One of the greatest online resources I love is FrenchGardenHouse. Lidy and I have become friends and colleagues when I found her online! She was my go-to when I was looking for antique silver, bistro dishes as a gift, and great garden items. I know you will enjoy reading her story and visiting her website. PLUS: she is giving away two sets of beautiful dishes to two winners (entry below).
I adore antiques. They give us a way to live with the beauty of the past and connect with people who have gone before us. Timeworn furniture with the patina of wear and tear, forgotten vintage heirlooms that delight the soul, and simple utilitarian pieces with their functionality and simple beauty all make my heart beat faster. It is no surprise that I became an antiques dealer; I spied a little antique children’s toy in the window of an antique shop when I was a teen and borrowed enough money to buy it. At a time when my friends were saving up for the ultimate pair of jeans, this was what I wanted more than anything. It was the first antique I bought, and I never looked back! Since then, I have bought antiques to make our home a place we love to live, surrounded by bits of the past.
I was born in Holland, and for a few years after my parents divorced my mother and I lived with my grandparents in their grand four-story house. My grandparents’ home was filled with beautiful French and Dutch antiques, and it was there that I developed my passion for antiques. In every home I’ve lived in since, I have tried to recapture the same feeling my grandparents’ house had—filled with beautiful things but comfortable and meant to be lived in. When my mother and I immigrated to the United States, I left behind little scraps of paper taped to the bottom of my very favorite pieces of their furniture and objects with “belongs to Lidy” written in pencil. Today, those antiques are cherished parts of my own home décor.
The antique I hold dearest to my heart is my grandmother’s silver teapot. I inherited it when she died. I love it not only because it is exquisite but because of the memories of her pouring out the tea each afternoon precisely at 3:30. I use it for my own family, mostly when we are all together on Sundays and for celebrations and holidays. Using it always gives me the sweet memory of my beloved Grandmamma, and I hope that when I pass it on to my children they will be warmed by the same sweet memories of our family having tea together in the afternoon. That is the magic of antiques! They connect us to the past in a tangible, beautiful way.
After our first daughter was born, I went back to school and received my bachelor of arts degree. I was fortunate to be able to be a stay at home mother for many years. I enjoyed making our home a place where we all loved to be, where we were surrounded by beautiful things—some as simple as a weekly bouquet of flowers on our dining table—and watching my family flourish. I had a few temporary jobs at times in the design field but nothing permanent. My focus really was making our home a haven for my family and friends and giving my children a childhood filled with as much magic as I could.
As time went by, one of our children developed a serious health concern, and over the period of a few years, there were three times that we thought we would loose her. My husband and I decided to take her out of public school so that I could homeschool her. They were difficult years; I spent long days by her side taking care of her, doing her homeschooling work when she was up to it, and spending most of those days and nights having a running conversation with God! It was a blessing to be able to do so, but as any mom who has done this knows, it was extremely tiring as well. I desperately needed something creative to do for a few hours a week. Inspiration struck; since I loved antiques, interior design, and creating beauty, I opened a small space in a local antiques shop. I couldn’t have done so without my husband’s support, as he arranged his work schedule so that I would have two afternoons “off” while he stayed home to be with our daughter.
I loved that little space. It allowed me to display my treasures and meet some of the most wonderful customers, many of whom are now close friends. I also loved talking to the other antiques dealers at the shop, especially the older ones, who were so generous with their knowledge and answered all my questions. I am by nature quite a “talker” (my husband sometimes jokes that I could get personal information from a stone) and have an avid curiosity about antiques. I am always anxious to hear the stories attached to an old piece, who made it, who would have used it, or what it was it used for. It is always thrilling to learn the secrets of a piece. Each antique whispers stories of the past; antiques are exciting and always full of surprises!
After having antique spaces in several shops, I really wanted a shop of my own but couldn’t really be tied down to a retail space. My daughter’s health was improved, but I still needed to be home for her. After branching out and selling antiques on an online auction site, I took the plunge and started my own website. I remember sharing my “big news” around the dining table and both my children laughed, saying, “Mom, you barely know how to use the TV remote, how on earth will you manage a website?” Luckily, I proved them wrong! I hired a wonderful website builder and spent literally hours and hours (at times in tears) behind the computer learning how to edit photos, write descriptions, and do all the behind the scenes things that go into having an online business.
In 2007 I opened FrenchGardenHouse (named after the small garden house my husband built for me in our back garden as my birthday gift one year), and I am honored to provide antiques and luxury decorative finds as well as thoughtful gifts for customers all over the world. I really encourage all my customers to allow their homes to tell a story—their story. I care deeply about helping people create a home that expresses their own personal style. I select antiques that I would love to have in my own home, and everything I sell has been personally selected by me with great love and care. My hope is that customers will be able to find everyday heirlooms at FrenchGardenHouse that will add beauty to their life now and that they will be able to pass it on to the next generation.
FrenchGardenHouse is my passion. I can’t wait to get up each morning to go to work! I know I am truly blessed. It is the fulfillment of my dream. I sell all the things I love, from over-the-top French gilt-covered objects to French Country pieces, I am an equal opportunity lover of all things beautiful. Not just French but also English and American objects catch my eye and my heart. Right now I am so enamored with delicately embroidered Victorian needlework pieces, linens, and laces so beautiful they sometimes bring tears to my eyes. There really is no one left who can create such stunning pieces of art with a needle anymore, so buying and selling them is a great pleasure.
I have an office in our home where I can look outside and see the children coming and going to the little school across the street and take a lunch break when my husband comes home and sit out in the garden. I take most of the product photographs at home, both indoors and in the garden. I shop for antiques to sell everywhere and have developed a network of dealers who look for things for me all over the world. I am in my element when one of them calls and asks to visit with “some special pieces” they are sure I will love, and we sit around the table with a freshly baked scone and coffee or tea and “ooh and ahh” over their “finds.” My husband and I also travel for buying trips; our last trip to Europe was extra special as I was able to persuade a Belgian dealer to part with some of her most cherished Madonnas for my American customers.
The most heartwarming part of selling antiques for me is when a customer e-mails or calls to let me know that the piece they bought from FrenchGardenHouse is just like the one they remember from their childhood or that they are giving it to a loved one for a wedding or the birth of a baby. That’s what makes my business so very rewarding: the customers, their lives, and how the things they buy from me will make memories for their own families.
It’s the people I meet along the way that are the true treasures for me. My business is growing, and I have a base of wonderfully loyal customers. I am thrilled with every order, and we take special care to send each package on its way with the hope that it will delight each new owner.