Frances Stanford still remembers her first trip to France. In high school and college, she studied the language and finally traveled to the country with her husband years later to buy equipment for his business. On that trip in the early 1990s, an opportunity arose that she couldn’t pass up. “We actually went to buy a printing press—my husband is in the publishing business. I thought if anything, I’d just be buying things to sell at my booth at Peck & Hill Antiques, but the chance to share a warehouse with another woman came up, and that’s where it began.”
Now Frances and one of her daughters, Ginny Smith, own Maison de France Antiques, a shop they fill through numerous shopping trips abroad each year. On that initial visit, she could never have predicted it was the first of more than 50 Parisian adventures (and counting). Over the years, her home décor has become a product of her line of work. Each room is infused with its own French ambience, thanks to dozens of accessories and furniture pieces collected across the Atlantic. With the help of her other daughter, interior designer Mallory Smith, Frances’s home has been transformed into a little “France away from France.” A scheme of neutral paint colors throughout the grand abode is the perfect canvas to showcase every burnished, gloriously aged, or warm wooden antique. One step into the well-appointed space is akin to entering a fashionable manor just outside of Paris. Rich with timeworn treasures from eras gone by, each room is at the same time elegant and warmly inviting. “I have always loved the French style and France itself,” Frances says. “Their furniture style is just wonderful. Over time, I’ve slowly turned my home more and more French.”
In the living room, a pair of gilt Louis XVI-style chairs and an artful array of altar candlesticks beautifully accent the fireplace. The arched built-in shelves and the coffee table each boast authentic antiques, giving the room a delightfully collected atmosphere. “I’ve slowly picked up items from trips for my home,” Frances says. “I don’t change many things at a time, and I don’t change often.” The very first piece she purchased for herself on one of her business trips, a glistening, ornate chandelier, hangs as a focal point in the dining room. Featuring a solid wood table surrounded by neutral chairs, the rest of the room exudes simple elegance, with the exception of an opulent marble-topped gilt-based console table fit for a castle. “It’s one of my favorite finds,” Frances gushes. “It’s handmade, and just so beautifully detailed. It’s hard to say the age, but it fits with the Louis XVI style.”
The neutral palette is carried into the kitchen, pairing with the large windows to give the room an open and airy atmosphere. Iron chandeliers, Old-World cutting boards and canisters, and an antique farm table are a nod to the French countryside, adding charm to the space. “The table is from the 1700s,” Frances says. “It’s incredibly hard to find one of these today, especially in good condition.” And while the rooster-back chairs at the island bar were found locally, she loves the added character.
The study and bedrooms are each thoughtfully decorated with classic French pieces like dressers, desks, side tables, gilded mirrors, and other traditional accent pieces. But there are the unusual items, too. For example, a lamp crafted from an architectural fragment in the master bedroom as well as an antique puppet screen and menagerie play set in the guest room where her granddaughters play. Each of those were selected by Frances with care in France.
As she continues to travel, no doubt, French antiques will continue to play a vital role in her home’s décor. Her passion for antiques can’t help but be shared, as she advises shoppers not to limit themselves to a single item in their hunt. “Sure, have a goal when you come in, but be open minded,” she suggests. “You may be looking for a bed, but when you see that rare commode or gorgeous table—you get it. Because the reality is, you may never find it again. Those unexpected treasures are the best finds.”