If you have ever holidayed in rural France you may have admired some of the wonderful old wooden furniture in many of the hotels, gites and holiday apartments there. Magnificent wardrobes, beds, dressers – many of these pieces are solid oak and have beautifully ornate carving. The type of thing that is often seen spruced up and, sadly, often painted in chic, expensive French-style interiors shops in the UK.
Much of this wonderful, solid, heavily carved wooden furniture can be purchased at “trocantes”, such as those that abound in Normandy and Brittany. Trocantes,for those not familiar with this wondrous French invention,are a great concept where sellers display their surplus or unwanted furniture, or other household goods, for sale in huge warehouses. The trocante owner then takes a commission on the profit when an item is sold. The concept is so successful because buyers can view a massive range of good quality wooden furniture of a type unavailable in the UK except at expensive specialist shops. And the seller is more likely to sell because visitors will come from many miles around, even from different countries to view and buy.
And it isn’t just authentic French wooden furniture that you can find; typically, there will be a melange of furniture, paintings, china, crystal and bric-a-brac in such a refreshing change to the all too familiar furniture chains in the UK. You might even come across such gems as a marble fireplace, brass bed frame, antique bathtub or Art Deco armoire. Everything in trocantes is interesting, nothing is too expensive and their stock changes frequently. Because stock changes so regularly, you can never predict exactly what you might find in any given trocante, but it is sure to be unusual and you just might find a hidden treasure.
Trocantes exist throughout France but are particularly common in Normandy and Brittany. The name trocante, comes from the words “troc” to exchange or barter and “brocante” which is like something in between a flea market and an antiques market. They are also sometimes referred to as “Depots Vente”. Although there are now trocante “chains” such as “La Trocante” don’t let this put you off visiting as each one is independent and, by their very nature, stock a unique range of items for sale.
Different trocantes specialise in different items but you will find furniture, antiques and bric-a-brac in all of them. One of the reasons that such good quality furniture is available so relatively inexpensively is that it is often very large and can appear old-fashioned to many French people. However, this type of authentic French furniture in an English house immediately takes on the appearance of something chic and unique.
If you have the space for such items, they really are individual and very unusual in the UK. But don’t expect to get anything worth having in the back of your car or on the roof rack. These pieces are often very large. So if you are serious about adding a French-style theme to your home with unique pieces of oversized statement furniture then consider hiring a van before you go. Although trocantes will ship pieces back to the UK, the costs are often prohibitively expensive.
It is far easier and cheaper to hire a van locally in the UK and take it on Eurotunnel or one of the many cheap ferry crossings to France. You can then shop to your hearts content without the worry or expense of transporting the items back home. In fact there are so many interesting and unusual items to bring back from France you might find yourself becoming a well known face at your local van hire company.