In a small hamlet in south-west France, Claire Molina’s home is unmistakably a relic of another era. Or more precisely: a combination of relics from multiple eras that coincide merrily under the one roof.
Shared with her husband, Laurent Debert, and their two dogs, Kobe and Gaia, their 19th century home has history steeped into its walls as former housing for employees of a nearby castle and there’s a sweetly bucolic charm to their small residential street.
“We live surrounded by sheep, horses and chickens,” says Claire. “It’s pretty quiet. When I get up in the morning and open my shutters, I admire a mare and her foal walking around in the field just opposite.”
Antique Little Things, Claire’s digital moniker, is in homage to her unrelenting commitment to curating life through antiques. As a flea market trader since 2016, Claire’s affinity for sourcing heirlooms comes with a natural flair.
“It’s my findings that inspire me,” she says. “When I hunt, I don’t seek to acquire a particular piece of furniture or object. When I come across something that speaks to me, I take it and integrate it into a room that will highlight it.”
Her home’s interior assemblage is an impressive collection of once-forgotten artefacts and vintage furniture – which rub shoulders with market goods soon for sale – including an old English chest of drawers, a Knoll international pedestal table from the recycling centre and an oxidised mirror with ornate white framing.
“It’s sometimes difficult because I tend to want to keep everything to myself. I like to buy but I don’t like to sell. I get attached very quickly to the objects that I hunt for, so I try to take advantage of them for a while before offering them to my clients,” says Claire.
Attachment, it seems, is part of the knack of being a flea market trader. Shopping for antiques is not a casual affair guided merely by whimsy, but a resolute practice in finding beauty in a lasting impression. For Claire, she is driven to find items she, herself, would keep. “That way if my find doesn’t find a taker, I can keep it at home,” she says.
The trick of Claire’s approach is in the balance between adaptability and style, contemporary and antiquity. In 2018, after the couple’s search for a home they could remodel, they came across a two-storey terrace in need of modernising and made it their mission to transform this bygone building into a space of their own.
“We have redone almost everything,” she says. “We haven’t really changed the structure of the house apart from creating an opening between the living room and the kitchen and creating a bathroom.”
Their extensive redecoration spanned the length and breadth of the house, stripping parquet flooring and 80s wallpaper throughout.
They changed all the interior doors for old doors sourced second-hand and removed fake bricks from around the fireplace to expose classic Bordeaux stones which they have painted white.
They renovated at as low a cost they could, opting for recycled materials and upcycled furnishings. In their kitchen, they replaced sterile wall cupboards with a repurposed oak bureau, installed a vintage sink found at the nearby dump and used handcrafted clay tiles left over from the bathroom.
“The work is still not finished because we mainly do everything ourselves. There are still some finishing touches inside and the exterior still needs to be done,” says Claire.
Despite the motley of ages and styles in their interior scheme, every room is united by furniture or earthenware in wooden tones set against pale white walls, from the farm table and a straw chair.
“I find my antiques all over the place,” she says. “At the flea market in Bordeaux, in the Emmaüs, garage sales, flea markets and the recycling centre in the town next door.” Every piece is gathered little by little, but when collectively brought together, reflect a sense of time and place that feels slightly out of grasp but is altogether comforting in its nostalgia.