Buying Furniture in French at Le Bon Marché


In our ongoing quest to make your dream Parisian apartment come true (or just have fun imagining it), let’s spend some time talking about how you would furnish your pied-à-terre. There are a million different sorts of furniture stores in Paris from small antique shops to the many IKEAs just outside the city.  To familiarize yourself with the vocabulary and make sure you know the names of the things you are looking for, we suggest a private French lesson at the grande magasin Le Bon Marché (as in “the good market”, or “the good deal” in French) where we can see everything in one place.

Location: 22 rue de Sèvres, 75007
Transportation:  metros lines 10 and 12 at Sèvres-Babylone
Hours: Open 9:30am to 7pm Monday through Friday and until 8pm on Saturdays
Website: www.lebonmarche.com


The oldest department store in Paris, Le Bon Marché opened in 1838. It is located on the Left Bank. The current building was designed by Gustav Eiffel and opened in 1852. Émile Zola’s eleventh novel, Au Bonheur des Dames, takes place in a fictionalized version of this store. To this day the store is still renown for luxury men, women, and children fashions and upscale furniture and housewares.

Here’s a short history of the department stores in French to help you prepare for your lesson:

Les Grands Magasins, une nouvelle conception du commerce : Créés dans les années 1850, les grands magasins sont des centres d’innovations perpétuelles. A l’époque, ils modifient  les relations entre les clients et les fournisseurs : prix fixes, libre accès, échange de marchandise, animations (soldes, promotions, expositions, concours…)

Avec le  large choix d’articles proposés par ces magasins, les femmes ont la possibilité de rivaliser à moindre prix avec les bourgeoisesparisiennes.

Les grands magasins s’adressent aux classes moyennes : grâce à eux, la consommation se démocratise.

(un fournisseur : supplier; un libre accès : unrestricted access ; rivaliser : to compete; se démocratiser : to become more accessible)

You’ll need the basics when shopping for furniture in French (table: une table, chair: une chaise, lamp: une lampe…), but you will probably quickly find that these words aren’t enough. Here’s a list of more specific words that will help:

A sofa (un canapé) can be:  un canapé droit fixe: classic sofa; un canapé droit convertible: a sofa bed or sleeper; un canapé d’angle: a sectional sofa; un canapé modulable: modular sofas.

More useful words for living room furniture include, un pouf: ottoman or pouf; une méridienne: chaise longue or daybed; un fauteuil: arm chair; une table console: hallway table or console table; une table basse: coffee table; un bout de canapé: end table

Then there are all the different words for colors (kaki verses taupe) and fabrics (flanelle or coton), lamps and light fixtures (un abat-jour: lamp shade), and curtains (une embrasse de rideaux: curtain tie back).  There are so many fun words you can learn around furniture.

Why not combine your private French lesson at Le Bon Marché with lessons on buying appliances at Darty, houseplants at the Marché aux Fleurs, and DYI materials at the BHV? It is a unique and interesting way to discover Paris and the French language. Contact us to get started!

Photos from Le Bon Marché.