Parlez-vous francais?

You don’t need to speak the language to find everything you need at French Mercantile.

What is it about the French? Is it the innate panache that allows them to make the ordinary elegant, and the most casual, special? Whether they’re dining on pâté or rocking a beret, they do it with flair. Their language rolls off the tongue. “S’ll te plaît, sors les poubelles, chérie.” Sounds romantic, right? Truth be told, you’ve just asked your sweetie to take out the trash, but the point is, the French have a style as unique as it is timeless.

Though Toni Hammersley has yet to walk along the Seine, she seems to have been born with a French aesthetic. In the store just off Cedar Street in Downtown Summerville, Hammersley has brought her exquisite taste, and eye for detail to French Mercantile, the recently opened European inspired home decor and gift boutique.

You may know proprietor Toni Hammersley from A Bowl Full of Lemons, the wildly popular home organization blog she began over ten years ago. For a decade, she has challenged followers to purge the extraneous from their surroundings, offering advice on ways to clean, organize, and celebrate the bliss of a clean, beautiful, clutter-free environment. Though her success in that genre has continued to grow, she found herself increasingly drawn to the European sense of design. “Even before I realized what it was, I appreciated its utilitarian beauty,” she says. “I liked the farmhouse, cottage feel of it, and once I grew into it, it felt right.”

Hammersley had long wanted a brick and mortar place to support her online presence. She knew that there was nothing even remotely like it in the area. In the lovingly restored 1800’s house in Summerville’s Historic District, French Mercantile boasts a dizzying array of products imported from France and displayed with the je ne sais quoi of a chic Parisian shop. Having lived in Summerville for almost a decade, she had kept an eye out for the perfect location to open a retail space. “I called the day the For Sale sign went up in the yard. I knew I’d found it.”

The store offers the perfect balance of genuine vintage and modern goods to delight the Francophile in all of us. “I wanted it to be simple yet refined.” There is nothing flashy about the warm, tan, and cream color scheme prominent in the unique merchandise. Instead, its timelessness draws one in with its calm and soothing ambiance. From the moment you enter, custom-made candles perfume the air, sweeping you away to the city of lights. Beautifully displayed jars of scents made exclusively for French Mercantile line the wall of the Candle Bar. Against a backdrop of authentic French shutters, counters of unique jewelry and gift items offer a banquet of choices.

In the kitchen area, antique scales weigh the years, and authentic French bakery racks hold vintage breadboards that are as functional as they are suited for display. “I know what I love, and I’ve searched to find what I love from small businesses around the world.” Cloth bread bags speak of daily trips to the market for fresh baguettes. Crockery, cheese bells, and berry bowls call up images of fresh strawberries paired with fresh cheese. Lush linens line the shelves, and a hanging display of pinafore-style linen aprons bring haute couture to the kitchen.

All around, the ordinary is rendered smartly chic. One can imagine the straw market baskets carried on a graceful arm down narrow cobblestone alleys. On this side of the pond, they may transport Lego pieces, sunscreen, and emergency crackers. Still, they may inspire you to be the woman you imagine shopping for wine, baguettes, and cheese. Pillows and candlesticks, framed mirrors, and dried flowers for every season are effortlessly elegant against weathered farm tabletops. Vive la France!

It comes as no surprise that Hammersley is often asked if she offers home design. “Not yet,” she says, leaving us in hopes that it will be a service added in the future. “We’ve been absolutely overwhelmed by the response the store has received, locally and from visitors from across the nation.” Hammersley discloses that some have seen the shop online and incorporated a stop at the store into their vacations. “And we’re so happy to be able to share the charm of Summerville with them all.”

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By Susan Frampton