Les Puces: Charlotte Interior Designer Traci Zeller Takes Paris

Traci Zeller in Paris
Traci Zeller in Paris

Are you familiar with the phrase, “”There’s nothing new under the sun?””  Many established designers – including those for well-known furniture retailers — have gleaned more than a bit of inspiration from their visits to “le marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen,” more simply known as Les Puces (“The Fleas”).  That’s just one reason no trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the most famous Parisian flea market, located at Porte de Clignancourt.  Some of the other reasons would, of course, be the incredible variety of furniture, fashion, books, and vintage objects – much of which looks nothing like what you might find stateside!  As an interior designer, I carefully shopped Les Puces in search of unique, beautiful items that fit my aesthetic and would work for my home and the homes of my clients.  Let me share a few tips and tricks of Les Puces so that you, too, can find a treasure to bring back to Charlotte.  That way, every time you see the piece you purchased, you’ll be instantly transported, if for a brief moment, back to the wonder that is Paris!  

Put on your comfortable (yet chic) shoes, because Les Puces is actually fourteen different markets spread over 753,000 square feet.  Of course, you can choose to see as much or as little as you like, but there’s no doubt that you will be walking a lot.
Saturday and Sunday are the best days to visit Les Puces.  Some vendors are open on Monday, but go early, as those vendors will typically be straightening up from the weekend.

Don’t be fooled by the merchants on the outskirts of Les Puces.  There are plenty of vendors selling clothing and household goods, and although you may find some treasures, those pieces are generally not the antiques.  More importantly, that’s just the beginning of what lies ahead.

My favorite markets were Marché Dauphine, Marché Malassis, Marché Vernaison, Marché Paul Bert and Marché Serpette.  Marché Dauphine has an incredible selection of vintage fashion, books, art prints, and textiles.  If you are a fan of the Art Deco period, Marché Malassis provides unbelievable inspiration. Marché Vernaison is a wonderful market in which to find a variety of small items starting as low as 1 Euro.  Of course, many higher priced items are readily available!  I was enamored with the vintage luxury leather goods, from Louis Vuitton to Hermes to Goyard, at Marché Paul Bert and Marché Serpette. Of particular interest to me were the remarkable luggage trunks, many of which were covered with various hotel stickers to commermorate the original owner’s travel.

Know that prices can be negotiated.  A trusted friend (and Paris resident) estimates that vendors include approximately a 20% premium to allow for bargaining.  It is absolutely acceptable to ask politely if a vendor would consider a lower price.  Of course, if a particular item is priced unreasonably high, there is always the possibility that the vendor is more of a “collector” than a “merchant.”  A few vendors are less inclined than others to part with their personal favorites.
Overwhelmed?  Consider a guided tour!  Many English-speaking guides are available to help you navigate the markets.  This would be particularly helpful if you are searching for a certain piece or would simply like some assistance to visit the best shops and possibly negotiate purchases.  I had a wonderful experience with the Paris Travel Group.  The Paris Travel Group creates personalized itineraries based on your interests and ensures that you experience the best that Les Puces or other parts of Paris has to offer.  

Bonne vacances!