Vintage La Grange shop shines through its displays
Cabinets, wine racks and mirrors are just a few of the items that can be found at The Frenchman's Wife. The business is located located at 8 South Stone Ave., in La Grange. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
What’s in store
Name: The Frenchman’s Wife
Address: 8 S. Stone Ave., La Grange
Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday.
Phone: (708) 699-1752. Call ahead as hours subject to change.
Updated: November 13, 2012 11:28AM
LA GRANGE — A customer walks by on a Tuesday to peer into the windows of The Frenchman’s Wife shop.
The next week, that same customer returns, perhaps to buy one of the store’s one-of-a-kind items, but likely just as much to see shop owner Lisa Barsanti’s newest vignettes.
It’s Barsanti’s displays that keep blogs from Wisconsin to London, including The Gilded Junqueyard, Over the Rainebeau and French Larkspur, raving.
“Her displays are amazing,” said Mark Norkaiti, owner of Room 363, an eclectic home living store in downtown Naperville and a regular vendor at Kane County Flea Market, where Barsanti first built her reputation.
A Chicago native, Barsanti, 44, developed her appreciation for vintage items after her family moved to Sleepy Hollow when she was 4.
“I’ve always had a real deep attachment to things that were old. Even as a child, I loved old marquees,” she said.
Barsanti also always was something of a salesperson, selling Rubik’s Cube key rings to classmates and selling peanuts at Wrigley Field.
About 15 years ago, the DeKalb resident combined her interest in antiques and second-hand items with her knack for sales, setting up shop with her then 9-year-old daughter at the Kane County Flea Market. Her displays quickly drew attention.
“I had a talent for assembling thing, for selecting things,” she said. “This is all I do well. I don’t keep a great house; I don’t cook well; I swear like a sailor.”
Barsanti approached the owners of Jacque’s Greenhouse in Elgin to see whether they would allow her to organize the country primitives they brought into their shop. Then a resident of St. Charles, Barsanti picked up her two children from school and let them play on the farm while she arranged the stock.
The flea market and design business grew, allowing Barsanti to be at home with the children.
“It was a perfect starting point for me to have it grow as they grew,” she said.
Barsanti since then has dabbled in a variety of venues, from the artsy hamlet of Forest Park to Country Living magazine’s flea market in Ohio. The Frenchman’s Wife is her third retail venture.
“I’m more of a long-term pop-up,” she said.
Barsanti settled on La Grange for her newest shop because she previously had a good experience as a vendor at nearby Jackson Square Mall and because of the availability of older homes with compartmentalized rooms. Each room allows her to develop its own shabby chic vignette anchored in a palette of cream and pickled wood.
Though the name may attract Francophiles looking for provencal or Louis-style furnishing, they may be surprised to learn that almost everything is American.
“It’s simply, I buy what I like, and that’s it,” she said. “I’ve become more stylized over the years. I’ve become more sophisticated and less cluttered.”