Antiquing Outside of Paris

I’m sure I’ve caused more than my share of near automobile accidents when I see a signpost by the edge of a road pointing towards a brocante or Depot Vente. After slamming on the brakes, I do a San Francisco-style U-turn, backing up to head into the parking lot.

(The week I moved to San Francisco, my roommates, who were natives, told me; “Whenever you see a parking space, no matter what you have to do to get it—do it.”)

coffee bowls my coffee bowls

Aside from parking spots, I can’t pass by a promising antique store without stopping everything. And there’s plenty of them dotted throughout France. Not all of them are great, but once you’re out of Paris, the prices drop by at least half, and once safely parked, I race inside in search of bargains.

If you go to La Chiffonière, near Coulommiers, don’t expect to buy those four blue café au lait bowls, because they’re sitting in my kitchen cabinet.

A whole cabinet was filled with coffee bowls like this, some obviously well-used, others pristine. These four bowls were the latter, so I swooped them all up. I’m going to do everything I can to keep them that way, but I’m not going to let them fall into the Too Good To Use category, let me tell you.

kugelhof mold

Not that I have much room, but I was able to resist a kugelhof mold since I already have one. Although I have about two dozen café au lait bowls, so that’s not a very convincing excuse, is it?

I did fall in love with these heart-shaped molds, which would make a lovely dessert for someone you love. Singular or plural. Since there was only three, you could conceivably make a trio of lovely desserts for your favorite ménage-à-trois, so I left them for someone who is a bit more adventurous than I am. And there’s plenty of that around here…at least that’s what I hear. I’m too busy prowling around antique stores (and chocolate shops) to get into trouble. Really.

heart molds

Every time I see all this stuff, I can’t help but think, “In New York, those three cups would be a hundred dollars.” Still, I resisted, since in the morning at chez David, there’s never more than two at the table—I swear, so they stayed behind, too.

3 colorful cups blue teapot

I loved the shape of the teapot, but I don’t drink tea. And it was topless, to boot. But my pile at the register was growing steadily. Aside from the bowls, I bought just one gracefully-tapered perforated porcelain mold to go with the rest I have sitting in my cabinet that I plan to use to make a drained cheese dessert someday. I swear on that one, too. And now that I found a forth, I don’t have any excuse to make them for an upcoming dinner party. Because I’m a show-off (obviously), I’ll share them when I make it. I swear.

silverware

What I love about La Chiffonnière is that it’s mostly kitchen stuff. And for just a few euros, you could outfit your kitchen with, say, a jumble of flatware, all mismatched—unless you had a few hours to spare to sort through it all. I love a funky mix of forks, knives, and spoons, but I didn’t poke through them as I needed to utilize my time better here because Romain, although not as swift as I am at scooping up bargains, was doing pretty well while I was picking though coffee bowls and cake molds. I’m not particularly competitive, but get me in a hanger-sized room full of vintage bakeware, and I pity the pauvre who gets between me and les articles de cuisine.

tin coffee pots

We both made piles of stuff to take home, and Romain carefully crossed the street to the car to get his haul back safely. The petit Parisien got a fantastic cake cooling rack…and he doesn’t even bake! Thankfully my birthday is around the corner and if I get a round gift, I’ll be one happy baker.

redpots romain's haul

If you do go, before you leave, don’t forget to look up. The ceiling is covered with tons of kitchen equipment, including eggbeaters, pots and pans, whisks, and strainers of all sorts.

ceiling pitchers

Who knew the French were so into pouring?

There were just too many pitchers to count. I had them wrestle down a 3-foot long whisk since I’m more of a beater than a verseur (pourer).

jesus

Speaking of poorer, I can honestly say I left the shop only slightly so.

I can’t swear that you’ll score like we did (and in the presence of Jesus, I’m not sure swearing is such a good idea anyways), but the owner told me they she has two huge warehouses full of stuff, so you just never know.

This is a pretty nifty part of a day trip out of Paris, especially if you want to hit the lively Sunday market in Coulommiers, famous as the epicenter for Brie de Meaux.

Le Chiffonnière
Coulommiers
Tél: 01 64 03 73 80

UPDATE: As of 2013, they’ve moved to a new address (twice!) So you should call to get the coordinates and hours.

66 comments

  • now instead of going home to Thailand, I want to come to Paris. I was there for such a short time a few years ago I didn’t get to explore the city that much. I have been looking for something like this all over Austin but haven’t found any that I can just dive in and buy a bunch of stuff. Great post. Love it.

  • This makes me immensely jealous. It’s been three years since I was in Paris. Please appreciate it for all of us who can’t be there!

  • Hello David – God, I’m so totally going there! The place looks amazing. I hope they DON’T take credit cards, or I’ll be in trouble. On second thought, maybe I hope they do…

  • Great finds! This is actually where several members of my family do their antique shopping and then taunt me about their finds in emails :) Can’t wait to go one day myself!

  • Well Tartelette, since I shared my bonne adresse with you, I think you should share one with me!

    Jam: I love Thailand! Let’s switch ; )

  • What fun! I love the photos. In case anyone’s interested, there are a number of websites (in French) that list brocantes, vide-greniers (kind of yard sales) and my fave, the foires a tout, by region, departement, or town.

    Here’s one link: http://vide-greniers.org/

    I apologize if this will tempt you to buy more stuff, David!

  • Great photograph of the various pouring vessels and mugs hanging from the ceiling! Thank you for letting us vicariously experience your hunt for les articles de cuisine!

  • Oh, I SO want to go antiquing now…..What lovely photos and descriptions of your experiences. I simply love the way you write!

  • Hey David, I am staying in Paris for two weeks and discovered your site just in time to upgrade my visit ! Merci beaucoup.

  • OOH. this is ridiculously close for me. And I have company and can’t just zoom over there as soon as they open tomorrow.

    My husband hates you from the bottom of his empty little wallet.

  • What a treasure trove. Oh my goodness, I can already hear Olivier making fun of me to calm down – I would be way too excited. I’d obviously want to take home one (or two) of each object. And of course, predictable but true… I love that kugelhopf mold ! :)

    Thanks for sharing, this is one place I am putting on top of my list. Um, I should probably make some room in the kitchen first…!

  • are you related to Ellen, Alfred, Arthur, Manny, Morris, Harry Lebovitz or any other Lebovitz who may have lived in the N.J./NY area?

  • Lucky for my suitcase, I don’t think the metro goes out that far.

  • This place sounds amazing…. it is making me want to buy my ticket to Paris now! Cannot wait to come fill my suitcase up …. Thanks for sharing the info on it!

  • I love the little heart shaped molds that you passed on, they would be perfect for coeur a la creme :) I was fortunate during my last trip to the antique store as I found a wonderful pomegranite press that I’ve been hunting for. Vintage kitchen items just make me smile and I almost always can’t refuse them.

  • I just hope to G-d you don’t slice your lip open on one of those darling coffee bowls in the top left photo.

  • An antique store for kitchen tools? This is my idea of paradise that’s on my must-visit list on our next trip. Thanks for sharing.

  • @jess — no, the RER doesn’t go out that far, but the SNCF Paris Est line goes that far…!!! Bwahhaahaahaaa

  • I lied — the Est line only goes to Crecy-la-Chapelle…but it’s only short cab ride from there!

  • It is my guess that those three “heart-shaped” molds are actually for Coeur a la Creme, made by draining thick yogurt through the cheese cloth lined molds then served elegantly with some fresh fruit, strawberries or blueberries or gorgeous fat raspberries along side. I learned about them years ago, and actually did make a Ronde a la Creme since I didn’t have the heart shaped mold. In a pinch of course a sieve will do.

    Thanks for the tour of the shop.

  • I am soooo jealous of those white/blue cups….so, so, so veryyyyyyyyyy jealous!

  • Arrrgghhhh — I NEED (and I’m not using that term inappropriately) a kugelhopf mold — you just don’t see them in stores or yard sales here in SF/East Bay — at least I don’t. I have a silicone one, but it’s just not the same, somehow …. :-(

  • Lordy those pictures made my heart race! I am a sucker for all things crockery, cuppery and pitchery. I even was aghast that you swooped up the lot of those cups… and then suddenly realized I was out in no man’s land surrounded with ducks, chickens and a surly baby donkey… not in France at all… Ho hee haw hum.

  • I am drinking my cup from a bowl tomorrow…oh qu’il sera si delicieux!

  • One fine day I am hoping to make a trip there…

  • @sunny…crap.

    we’ll be heading over for a long weekend in november. better bring an extra suitcase….

  • Good thing I am on the other side of the Atlantic. This information could be dangerous. I seriously want that teapot. I would use it as a vase for sunflowers on my kitchen table, (with two old chairs coated in nicked paint in a matching hue).
    Happy hunting David. It is all about the HUNT, after all…
    -Michaela

  • Looks like you got yourself some neat bargains. Love all the photos! Especially the red saucepans. I so wish the teapot had a lid (not that I’d be able to own it). :P

  • Oy, the ceiling full of pitchers did me in big time. There are at least three from that photo alone that have me seriously considering flying over to bring them home with me where I truly believe they are destined to be. I know the French aren’t into American style customer service, but this IS outside Paris city limits right? So if I call maybe they might consider doing a phone order??? Probably not, this is going to haunt me. I’m going to dream of pitchers I can never have tonight ;-)

  • Yes, this store is a find! But like any antique shop, what they have in stock is constantly changing. Re-reading this post, though, I’m thinking I should’ve scooped up those heart-shaped molds, even though I have no idea what I’d do with them.

    (As if that’s ever stopped me before!….)

  • How lovely! I love the turquoise kettle. It would go perfectly in my kitchen. Great pictures by the way. I’m so going to visit next i’m in paris.

  • oh mon dieu – now that i look at my “faux” cafe au lait bowls i feel…..eeeekkk. what a beautiful find.

  • david said> After slamming on the brakes, I do a San Francisco-style U-turn, backing up to head into the parking lot.

    hahaha, you describe this so well, for flea markets addicts, c’est exactement ça :D. what’s the english for l’esprit de collection ?

    The place looks amazing. There was no funky/vintage cookbooks ?
    J’adore the three red dotted pans hanged at the ceiling :)

  • I promise to let you know when my neighborhood has our gigantic, 4 block brocante next year. I was never a fan of American garage sales, but I was surprised to see the things for sale here at the brocante….German WWII helmets, real swords, silver cutlery by the boatloads, antiques galore! It is in April and totally worth the trip to St Cloud. I can also recommend a great place for lunch :)

  • I can’t wait to go! Now I know where to feed my craving for antiques. Having recently moved half way around the world to Paris with my French husband, your blog is my “one stop shop” for where to eat, what to cook, things to do, where to shop (markets and now antiques too!) and, as always, priceless insights into the French. Merci bien!

  • Oh, man! The photo of those pitchers (the picture of those pitchers!!) is killing me.
    I have a pitcher fetish. This place looks like heaven on earth. Thanks for the mini-vacation, David.

  • Do you need a car to get there?
    We have a pied a terre in the 3e which needs some eclectic filling. Renting a car seems always such a hassle (like transfering money at the bank).
    G

  • Gugi: Some of the previous commenters mentioned how to get there by public transit (which gets you close, but not close enough). There are trains to Couloummiers from the gare d’Est in Paris frequently (although the gare in Couloummiers is closed for renovations so you take the train to Toulon, then there’s a bus.) From the station, I don’t know how you’d get there unless you rent a car. You could likely telephone a taxi. If so, I’d bring a phone number along.

    You can rent a car in Paris and it’s about one hour from the city. I linked to a map at the end of the post.

  • Last night I had a dream that I was David’s valet. One of my duties was to pack up all the things he acquired on a particular jourmey (I think it was a book tour). I woke up and saw this post. I know there must be some French phrase for my condition!

  • Great Loot…
    As Tante Anne uses to intone: “never, ever buy antiques in Paris, jamais!”
    There was a two story barn near Gien…that I couldn’t find now on a bet…stuffed with treasure to make your eye’s pop…esprit d’escalier, despite Piaf, is my middle name..

  • Awesome post, as usual.
    I really want one of those silver Jesus’ pictured at the end of the post. Please tell me they were something sacreligious, like iced tea spoons, or stirrers or something!

  • Dave: I didn’t realize stirring iced tea was a sin!
    ; )

  • I, too, am vastly curious about the Jesus’ who all look as if they fell off their crucifixes. The photo is fascinating – especially when you finally notice the painting of the face behind the vessel that is holding the Jesus multitude! Alas, I am sitting at home in the US typing this… I recently returned from eight glorious days in Paris, my fifth time in France, and each time I cannot wait to begin planning the next trip. Discovered your blog a few months ago – what a delight! I am determined that the next trip will include rental of an apartment with a kitchen, no matter how tiny. It has become way too difficult to visit the food markets and only take photos or just buy items for a picnic.

  • O those little heart-shaped molds-
    my heart hurts at the sight of them: I would have adopted them immediately. ;-)

    Great bowls you got yourself, congrats! :-)

  • Wow. I’m checking for flights now……… great post David.

  • Jesus is not someone to be taken lightly. He said in the Bible — “But I tell you whom you should fear: fear him who, after killing the body, has the power to throw you into hell.”

  • I’m so jealous! You are so right; that stuff would be over the top expensive in the States. What a great find!

  • This post sums it up pretty nicely. You, in France, popping into an antique shop to furnish your flat, me, here in Austin, hitting the Goodwill to see if there are any cool castoffs to reclaim.

    Ah well, everybody can’t live in Paris. Imagine how crowded the sidewalks would be? It is yearn-making to peek into other lives, everybody else’s looks glamourous from here, but I do love my life. C’est la No Place Like Home, y’all!

  • you should add this stop to one of your future culinary tours

  • Still outside of Paris, but much closer – you can get there by Metro, is Neptune, rue Paul Vaillant Couturier, in Montreuil. I’ve bought a load of good condition Le Creuset there (at 2 euros a pop) and old Sabatier knives as well as china, glasses, crystal, an antique pair of Raybans…and a stuffed crocodile. It’s a Catholic charitable organisation run by and for ex-prisoners and, something i’ve never seen in other junkshops, there stuff is organised by colour.
    You can also get good cheap stuff IN paris at ‘Un coin d’autrefois’ on the Bd. de Magenta. The shop is small and they need to keep things turning over so things are priced accordingly

  • Oh, you lucky, lucky boy! I love little country antique shops like you find in some of the more rural area’s in CA and elsewhere. I’m a silverware junkie and those pots of flatware just call to me! I try to buy in place settings of two..like my Grandmother did. Her table was always so interesting, set with various coordinated (not mfg’s together) china settings, crystal stemware, and silver place settings in twos. deliberately placed to spread out her guests without need of place cards, requiring that each duo pick a setting and go there! So fun!

  • That looks like one of those places that I should never be allowed to go. Please, I must know – what exactly ARE those Jesus things?

  • Jean Marie: I don’t know what they are…your guess is as good as mine.

    Joshua: Thanks for the tips~!

    Daria: I’m afraid I’m hurt one of my guests when I trampled over them to get the good stuff.

  • Fantastique finds! And lovely pictures, too.

  • Clearly we share some genes – witness my kitchen-oriented spending spree in the antique shops of Pomona (in southern California) a few weeks ago. I went more for serving bowls, platters and tableware, and less for actual kitchen equipment. This time.

    http://inerikaskitchen.blogspot.com/2009/08/recipes-pie-revelations-and-vintage.html

  • Wow. I’ve often wondered if I took at trip to just antique in Europe if it would cost more to ship back or if I should just plan on dumping all of my clothes and cramming my suitcases full.

    That looks like the coolest. Am I jealous? No doubt.

  • As a child, my family and I would visit my uncle who lives in Montmagny in the suburbs of Paris in the Val-d’Oise Département. I always remember the huge brocante / vide-greniers of Montmagny and all the lovely finds there. It’s amazing what hidden treasure you can find in people’s attic. I just checked online the next one is on October 4th :)

  • Oh I am so with you. This can be so addicting.

    For me…its the sunday flea markets all over Berlin. They are just full of antiques, I went to one this past Sunday that had stand after stand selling buckets full of old silverware, mismatched china, and an abundance of porcelain soup tureens. Somehow I managed to limit myself to one adorable teacup, saucer, plate and spoon.

    The antique cameras on the other hand…

  • Oh, I love when I find wonderful little shops like this. I have to exercise a great deal of self-control, but the finds are always so great!

  • How close is the Chiffonniere to the Sunday market? I’ll be in Paris in October and don’t plan on renting a car so would take the RER or SNCF. What’s the bus from Toulon, then?

  • Randy: Google maps has a mapping feature that allows you to get directions and calculate distance. If you click on the map link after the address, it’ll take you there.

    The bus from Toulon goes to the Couloummier train station, since they are doing repairs to that line. The train leaves from Paris but ends in Toulon, and you get on a bus from there to complete the journey.

  • i’m swooning….big time. for all of it. i can’t decide which is my favorite….and am dying to book a flight to paris. N-O-W.

  • Your finds look simply stunning. I am so glad you told me that outside of Paris is where the bargains are.

    Thanks!
    Rachel

  • I woulda bought that blue teapot in a heartbeat. :)

  • I love your photos – especially the one with the cannisters of utensils. Looks like my kitchen work area. Thank you David.