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The Bottom of the Food Chain

Leo Ducroiset buys up ready-to-demolish buildings, takes them apart piece by piece and deposits the “bones” at his antique junk yard.

There’s no rhyme or reason to the placement of any of the remnants leftover from other people’s lives. They just sit there, placed in a somewhat disorderly fashion waiting to be discovered by someone else.

They may be wet from rain or faded and peeling from the sun and may never find a new home…but there are lots of folks out there like Porter Scott whose chain gets clinked at the sight of an ancient oak door missing half its glass panes or a corroded wrought iron bannister that once lined an elegant stairway.

Porter escorted me by regional train to a “banlieu” (suburb) of Paris where I had never been. In the rain and through the mud we trapsed in and around the doors, railings, chairs, statuary and miscellany until we found an iron railing that would work beautifully as a balustrade along the mezzanines at rue de la Huchette. Three meters long, and twice as high as we need, we determined it could be cut in half to double the length, half the height making it a perfect match.

In another corner of the yard, Porter found an iron “départ escalier” that will work perfectly well with the railing. It’s called a newel in English — a word I’ve just learned as a result of this quest for the perfect one.

Then he found solid oak corniches to contruct a “vaisselier” (to store the dishes and serving pieces in the dining room) along with a gilded oval frame that would be perfect to make a decorative mirror.

As we chose the items, Leo picked prices out of his head — he knows every item like an old friend and knows its worth. Over coffee he and Porter negotiated a “global price” and they decided on a delivery date.

Porter calls this the “bottom of the food chain” — meaning that this is where it all starts for a scavenger such as himself who can bring it up through the chain of command, refurbish it and resell it to a happy buyer. Tonight, when we hit the streets of Saint-Ouen for the “Nuit des Puces” as part of the “Mondial de l’Antiquité” at the Marché aux Puces, we’ll be remembering how many of the well-tended antiques for sale at high prices started off at Leo’s junk yard!

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
E-mail: [email protected]

P.S. To contact Porter Scott, our specialist in antique-buying, write him.

* Further resources:

* Paris always makes for great reading!

* Getting a mortgage in France is easier than you think.

* The best 35 hotels under $100 a night in Paris…

* Paris Confidential — our newest book for those who want to know the real Paris.

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