We have come to the first french antiques and brocante fair of the year and without a doubt my favourite. La Foire de Chatou, or the Chatou Ham and Brocante Fair takes place twice a year on the west of Paris, and gathers hundreds of France’s best antique dealers to show off their wares for a whole ten days each time. Why ‘Ham & Brocante’? … because there are so many places to eat around the fair, with a big tradition for the stands selling cured hams …yum! In fact one of the first things you’ll notice is the tables of vendors sitting down together for coffee, or lunch, or tea, or a glass of wine … you’ll see, this relaxed atmosphere is quite contagious
The great thing about the fair is that it lasts for ten days so you can go more than once, and know that there’ll be fresh stuff to see, as displays are renewed during the fair as items sell.
This year I was invited to be part of their media team and to share some of my favourite stands … hmmm, that was actually a hard call because there are so many that I love. I shop here alone, with friends or with clients, but invariably come home with some new treasure in the boot of the car. At Chatou I have bought paintings; textiles, tableware and garden furniture. This year I intend to take some time to look at the antique and vintage jewellery stands.
If you are able to get the fair, and have never been before I thought you may like a few insider tips:
First things first – get your bearings …. as you walk through the gate and purchase your ticket, be sure to pick up the little map of the fair. And if you buy something to big to carry, or if you want to go back for a second look at a stand, be sure to mark the spot with a cross on your map!
Refuel often – there is enough at the fair to keep you happy all day long, so pace yourself. Take the time to stop for a coffee, or a drink, to enjoy lunch, and another pause in the afternoon. Chatou is all about enjoying the atmosphere, you’ll soon get the hang of it
Talk with the vendors – if you see a piece you love, then take the time to talk about it with the dealer… where did it come from? does it have a story attached? tips for restoration or conservation … they’ll love to help with any information they can give you
If you’re really hesitating about a piece and would like an objective and expert eye, then you can ask for one of the resident specialists to advise you. They are to be found in the reception at the entrance to the fair, and will be happy to give their professional opinion on the painting or tableware or chair that you have your eye on
Come with an empty bag – yup, it’s pretty inevitable that you’ll leave the fair with your arms full so may as well be prepared. And if you see a piece of furniture that you just can’t live without, and need some help getting it home, then you’ll require a shipper. The big shippers all collect from the fair. You need to contact them, with details of what you are buying and where it needs to go, and they’ll give you a quote. It won’t be cheap, but it will be handled with care and a month or two later that treasure will be on your doorstep. There are several transporters to choose from, most are very good. Personally I have worked for years with Alan Franklin, and I appreciate their helpful staff and professionalism.
Enjoy! Most of all savour every moment. Don’t leave with any regrets, there’s no point. If you missed an opportunity this time, then just come back and find some other treasure to purchase instead
And if you would like to get a longer taste of all the fair can offer, then take a look at the little video that we shot at Chatou this time last year.
Ile des Impressionistes – Chatou