Now, in the life of this brocanteuse there was to come a moment of utter heart-full happiness. The previous year, I’d chanced upon a small shop in yet another beautiful white stone Anjou town. The shop had been closed but it had stayed in my memory. I had not realised then what lay behind high walls next door. So now Madame was showing me round the three storeys of this little shop. It was set out as if its 18th century owners had only recently vacated. In one room just a large metal bath on a black and white tiled floor, a wooden chair draped with a hemp sheet and a yellowy block of Savon de Marseilles. In anther room stood a cabriole legged table, some leather bound books, a walnut chest of drawers, a portrait of a gentille femme – each piece with a vitality and glow.
They had found the shop and the large house adjacent by chance after it had been empty for twenty years. It had once been the grand residence of the Monsieur le Maire. Coming out of the shop onto the street we then stepped in through huge wooden gates to a courtyard with large rectangular cobbles. Old beamed outbuildings to one side, an elegant stone house to the other side. I bought a set of 18th century books with covers of palest pink, a grey framed foxed mirror, I hovered over a beautiful cabriole leg chestnut table and a massive coffer, and admired everything.
She invited me into the house, I was in heaven. Off the large stone walled entrance hall, through double doors, two stuffed swans sat on the dining table in a room with ancient dry scraped paneling – “we did it ourselves, it took months to scrape off the old brown paint”, she said. The massive stone staircase doubled back on itself, leading up to the bathroom with a huge urn full of lacey coral fans and sea shells. Back in the high ceilinged kitchen a log fire burned in the huge stone fireplace. I was thrilled to see how she and her husband had created such an exquisite home with so much atmosphere. Madame with her gentle smile and kind brown eyes, could see how touched I was by this much beauty. She showed me pictures of the house in a book of 18th century interiors, and gave me a jar of her homemade quince jelly. She said, “It is perhaps time to lift your game, frighten yourself a little, buy more expensive pieces, trust your own style”. What an afternoon.