I read your excellent feature on DIY in France from your autumn edition (issue 292), but noticed you missed a trick. The DIY stores in France are not only useful when working on your French property; they are also great for materials and products for self-building in Britain. We built our house in Surrey using lots of items from France – shutters, door handles, lighting, tiles, stone flooring, bathroom cabinets, plumbing fittings, paint, oak, curtains, wood panelling, etc. The French products are distinctively different and often cheaper, and you can claim the VAT back. The stores you mentioned all have branches in Calais and Dunkirk, just a few minutes from the ferries, and staff are extremely helpful.
You could have also mentioned the wonderful architectural antiques dépôts and markets in France for vintage fittings for homes in France or Britain. We found rails upon rails of stunning handcrafted Art Deco items in a village near Lyon for about £200. The Jas des Roberts Sunday morning antiques market near St-Tropez is our favourite for original Art Deco light fittings, unusual furniture and rustic Provençal items. Jon Wallsgrove Sunbury-on-Thames
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