Perfect for the holiday shopping season, Laure Verchère’s book, Antiquaires: Paris Flea Markets, spotlights the famous shops of the Saint-Ouen commune in Paris
will never forget the first time I saw the flea markets of Paris,” says Michael Bruno in his foreword to Antiquaires: Paris Flea Markets. “Within minutes of arriving, I knew this was the beating heart of design and collecting.” Bruno, the chairman and chief creative officer of 1stdibs.com, an online marketplace for antique and midcentury-modern furniture, says his business was inspired by the Saint-Ouen flea markets (commonly known as Les Puces in France).
The Saint-Ouen flea markets span approximately 50 acres and have flourished for 125 years. They are considered by some to be the world’s epicenter of design. Many influential artists, designers, stylists and decorators, such as André Breton, Rudolf Nureyev and Madeleine Castaing, were inspired by their early finds at the Serpette, Biron or Paul-Bert markets or at any of the other 12 clusters of dealers that together comprise the largest marketplace in the world.
At left, treasures from around the world, including light fixtures and an African sculpture, are found between the covers of Antiquaires, at right
Laure Verchère, a former writer for Elle Decoration UK who first visited Les Puces on her father’s shoulders, profiles “passionate antiques dealers and vendors who want to pass on their life’s knowledge.” In Antiquaires, she offers an exclusive tour of the markets, featuring descriptions of many stalls alongside vivid photographs by Laziz Hamani of antiques, artifacts and curiosities. “The covered stalls, open-air bazaars, streets and alleys of the Saint-Ouen flea markets truly form a city within a city,” Verchère writes. “They’re a world of archaeological artifacts; silver; African, American and Asian art; bric-a-brac; vintage jewelry; wood paneling; books; furniture; photographs; paintings; glasswork; and more.” And the markets’ patrons are just as diverse: Everyone from collectors and interior designers to bargain hunters and tourists descends upon the markets each weekend.
Should you find yourself in Saint-Ouen this holiday season, be sure to stop by Les Puces to pick up one-of-a-kind gifts for your loved ones. Here, in an exclusive excerpt from Antiquaires: Paris Flea Markets, RL Magazine highlights four markets recommended by Verchère.
WHERE TO GO IN LES PUCES
Vernaison Market, entrances at 99 Rue des Rosiers and 136 Avenue Michelet
“This is where it all started at the beginning of the last century. The Vernaison market has a chic and bohemian spirit. Its winding aisles offer myriad interesting items for all kinds of collectors, such as dishes featuring the head of Napoléon I, for those nostalgic for the First Empire (Philippe Pellerin, aisle 1, stalls 18–20); Bakelite flowers to help lovers declare their eternal devotion (Tombées du Camion, aisle 5, stall 92); and promotional key chains from the 1960s for avid collectors of mid-century memorabilia (Françoise Chappuy, aisle 5, stall 88). Only an ascetic could resist such temptation!”
(Left) paintings for sale line a narrow alleyway in the middle of Les Puces; (right) two industrial spotlights shine down on a seashell-shaped chair and an antique wooden table
Biron Market, 85 Rue des Rosiers
“There are only two aisles in this important market and no sign of bric-a-brac. The stalls here are virtual galleries, proudly lined up. For a long time, the specialties of the Biron market were gilt wood, signed furniture and art objects from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Today, the choices are more eclectic, with additions from the last century such as Régis Royant, who has two locations: One shop is devoted to the period between 1930 and 1950; the other features merchandise from the 1970s (aisle 1, stalls 24 and 33).”
Dauphine Market, 140 Rue des Rosiers
“Established in 1991, the youngest of the markets is also one of the largest. It’s famous for Bookshop Square, located on the second floor, with its old books, works of literature, works on paper, photographs and vinyl record albums. Don’t miss the Librairie Jacques Desse (stalls 208–213), a treasure trove of antique tab and pop-up books created for children of past centuries and collected by grown-up children today.”
Carefully curated product displays turn the act of selling antiques into an art form
NOT TO BE MISSED
Serpette Market, 110 Rue des Rosiers
“The name itself is a label. This is the place to be for trendy merchandise. An international clientele, American interior designers in particular, flocks to this market of specialized and general dealers looking for travel accessories bearing the monograms of famous luggage manufacturers (Monde du Voyage, aisle 3, stall 15) or a piece of jewelry that was designed for a movie star in the heyday of Hollywood (Olwen Forest, aisle 3, stalls 5 and 7).”
The hours of operation for the vendors at Les Puces are 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, although these are subject to change. See www.marcheauxpuces-saintouen.com for more details.
es: Paris Flea Markets is available at Assouline boutiques or online at www.shopassouline.com.