Ikea is practical, intelligent, not too expensive and usually looks good. It is not a bad way to furnish your Paris apartment. But you do have to first bring it home then spend hours putting it together (unless you call someone to do it for you – see the Services section). But perhaps you’d like something different in your Paris apartment. Here are a few ideas for some personalization that doesn’t cost too much.
FUSAC ads and other websites are a treasure trove of used items. If you find an ad for a moving sale just after it goes up you can possibly furnish a whole Parisian apartment at once! And more than just furniture you’ll find the practical items like small appliances and ironing boards for a song. If you find more than you can carry give a quick call to one of the man with a Van ads to schedule a pickup (again see the Services section).
Izidore: Is the online “garage sale” or vide-appartement. It is a secure way to buy and sell used furniture online. Sellers post a photo of a room and designate everything in it that’s for sale with a virtual price tag. Sales are shown on a map as well and you can search by specific items such as canapé-lit or table. Some sellers offer extra discounts if you choose several items. You visit the apartment online, pay via the site then go get your purchase. The only drawback is not being able to thoroughly inspect the item up close before buying, but the site does mention that if you are not satisfied you’ll be reimbursed, but it isn’t clear how this works.
One difficulty of furnishing a Paris apartment is that if you want something delivered that you don’t have to put together yourself with a bit more quality you most often have to order it and the delay is usually a minimum of three months. That’s a long time to wait. Outlet Design Gallery (in Paris 17th and Orgeval, a town west of Paris) has quality contemporary furniture at nice prices. One bonus is that they have a warehouse and have many pieces in stock which allows them to deliver to you right away. You can also order to get just the fabric or leather that you like.
There are 3 models of sofabeds that fold out in a flash. There is a choice of armrests and type of mattress for daily or occasional use. They have very interesting dining tables and chairs with sleek lines and lovely wood. One converts from a low coffee table (now there’s a term that must date back to when people had coffee in the living room after dinner, now it’s for the apertif before dinner!) to a dining table with the lifting of a lever. Outlet Design Gallery’s second bonus is that the furniture is made in Europe, mostly in Italy and France.
Wine boxes! When you purchase some wine ask the merchant if they have any of the wooden wine boxes available. You don’t have to buy the whole case of wine, just ask for an empty box. They are an excellent resources that is likely to be just thrown away. My brother-in-law enjoyed the ones he saw her so much that he broke them down and took them back home to Michigan where he put them back together and uses them for storage. Other than storage you can turn a large one (12 bottles) on end and voilà en end table or bedside stand. Put a stack of books in the bottom for weight (and storage). Or stack three smaller ones kittycorner for the same effect. Use a box for planting an herb garden on your balcony. Others can become drawers when placed on a shelf. Wine boxes are solid and decorative. And of course have the cachet of France.
The French company Simply-a-Box will ship you wooden boxes inspired by apple crates and you can simply combine them to make any piece of furniture you want. The even have packages ready to furnish a whole studio for example for 406€. The boxes either comes in bare wood or stained. You can decorate them if you want or leave them bare. The wood is from sustainable French forests. https://www.simplyabox.fr/
Flea Markets: When I was a student a friend of mine was looking ahead and had a goal of finding a set of silverware for the home that she would one day have and thus she would have a beautiful table and a long lasting souvenir of her time in Paris. She wanted real silver but of course did not want to spend a huge amount of money. So she kept an eye out at the flea markets. She bought one place setting at a time. It didn’t matter to her if they matched. I think she would get one setting of 5 pieces that matched within the setting, but the whole service for 8 would be 8 different settings. She also found a soup ladle and other service pieces. I took a twist on this myself with glassware. The wine glasses on my table are all different shapes, colors and styles. They go together because they are all different and it makes for a striking table. These collections allow you to select the lonely unmatched piece at a stand which is a bargain because it no longer is part of a set. They are often of high quality and you can imagine the stories they would tell you of the tables they graced previously.
Old postcards. There are always postcard vendors at the brocantes, but also at the weekly Used and antique book market at Parc George Brassens. It takes place on Saturdays and Sundays. Choose a few from a special town or region and group them in one frame. Visitors to your place will love to peer at them and talk about them. You can do the same with engravings or bookplates.
Photos: If you would like some historical photos for your walls you’ll enjoy the site http://vergue.com/. Vergue offers photographic treasture that have been restored and carefully documented from the birth of photography to the 1930s. Works by photographers Gustave Le Gray and Charles Marville are particularly strongly represented, but also Atget, Nadar, Agence Rol and many others. The photos are in high resolution and can be downloaded for free.
Parisian paintings. A painting doesn’t have to be huge nor expensive to have an impact, but if you can have a spotlight on it it will really jump off the wall. Perhaps choose a watercolor of rooftops by Isabelle Corcket or a warped view of a Paris building by American Parisian Linda McClusky. Art is a great investment in that you can take it home with you as a long lasting souvenir of your Paris apartment when you leave. PS: rearrange your wall decor now and again you’ll be surprised how it all looks new as you’ll start noticing at it again.
Did you buy a dresser or cabinet at Ikea after all? Dress it up with some special knobs. Vintage ones can be found at the flea markets or the BHV has a fabulous variety. The whole style of a basic white piece of furniture can be changed by changing the knobs.
Combine furniture shopping with a trip to an auction house and you’ll have a very Parisian day out as well as furnishings for your Paris apartment. Anyone can visit and auction house just to look and if you are inspired to bid just note the time and date and come back. Drouot for example is one of the oldest houses in Paris and it is a real Parisian experience to visit. Drouot proposes a unique model that brings together 74 auction houses and over 2000 professionals under one roof. Open to all tastes and preferences, Drouot stands out for its large scale of 500,000 objects proposed each year, offering an incomparable access to the art world to 5,000 daily visitors, from grand collectors, to amateurs, to novices.