This modest storefront has allowed Chamblin’s passion for antiques to flourish into a successful business.

“Sometimes you just feel an affinity for a place, and I fell in love with the people and the culture and the way of life,” said Chamblin,
who accompanied her husband on a business trip to Paris while he was president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International. “I knew I wanted to return.” Chamblin had studied English and American antiques since her early 20s, but after the life-changing voyage she set her sights on learning all she could about French pieces. She began traveling to France and buying containers full of armoires, farm tables, garden urns and unique small pieces like wine bottles and glazed pots.
According to Chamblin, most American dealers who sell French inventory merely travel to a warehouse in the States and choose from items brought over by a wholesaler. Belle Maison’s inventory is handpicked and the prices negotiated by Chamblin in France, which allows better deals for her customers and a unique offering of formal and country, quirky and classic.
The family-run enterprise – husband Tony handles accounting and marketing and daughter Kaitlin helps manage the store – has garnered a national following and what’s evolved from her quarterly buying trips is a request card service.

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The family-run enterprise – husband Tony handles accounting and marketing and daughter Kaitlin helps manage the store – has garnered a national following and what’s evolved from her quarterly buying trips is a request card service.

Clients interested in say, a marble-top table, can give specifications like price range and dimensions and she’ll scout for the item overseas. Her finds are listed on her web site, www.bellemaisonantiques.com, and if a client passes on an item she just adds it to her shop inventory. Prices range from $10 for a blue and red child’s jump rope to $9,000 for a four-door 19th-century buffet.
Chamblin initially rented spaces on Ashland Avenue where she would show her wares for a few days until everything was sold. The business model called for keeping overhead low, so after her September 2001offerings sold, she was a bit hesitant when the Greentree folks approached her. Chamblin held the next viewing in the former Unfinished Universe building, just a few steps away from the Tea Room and L.V. Harkness, and then decided to stay full-time.

Kentucky Homes and Gardens Magazine

… Since then, this fusion of bold forms and rococo decoration has enjoyed a lasting attraction at home and abroad Urban— or Parisian—Louis XV furnishings are not categorized as French Provincial; rather, French Provincial pieces were originally designed for daily use by people not tied to the changing fashions of Paris. The more typical examples of this style, which can be traced to the Middle Ages, tend to be casegood pieces, and it is interesting to note that there is a direct connection between this style and the cuisine of the people who brought it into being. Classic regional French cooking is as integral an aspect of French culture as is this furniture design. French Provincial-style furniture, its bold decoration not withstanding, is practical; originally, it functioned in much the same way as do modern “built-ins.” Local or itinerant craftsmen, who have historically remained anonymous, made the pieces to order from readily available materials.

 

And although the tools used to create such pieces have changed since the inception of this style, French Provincial casegoods of any era retain the aura of being handmade.

Indeed, today’s craftsmen still work in this tradition, but unlike the original pieces, mass-produced articles made in imitation of antique French Provincial furniture tend to be rigid in proportion and slick in finish. Appealing patinas result from years of use and care. Belle Maison Antiques in downtown Lexington, a direct importer of French Provincial furnishings, sells a full range of casegoods in this style.

 

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Examining their inventory can be educational, as doing so can teach prospective collectors how to identify items according to era and by the materials with which they are made. Some of the woods, especially walnut, used in the production of this furniture are particularly susceptible to worm infestations that manifest themselves as small holes on the furniture’s surface. This typical “flaw” is to be expected, and restoration of older pieces, mostly of the areas where the furniture made contact with the floor, is acceptable when such restoration is well executed.

Where worm damage to such furniture is severe, the affected area is essentially hollow, and the production of wood dust from the holes can indicate active infestation that must be treated to be preserved. Traditionally, the woods used in French Provincial furniture originated in regional orchards and forests that often belonged to the owners of the furniture. Items made from such wood can be identified by inspecting them, and their value should be reflected in their price.

The examples illustrated here demonstrate the range in scale of this furniture. The walnutconfiturier made in about 1870, a relatively diminutive piece, was used to store preserved foods and to function as a serving stand. Buffets, or sideboards with cupboards below, range in size from two-door styles to more horizontal versions known as enfilades.

The buffet à deux corps is essentially one buffet atop another.

The larger photograph depicts a walnut buffet and an ash buffet à deux corps in the Louis Philippe style.

The remaining image shows a vasselier, or dresser for the storage and display of dining articles, on a buffet. Another case piece, the armoire, often used in a dining area for the storage of linens, is an icon of the French Provincial style

 

About Us

 

Belle Maison Antiques specializes in the importing of antiques from France.
Debbie Chamblin travels to France several times a year in search of quality antiques and distinctive pieces.  She scours the famous Marché aux Puces (Paris Flea Market) and the French countryside for fabulous finds.

Debbie imports to Lexington a wide range of merchandise dating from the 18th. century to 1940. 
Her vast selection includes chests, beds, chairs, buffets, chandeliers, armoires, tables, paintings, architectural pieces, mirrors, linens, dishes, and 
much more for your home.  And for your garden, the shop offers a variety of planters and urns, tables and chairs, arbors and garden statuary.  
Debbie also is skilled in finding antiques for clients on request.

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