Treasure hunting in France: brocante!

I am just in my second week of a four-week long trip through France and boy, am I loving it! It was a long drive, but it’s great to have the car with us to go wherever we want. I am thoroughly enjoying the warm climate, the food, the old villages full of character and oh yes – the brocante. What’s brocante you say? Well, it’s basically French old junk with some real gems amongst it if you look for it. You can find rural barns, town shops and Sunday fleamarkets full of vintage, antiques or just second hand, usually advertised by a hand painted sign on the side of the road.

Brocante market near Auch,  Midi-Pyrenees
Brocante market near Auch, Midi-Pyrenees

You come across plenty ‘brocante’ signs while driving across the country, but if you really want to plan your treasure hunting while in France there is a useful website listing loads of local markets by area called www.brocabrac.fr

I have just downloaded the app that goes with it. An app? A brocante hunting app. Amazing. 

Wish I could bring home some more of the fabulous pieces I have spotted so far. Shame the car is packed full of camping gear, two kids and my husband’s racing bike in the roof box. Quelle dommage! Need to plan a future trip with a large van – on my own next time. 

Au revoir, I will keep you posted!

Vintage and retro brocante shop in Mirande, France
Brocante shop in Mirande, Midi-Pyrenees

Vintage trader of the month: Curtiss and Clementine

Every month we are putting the spotlight on one of the many vintage businesses around the North East of Scotland, often hidden away in corners or back alleys. This month we are showcasing a vintage trader up in the north of Aberdeenshire: Curtiss and Clementine, located inside the little treasure trove shop called HQ in the harbour of Banff. This business is owned by Rachel Kennedy, who specialises in vintage finds and collectables from sometimes as old as the 19th century. Being a historian, Rachel certainly knows her stuff and she is a star at finding unusual items with a past. If you are looking for quirky and wonderful vintage, visit Banff and make a day of it!

Rachel, where does the name Curtiss and Clementine come from?

The idea for my business grew out of a passion for history, so when it came to thinking of a name it felt right to look at my own family history and my mixed English and Scots parentage. I spent a lot of time with my paternal Scots grandmother as a child, whose maiden name was Clementine McGregor, before moving here from London ten years ago. Lawrence Curtiss was my maternal English grandfather. Sadly, I never knew him and since the Curtiss surname hasn’t carried on into the next generation, I thought it would be nice to use it as a way of remembering his side of the family.

How long have you been running the shop?

The shop where I am based is called HQ, we opened last July so we are coming up to a year. I share the space with another local business called Threadbear, who are based in Banff and make hand-made gifts and home furnishings.


What made you want to start selling vintage?

Being involved in vintage and antiques and having my own business has given me the chance to follow a dream. I’ve been a fan of vintage since the late 1980s during my art student days when I used to love visiting all the second-hand shops in Brighton, but I started collecting as a child (glass animals, then clay pipes after a bit of random digging in our front garden in London!) and ended up working in museums as a curator, so I’m probably programmed to seek out vintage objects, especially if they have a good design or are a bit unusual. I also love 20th century studio ceramics and glass and pretty much anything eighteenth century, which was my area of expertise, so selling enables me to indulge in all my interests and passions!

What makes your business special in the area? 

When I first started my business a few years ago initially from home, there were only a couple of vintage businesses that I was aware of and no vintage shops or fairs at all in or around Banff. Things have changed since then, which is great, but it has been exciting to be part of starting something new. Together with the vintage fairs that I run as well, I feel I am offering a unique shopping experience for the local community here in Banff and Macduff as well as visitors to the area. I also try and source items that have a local connection (like the vintage milk bottles from local dairies I have in HQ at the moment) which has been a nice way to offer more personal items to local customers.


What is the weirdest item you have ever had in your shop? 

Oh, that’s easy! I have in stock at the moment a miniature china figurine called a Frozen Charlotte or Charlie. It’s teensy. Made from glazed bisque porcelain with hand-painted black hair. These dolls were made in Germany from the mid 1800s to 1920s, originally as bath dolls I think, but became popular in the States after a poem called Young Charlotte, about a young woman who froze to death whilst driving in an open carriage with her beau on New Year’s Eve. These tiny dolls are now very collectable although many find them creepy – you can sometimes find them in mini metal coffins which is quite macabre.

What has been the most beautiful item you have ever had in the shop? 

I was lucky enough to find in France last year an absolutely beautiful lidded pot by Arabia Finland, in mint condition. It was hand-painted in a gorgeously rich, dark cobalt blue design onto a translucent fine white China. The design was very simple and was signed ET, for one of their most respected designers Esteri Tomula, who worked at the factory between 1947-84. From my research, it appeared to be a studio production from the 1950s which was unusual and so quite rare too. The combination of beauty, design, rarity and condition just made it a very striking thing and a lovely pot. The icing on the cake was that it was bought by an artist who really loved it.


What do you like about your job? 

Can I say everything? (Laughing) I love being independent, my own boss. I love hunting out the stock, researching it, displaying it and meeting customers. I really do learn something new every day and that keeps it all interesting and stimulating. It also gives me a chance to talk about the history of an item and to share what I have learned with customers which is very rewarding. It’s such a privilege too, to handle items that are 50, 100, sometimes even 150 years old, especially if I get to meet the current owners who know the history of these items. Hey, I’m even getting a bit fitter from all the heavy lifting of boxes that I do with my fairs..

What is the biggest challenge?

In today’s current economic climate, I would say being a sole trader in anything is really tough. You have got to work hard to keep motivated and be sensitive to market trends as well as stay true to your own ideas. Selling is probably the biggest challenge and I think most vintage businesses and antiques dealers feel that. I also think that although the idea of vintage is really growing in Scotland, the idea of buying second hand doesn’t appeal to many and it’s a challenge to try and change that.


Why should people buy vintage?
Actually, I wouldn’t say people should as its a personal taste but, I do believe that in today’s world of limited resources, it’s a much greener way to shop. I also think that buying vintage ensures a variety in your wardrobe or home and that has to be a good thing in my book. Buying vintage can also stimulate discussion between the generations which I love (eg where on earth did you find that? Or, I used to have one of those when I was young) and allows for self-expression too, which can be hugely creative.

——-

You can buy Vintage from Curtiss and  Clementine here:

Shop – HQ, 8b Quayside, Banff AB45 1HQ. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 10.30-4pm

Vintage fairs:

Rachel organises several fairs a year at Banff Castle:

  • Saturday 9 July, 10am-4pm
  • Saturday 10 September, 10am – 4pm.

Rachel is also a regular exhibitor at the Aberdeen Antiques & Collectors Market, which takes place every month at the Hilton Tree Tops Hotel, Aberdeen.

Online:

Facebook

Etsy

About sideboards and nappies or how I became a mumpreneur

Lethenty Mill in Aberdeenshire

It is four years this year. Four years of lugging furniture around, changing millions of nappies and breastfeeding on the go, because I also had two babies in the meantime. I have a shop. I am a business owner. A ‘mumpreneur’. I am my own boss. How on earth did I get here? And what drove me so mad to combine tiring motherhood with running a business?

First of all, I never thought I would end up as a Dutchie in Scotland. Thought I would be here just temporarily, passing through. But here I am, ten years later. I also never thought I would start up my own business, let alone one where lifting a two meter long teak sideboard is a regular task. It was never on my radar, never in my plans. I was just happily doing all kinds of jobs when one day a seed was planted. And it grew. And grew. It grew a bit more. And here we are.

Aberdeen

I am a creative being. I have always been interested in art and design, was forever drawing, and did a masters in Art history at uni, focusing on 20th century architecture. At 26 I moved to Aberdeen to be with my now husband, continuing to work for arts organisations like I did in The Netherlands, just in a different country. I settled in fine, but like most foreigners arriving in the granite city I was missing the variety in cafes, museums and yes – independent shops, that I was used to on the continent. Maybe I should just set up something myself, I thought at times. Surely there was a huge gap in the market. I would go and add some continental style to Aberdeen! The first seed was planted.

Once my husband and I moved from his bachelor pad in the city to a four-bedroom house in a village nine years ago, we had to shop for furniture. Oh boy, did I get frustrated! I couldn’t find anything in and around Aberdeen that was even vaguely my taste. Too bulky, too beige, too traditional, too tartan, to boring. There were no vintage furniture shops other than stuffy antiques and Ikea was three hours away. I wanted colour! Nice European furniture. Things to suit the average sized house without taking up too much space. Eclectic old stuff as well as stylish contemporary pieces. Things to add soul to a home.

 painted staircase saying the words dreams don't work unless you do

img via Pinterest

Many people in this country seem to have a funny habit to cram large corner sofas into tiny living rooms and I just didn’t get it. I also detested the brown and beige ‘catalogue look’ that I spotted in so many houses. So many interiors looked exactly the same. What was going on? Surely North East Scotland could do better than that? The granite architecture as well as the dark winters make this part of the world grey enough at times and I yearned for bright colours and things for the home that made me smile and feel inspired. So I started dreaming. I started wondering. If I felt like this, surely other people felt like this too. If there was nowhere up here to buy nice European style furniture, I was going to open a shop myself.

Shop window in Copenhagen
A trip to Copenhagen gave me plenty of inspiration (I love that city!)

It took another five years and many mood boards and collages, bullet point lists and ideas in journals for me to take the plunge. I did lots of research, signed up for some Business Gateway courses, made a trip to Copenhagen to indulge in Danish design and see what kind of shop I wanted to be. The combination of losing my day job and being pregnant with my first child made the decision to change careers a little easier. I registered as a sole trader while still on maternity leave and began selling small vintage items and handmade cushions in an Etsy shop and at local fairs. When my baby boy was eight months old, I found local shop premises and got the keys to my very own space at Lethenty Mill.

Baby in a shop window
My little boy and ideal treasure hunting companion in the shop before it opened

Since then Nina’s Apartment has grown with leaps and bounds and it has certainly not been a walk in the park trying to cover all the bills that come with running a business. Not to mention the juggling of business and family life. Nothing romantic about that, just really hard work! But I love what I do and believe 100% in my products and service. Winning the Life with Style Creative Award last year and being shortlisted for two others was a great boost and reminder that I am doing something right and that people are appreciating what I am trying to achieve. And that I am, in fact, putting my own little quirky continental stamp on the North east of Scotland, one step at the time.

Having started as a shop selling a mixture of vintage, upcycled, handmade and retro, Nina’s Apartment has now specialised in the mid century modern and Scandinavian style. Trying to stay unique rather than duplicating what more local people started doing (the painted furniture, pre-1950s vintage), just makes sense. I want Nina’s Apartment to be the main destination in the North East of Scotland for mid century modern design.

Nina's Apartment mid century vintage furniture shop

I have built up quite a bit of knowledge about British and Scandinavian mid century design and it just is the style I love most. The minimalist lines and details are subtle and sophisticated and remind me a lot of modernist architecture, another love of mine and what I studied during my degree.

I always get excited to find quality new stock that I just know my customers will love. And there is nothing better than knowing that a piece of original vintage furniture is going to be appreciated again after some TLC and plenty of elbow grease. I simply love sourcing beautiful furniture and helping people furnish their home with unique pieces to bring some soul and personality into their interior. And my own house? I think I have definitely solved the problem that gave me my business idea in the first place, many moons ago! No beige and boring, that’s for sure.


Special Event!

After a very successful Christmas pop-up shop in November and December, the Old church hall in Kirkton of Rayne will open one last time this Winter with a special Big Sale weekend. There will be many ex-display items (shelving units, chairs, tables etc) that were used in the pop-up shop, as well as vintage and retro pieces at great prices from Nina’s Apartment and fellow local businesses Louis Little Haven and The Curious Bothy.

Nina will be giving two upcycling classes during the weekend, at the old church hall:

Chalk paint taster workshop
Have a go at using different colours, techniques and finishes
Friday 29th January, 10.30am-12noon
£30.00

Basic Upholstery
Learn to quickly and effectively recover a simple seat
Sunday 31st of January, 10.30am-1pm
£45.00 (but bring your own seat + fabric)

For booking please email ninasapartment@gmail.com

The cafe will serve teas, coffees, home-made soups and cake.
Ample parking outside.

Beautiful new stock…and our January SALE!

SIDEBOARDS

Fully restored rosewood sideboard £395.00

Gorgeous EoN sideboard from 1963. Teak and rosewood. Beautiful condition. 220cm wide. £345.00

Lovely mid century glass and teak sideboard/bookcase by McIntosh, perfect small size for many rooms and uses. 125 x 30 x 100cm. £150.00

 COFFEE TABLES

Nathan teak glass topped coffee table with three extra leaf tables underneath. 82cm diameter, 51cm tall. £150.00

Mid-century teak with glass coffee table in great condition. dimensions:
70cm W x 38cm H
£75.00

 DINING SETS

Danish style extending teak dining table plus six chairs (two carvers), by McIntosh 1960s/70s. In excellent condition. table 160cm to 240cm long, 92cm wide. WAS £360.00 for the set, NOW ONLY £195
Danish style extending teak dining table plus six chairs (two carvers), by McIntosh 1960s/70s. In excellent condition. table 160cm to 240cm long, 92cm wide.WAS £360.00 for the set, NOW ONLY £195

BUREAUS

Mid-century modern writing desk, made in Denmark. WAS £275.00, NOW ONLY £160

ARMCHAIRS

Reupholstered Danish 1960s rocking chair. Teak wood with grey wool. WAS £395.00, NOW ONLY £275.00

Danish armchairs, wood, metal and black leather. WAS £99 per chair, NOW £50.00 EACH

One of two mid-century teak Danish style armchairs. Comes with foam box cushions in good condition, just need new covers to update the look. £120 each (two chairs available)

Nina’s Apartment is going on an outing…to Kirkton of Rayne!

Nina’s Apartment will soon be popping up with a dedicated vintage design corner in the old church hall of Kirkton of Rayne near Inverurie, which is being transformed into a luxury Christmas retail destination during November and December. 

The Kirkton of Rayne Christmas Shop, organised by local enterpreneur Rebecca Jamieson, will be selling a large selection of handcrafted Christmas decorations, stocking fillers, interior accessories and some carefully chosen gifts displayed on an eclectic collection of new and vintage furniture which will also be for sale. It’ll also be showing off Rebecca’s passion for interior design, wreath making and all things Christmas!<!– /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:"MS 明朝"; mso-font-charset:78; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-536870145 1791491579 18 0 131231 0;} @font-face {font-family:"MS 明朝"; mso-font-charset:78; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-536870145 1791491579 18 0 131231 0;} @font-face {font-family:Cambria; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-536870145 1073743103 0 0 415 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-unhide:no; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; margin:0cm; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:"MS 明朝"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi; mso-ansi-language:EN-US;} .MsoChpDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; mso-default-props:yes; font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:"MS 明朝"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi; mso-ansi-language:EN-US;} @page WordSection1 {size:612.0pt 792.0pt; margin:72.0pt 90.0pt 72.0pt 90.0pt; mso-header-margin:36.0pt; mso-footer-margin:36.0pt; mso-paper-source:0;} div.WordSection1 {page:WordSection1;}

–>


In addition the pop-up shop will be stocking some special pieces by Scottish artists including Jewellery by Hamespun and linocut prints by Heather Mathieson.

A cozy and welcoming café corner will add the finishing touch to this unique retail destination, serving hot drinks and delicious home bakes from Vanilla Chocolate boutique caterers. 

A fresh Christmas wreath-making workshop will be held on Friday the 4th of December.

The Kirkton of Rayne Christmas Shop will be open from 11am -4pm Thursday to Sunday, starting from Saturday the 31st of October. Admission is free and there is ample parking.

For more information and the latest news on special events and workshops please visit the Kirkton of Rayne Christmas Shop facebook page.


Directions to Kirkton of Rayne

Ceramics, glassware and little oddities

We specialise in mid 20th century furniture but also stock wonderful ceramics, glassware and other decorative pieces from that era. Here are a few of the latest additions.


Please get in touch if you want any more details or wish to buy.

Retro green aluminium ice bucket. Very cool. Could easily function as a biscuit jar! 17cm tall. 
SOLD

Mid century wall vase (hung on a screw). White and black ceramic. 25cm tall. £22.50

Scandi style side plate / small dish. 16cm diameter. £9.50

Blue and white oval glass vase. 15cm tall, 14cm wide, 7cm deep. £17.50
Lovely green patterned fruit / salad bowl. 1960s. 21cm x 8cm. SOLD

Midwinter ‘Sienna’ coffee set. Four cups and saucers, milk & sugar set and coffee pot. £35.00

Mid-century modern Danish chairs get a makeover

 

I have been busy in the studio recently, giving two chairs a complete makeover with some fresh seating and upholstery. The wooden frames are both sturdy and solid but of course show some signs of wear, to be expected for their age. The fabric and foam cushions are brand new.

Both chairs can be viewed and tried out in the shop.

1960s teak wood rocking chair reupholstered in a grey polka dot woolen fabric £350.00
Dimensions: 70cm wide x 82cm tall x 85cm deep.

 

1960s oak armchair, reupholstered in a Japanese style floral cotton. £140.00
 

 

Pop into Nina’s Apartment during NEOS this September for art, vintage and coffee


Each year North East Open Studios is a hugely popular event getting people out to visit hundreds of local artists exhibiting in their own homes, studios, galleries or…our shop! Nina’s Apartment is delighted to be a venue this year, hosting no less than three talented female artists, each showing their own individual pieces: Anne Marquiss, Lucy Brydon and Fenfolio.

There will also be drop-in classes (that means no booking required, just turn up and have a go!) and a little cafe serving hot cups of tea and coffee. Of course the shop will also be open as usual, and with extended opening hours during NEOS.

NEOS directories and maps are free and can be found online or in many local cafe’s, galleries and shops. You can do artists trails and visit lots of venues in one area, or pick and mix your favourites. It’s a fantastic opportunity to discover local talent and maybe even buy an original piece or art for your home. Don’t miss it!

Nina’s Apartment – NEOS Opening hours:
12th to 20th of September
Saturdays and Sundays 11am-17pm. Drop-in art classes all day.
Monday closed. Tuesday – Friday 11am-16pm