Long Distance Home Decor

Brocantes market find

The Challenges of Decorating a Home 3000 Miles Away

About 15 years ago, a friend and I met in Bordeaux to spend a couple of weeks shopping for antiques and basic necessities for a shared ownership home in France. We had no idea what we were doing but we learned fast. Our motto became “We brake for brocantes!” (a kind of less expensive antique shop in France). To our delight, things were cheap with the dollar at a 20% premium to the franc. No more, no how, no way in 2014.

Fifteen years later, the rules have changed a bit and I still find myself wondering if I have any idea how to best do my home furnishing projects for IPS.

“I love this but gosh, it’s hard. Fun but stressful because of time and money constraints… Can I get artwork and bedding in place in about a 2 week time frame this year?” These are some of my thoughts as I sit here in Canandaigua, NY making furnishing decisions before I leave for Provence and the Cotswolds at the end of May.

To begin with I made this list:

What larger furniture items will I need to buy for each room?
Will the current sellers part with some of their furnishings?
What is the look and feel I need to create a warm, attractive and intimate dwelling?


ikea home decor

In the states and ship things or bring them in a suitcase? At various French flea markets and brocantes? Ikea? Major department stores? Craigslist or Ebay? In Spain and drive items to the UK? Shop in England and if so, where?

Next, I contacted about 9 friends currently residing in France and the UK to get their opinions. Here what they had to say:

“The best thing is to go to the flea markets if you are looking for antique things. Carpentras on Sundays is truly great, and there is one each Wednesday morning in Beauclaire. You just have to go in person and hope you spot the perfect item. Takes time and often there is nothing at all. We found shopping around Avignon difficult for modern stuff. Too much badly done crap.”

“I can arrange a short detour to Tetbury and It would be ideal to see the home and that way I’d get the feel of the place before your visit in June, regarding room sizes, style, colors, the items of furniture required, etc Is the vendor considering selling/leaving any of the existing pieces?”

“I must admit that IKEA are a very good source of utility furniture and a lot of people use them to furnish houses “To Let” For something better you could try Marks and Spencer. The best department store is John Lewis (where Brides put their wedding list), and next to them is Debenhams.”

With the pricing and exchange rate differences between the US dollar, the euro and the pound, where will be get the best value? Can we keep to a certain budget?

Next, I contacted about 9 friends currently residing in France and the UK to get their opinions. Here what they had to say:

Like most of you, I’m always delighted to score a good deal. With my initial focus on our new Uzes property St. Etienne, here’s what I came up with:

Found the exact kitchen island I was after at BJ’s wholesale in NY- on sale for $189 plus tax- $214 shipped to my home. Fed Ex Shipping quoted an insane price for this 75 pound package- $580. Found another wholesaler to ship it for $250 for a landed price in France of $465 or roughly 330 euros, well within my target for the kitchen.

Next I hit up Home Goods, a division of TJ/TK Maxx. These items can go into my spare suitcase and I figure I’ve saved about $250 on them based on euro shopping prices:

6 towels $5 each= $30
6 washcloths $ 4.50 $30
One king sized duvet with 3 pillows and $99
2 sets King-sized sheets- $80
Ikea find: Day bed for spare bedroom at 300 euros Will next shop for large armoire for that spare bedroom

Art Work

I’m never very sure where I’ll find suitable art in France (never done so in the UK) and so have ordered 2 very cool oversized canvas backed posters which I’ll frame in Europe. Also commissioned 3 original paintings for the Cotswolds to carry on board as well as 2 or photographs from a well-known artist in Central NY.

Of course, part of the delight of decorating in France is in mixing the old with the new and so several days of brocanting are ahead of us!

I’m off to a good start! Still I could use some help finding high quality but affordable wares in England. When I searched the John Lewis and Marks and Spencer websites in the UK, their prices were double those in the states! What’s a gal to do? Any suggestions?




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