a skirt panel or soft cowl folds at the neckline. Rouff often highlighted the upper body, drawing attention toward the face with a few favorite devices such as wrapped and tied surplice fronts, unusual necklines, and dramatic sleeves. Accents were important: belts and sashes were wide, buttons were bold, silk flowers were substantial, yet somehow they were always in proportion. Contrasts of color, texture, or luster were also used as accents, and with the same sense of balance. When her gowns were worn by early cinema as Theda Barra, Pola Negri, and Greta Garbo, her reputation was established.

Greta Garbo wearing Maggy Rouff

Greta Garbo C.1930

In 1942 while Paris was occupied by German troops, Rouff wrote La Philosophie de L’Elégance. Her justification for what might have been considered in such circumstances a frivolous topic, was her belief that even in darkest times there must be faith in the future. An intelligent woman who had already lived through one world war, she could not help but understand that a different world than the one she had known would emerge from the second. Her book was, in a sense, an affirmation of the value and substance which the arts of elegance had given to her life and her success. Within the framework of her expertise—fashion—Rouff gave her readers a thread to tie the future to the past.

Maggy Rouff fashion design dress
Rouff’s daughter, Anne-Marie Besançon de Wagner, took over the designing upon her mother’s retirement in 1948. The house maintained the attitudes toward dress it had always expressed, and the clothes were still elegant and feminine. For the first few years she was inclined to overdo, and some designs seem to have been fussy or hard-edged. As the 1950s progressed, however, she found her own sense of focus and greater sureness of line. Particularly beautiful were her full-skirted organdy evening and cocktail dresses from 1952 and a group of short, bouffant gowns with floor-length trains from 1959. Engaging day ensembles included, from 1953, a sleek tweed sheath with standaway cornucopia-shaped pockets at the bust and from 1952, a fur-trimmed swing coat worn over a pleated wool dress belted at the waist.

Grace Kelly as Princess of Monaco wearing Maggy Rouff

Grace Kelly as Princess of Monaco wearing Maggy Rouff.

The house of Maggy Rouff did not survive the make-or-break period of the 1960s. Three designers worked for the house in the 1960s, during which time the business was transformed into a ready-to-wear house. The collections seem to have been aimed at a younger customer, but the original precepts of the house may have made it difficult to become established with a clientéle more interested in the pursuit of youth than the pursuit of elegance. The company was closed before Rouff’s death in 1971.

Copies of Maggy Rouff’s illustrations from the 1950’s will be framed and made available at The Antique Warehouse. Please contact our store for more information should you be interested. We’re located in beautiful Vancouver British Columbia and we ship worldwide.

Until next time!


Should I Reupholster or Buy a New Sofa?

That all depends if you purchased a quality sofa to begin with!

According to Suzanne Dimma, editor in chief of House and Home Magazine, investing in the best sofa you can is her advice. If you invest early in the best, a sofa can be recovered for years and years to come.


Suzanne Dimma of House and Home Magazine

Suzanne Dimma of House and Home Magazine

“Invest in the best and start early. I still have the same sofa I bought for my first house. I chose one that was well built and the design I knew would be timeless. I’ve even had it re-upholstered time and time again, and still love it” says the doyenne of style.

If your sofa wasn’t all that great to begin with, consider buying a vintage or antique piece. The quality (particularly the European made) is usually superior to anything made today. From the construction, to the detailing, vintage pieces excel in almost every area. And lets face it, when you recover, you get exactly what you want. So start with good bones, and consider a vintage or antique piece.

How much fabric will you need? Here’s a guide below that can help you predetermine that.

A sofa from 76″ – 84″ Wide will need approximately 16 – 20 yards of fabric.

Classic Louis XVI French made sofa

This Classic Louis XVI French made sofa is timeless in design and when recovered will last for years and years to come. C.1930, the detailing is gorgeous (something you won’t find on a new piece) and will cost less than a new sofa. This piece will probably need around 12 – 15 yards of fabric.


Elegant and modern fabric on a classic Louis XVI Settee

Imagine this lovely fabric on this classic Louis XVI Settee. Elegant and modern.

For chairs, here’s some quick figures to help you out.

A wing back French Louis XVI style chair

A wing back like this French Louis XVI style chair will require about 6 – 7 yards.


French 20th Century Louis XVI Style Armchair

This chair, while almost 60 years old is a style that’s copied and manufactured today. You can buy this chair for less than $500! It will take probably 5 – 6 yards.


French Empire Chairs C.1800.

One of the French Empire Chairs C.1800 will require 4 yards. Times that by 2 for the pair. They’ve last over 150 years now. They’ll be good to go for another 150.

(Everything above is available at the Antique Warehouse). If you don’t see what you’re looking for, remember not everything in our 12,000 sq.ft. store is online. You can also sign up for our weekly acquisitions. You’ll never know what’s coming down the pike. This is Mark LaFleur signing off from beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia.

Have fun!

An Antique Bookcase in a Bathroom?

Did you ever consider putting a large antique bureau bookcase in your bathroom? Well designer Paolo Moschino did. He put a 19th-century English secretary in this bathroom and not only did it make a surprising focal point, the bureau bookcase offered up plenty of storage too. We think it’s a pretty great idea.

Antique Bureau Bookcase in a Bathroom
If you think this idea could work for you, we may have just the thing. Check out our selection of beautiful antique bookcases. These three are just a couple of examples that could be fabulous in any bathroom.

Antique mahogany 19th Century Louis Philippe Bookcase
You could go for this smaller mahogany 19th Century Louis Philippe piece. See more of this piece by clicking here

Antique mid 19th Century French bookcase
This is a lovely large mid 19th Century French bookcase with no desk and lots of cupboard space. Click for more information on this piece by clicking here.

French Antique Display Cabinet in Walnut
This display cabinet in rich walnut is just the perfect size to look marvelous in any bathroom decor. Imagine this full of fluffy white folded towels. Click here for more information on this piece.

Go forth and decorate!

Until next time, this is Mark LaFleur from beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia.

Baccarat Crystal Celebrates its 250th Anniversary!

Imagine 250 years ago in 1764 Baccarat crystal was born. That was even before Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were on the scene in Paris. And I thought our 25th Anniversary was an event!

Boutique Cristal Room & Musee Baccarat
To celebrate its 250th anniversary this year, Baccarat, renowned purveyor of crystal to royalty, celebrities, and yes, even just plain folk, has mounted a sumptuous exhibition at its headquarters, Maison Baccarat, at 11, place des États-Unis in the Paris 16th. Baccarat, Les 250 ans, which runs through January 24, 2015, presents a retrospective of nearly 250 of the company’s most famous, award-winning, and iconic creations.

Baccarat 250 Year Anniversary

The Baccarat brand had auspicious beginnings. At the end of the Hundred Years War, French King Louis XV granted the Bishop of Metz a Royal Warrant to establish a glass-making factory in the village of Baccarat in Lorraine on the banks of the Meurthe River.


The village of Baccarat on the Meurthe river

The village of Baccarat on the Meurthe river


King Louis XV, aka the Sun King

King Louis XV was admired and loved by France. King Louis XV was also known as the Sun King.

The factory was to serve as an economic stimulus and to provide employment. The kilns fired up in 1764, and in 1816 the factory began producing crystal.

The company’s prestige and international reputation began with an order for a set of glasses placed by King Louis XVIII following his visit to the factory in 1823. It was Louis XVIII who launched the fashion of the complete glass service in the Russian style, with each glass a distinct size – one each for water, white wine, red wine, and champagne.


King Louis XVIII

King Louis XVIII

The glasses were so admired by fellow crowned heads who dined at his table that they, too, began to order from Baccarat.

The company’s reputation steadily grew, in part thanks to its expert craftsmen, and after Baccarat won all the gold medals for its entries to the Universal Exhibitions at the turn of the 20th century, orders began to flow in from around the world. Today, Baccarat employs twenty-five craftsmen who have won the prestigious Meilleur Ouvrier de France – Best Craftsmen in France – more than any other company in the country.

Baccarat. Les 250 ans presents decorative art at its highest quality. And its most dramatic.

The first section, Foli des Grandeurs, showcases monumental pieces such as the Tsar Nicholas II candelabra, and the Ferrières chair, stool, and pedestal table commissioned by 19th century Maharajas and delivered by elephant to them.


Ferrieres side chair, gueridon and stool in solid crystal by Baccarat

Ferrieres side chair, gueridon and stool in solid crystal by Baccarat

The section called Alchemie represents Water, Earth, Air, and Fire, the four elements essential to the creation of crystal. Au-dela de la Transparence (Beyond Transparency) explores the themes of lightness, refinement, and femininity. The Prestigious Commissions section displays some of the most important commissions from heads of state, such as Emperor Hirohito; royal and imperial courts, such as the Prince of Wales; and celebrities, such as Josephine Baker.

So in demand were Baccarat pieces by certain sovereigns that, for example, Tsar Nicholas II commissioned caravans of crystal pieces carried by mules bound for Russia. Through the 19th century, the Baccarat factory operated a special furnace at full capacity dedicated to the production of crystal for the Russian court.

Baccarat’s best-known pattern is Harcourt, created in 1841 when French King Louis-Philippe commissioned a ceremonial chalice engraved with the royal monogram. With its hexagonal foot and flat facet-cut bowl, its design is now nearly ubiquitous, especially in French cafes and brasseries, but it originated with Baccarat.


The 'Harcourt' pattern by Baccarat

The ‘Harcourt’ pattern by Baccarat. Still very collectible today.

In addition to being the headquarters of Baccarat and housing a museum, Maison Baccarat also houses a boutique; an elegant restaurant named the Cristal Room; and a ballroom that comes from a Neapolitan palace decorated with paintings by Francesco Solimera, a disciple of Tiepolo. During the first half of the 20th century the mansion was home to wealthy art patrons Viscountess Marie-Laure de Noailles and her husband, Charles de Noailles, and was the venue for salons that included diplomats, royalty, actors, and artists.

When Baccarat relocated its headquarters to the mansion in 2002, it hired designer Philippe Starck to redecorate the place. His style is pervasive throughout, beginning with the dramatically lighted foyer dominated by mirrors framed in Baccarat’s signature ruby-red crystal, a color produced by heating 24-karat gold powder.

The boutique sells the full range of Baccarat pieces, many of which are displayed on a very long table set for a grand dinner. Also for sale are all sorts of crystal arts de vivre – lamps, panthers, chess sets, decanters, chandeliers, jewelry, and much more. Of particular note is a large, fan-shaped vase with four exquisitely executed galloping horses etched in gold, the dust swirling under their feet.

You might conclude your visit to Maison Baccarat with a meal at the elegant Cristal Room.


Cristal Room at Maison Baccarat

Cristal Room at Maison Baccarat

Overseen by Michelin three-star chef Guy Martin, you will dine off Baccarat crystal and experience a little of the cachet for yourself. And before you leave, be sure to poke your head into the second floor bathroom for a look at one of the most atmospheric rooms – bathroom or otherwise – you’ll ever see.

Here at the Antique Warehouse we do get vintage and antique Baccarat from time to time. In fact we have three very beautiful French crystal vases in the store now with the quality of Baccarat but sadly no markings.

Do visit us in person or sign up for our weekly email comprising photos of all our newest and most interesting arrivals for the week.

Thanks for Reading!

This is Mark LaFleur signing off from beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia!

Wall Color and Antiques

Just recently House and Home magazine published an issue ( Spring 2014 ) called ‘Ask a Designer’. There are some interesting and informative articles in this issue and if you’re in the midst or wanting to embark on some home renovation or design work you may want to pick up a copy. It’s still on the stands until July 31.

The article I particularly like is the one where a writer has written in asking how to ‘liven’ up her dining room that’s filled with antiques. She states ” My dining room is full of antiques, which I love, but it looks a bit bland. How can I make it more inviting? ”

The editor has responded with the article I scanned below.

Article from House and Home Spring 2013 "Ask a Designer Special Edition"

Article from House and Home Spring 2013 “Ask a Designer Special Edition”

I apologize if the article and photo is a bit fuzzy but scanning from a magazine is never a great option. I did try to go to their website and pull the photo off directly but it wasn’t listed. In any event, I think you get the idea.

The table is a French Mahogany table and it’s paired with a French crystal chandelier and chairs which are either English or French. (re-upholstered of course)

I must admit I do like the Aqua wall wallpaper. It gives a soft contemporary look. If you’ll notice, the client has an Italian Venetian mirror over a Louis XVI style settee. We received only one settee on this last shipment.

It’s interesting how the designer ( Los Angeles based Mark Sikes ) used a roman shade you can pick up for a couple of dollars anywhere. Two designer friends of mine 25 years ago would always use these in any ‘formal’ setting to give a light and airy ambience.

Pick up a copy of this issue as there’s much more interesting articles in here I will be blogging on next.

Don’t forget, it’s our 25th Anniversary Sale here at the Antique Warehouse. Lots of great and beautiful pieces marked down for this promotion. (psst..cousin Cynthia, I do ship to Winnipeg!)

Until next time from beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia!


Who is Oswaldo Borsani?

Osvaldo Borsani
Born in Varedo, Switzerland in 1911, Osvaldo Borsani was an Italian architect and designer who was active in Milan. His father, Gaetano Borsani, was a noted furniture craftsman who won the silver medal at the Monza Triennale in 1927 and his twin brother, Fulgencio, would be his collaborator and business partner.

In 1937, Borsani entered the Politecnico di Milano to study architecture. After completing his degree, he joined the family business, Atelier Varedo (later Arredamento Borsani) as a furniture designer. Throughout the 1940s and early 50s, Borsani produced a large body of work including a variety of furniture, cabinets and seating. Especially noteworthy was a 1946 wall-mounted shelving system. Among his clients were Crippa, Fabbri, Fontana and Sussu.

In 1953, Borsani and Fulgencio founded a firm called Tecno which, as its name suggests, became known for its technology and research-based approach to furniture design. In 1955, Tenco issued one of its best known pieces, the P40 chaise lounge.

The famous P40 by Borsani designed in 1955 is still manufactured and copied today

The famous P40 by Borsani designed in 1955 is still manufactured and copied today.

Described as a “machine for sitting,” it featured rubber arms and could assume 486 distinct postures; the D70, a sofa version, was also manufactured.

Borsani himself acted as the company’s sole designer for over 30 years; it was not until the mid 1980s that Gae Aulenti, Norman Foster and others began to contribute designs. Today, Tecno is known for its innovative furniture for offices and public buildings.

Borsani had a long history of participation in the Triennale di Milano dating back to 1933, when he collaborated with architects Cairoli and
G. B. Varisco on a project called the “Casa Minima.” He would continue to exhibit his work there for decades to come. Osvaldo

Borsani’s designs were showcased by museums and galleries throughout Europe and, in 1962, he received the prestigious Premio Compasso d’Oro.

Oswaldo Borsani and The Antique Warehouse

Some years back I purchased a fabulous retro bar I fell in love with. We were near the Italian border at a fair when I spotted this incredible bar with an etagere that was angular and super cool. I paid a premium for the piece ( at least I thought it was expensive at the time ) not knowing anything about it other than I loved it. Just a couple of weeks ago, Gareth our manager found it on the internet and told us who the designer was. Oswaldo Borsani!

As it turns out the bar commands hefty prices in North America and that’s just the for the bottom unit.

Oswaldo Borsani Bar alone is up for sale in New York for $12,000

Oswaldo Borsani Bar alone is up for sale in New York for $12,000.

I had the bar and it’s matching ‘etagere’ or shelving unit in the store for the longest time. We even reduced it to $4000 on one of our sales, when somebody agreed to purchase it then backed out at the last minute due to the wiring issue with the shelves. ( The wiring needed to be replaced because the shelving unit lit up and the client didn’t want to pay for it. )

Good thing too, because it was at that moment that I’d decided to bring it home.

It now stands in my family room and I’m more thrilled then ever to know, not only it is beautiful, but the designer was someone famous and it’s value is probably 5 times what we originally thought.

Who says you only discover treasures in attics and flea markets!

Read more about Oswaldo Borsani by clicking here.

Cheers and until next time this is Mark LaFleur writing you from beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Wine and Classical Music Festivals in Bordeaux and Tuscany

Hello All,

It was a long 7 weeks in Europe this time on another antique furniture buying trip, and I’ve had lots of time to gather some great blog posts that you will see over the next few months. Today’s blog post’s focus is on musical and wine tasting concerts in France and Italy for any of you planning to be there this summer.

The Melodia del Vino Festival in Tuscany begins June 26 of this year and goes until July 6.
The Grands Crus Musicaux in France, runs from August 15 – Augst 30. For anyone happening to be in France or Italy at this time, these are sure to be sublime events.

Now anyone can have the opportunity to visit some truly great wineries, while also listening to beautiful music at the 2014 edition of Melodia del Vino, now in its 4th edition as a music festival. This event is the brainchild of Marc Laforet and Michel Gotlib, who created the sucessful French festival ‘Grands Crus Musicaux’ in Bordeaux, France which was initiated in 2003.

In Italy, this year’s event includes concerts, wine tastings & aperitif at six different locations, stretching from the famous Cantina Antinori winery in Bargino to the historical exiled residence of Napoleon on the Elba Island, the famous and majestic Villa San Martino. The full program can be found here.

The Cantina Antinori

The Cantina Antinori

In France, the concerts begin at CHÂTEAU D’AGASSAC with music by
MOZART : Sonate KV 448
MOZART/GRIEG : Sonate KV 545
CHOSTAKOVITCH : Concertino opus 94
TCHAÏKOVSKI : «Valse des fleurs»,extrait de «Casse-noisette»
POULENC : Deuxième mouvement du concerto pour deux pianos
RAVEL : Rapsodie espagnole

The Chateau Agassac built in 1238 AD

The Chateau Agassac built in 1238 AD.

Many of the musical concerts will take place in special locations at the wineries: imagine getting lost to classical music in the vicinity of large wooden wine barrels and discovering more about music and wine that you would ever expect. If anything, this is a prime chance to escape the city and get (literally) lost in wine and music for a very special French or Italian summer nights.

La Vie est Belle.

The blog has been brought to you by Mark LaFleur from beautiful downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

An Extraordinary Encounter in France

Hello from France!

Just this past week, Larry and I had the great pleasure of meeting a very important lady in the world of early 20th Century furniture designers.

This extraordinary lady’s name is ‘Francoise Siriex’. Mdm. Siriex was the director of the ‘Maison Leleu’ from 1950 until it’s close in 1973.

What was Maison Leleu? It was the atelier of reknowned modernist designer ‘Jules Leleu’ (1883 – 1961).

In case you’ve never heard of Jules Leleu let me fill you in. He was one of the greatest art deco and modernist furniture designers of all time whose beautiful furniture commands several thousands of dollars to this day.

A very close Parisian friend of ours knew how much we loved Leleu and just happened to mention in fact she knew the former directrice. Brigitte, our friend, kindly telephoned Mdm. Siriex and asked if we could meet her. Much to our delight Mdm Siriex agreed.

Larry Adams and Mdm. Siriex at the exhibit of modernist designers at the Espace Landowski

Larry Adams and Mdm. Siriex at the exhibit of modernist designers at the Espace Landowski just outside of Paris.

It was a rainy blustery afternoon that day, in fact, I thought I might spare the lady our meeting by organizing a more ‘weather friendly’ day. When I telephoned her she remarked that a little rain was not a problem and she’d meet us at our arranged time and place.

Madame Siriex well into her later years, met us at the Espace Landowski, a gallery in Boulogne Billancourt and proceeded to tour us around the exhibit that featured Leleu’s work and other super star designers of the time.

We were later invited back to her apartment and chatted with this dynamic woman for over three hours about her past and her work at the Maison Leleu. We learned this incredible lady had recently published a book on the Maison Leleu in 2008.

The House of Leleu by Francoise Siriex Book Cover

The House of Leleu by Francoise Siriex available on

She spent years assembling this magnificent book, which is available through for anyone who’s interested. Be aware however, this book will set you back over $300. If you saw the book you’d know why. It’s one of those fabulous over sized ‘coffee table’ books that’s large, impressive and beautifully put together with loads of information on this incredible designer. In fact, this dynamic lady still flies back and forth to New York doing book signings and guest appearances.

At one point during our visit I remarked if she had any of the original designs from the famed designer. The gracious Mdm Siriex brought out a file of hundreds of original designs that she’d kept for decades. As I carefully leafed through the amazing collection she asked me if I’d like one. Thrilled, of course I said yes. She remarked she couldn’t leave Larry out for fear of rivalry between us so a grateful Larry picked out a wonderful sketch done for a bathroom designed in 1930.

An original pen and ink sketch by Leleu C.1940

The original pen and ink sketch that I chose by Leleu C.1940.

Brief history of Jules Leleu

French superstar designer 'Jules Leleu' C.1940

French superstar designer ‘Jules Leleu’ C.1940.

Jules Leleu was born in Boulogne sur Mer (North of Paris near Calais ) in 1883. Raised in an artisitc family, the young Leleu studied applied arts and in 1918 went into furniture design. He moved to Paris in 1924 where he lived with another famous designer Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann.

The House of Leleu prospered and later became a family business. By the late 1930s, Leleu’s sons, André and Jean, and his daughter, Paule, were active partners. The famous atelier had an elite clientele including the Prince of Monaco, The Emperor of Japan, and President Eisenhower.

Commode by Jules Leleu C.1930

Commode by Jules Leleu C.1930

The furniture of Leleu is often compared to that of Jacques Ruhlmann. Each liked simplified shapes, the use of exotic woods, marquetry and inlay of ivory.

Leleu outlived Ruhlmann, and his style evolved. He grew adventurous, adopting new materials like artificial lacquer, fiberglass, plastic and aluminum and continued his prolific career designing.

Along with the interiors of industrialists’ houses, Leleu designed sleek salons for ocean liners like the Ile-de-France and the Normandie, corporate offices and interiors for public institutions (the League of Nations in Geneva), and the Elysee Palace in Paris.

SS Ile de France cost over $10,000,000 to build

SS Ile de France cost over $10,000,000 to build.

1st class suite in the SS Ile de France

1st class suite in the SS Ile de France.

Lean Horne and Rita Hayworth

Lean Horne and Rita Hayworth were among frequent voyagers on this luxurious liner.

The Main Foyer of the SS Ile de France

The Main Foyer

Leleu died in 1961, leaving a legacy of elegant, refined and often surprisingly original work, and his pieces are highly sought after today. His family and loyal staff (Mdm Siriex included) continued his work until 1973 when the Maison Leleu finally closed it’s doors.

Beautiful sideboard 'attributed' to Jules Leleu

This beautiful sideboard is only ‘attributed’ to Jules Leleu and sells for $28000.

The Antique Warehouse and ‘Leleu’

A curious remark was made during our visit with Mdm. Siriex. She stated that “Pas tous de Jules Leleu meubles a été signé” which in English means “not all of Leleu’s pieces were signed.” We’ve had signed ‘Leleu’ pieces sold through the store before, but we’re sure we’ve had some that were unsigned. In any event we’ll pay careful attention to the detail and craftsmanship that is unmistakable ‘Leleu’ in the future. Have a look at this French art deco cabinet that’s unsigned and currently in the store.

We have several ‘modernist’ pieces arriving to the store over the next several months. If you’re a lover of this style, please keep tabs on our ‘new container‘ announcements. ( One expected in about two weeks )
You can sign up for our newsletter and product updates if you’ve not already done so. We’ve not picked up any signed pieces of Leleu, but you never know… That’s what makes our business so exciting!

A bientot, from Paris France.


Fabulous Russian Faberge Egg Found in Mid Western United States

Gold Russian Faberge Egg

Gold Russian Faberge Egg

It’s Easter time again. A time of renewal, a time for spiritual reflection for some, easter eggs and easter bunnies, for others. Well here’s an ‘Easter Egg’ of a very different kind. One that was made for the Czar of Russia and his family. An egg of such immense value and beauty it staggers the mind.

One such egg made the news last month, when a scrap metal dealer in the mid west of the U.S. discovered one of these rare treasures but had no idea what he’d found.

When the man bought the golden ornament at a junk market, it never crossed his mind that he was the owner of a $20 million Faberge egg hailing from the court of imperial Russia.

In a mystery fit for the tumultuous history of Russia’s ostentatious elite, the 8-cm (3-inch) golden egg was spirited out of St Petersburg after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and then disappeared for decades in the United States.

This American scrap metal dealer spotted the egg while searching for scrap gold and purchased it for $14,000, hoping to make a fast buck by selling it to the melting pot.

But there were no takers because he had overestimated the value of the watch and gems tucked inside the egg.

In desperation, the man searched the Internet and then realized he might have the egg that Russian Tsar Alexander III had given to his wife, Maria Feodorovna, for Easter in 1887.

When the scrap metal man approached London’s Wartski antiques dealer, he was in shock.

“His mouth was dry with fear – he just couldn’t talk. A man in jeans, trainers and a plaid shirt handed me pictures of the lost Imperial egg. I knew it was genuine,” Kieran McCarthy, director of the Wartski antique dealer, told Reuters.

“He was completely beside himself – he just couldn’t believe the treasure that he had,” said McCarthy, who then travelled to a small town in the U.S. Midwest to inspect the reeded yellow golden egg in the man’s kitchen.

Wartski acquired the egg for an unidentified private collector. McCarthy said he could not reveal the identity of the man who found the egg, its sale price or the collector, though he did say that the collector was not Russian.

Reuters was unable to verify the story without the identities of those involved and when questioned whether the story was perhaps too fantastic to be true, McCarthy said:

“We are antique dealers so we doubt everything but this story is so wonderful you couldn’t really make it up – it is beyond fiction and in the legends of antique dealing, there is nothing quite like this.”


Rich Russians, who before the revolution once dazzled European aristocracy with their extravagance, have since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union returned to stun the West by snapping up treasures, real estate and even football clubs.

Metals tycoon Viktor Vekselberg bought a collection of Imperial Faberge Easter Eggs for $90 million from the Forbes family in 2004. The eggs were brought back to Moscow and put on exhibition in the Kremlin.

A Russian businessman with a passion for Tsarist treasures, Alexander Ivanov, said he was behind the $18.5 million purchase of a Faberge egg in London in 2007.

Peter Carl Faberge’s lavish eggs have graced myths ever since they were created for the Russian Tsars: Only royalty and billionaires can ever hope to collect them. Current owners include Queen Elizabeth and the Kremlin.

Tsar Alexander III asked Faberge to make one egg a year until his son, the next Tsar Nicholas II, ordered him to make two a year – one for his wife and one for his mother. The tradition ended in 1917 when Nicholas was forced to abdicate and he and his family were executed by the Bolsheviks.

As Russia’s rich rushed to the exits, treasures were sold off under Vladimir Lenin and his successor Josef Stalin as part of a policy known as “Treasures into Tractors”.

The mystery golden egg, which opens to reveal a Vacheron Constantin watch set with diamond set gold hands, was last recorded in Russia in 1922, two years before Lenin’s death. It will go on display in London next month.

“It is nothing but wonderment and miracle – a miracle that the egg survived,” said McCarthy. “The treasure had sailed through various American owners and dangerously close to the melting pot.”

Peter Carl Faberge made some 50 imperial eggs for the Russian Tsars from 1885 to 1916. Forty-two have survived, according to Faberge. Some others were made for merchants.

Happy Easter!

This is Mark LaFleur writing to you from beautiful downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Sunday Shopping in Paris

Today is Sunday and a week before Easter. My blog is devoted to my antique furniture clients and friends who are now planning their Spring and Summer holidays to Europe, particularly Paris.

Years ago, everything shut down in Paris on a Sunday. Most restaurants were closed and stores we never open. Museums were about the only thing that stayed open, encouraging culture and enlightenment to French families.

Still today, Government regulations dictate that most stores and shops in Paris stay closed on Sunday. This regulation is rooted in religious tradition, but is now primarily based upon the idea that retail workers should not be made to work on Sundays. However, particularly in areas frequented by tourists, a growing number of stores, shops and shopping centers in Paris are now open on Sunday.

Le Marais

The Marais is where I usually go if I want to shop on Sunday. It’s fun, full of quirky little shops, great little places to eat, and generally crowded with locals and some tourists. (I have to be in the mood to deal with crowds which is not that often)

L'As du Falafel, Le Marais, Paris

In the hypertrendy Marais neighborhood, many of the area’s most-coveted fashion, accessories and home design shops remain open on Sunday. The Rue des Francs Bourgeois (access: Metro Rambuteau or St Paul) is brimming with open shops, such as MAC, L’Artisan Parfumeur, Zadig et Voltaire, French chain Comptoir des Cotonniers, or artisan jewelry sellers and young designers’ boutiques. Take a spin of the stores and then have a peek at the collections on Paris history at the Musee Carnavalet on the same street.

For home design in the Marais, head to Le Printemps du Design inside the Centre Georges Pompidou (Metro Rambuteau), or to Marais boutiques like DOM (21 rue Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie, Metro St Paul or Hotel de Ville) for amusing decorative objects (admittedly bordering on kitsch).

The Georges Pompidou Center

The Georges Pompidou Center

Carrousel du Louvre

The Carrousel du Louvre is a favorite Paris shopping center among locals and visitors alike: open 7 days a week, the Carrousel du Louvre features dozens of shops, a gourmet food court with 14 restaurants, and an elegant and airy setting. The bottom part of the famous glass Pyramide du Louvre (Louvre Pyramid) is visible from one wing of the shopping center. In addition, the Carrousel du Louvre includes an extensive exhibition space where major annual events like the Paris Photo exhibit are held. Entrance is off Rue Rivoli or there’s parking below which I always use.

The Carrousel du Louvre Shopping Centre


In the hilly heights of the iconic Montmartre district, several concept boutiques are open on the Rue d’Orsel (Metro Pigalle or Abbesses), which has in recent years become a new fashion hotspot. Base One (at 47 Rue d’Orsel) is a concept shop offering men’s and women’s fashions from France and Europe. Gaspard de la Butte (at #57) is a boutique owned by French designer Catherine Malaure.

Nearby, at 16 rue la Vieuville, you’ll find another concept store open on Sundays – Spree, offering clothing, jewelry and home furnishings, both new and vintage.

Sunday Market in Montmartre, Paris

La Vallee Village

Admittedly the name sounds a little like ‘Value Village’ but that is not the translation in the least. La Vallee is referenced to the La Vallee of the Marne ( translated to the Marne Valley ). La Vallee Village is located in this valley as is Euro Disney and the Charles De Gaulle Aeroport.

Located about 20 minutes North of Paris, La Vallee Village is an ‘American’ style outlet mall full of designer names and small boutiques. Personally, I visited it once and wasn’t all that impressed. I prefer to wait for the giant twice annual Winter and Summer sales in Paris. Real deals on fabulous clothes are marked down 50% or more.

La Vallee Village, North of Paris

For me, if I do any shopping in Paris at all, it’s never on the weekend (Saturday or Sunday). I do it mid week, and usually in the morning to avoid jam packed, over heated stores. On a Sunday, one of my most favorite things to do is talk a long walk and amble from one end of Paris to the other (weather permitting). It’s exhilarating, never boring, and very relaxing.

Don’t forget to visit our new website at We’re located in the beautiful city of Vancouver, British Columbia on the west coast of Canada.


Sabina: Medieval Villages, Superb Olive Oil, and Tranquility in the Roman Countryside

Orsini, Italy

Anyone visiting Italy would like to think they’ve found a largely undiscovered part of this wonderfully diverse country, and many are lucky enough to achieve this. Whether it’s the medieval borghi of the Apennines or the ancient dwellings at Matera, Italy has many places of interest that can easily be pigeonholed in the ‘off the beaten track’ category.

One such place is Sabina – a quiet and unspoilt area within the heart of the Rome countryside that many of its visitors say feels like they have stepped back in time. The pace of life is slower here, making it a perfect place to spend a few days just taking it easy.

During the day Sabina yawns with the somnolent sound of rural living: the people that live here share their lives with the abundance of wildlife that enjoy this tranquil environment. By day, the Sabine Hills are serenaded by birdsong, and the summer nights enjoy the melodic sounds of nightingales and cricket choruses.

Often ignored in favour of their more famous neighbour, Tuscany, the Sabine Hills are a range of mountains stretching from the eastern town of Rieti to the river Tiber in the west, with its highest peak being Monte Pellecchia, at 1365 metres.

Although Sabina is relatively close to Rome, its tranquillity is juxtaposed with the frenetic pace of the city. The landscape is greener than many people expect and the patchwork of vineyards and olive groves make the scenery unmistakably Italian. The hilltops are dotted with medieval villages and many other places of interest to tempt the traveller to spend some time in the area.

Sabina, Italy

Castelnuovo di Farfa and its celebrated olive oil

The small town of Castelnuovo di Farfa is worth taking the time to explore. Its narrow streets have a quintessentially Italian feel and are worthy of an afternoon’s stroll. The town was once home to some of the most prominent families in Rome, including the powerful 16th-century Barberini nobility and the influential Farnese dynasty whose most important family members included Pope Paul III and Cardinal Alessandro Farnese.

Also worthy of your attention is the Baroque church of San Nicola, built in the latter half of the 18th century and the Renaissance Palazzo Simonetti with its Italian gardens.

No trip to Castelnuovo di Farfa would be complete without a visit to the Museo dell’Olio d’Oliva (Olive Oil Museum) that’s based inside the 16th century Palazzo Perelli, on via Perelli.

Olive oil produced in Sabina is said to be one of the most highly praised in the whole of Italy. Experts say that it’s down to the rocky limestone teamed with Sabina’s climate that creates the characteristic peppery flavour with a low acidity: Sabina olive oil was the first to receive the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) appellation.

The museum houses many interesting artefacts, including ancient presses and artworks, and is an historical and cultural reference to the importance of oil to the local communities. Your tour climaxes with a tasting session of the locally produced oils.

[The museum’s opening hours are: Saturday, Sunday and public holidays: 10.00am – 1.00pm and 3.00pm - 7.30pm, during the week from Monday to Friday by appointment only. To book call: 0039 0765 36370. Entrance fees apply.]

Castelli (Castles)

Savelli Castle

Mainly for their protection, the inhabitants of Sabina moved from the valleys up onto the more easily defended hilltops, and many of these hilltop borghi (villages) are still overlooked by their ancient protectors, imposing castles that were founded between 9th and 11th century A.D. Some of these once magnificent castles have undergone restoration and cater to the corporate and wedding market, while others stand redundant and ruined.

Most of Sabina’s castles warrant a visit, but my top three are:

Castello Orsini: A perfect example of a Medieval-Romanesque castle dating back to the 10th century. As the name suggests, this castle in the town of Nerola is historically linked with the Orsini family. In 1765, while living at the castle, the Duchess of Bracciano and Princess of Nerola, Anne Marie Orsini fragranced herself and her garments with the essence of bitter orange. The use of this orange oil became fashionable and led to it being called Neroli, which is still one of the most used floral oils in modern perfume manufacturing.

Castello Andosilla: The impressive ruin of the fortress originally called Castello Borghetto, which dates back to the 12th century and is located high upon a rocky outcrop overlooking the Tiber valley. In the late 13th century, the castle was in the possession of the Holy Hospital of Santo Spirito, in Rome, before it was sold to the Andosilla family in 1538. The castle’s decline began after being burned down by Napoleonic troops in 1798, and sadly, its imposing, 40-metre (130 feet) tower collapsed in 1950.

Castello Baronale: At Montenero Sabino, this is another 11th century castle that once was owned by the Orsini family before passing through many other noble families. It was originally built to oversee the valley below and the coming and goings at Farfa Abbey. Very quickly a village grew up around it and later this village became enclosed by the castle’s walls. Eventually it came under the ownership of the abbey and grew into a powerful garrison for the protection of its owners. With its two towers, vast 17th century archway and remarkable double staircase, the castle is a great photographic opportunity.


How to get there

Travelling the 60 km (37 miles) north-east from Rome to Sabina is relatively easy, trains run regularly from both Termini and Tiburtina to the mainline stations of the villages as do several commercial coach services, however the rural bus links can be very sporadic and must not be relied upon.

The best way to enjoy Sabina is under your own steam and most definitely at your own pace, the road networks are good and the accommodation available ranges from rustic agriturismi to chic boutique hotels and self-catering villas to quaint bed and breakfast establishments. The region also boasts some of the best places to eat out, from a formal restaurant through to an economical trattoria.

If your idea of a perfect break is relaxing in the tranquility of the Italian countryside, then Sabina could be just right for you.

I know I plan to visit.

If you’re looking for any Italian antique furniture, don’t forget to check out what we have available in our warehouse and online at

Who is Philippe Starck ?

If you’re not familiar with the name, you will be now. Philippe Starck is one of the most reknowned designers of the 20th and 21st Century.

Phillipe Starck first started his career at age 20, as an art director for Pierre Cardin, then went on to design furniture, interiors (including the residence for the former French President Francois Mitterand), hotels (the famous ‘Costes’ Hotel) in Paris and a string of chic night clubs and glamorous hip restaurants all over the globe. Check out his biography on Wikipedia or visit his website for more information on this amazing individual.
Philippe Starck, designer

Why I mention him at all is just this week I discovered that a rather innocuous set of 4 modern chairs that I had personally bought about a year ago were in fact vintage chairs designed by Philippe Starck. Larry turned his nose up when he saw them a year ago and asked me “what was I thinking, we sell antiques” to which I replied “I don’t care, I think they’re interesting”. So on to Vancouver they went.

As I examined these four chairs more closely I discovered a makers stamp, stamped clearly into the leather. I started to study the construction and realized that they were beautifully constructed and that these were no ordinary vintage chairs. Upon further investigation I discovered the set of four chairs were not only designed by the famous ‘Starck’ himself, but for the first Italian high end furniture company he ever worked for. This same company that helped launch his career as an international furniture designer back in l984.

They were called the ‘cafe chair’ and were designed back in 1984 for a famous Cafe Costes which is still one of the chicest places in Paris today.

Price? 895 Euros per chair which translates to roughly $1300 Cdn per chair.

Philippe Starck Single Chair

Visit our website today or better still pay us a visit in person. Not everything is listed on the website and you never know what treasure you may discover that escapes even our keen and sophisticated eyes.

Thanks for reading my blog and have a great week.

(Don’t forget we just had a new shipment in from France. Come down and have a look. We’re located in beautiful downtown Vancouver, British Columbia.)

Mark LaFleur
The Antique Warehouse