stack of black napkins

You may not know this about me:  for half my life I worked mostly for large companies with large inventories, large checkbooks, and sometimes I've sold things I wouldn't necessarily want to own.  And in the process of developing merchandise for large companies, I've seen beautiful vintage pieces copied and watered down until there's nothing very special about them.  

As we were crafting our vision for Elsie Green, we were looking for something we felt was missing:  a collection of pretty, sustainable things for your home made with soul and artistry.  A treasure chest of historical designs and techniques handed down through generations. Each piece a little work of art for your room. Not a lot of fanfare, just pretty things lovingly chosen by hand, and sold with an extraordinarily personal level of service.  

Things we would have in our own home.    And most of all, vintage pieces that retained their original heart and soul.  Essentially, we wanted to build the shop that we would like to shop in.  Or visit when we go to a new city and take a million photos.  Or be excited to tell our friends about.  Simple.

philippine in french garden

The centerpiece of our shop was to be a vintage collection.  Each piece selected by hand to represent the casual, comfortable and eclectic way the French live.  We started by hiring our very chic Parisian friend Philippine to scope out the French vintage scene.  Philippine had no experience as a vintage scout or sourcing agent - she was (and still is) a freelance Creative Director by trade.  But that was what made our choice such a good one - she wasn't limited by how that type of work was usually done.  She had great taste, she was resourceful, and she knew how to build relationships - that's all we needed really.  We'd  figure out the rest as we went. 

laurie and andie

Since that first trip driving a petite van around the French countryside, running for trains, sleeping in a different Maison d'Hôte each night, we've somewhat perfected the process. But each trip (and each container) has its own personality, filled with unexpected inspiration from museums, restaurants and homes we visit.   I still think about that 8' tall hand painted sign in a market in Montpelier that I just missed out on - it would have made an amazing headboard.  

stone fountain

While other shoppers are dashing through the stalls, picking up this or that, we're chatting with dealers looking for that special nugget of information to bring a vintage piece to life.  We're always looking for items with great stories - copper pieces from French hotels, Ercuis flatware (much more sought after by the French than Christofle), a series of white leather bound Nobel Prize winning books, a convent table with a drawer for each nun to store her plate and spoon.  And Philippine always finds at least one surprise that makes the trip.  On one trip it was the opportunity to shop artist Pierre Malbec's collection of hand made stone ware.  On another it was finding a treasure trove of antique Thonet chairs in a dusty attic.  

moroccan daybed

Dealers have become friends over the years, and they save special things for us that they hope we'll like. 

We arrive at the hotel each night exhausted by a long day of driving, walking, and searching, but usually make the time for a late dinner.  Because who knows where the next bit of inspiration will strike?  Perhaps at Carmelo with a truffle pasta served in a petite copper pot.  

While we've augmented the collection over the years with our Custom Reclaimed Wood Furniture collection, hand made ceramics from local makers and lovely linen bedding and hand made block printed pillow covers, the vintage pieces are still the heart and soul of Elsie Green.   And each piece inevitably reveals a secret later that we didn't notice when we bought it - a hand written note inside a drawer, book-matched veneers where you'd least expect them, or in one case - a hidden drawer built into the back of an armoire to hide something special.

 oil bottles on stone wall

Each shopping trip fills us with excitement about what we found and how we're going to display and photograph each piece. 

 And each shopping trip fills us with gratitude for the life lessons that chasing beauty across the French countryside teaches us: 

To have the courage to try something different and to make a few mistakes. 

To appreciate the lustre and value that comes with age. 

To treasure individuality and imperfection.    

   To always keep our eyes open - one never knows when or where inspiration will strike. 

And most of all, to define success with measures other than money.

Thank you to all our customers who have visited us, shopped with us and supported us over the years.  It's a lovely life and we're so lucky to be living it.  

Laurie Furber
Tagged: inspiration