An Extraordinary French Collection – France Today | EUROtoday

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.

In his newest guide, illustrator and designer Marin Montagut reveals how his ardour for vintage ornamental objects started and leads us behind closed doorways to find two fabulous Parisian treasure troves.

My mother and father had been vintage sellers and my grandmother was an artist, so I grew up surrounded by a large number of objects of all types. As quickly as I may stroll, my mother and father started taking me to vintage outlets, flea markets, and even to public sale homes. So, this style for accumulating is a household affair that has been handed down from era to era. In reality, lots of my collections are linked to childhood reminiscences. That's true for the artists' palettes I've amassed; they’ve the ability to take me again in time to my grandmother's home, the place I might spend hours watching her paint, fascinated by the colours and patterns that appeared to spring from her arms. Just trying on the palettes conjures up a large number of summary work, which bloom from the dappled paint on their surfaces.

Another of my favourite collections consists of plaster casts that discover their approach into my residence, the place they recreate the environment of the artists' studios which have all the time fired my creativeness. I wish to pose them on stands, the place the sunshine performs on their contours, and even on the ground, to emulate the atmosphere of a sculptor's workshop.

Finding objects endowed with soul is a ardour that drives me day by day. My mom's vintage retailer, Coco & Co, in Honfleur, is without doubt one of the locations the place I commonly uncover treasures that I then discover a place for at residence. I journey, particularly at any time when to Italy and Portugal, I all the time return with suitcases filled with marvelous finds.

For my work as an illustrator and designer, they supply boundless inspiration. Each of my creations and watercolors says one thing about my world and my reminiscences. From Italy, for instance, I introduced again silver ex-votos within the form of a hand, face, foot, and coronary heart, from which I had molds made to breed them in porcelain. In Portugal, I used to be fascinated by registos, historic reliquaries with painted and adorned frames of unimaginable refinement; they represent undoubtedly my largest assortment. I hung them collectively to create a marvel wall alongside the staircase that leads upstairs. They had been my major inspiration in creating my 'window of marvel' decorations. Interspersed amongst them on the wall are hearts that had been as soon as made by nuns utilizing plain cardboard embellished with beads and embroidery. I'm overcome by their simplicity and sweetness. Looking at them, I do know that at some point they are going to encourage me to make one thing new.

An open thoughts

When I’m going antiquing, I by no means strategy it with a preconceived thought in thoughts. I depend on coincidence and luck. The surprising, curiosity, shock, and the enjoyment of discovering one thing: that's what I stay up for on days after I head out in the hunt for new gems to showcase in my home. At residence, I wished to reinvent the spirit of what the Germans name the wunderkammer, actually, 'marvel room'. These rooms, which held collections of uncommon and strange objects, had been discovered within the castles and aristocratic houses of central Europe within the sixteenth century.

My 'wonders' are extra modest, however they’ve the ability to move me elsewhere, and to encourage me. My curiosity in objects just isn’t linked to their worth. They are sometimes humble tokens of on a regular basis life and examples of people artwork. I discover them transferring as a result of they convey a soulfulness. The traces of passing time are seen on their worn surfaces. In them, I see historical past, heritage, and an experience that has now been forgotten or misplaced. I even recognize the issues that make them distinctive, singular, just like the flecks on a mercury mirror with pitted silvering, or the pale colours and patina of a bit of well-worn vintage furnishings.

Over the years, I’ve met many ladies and men, vintage sellers and enlightened amateurs alike. Like a child, I’ve been captivated, moved, enchanted and stunned by a few of their collections. The thought for this guide arose from these emotions and distinctive atmospheres. Turn the pages of this guide and let your childlike spirit take you into the great world of those extraordinary collections.

Museum of marvels

Grégoire Courtin is unequalled when he involves discovering defunct companies. In 2020, fortune smiled on him twice. First, when he bought the complete contents of La Palette d'Or, a {hardware}, brush and paint store in Angers based in 1820 by a sure Charles Peltier, who remained in exercise till 1978: a treasure trove of over 10,000 brushes of all types , in addition to artists' brushes, sponges, paints, palettes and pigments. A couple of months later, he bought the inventory, courting from 1920, of Aux 100,000 Chapeaux, from Victor Danteaux, a milliner within the Sarthe, north-western France, whose household had provided shoppers an unlimited number of types for the reason that 1870s.

It solely took Grégoire two months to unpack the crates. It occurred to him that, somewhat than promoting off these valuable relics of bygone experience, he may protect their reminiscence by opening a spot that would preserve these outdated companies. Established in a former ironmongery shop, La Maison Courtin, a museum not like another, is open each weekend. Grégoire and his spouse, Emmanuelle, welcome and astound guests, who comply with the curator himself on a journey by way of time, piquing the entire senses. And for many who are tempted to buy a heritage brush or broom, the couple additionally runs a store the place, not like within the museum, all the pieces is on the market.


The son of an antiques vendor and an antiques vendor himself, Grégoire Courtin fell below the spell of second-hand outlets and flea markets at a young age. In one other life he owned a restaurant in Tours; he has since settled in La Chartre-sur-le-Loir to return to his past love. Every room in the home is stuffed with objects that talk to the creativeness, together with an outdated artist's model stated to have belonged to Edgar Degas, and an exquisite assortment of early Nineteenth-century ornamental motifs from a stucco producer in Sarrebourg. Beneath a curving staircase, tailors' dummies with slender waists and full hips evoke fashions of the previous, whereas plaster casts from a manufacturing unit in Champagne line the cabinets.

Treasures for hire

The manufacturing unit, based within the Thirties by Gaëtan Lanzani, an Italian who settled in Paris close to Faubourg Saint-Antoine, initially reproduced and restored interval furnishings and seating. After the battle, the movie trade turned to the Lanzani enterprise for set provides. Over the years, the institution progressively deserted the manufacture and restoration of furnishings and commenced specializing solely in renting. When decorators and designers come to Lanzani these days, they know they'll discover what they're searching for. Whether it's a 1900s mattress body, a wicker basket, or a chest of hat packing containers and leather-based suitcases evoking the previous, they’re certain to search out the piece they want.


Open the door to the courtyard of the institution Gaëtan Lanzani and enter an surprising world, a always altering cornucopia, the place all the pieces is for hire and nothing is on the market. Designers and interior designers come right here for all kinds of furnishings and equipment for films, tv, style exhibits, and different occasions. Here, professionals have entry to greater than 20,000 objects. You can discover something, from on a regular basis gadgets to essentially the most shocking objects, match for any curiosity cupboard.

Upon coming into, guests are greeted by a vulture with outstretched wings suspended above the doorway stairway. Hanging on the partitions, stuffed animal heads, framed by dozens of circumstances of mounted butterflies, recall to mind a pure historical past museum. A warren of staircases results in a maze of corridors inside a 32,000ft² (3,000 m²) labyrinth that holds a list the Surrealists would covet. The most astonishing assortment comprised lots of and lots of of chairs, piled collectively and stacked to the ceiling. There are armchairs of all types: wingbacks, convertibles, marquises, toi et moi' or 'confidant' chairs, squat 'crapaud armchairs, membership chairs; chairs manufactured from wooden, rattan or cane; a few of them upholstered with leather-based, or embroidered or brocaded materials, or velvet. There are even some untreated picket chair frames. This unbelievable assortment echoes the placement's unique perform as a furnishings manufacturing manufacturing unit.

From France Today Magazine

Extraordinary Collections, Marin Montagut

Extracted from Extraordinary Collections: French Interiors, Flea Markets, Ateliers by Marin Montagut (Flammarion, 2023)

Purchase a replica

Lead photograph credit score: © PIERRE MUSELLEC

Your electronic mail handle won’t be revealed. Required fields are marked *

An Extraordinary French Collection