Written by Stephanie Bertholdo
Photography by Iris Smoot
Salvage yards may bring to mind rusty hubcaps and broken bathtubs, but today’s architectural salvage shops are akin to fine antique stores, with stunning original paintings, furniture, flooring and lighting that rival any high-end design firm.
One such “yard,” Charme d’Antan, takes its name from the French phrase meaning “old-world charm.” The quaint store, tucked into the Santa Monica Mountains in the Cornell area of Agoura, resembles a well-lived-in contemporary home brimming with ancestral treasures.
Master of the house is Jacques Marque, a French transplant whose passion for reclaiming what might otherwise be lost is evident in every nook and cranny of his establishment.
Marque says his brother, Jean, convinced him to move from Miami to California in 1985, and he has never looked back.
The expansive grounds surrounding the store also overflow with riches, including stately carved fountains, grand fireplace mantels and a shed chock-full of vintage doors and shutters that were saved when European estates, churches—even a castle or two—were gutted or demolished.
Marque knows his inventory well and speaks of each piece with pride and reverence. He likes to describe small details that spark his imagination, such as the 17th century keys that serve a double duty. “The key has a cross in it,” Marque says. “Each time you go to bed you could use it like a crucifix.”
Marque also has an eye for how antiques can be used in homes today. An 18th century French walnut armoire could easily be converted into a media cabinet, he says. But he will not alter the original antiques he rescues from Europe—authenticity always trumps function, at least while the piece is being showcased in his shop.
Although most of Marque’s salvage trips start and end in France, he can’t resist what other European countries have to offer. He has rescued stunning stained-glass windows and pews from 19th century Italian churches and has traveled to England for other interesting pieces.
One of his favorite finds, a wheel dating from the Middle Ages, was discovered in France.
“It’s wood and forged iron,” he says. “The technique is interesting. The rivets are very, very strong—they’re all made by hand.”
Exploring room after room of treasures becomes a real adventure when Marque tells the stories behind them. There’s a desk topped by an original oil painting, a Murano glass chandelier purchased from a castle in France and several majestic fireplace mantels, some of which house secret, locked compartments.
The European antiquities Marque showcases in his shop remain in their original state. But when it comes to outdoor fountains, planters and statues, Charme d’Antan offers both original pieces and reproductions, some designed to answer the specific needs of clients.
His artisans use techniques employed by artists from days gone by to produce pieces that rival the originals in beauty and old-world charm.
Charme d’Antan, 29963 Mulholland Hwy., Agoura Hills. Open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sunday by appointment. For information, call (818) 889-0229.
Written by Stephanie Bertholdo Photography by Iris Smoot