Keeping it Real and Rustic in France

My neighbor Marion and I love to hit the marchés des puces, or flea markets, that spring up every Sunday in the Burgundy countryside where we live. At these lively outdoor markets you can find most anything, including delicate painted porcelain, an elegant Limoges bowl or two, maybe some intricate silver flatware.

That would not be what we’re looking for.

That would not be what we’re looking for.

An old cafe chair, bucket and basket

An old cafe chair, bucket and basket

No, you’ll find the two of us picking through the battered wooden crates that the farmers have brought, looking for rusty hardware, hand-made wooden tools from simpler times, and dribs and drabs of old wrought iron. My husband rolls his eyes and points out that the worm holes and rust cost extra. Sometimes that’s true, but more often than not, we come home triumphant with a trunk full of happily worn and weathered treasures, for only a few euros.

a collection of old lanterns on a table d'établi, or workbench

Chez Marion, a collection of old lanterns on a table d’établi, or workbench

I must admit my neighbor has the better eye for the aged and organic. She’s forever collecting wonderful seed pods or decorative branches. She even talked her house painter out of the thick old scaffolding boards he was using, and stripped them to make a fabulous farmhouse table.

An old fish cooker is pressed into service as a window box

An old fish cooker is pressed into service as a window box

Now what to do with all of our distressed diamonds in the rough? They seem to gravitate to their own spot, when an old stone farmhouse is their destination. I like to hang old architectural or wrought iron pieces on the wall over paintings. Marion styles vignettes all around her house. Even her husband Jean-Marie gets into the act: he attaches old rusty tools to shutters or doors on the barn to create natural works of art.

Marion's table made of scaffolding boards, literally taken from underneath her painter

Marion’s table made of scaffolding boards, literally taken from underneath her painter

We have become recyclers, like the French farmers, who may have invented the notion. How lovely to live among things that time and weather and many hands have passed over.

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An old mold or brand adorns a shutter

Sunflower seed pods

another of Jean Marie’s artistic creations