Sunday, October 5, 2014

You may or may not know of our sister shop in Brantôme, France. Regardless, you're about to learn more! 

Kim Mancha (seen in the bottom right photo, standing to the left of Johnelle) owner and proprietor of The Bohemians. She has been living and working in Brantôme since 2007 when she upheaved her life, leaving behind hometown and a career, but not her two darling pups. 

She's been inspired by french culture all her life, and beginning with her school days, dreamed of, as one could say, a bohemian life in France. After years of dreaming, sending her children (Mignonne owner and lead designer, Johnelle Mancha and her brother) to Berkeley's French American school, Ecole Bilengue, and eventually making numerous trips (only after both her children had a chance to go, she adds) she began searching for a vacation property. With the help of Johnelle, Kim found what would turn out to be her year-round home, in no less than her favorite area.

Her shop there specializes in all things beautiful, from home decor to hand-made clothing lines. She sponsors young artists and craftspeople locally and internationally, and takes pleasure in fostering creativity in all people, hosting monthly workshops in furniture restoration and design guidance. Kim especially loves supporting female owned and operated companies, and carries a clothing line as well as a artisan paint line owned and run by inspiring and talented women; La Fiancee Du Mekong of France, and Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan out of England.

Unfortunately, so far, I only make it to the South of France every 15 or so years, and won't be due again, by that logic, for a long while. So, although it would have been [much] better to chat in person, alas, I was left only to communicate with my interviewee over long distance. Nevertheless... I had the opportunity to correspond with Kim, and had such a fun time listening to her take on life, art, culture and business, in the South of France. 

IR: So Kim, as an American transplant living in the town of Brantôme, France, can you tell me where that is, and a little about that area?

KM: Brantôme is in the Dordogne, which is a department (kind of like county) in the Southwest of France.  France is kind of funny in that an area can have more than one name/ designation... so while it is in the Dordogne, it is also in the Aquitaine Region and also part of the Perigord (divided into four parts... confused yet?! I still am). The area is dripping in history; the Dorgone and Aquitaine has been fought over between France and england for centuries. It is an area with rich agricultural activities and known for all of its many delicacies such as truffles, cepes (mushrooms), nuts, wine, duck and everything associated. The cuisine is rustic and delicious. Normally, we have four distinct seasons, which I really like and is very different from the California Bay Area where I was born. 

IR: How often do get to explore the area with daughter, and owner of Mignonne, Johnelle?

KM: Johnelle has come every year since I moved here and usually manages to stay 3-4 weeks. We always find time for a new adventure when she is here. 

IR: When packing for a traipse throughout Southern France, what items would you say, are essential to your quest?

KM: Mostly just an empty suitcase, to bring back all of my treasures acquired on the road, and a camera to capture and share it all. And the odd little black dress never hurts for those spontaneous special soirees.

IR: Are there any do-not-miss sights that compel you during your periods of traveling and antiquing? 

KM: France is chock full of amazing markets, both food and antiques/vintage treasures. I especially love the old covered markets, which are not only beautiful (usually with lots of light and glass), but remain the same from years gone by, with specialists in meats, cheeses, fish, bread, fresh vegetables, spices, pastries, on and on! And they are always beautifully presented.

IR: When scouting, often there are special indicators of value or unique attributes in a piece that make it compelling, what kinds of qualities details do you, Kim, and Johnelle keep an eye out for when looking for décor items?

KM: I watch for intentional details that make an item stand apart, whether that's unique embellishments on a piece of furniture, some extra details, or special touches on a clothing item. What is the back story or inspiration to a handmade piece of art? 

I am big on color, so when looking at a furniture piece: does it offer enough interesting form or detail that I can highlight with color? Paint is transformational, but I still need the bones to make it happen!

Lastly, durability and functionality. Here in my little corner of France, I have to keep a sharp eye on pricing, because pockets aren't that deep, everything I sell must offer quality and usability as well as beauty. My customers have high expectations when they shop with their limited disposable income. 

IR: Do you have a favorite story from your and Johnelle's travels in the country you now call home?

KM: Oh gosh, I am sure I have forgotten more than I remember. I could share more than a few related to getting stuck somewhere because I forgot that on this certain day or time, the store or bank or gas station was closed. Adjusting to a more balanced style of life where everything isn't open 24/7 just in case you might want to buy a donut at 3 am. One time, I had tickets for a Sunday concert and all the gas stations that accepted cash were closed and my American card didn't work in the machines. So there I was out in the middle of the French Countryside, driving on fumes because I decided to risk it, when putt putt putt... and then nothing. Luckily it was summer so sleeping in my car, until it could be sorted the next day, was an option. 

Needless to say, I got better at planning and anticipating, and realizing that life would go on if I couldn't shop for whatever silly thing it was at 10:30 pm.  

Folks here work to live, not live to work. Family, friends and quality of life vs. things, are their essentials. They work to have enough, and enjoy sharing the richness of their life with others. 

IR: And to finish off: When someone you know is visiting France, what is it you believe they absolutely must enjoy before they leave?

KM: Stop by and see me for the list! Slow paced hunting for whatever your 'treasure' might be, good food, good wine, good music, history buffs, flea market finds... more than happy to help you do it. 

If you have any questions about Mignonne's services, including but not limited to upholstery, restoration, and interior design, please feel free to email us at

xoxo mignonne



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