Habitat be damned. For authentic French fashions look no further than Nice’s second-hand emporiums.
That’s because there’s no French translation for ‘shabby chic’. The term ‘vintage’ is as lost on locals as fried-egg sandwiches or alcohol-free beer.
I’m serious. Wandering through Notting Hill in 1970s Chanel may win you a knowing look. Promenading such an outfit on La Croisette will alert the fashion police.
Most apartments, too, are startlingly new. Many Riviera rental properties are Ikea-identikit, a trend that won’t change when the Swedish furniture giant opens its latest branch by Nice airport in 2016. But for those prepared to rummage, the castoffs from our French cousins – from distressed dressing tables to porno chic chaise longues – are effortlessly à la mode.
With €500 in hand we hit three second-hand megastores. Our mission? To add Gallic flair to our fictional pied-à-terre for the price of a Habitat chair. Week 1: La Caverne des Particuliers
In a line: Pile it high warehouse buys
Design: 1930s-1980s bargain basement
Deal of the day: Solid oak single ‘sled’ bed (€80)
Dud of the day: Dreamcatcher with Native American prairie scene (€2)
Details: 19 passage Malausséna
Description: Cave by name, cave by nature, La Caverne is a vast two-floored hodgepodge of Cote d’Azur cast-offs. The warehouse operates as a ‘depot-vente’, where punters cash in unwanted items for 50% of sale price or a slightly higher value credit note. Goods are priced to sell. And there’s no value to the depot’s owner in allowing stock to gather dust, so expect major markdowns on month-old dressers, armoires and ceramic dining sets.
To set up home like a Hemingway hero there’s really nowhere better. Expect vintage Olivetti typewriters (€15), Veuve Clicquot Champagne buckets (€2) and Ricard pastis jugs (€1). There’s also an incredible amount of rubbish. Household items from €1 and up include Kronenberg glasses stolen from a bar, red plastic-wrapped candles stolen from a church, and more tajines than can ever be recycled at a Moroccan marriage ceremony.
1950s faux-leather club chair €45
12-drawer hardwood kitchen sideboard €50
Twin marble-topped skinny-legged bedside tables €99
Louis XV fold-out bureau with baize writing platform €40
Herringbone hardwood table with four upholstered chairs €100
Wrought iron four-poster bed with new mattress €140
1960s wooden desk chair in need of glue €5
Woefully broken pine chair Free
Grand total: €479