Wise & Young

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What is Pouvre Chic?

What is Pauvre Chic:

Literally it translates into poor style, or poor ethos. But its so much more than that, pauvre chic is a design and decorating ethos that is geared to those who have more time than money, but don’t want to sacrifice comfort, taste, or quality due to lack of funds. It’s a way of being creative in how you find the pieces, how to make quality investments that rival those who spend much more money to get something similar.

The basic tenants of pauvre chic are find quality, do it yourself, passing it on, and patience

Find quality

In this day and age so much of what is created is made only for the here and now,not made to last, those items that are made to last often cost so much that its out of the realistic grasp of most people. So where does that leave you? You can get antiques, at times you can really find some great pieces such as accents, or even large pieces at good prices. Unfortunately the market for antiques, items 100 years or older, is so fully exploited that the casual buyer with little to no money, can not realistically get something nice often enough. But there are other ways to find quality furniture, accents, home furnishings, and more. One of the ways means I use is freecycle. Freecycle is a listserv that connects people who are looking for merchandise with those who are giving merchandise away for various reasons. Moving out hastily, re-decorating, change of life, or just getting stuff out of storage are all reasons that people give things away for free. Another source is Craigslist, on Craigslist they have a free web posting similar to freecycle, as well as items people are selling. For me I try to spend no more than 100 dollars on any furniture, and as little as possible for other decorative touches. Each person has to set their own limit, and those changes due to items, preference, how much work there needs to be done, and the urgency of the need. Yard sales, Thrift stores, Storage auctions, Consignment shops, friends, and family are all viable options of retrieving items that you would want.

How do you determine quality, well quality differs for each person. I look at how well the piece was made, the time period, and how old is a piece. For instance, if you are looking for a dresser and you find two that are free one is made out of mahogany dovetailed, all the drawers work, but is really scratched up, and the other one is a gently used Ikea particle board dresser that is no older than 2 years old depending on what you are need and are trying to achieve both are quality. The Ikea piece would work very well if you don’t want to put little to no time and energy in refinishing, whereas the mahogany piece may work better if you plan to keep it and utilize it. So quality is very subjective, and only you can make that determination.

Do It Yourself

After finding the item or items you are looking for now here comes your chance to be creative again. Look at what the piece is, and then imagine what you want it to be, and how it will fit into your own aesthic you are trying to create for room, home, patio, etc. Depending on your level of expertise you can do a little or a lot to change the items you received to the item you want. I consider myself a novice, I have some handyman skills, but not enough to call myself experienced, just yet. What I have done so far is use paints and stains to change the character of a room. I primed, and painted my bedroom by myself, the whole project cost no more than 150 dollars, including the paint supplies that I will continuously use, and the primer and paint cost about 70 dollars total. But if I would have hired someone to do that, I would have paid more just in the labor costs. Plus I learned a valuable skill, how to paint which helped me when stripped, sanded, and stained an Ethan Allen dresser, two night stands, and a queen size bed frame all to achieve a Bombay Mahogany color. This tied all pieces which I got for free, into a uniform set.

With the advent of various internet sites, you can merely type in what you want to do and directions on how to do it will come from various sources. I tend to go to DIYnetwork and HGTV.com they have videos which help show you how to do something, likewise youtube also has this advantage. Depending on the project, the manufacturer of products that help with that project also provide useful tips as well.

The more you do the more you can enhance your skill set and try different things.

Passing it on

The most egalitarian thing about pouvre chic is passing it on. You receive things for little to no cost, its only right that you do the same. We live in a society where we are thought that the accumulation of things means that you are better off. Anyone can tell you that this is not the case. Plus no matter how little you have very few of us don’t have something that we can give away that someone else may find useful, essential, or just plain want. The only way for you to have received what you wanted someone else had to part with what they had.


Nothing in life worth having comes easy. So trying to get quality pieces it will take time for them to become available under the conditions that you want, either free or within your low price range. Also the amount of work that needs to be done to rejuvenate them may take awhile as well. Then at times the project may not turn out exactly the way you want, or it may just bomb entirely. Be patient with yourself, and with the circumstances, in the end you will have one of a kind pieces that speak to who you are a person, what you feel is important, you would have gained new skills, and your wallet will thank you. So remember its a learning process, have patience with yourself.

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