How to Shop Vintage Furniture the French Girl Way
Hint: It’s on your phone.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 7:25 AM
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A flight from Los Angeles to Paris, a train ride from Paris to Léon, and a few additional trips to Avignon, Marseilles, and assorted other stops amid the Provincial countryside compose the itineraries Victoria Smith has followed during the creation of her vintage homewares shop, Super Marché. And if the inventory she’s masterfully put together is any indication, that old adage rings true: The journey really is better than the destination.
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Launched in September of 2017, Super Marché is a relatively new venture for Smith—the publisher behind the blog SF Girl by Bay—but it’s an ideal fit. As a key figure in the design blog community for over 10 years with a strong visual background (her mother was an interior designer and purveyor of an antique shop), the multihyphenate had aspired to step into the interiors sphere in a new way and finally found the perfect opportunity when she picked up a seriously covetable daybed at the Alameda Flea Market.
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“Elsie Green is an existing online and vintage shop in Concord, California, and I’ve know Laurie Furber, who runs it, for a while,” Smith explains. “I bought a rattan daybed I have in my living room from her one day, and I started featuring it on the blog. She just couldn’t keep them in stock, and she had the idea that I should curate my own collection of French vintage finds.”
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Smith started joining Furber on her occasional trips to France, where they travel the countryside bartering for perfectly bohemian home goods. The goods are then packed up, brought through customs, and land in California, where Smith styles and photographs them before listing them in the shop. Once they land on Instagram, they’re often snapped up—and fast.
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“French girl” has long become a buzzword when it comes to style of any kind, but its meaning isn’t always immediately obvious. In the worst cases, it can be stereotypical: black and white stripes paired with the wafting scent of a freshly baked baguette. For Smith, however, it’s all about individuality, and this has been her guiding principle while curating Super Marché.
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“I’ve always been a person who likes more of an eclectic and an unexpected mix, and I think it’s much more interesting to have pieces in your home that you’ve found online in a thrift store or in a flea market that call to you and have a personality,” she says. “When I go to homes in France, they’re like nothing you’d ever expect—they’re uniquely personal.”
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This may be why Smith’s color-driven California style has found its perfect match in the markets of Provence, where she can find one-of-a-kind furniture pieces and home goods that lend themselves to out-of-the-box styling and don’t necessarily have to cost a ton either.
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“My goal is to help people create homes that don’t have to be a fortune. You can mix high and low and it doesn’t have to all be from the same place,” she says, pointing out that French homes are just as rife with affordable Ikea finds as those stateside. “If I can’t find larger things at a low price, then I try to find smaller home accessories and paintings and tapestries and things like that that people can afford.”
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That’s the beauty in designing a space that feels like your own, after all—the small details can make the biggest difference. And when it comes to vintage finds, in particular, Smith stresses that the most important tip for home styling is to be open to experimentation.
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“I’m always someone who shops Craigslist and garage sales, and I think the beauty of it is just giving it a go—heaven forbid it doesn’t look great and you probably didn’t spend a ton of money on it. Just resell it and buy something else!” she says. “If you have one intention for it—maybe you thought it would be a dining room chair but then it didn’t look right—I’ll put it in a corner with a stack of books on it. Chairs can be beautiful pieces of art on their own.”
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The California-meets-France style of Super Marché gives it a unique appeal and a refreshing array of offerings that are versatile enough to appeal to a range of styles and are accessible to a wide audience, who are now empowered to buy the best finds from French flea markets right from their phones. Then, when each piece finds its new home, it’s the customer’s own styling decisions that give them their true je ne sais quoi.
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“If you love a bunch of stuff and you put it together, chances are it’s going to look great and mean something to you,” says Smith. “It doesn’t have to be loved by the whole world. It’s your home—I’m all about just making yourself happy.”
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