Give your home a vintage French feel
Author Josephine Ryan discovers the ways in which an antiques expert homeowner has created a classic style
Franck Delmarcelle’s antiques shop, Galerie Et Caetera, which opened in 1998, is on rue de Poitou in the Marais. The shop’s opening hours are restricted, or you can visit by appointment.
This isn’t an affectation, for Franck has his fingers in many other pies, perhaps entertaining a customer at his home or doing what all dealers do best – getting out there and sourcing more pieces for his shop and home.
Franck is to antiques what Christian Lacroix is to fashion – there are no concepts, just an emotional response to the visual world; a mixing and matching of styles and objects. He is also a skilled interior decorator, always in demand and forever being asked by hip glossies to supply props for fashion shoots.
Franck’s partner in life is Laurent Dombrowicz, a well-known and well-respected figure in the world of fashion. Like many in the city, they rent their apartment.
One of ten in a building that’s part 18th century, part 19th, at about 120 square metres it’s large by Parisian standards. Even though they don’t own their home and have lived there for a relatively short time, the couple have transformed the interior with their distinctive style.
The hall is the first of seven rooms, each one leading off the next, all of them spacious.
The black and white tiled floor continues into the kitchen and is repeated in the bathroom. The hall is large enough to hold substantial pieces of furniture, including a classic 18th-century embroidered sofa, which still has a price tag attached (has it just arrived from the shop or is it on its way out to a buyer?). It’s almost hidden from view though, piled high with motorcycle helmets, catwalk outfits, lots of black coats and even more black boots on the floor.
The couple’s aesthetic is catholic in every sense. Both bizarre and beautiful, the decorative objects in the apartment range from a Patagonian taxidermied hare, collections of mercury glass, concrete toadstools, a desk lamp made from a girl’s ribcage, stuffed birds on perches and a gilded tole sacred heart.
Stuffed creatures and religious iconography feature throughout. For Franck and Laurent, taxidermy is not in any way macabre, rather it allows the beauty of birds and animals to be appreciated after death. Similarly, their love of iconography is not to do with personal religious beliefs but their appreciation of the art and emotion of the craftsmen who made the pieces.
There is an eclectic mix of styles of furniture in the first main room, a study-cum-guest room, including a rustic table, an ornate painted baroque desk, two Louis XV chairs and a lit de repos with a metal frame over the top made by Franck. In the more pared-down dining room, a custom-built glazed unit spans the length and height of one wall.
Made from reclaimed materials with accents of gold leaf and lit with strands of fairy lights, it houses even more unusual collections that merge into a harmonious but disparate whole – from pieces of coral, shells, butterflies and a giant cockroach carapace to a child’s model Citroën from the 1950s that conceals an iPod dock on permanent shuffle and more iconography and stuffed animals. Books, magazines and CDs are stored in the cupboards at the bottom.
The blue painted walls create an aura of calm refinement and are the perfect backdrop for the 18th-century Swedish dining table and chairs. A severe but exquisite late 17th-century Flemish wooden reliquary of St Anthony atop a very simple 19th-century table presides over the room.
There is a distinctly Belgian look to the next room – the salon; no great surprise when you discover that Laurent was born in Belgium. The walls are painted a confident shade of brown-grey, and beautiful terracotta hexagonal tiles cover the floor. The roughly hewn shutters are made from reclaimed scaffolding boards, a brave contrast to the chic upholstered sofas, while the use of garden statuary indoors makes a confident statement.
The collections of objets morts continue in this room, the highlights being a stuffed porcupine with vicious spines and a rare Pacific turtle.
Clever use has been made of space in the compact bedroom. The panelling behind the bed appears purely decorative but, in fact, it conceals cupboards in which all the paraphernalia of the chambre is hidden. Apart from the bed, the only other piece of furniture is a cane seat spanning the width of the window wall, which is fitted with more salvaged shutters. The room is uncluttered and unadorned, perfect for sleeping.
Although most of us would not want to leave this magical apartment, whenever they can Franck and Laurent visit their maison de vacances in Lessay, Picardy. Close by is the chambre d’hôte they are renovating, which promises to be as successful as all the other properties they have touched with their unique vision. Their collection of objets morts is sure to grow and fill the shelves here. Guests should expect the unexpected...
Extracted from Essentially French by Josephine Ryan with photography by Claire Richardson (published by Ryland, Peters and Small).
Get the look
With clever French high street and online buys, you can recreate some of Franck and Laurent’s antique chic at home. Prices and availability correct at time of going to press.
A gold-framed mirror lends some classical elegance and contrasts nicely with baby blue wall paint.
CDiscount sells lots of low priced mirrors for around €40, such as this Vendôme model.
A washed out wood look is perfect for recreating the muted vintage feel. This Sandra console costs €199 from online retailer
In case you do not have a spare balustrade from which to craft yourself a chunky table lamp, head to La Redoute for this vintage-effect ‘Agnès’ model in beige. Price €37.90 from