Tag sale: Brush up your Basic French
In honor of Bastille Day (July 14), and because she just rented her house for an entire year, Carol Neiley, owner of Basic French, is having a tag sale at her Red Hook shop this weekend (Friday-Monday). Most of the stuff in the sale comes from her much-published (Victoria, Country Home, Romantic Home) farmhouse nearby, which she has let furnished but sans excess linens, baskets, dishes, and doo-dads, such as those in the photograph below.
“I love both places,” says Neiley, referring to Red Hook and Lyon, France, where she owns another house. “I have worked hard to get this combo.” Last year, she enrolled her daughters, Halliday, now 13, and Abigail, 11, in the International School in Lyon. They both thrived, so they are returning for a second academic year, to bring their French up to “grade level”—full fluency. After that, the trio expect to return to Red Hook.
Carol was only 15 herself, when, on her first visit to France, she fell in love with the very ground beneath her feet. Years passed, she became a successful graphic designer in New York City, but the French itch wouldn’t go away. In the 90’s, she and her then husband moved full-time to their farmhouse near Red Hook and, even as they were starting a family, Carol began easing out of graphic design and inching toward retailing. For several years, juggling graphic-design jobs and childcare, she worked up budgets and business plans in her spare time. Finally in 2002, she opened a shop that sells all things French.
French, yes, but not the usual: There are no lace curtains, no olive-themed dishes or table linens, no Soleido printed fabrics (think: Pierre Deux) at Basic French. Instead, Carol specializes in the stuff of la vie quotidienne, everyday life—cleaning supplies, toiletries, the sort of rattan carry-alls (above) French housewives take to the market. There are exceptions—some lovely antique linens, some dishes and glassware, smocked dresses for little girls, baby clothes by Le Petit Bateau—but most things are practical and lean toward the modern. Wherein lies the whimsy of the store: MiR dishwashing liquid is their #1 bestseller. “You have to smell it,” Carol says. “Nobody does scent like the French.”
Well, sure, French perfume, but dishwashing liquid? “At the luxury level, every country’s stuff is the same,” Carol argues. “Hermes and Bottega Veneta are both fabulous and completely international.” But garbage bags: who but the French would have purple ones? And who but Carol Neiley would import them to sell in a shop in upstate New York?
5 E. Market Street, Red Hook; 845.758.0399
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