French Garden House Antiques

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I adore looking at, shopping for and perusing photos of French antiques both online and in person. I am obsessed with it so much that I started importing and selling them myself last year. I’m starting to do some of the Antique shows as well and I am thrilled to be accepted to the huge Marburger Round Top Antiques show in Texas this spring. However, I’m always interested in learning more from the real pro’s.

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If you love French Antiques and don’t know the French Garden House website you should. Lidy Baars who is based in California has been an antiques dealer and designer for 18 years now. She encourages her clients to design homes that are not only beautiful & comfortable, but filled with meaningful, unique objects that reflect their own personal style. Born and raised in Europe, Lidy has a reputation for finding the most exquisite antique pieces; furniture with the patina of time, forgotten vintage heirlooms to delight the soul, artisan handcrafted objects to add a touch of whimsy, and French Country utilitarian pieces with functionality and simple beauty.

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Lidy’s creative work has been featured in French Country Style Magazine, Victoria Magazine, Romantic Homes Magazine, Flea Market Decor Magazine, Kitchens Magazine, Southern Lady Magazine, Cottage & Bungalows Magazine, Cottage Style Magazine, Victorian Homes Magazine, Bedrooms & Bath Magazine, Romantic Country Magazine, Somerset Home Magazine, At Home Magazine, Belle Inspiration Magazine, Yum Magazine, Grill It Magazine, Hers, Design with a Feminine Touch, and Romantic Prairie Style.

How did you get into the antiquing business, what led you to this passion?

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It is no surprise that I became an antiques dealer; My grandparents’ home was filled with beautiful French and Dutch antiques, and it was there that I developed my passion for antiques. I spied a little antique children’s toy in the window of an antique shop when I was a teenager and borrowed enough money to buy it. At a time when my friends were saving up for the ultimate pair of jeans, this was what I wanted more than anything. It was the first antique I bought, and I never looked back! 

Tracing back, when did you first become a Francophile and why?

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When I first started selling antiques, I fell in love with the hand painted porcelains from Limoges, the antique Madonna’s in old cathedrals, luxurious gilt rococo pieces and hand embroidered linens so beautiful they almost brought me to tears! What they all had in common was that they were French. 

The French seem to be able to combine the elegance of Paris with the earthiness of Provence. They seem to have that  je ne sais quoi ~ living chic in an effortless way. They appear self confident, well dressed, and to lead a charmed, elegant life. Slightly less “rule bound” than some other European cultures, I love everything about France, especially the history, the beauty and then, of course, the antiques!

Of your recent finds what are several items you are most excited about?

One of the most amazing pieces I have found was a 18th century Italian Processional Madonna. Completely hand carved and hand painted, she had that luminous quality that only pieces of that age can have. I was thrilled to have her in our home for a while, until she was purchased by a collector who absolutely adores her. That is the beauty of being a dealer, I get to cherish and enjoy pieces for awhile, and then share in the joy as someone obtains a piece for their home that they love. 

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Other antiques that I am always thrilled to find are antique toleware pieces. Often hand cut of tin, then formed and handprinted with the utmost skill and care, toleware brings any room to life.  I love the old trays, the urns, and the cachepots most, each is a true work of art, as only the best painters painted the scenes on the old, old toleware.

Why did you choose to sell online instead of at a store or in a consortium of antiques dealers? When did you “go online”. 

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I began FrenchGardenHouse online in 2007, after having a small space in an antique consortium for a while.  To be honest, going online was the obvious choice, as it allows me to connect with clients and collectors all over the US and the world. 

I was worried at first that being online only would limit my connection to clients and kindred-spirits, but this has not been the case, if anything, I have been able to broaden my client base and have become friends with antique aficionados all over the world!  My blog, which I call my shop’s “back room” is where I share the secret stories of antiques, and where I encourage collectors to create a stylish, elegant home with their antiques. The blog is where people can see the “behind the scenes” of everything about FrenchGardenHouse.

Can you share with us some of your personal antique passions. In your own home in California what do you collect? What items do you love most?   

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The antiques I love most are those passed down from my grandparents and my Mom. One of my most beloved possessions is a silver tea pot I inherited from my Grandmother.  I remember her pouring tea from this pot every afternoon at precisely 3:30, it was a little rest in the day, and I time I greatly enjoyed with her whenever I could!

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I confess, I am an equal opportunity antique lover. I can fall in love with an over-the-top gilt chair as easily as a rough, hand thrown piece of French Country pottery.  In our home, I combine it all!  I love large, grand scale pieces, urns, angels, architectural salvage. I collect antique majolica, and ironstone.  Since our home isn’t huge, I try to keep the collections in balance by rotating some in and out of season in our armoires to display.  

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Most importantly, what I have is meant to be lived with. We live with all our antiques, dogs, kids, and grand-babies all come here, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If something gets another “scratch” or a little chip, then that becomes part of its story. That’s the beauty of living with antiques, isn’t it?

Currently in the world of French Antiques & Vintage, what’s the hottest new collectible item (or two)?

In the world of antiques and vintage, what is “hot” is as much determined by what area you sell in, as who your clients are.  In general, I think architectural salvage, large scale sculptural pieces, and art and antiques with bold colors are very desirable right now.

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At FrenchGardenHouse, I sell a wide range of items. Things that a grand chateau would have had; the finer, highest quality silver, porcelains and boudoir items for “upstairs” , and the rougher, utilitarian pieces used in the kitchens, staff rooms and gardens. 

For my FrenchGardenHouse clients, these 3 are what they are always asking me to find for them:

1. French Country.  Rough, hand woven linens, French enamelware, confit pots and majolica are at the top of our client’s wish-lists. French country is a style that blends well with other eras, it’s comfortable, and perfect for the way we live today. French country chairs, armoires and vanities make any room parle Francais. 

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2. Decorative pieces.  This includes toleware trays, urns and cachepots. Silver, for setting the table as much as silver trophies for decorating with. Hand painted, delicate porcelains, and the opposite, country pots, wood pieces, and religious items. Antique paintings, prints and large scale doors and shutters to use as art in a room.

3. Grand Tour Souvenirs.  Small, high quality objects that would have been bought by wealthy travelers on their “grand tour” of Europe. Small gilt picture frames, binoculars for the opera, opaline blue glass pieces, hand carved cameos and other fine quality jewelry.

When traveling to France which areas do you go to the most that deliver the best antiquing experience. 

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My good friend Toma owns Europe’s largest antique tour company, The Antiques Diva & Co., and she and her guides know the best places to shop for antiques. The Antiques Diva & Co. is the official antique tour guide for the Paris Flea Market,  Marche Paul Bert Serpette. My traveling time is so very limited, when I go on a buying trip for antiques, I don’t want to waste any time, and using Toma’s guides is the perfect solution.  

Are there any areas of France that you have yet to discover…where are you dying to go to next? 

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Since both my husband as well as my own families live in the Netherlands, usually when we go on trips we spend most of the time in Holland and Belgium. I’ve actually only been to Paris! I would love to spend a few weeks in Provence. The climate and way of life is very close to what we enjoy here in southern California, but with a French twist!

What is the best “find” or best “deal” you’ve ever made?

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Very early in my career, I found some chairs from the mid 1800’s. The seller was asking $1. per chair, he had 6. I offered him $10.00 per chair, thinking that surely one dollar was ridiculous, the chairs were hand made, very simple, but so beautiful. I knew they were special, and bought 2. When I did my research, they were made in the US, and I was fortunate to sell them for a remarkable price to a designer, who was more than thrilled to buy them for my extremely fair price. Looking back, I wish I would have known, and bought all the chairs!  These “miracle finds” are much less common than television would lead you to believe, though. Finding quality antiques, at a price that you can still make a profit of any kind on, is a time-consuming and difficult job these days.

So many people prefer mid-century or tend to shy away from antiques – can you give us an example of how to combine French antiques with different styles. 

Many of my younger clients love mid-century, but with a pop of another era.  They favor an eclectic look, often mixing the mid-century modern pieces with Napoleon III. We are so lucky today in that anything goes. The main focus is on expressing individuality, mixing periods of antiques and vintage with great style and abandon. 

Why do you think its important to have antiques in your home and in your life?

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I think more than anything today, we want to create homes that express ourselves. It’s a wild world outside, and we want our home, our little safe haven, to be beautiful, unique and individual. Creating a space surrounded by things you love is one of the best ways to express your individuality, and one-of-a-kind antiques, pieces that others just can’t buy, allow for us to have a unique environment. 

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Antiques have stories, they have quality, and personality. They can be a little quirky and out of the ordinary, and are the perfect accents to a home to express your own sense of style. Today’s antique consumers are savvy, but they are much more interested in how an antique piece looks and how it will tell their own story at home than the actual provenance of a piece.

When it comes to Paris, where do you like to stay, eat and see when you go? 

Paris is one of the most fabulous cities in the world, the culture, the history, the fashion and the food are all exceptional. 

I love the amazing hotels, Le Meurice is a favorite. But the best way to stay in Paris, or any other place, really, is to rent a flat, or apartment. I noticed that you have a fabulous selection of flats to rent on your Girls Guide to Paris site, the next time we visit, I’m definitely going to do that!

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For eating, Paris offers so many choices. While some of the most exclusive restaurants in the world are in Paris, my real favorite is to hop from bistro to bistro, enjoying the food, wine and local gossip at a small table. I also recommend that my friends visit a local cheese shop, I am always amazed at the variety of delicious cheeses they offer. Many of these little shops serve a simple lunch of bread, cheese, fruit and wine. Delicious! You can either eat there, or take it with you and picnic on the Seine.

I discovered the Rue des Francs-Bourgeois in the Marais district, it’s where local Parisians shop. Fashionable shops filled with beautiful clothes, shoes and accessories combine with historical buildings, small bistros and other discoveries. Another wonderful shopping street is Rue du Faubourg St., where you’ll discover brands you haven’t perhaps seen before.

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One of the best places to soak up French culture is in the museums of Paris. Of course there is the world famous Louvre, but two smaller museums are actually my favorite. The L’Orangerie is a petit jewel, Monet’s Nymphs {Water Lily} murals are there. The Musée Rodin is one of the most romantic places in Paris, the garden alone is worthy of the visit.

Share with us some unique ways to use French Antiques and Vintage items while entertaining. 

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One of the easiest ways to use French Antiques is to set your tables with them. Antique plates, compotes, flatware and napkins bring life and excitement to any gathering!  Using antiques when entertaining gives people something to talk about, something about these objects that were hand made, and used for centuries sparks imaginations.

I am a huge fan of a grand display, using an oversized antique French urn on a buffet to hold a clutch of branches or flowers gives a spectacular effect.  I use a collection of antique ironstone down the center of a buffet side board to hold everything from rolled up napkins, cutlery, and food, as well as a floral arrangement. 

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For me, nothing is out of bounds to use while entertaining. One of my very favorite displays I once did for a friend’s shop was to place an antique French child’s chair in the middle of the food table, surrounded by stacks of antique books on which I placed the platters and bowls of food.  Use your imagination! Antiques are mostly workhorses, otherwise they wouldn’t have survived for a century or more. 

You sell some new items in your online store, what are some of your favorite items? 

I started offering new items at FrenchGardenHouse because so many of my clients asked for them.  Each season I put together a small collection to create seasonal magic, to refresh our rooms and to stock our gift closet with. My hope is that there is something for each of my clients that will add pleasure to their life and will help them create a home they, their family and friends love and enjoy together.

The organic linen towels and napkins embroidered with a Napoleonic Bee are wonderful. They add graphic punch to a sink, or your table, and mix with any style from traditional to modern.  

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I collaborated with Seda France to create these exclusive FrenchGardenHouse candles for the season.  The candles are hand poured into simple clear glass, for an elegant decorative object with French charm. Currently at home I am burning Currant Verte, which is inspired by the magic of the French countryside with orchards and country gardens.  The other seasonal scent is Gingembre Orange, reminiscent of an afternoon drinking spiced orange tea in an elegant cafe on the Avenue Montaigne.

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