Martha and David Parnell of Lake Charles, Louisiana bring the best of the French countryside to their customers at Brocante French Antiques.
“We offer a mixture of beautiful, traditional antiques, charming rustic pieces and some fun, quirky decorative items with stories to tell,” said Martha, noting this fall marks their 24th Round Top Antiques Show.
The Parnells will be set up at The Compound in the Granary Barn from Sept. 21-Oct. 5 showcasing their current collection of antiques that originally came from farms, vineyards, churches, farmhouses and chateaus. Many of their most unusual and eye-catching items were used in day-to-day French life at least a century ago.
“Our aesthetic is refined to rustic—and eclectic is our middle name,” Martha said. “Our primary focus is French country antiques, but we also have some pieces from Spain, Italy, England, Germany, Sweden and Eastern Europe.”
While they’ve operated Brocante (pronounced Broe-kahnt) for 20 years, the Parnells’ love affair with France and its tradition of enduring craftsmanship stretches back much farther. The couple first visited France in 1972 as part of a European road tour celebrating their college graduation. On that trip, the couple, who have been married almost 49 years, purchased a single piece of copper, which they still own.
“Our style and taste hasn’t changed,” said David. “We don’t chase trends, but select timeless pieces, that will go with a variety of styles and architecture.”
In the south of France, they encountered their first brocantes, small shops that showcase an eclectic mix of items that represent the local area.
The warmth and magic they experienced in those quaint shops inspired them. When the clamor from friends, family and colleagues for “pieces like those you’re buying for yourselves,” got too loud to ignore the Parnells started traveling to France and buying containers full of treasures to sell.
“We decided to open a business just like the ones we loved,” Martha said. “Of course, we named it Brocante.”
While the inventory is ever-changing, the Parnells maintain a good supply of copper, pottery and wooden furniture that David, if necessary repairs using time-tested European methods, and then hand waxes to a beautiful luster.
Over the years, they’ve expanded their offerings to include custom-made lighting and tables incorporating architectural pieces they’ve discovered while exploring France.
“We will have a large selection of lamps, sconces and tables at the fall show,” David said.
Today, they keep a showroom at Memorial Antiques & Interiors in Houston, travel to select shows including Round Top and the Nashville Antiques and Garden Show, and show by appointment from their warehouse in Lake Charles. The price points are as varied as the merchandise.
The Parnells now regularly travel to France to select their merchandise. They rely on their long-established network of French antiques dealers, craftsmen and friends. Their searches take them from markets, shops and workshops to homes and barns with lots of time spent on the back roads.
“It’s been a great adventure for us,” David said.
Customers also repurpose the Parnells’ finds into their own unique masterpieces. For instance, one customer converted a cheesemaker’s table to a double sink for a Texas B&B, another turned a farm implement into a chandelier and myriads have reimagined antique copper pieces.
“We love it when our customers buy something that can grow with them and their lives,” Martha said.