Shopping for Antique Patina Doors in Provence
It seems that we like to make our lives difficult; dating for 5 years long distance Montreal-London, moving to a new country without proper jobs, buying a tiny house in a rural village and now- trying to find beautiful Patina antique doors for our new home.
Why don’t we just buy new doors?
Brand new doors are expensive. This is especially the case because we like the colour of oak much better than that of the more widely available orangey pine.
We are building the walls of our bathroom with plasterboard; this means in an old house we’ll be putting up straight walls. This might be incongruous with the charm (damn that charm) of the wonky floors and odd angles. Therefore, to add a little nod to the past, we’d like to use old Provencal doors for our bathroom, closet, and the attic space doors. We’re also starting to seriously think about our interior decor which will be something along the lines of Shabby Chic/French country.
If you’re curious about what we’re going for check out my Pinterest board:
Shabby Chic and French Vintage Country Design
(The images on the above Pinterest board are ideas there were originally for our ideal Provencal farmhouse…but we’ll be trying to achieve some of those looks with a tiny budget and a tiny house instead!)
The Tricky Business of Finding Antique Doors
We needed to find a bathroom door quickly because, without the size of the door, we (Robin) couldn’t install the walls. Antique doors are certainly not in short supply here in Provence. I never get tired of their rustic beauty. Sadly, gauging from some of the prices we saw, it seems that everyone else loves them as well!
About 98% of antique doors don’t come with their frames. Making the frames isn’t difficult but it’s just a bit of “a faff” as my Brit would say. Plus, as you can imagine, a two-hundred-year-old door is often rotten at the bottom, not straight, been painted a funny colour, very tall to suit ceiling heights of chateaux etc. It wasn’t going to be easy.
Where did we look for our doors?
Saint Remy de Provence
The first place we visited was the well-stocked warehouse Portes Anciennes de Saint Remy de Provence. We were immediately disheartened as we walked through the aisles and aisles of beautiful doors from different eras that seemed extremely expensive. This company strips the doors and makes frames for you; if your pockets are deep enough it could be worth it. After we left the warehouse (we longingly stared perhaps a little too long) we momentarily gave up on buying antique doors. We subsequently browsed the local DIY stores whose doors were also not very cheap!
The next outlet we tried was Le Bon Coin which is France’s answer to Gumtree/Kijiji/Craigslist. Robin spends hours trawling the pages of cheap Le Creuset pots and farm tables. You never know what French treasures you can find!
The problem with Le Bon Coin is that the French tend to be atrocious with email (terrible generalization I know). This means that although someone is interested enough to take a picture of their item and post it online, they may not be quite excited enough to actually respond to your multiple emails. All to say, it was a long process.
We planned a final frantic attempt to find our doors. This was the last chance before buying a new one, without character, at the local store. We set up an appointment in La Ciotat, a small town all the way next to the Ocean, to pick up a rather large and cheap door. Beforehand, we would take our chances with La Belle Époque – Brocante Portes Anciennes which is an outdoor space close to Aix en Provence.
Michel, the owner of this field of doors on the outskirts of Aix en Provence, arrived after I called him using the information on his gate. We had already been lusting after certain specimens from outside the gate, so when he gave us an idea of his prices, the exciting hunt began!
It was difficult to find the sizes of patina doors we wanted. We were open to all possibilities…Persian-style shutters as closet doors?
We managed to fit all 4 doors and the large orange one we procured in La Ciotat into our van. We excitedly drove home to see what they’d look like in our little house.
We finally did it!! Sadly, the pride and excitement quickly waned. We realized that we would have to figure out a way that all these shades of blue could fit together. One of the problems is that the doors are made of different types of wood. We were originally thinking we’d go with plain wooden doors but now we had pretty patina blues and greens.
The biggest problem is this orange door. Of course, the plan was to take this odd colour off but on a hunch, Robin sanded it down a little…
He revealed new wood. This door was meant to be our bathroom door, the most important door at this point in the renovation. We realized that this new orangey pine would never really go with the other doors unless it was painted.
So, after much discussion and standing and staring at these doors, we decided to visit Michel one more time the next morning. We ended up buying 2 more doors. They are, of course, 2 other shades of blue. Now we have the funny character of a bathroom door that we wanted, but we’re going to have to figure out how to tie all the colours together.
Your Opinions Please!
Should we lightly whitewash the pair of darker blue doors that are made of dark walnut wood at the risk of ruining the real patina effect?
Do you think, with careful thought, we could tie in all the shades of blue in a small room? We’re not into matchy but nevertheless it might be tricky…
If you’re looking for doors in Provence, after searching many places I must say La Belle Époque – Brocante Portes Anciennes (06.04.42.76.12) located in Célony (very close to Aix en Provence) is great value for money. A couple of the doors were only 30 euros each. Of course, you’d have to make frames for them. Michel is there during the week from about 9 am to 6 pm. They are also left outside, so have some weather damage, that we have decided can work for us.
Otherwise, Portes Anciennes de Saint Remy de Provence is great for variety and quality. If you can afford to pay for the service.