Contribute something productive you reprobate!!

The leading English language magazine. Now covering Poitou-Charentes, Dordogne, Vendée and Haute-Vienne too!

Living magazine distribution map

All about Vienne and Haute-Vienne

 

A Miller’s Tale - Le Moulin de Tintin

A Miller’s Tale - Le Moulin de Tintin

Just across the borders of Poitou-Charentes, on the outskirts of Saint Junien, lies a very special business owned and run by a charismatic British couple who combine entrepreneurial flair with an eye for style and value. You won’t believe half of what lies within le Moulin de Tintin.

Tin Tin

Drive through the heart of the region towards Limoges and beyond, and eventually you’ll reach the dual-carriageway section of the busy RN141 trunk road which some years ago mercifully bypassed Saint-Junien. But should you decide instead to take the ‘old’ road you’ll have the River Vienne (the local boundary between la Charente and l’Haute-Vienne) for company during the brief run into the ancient town. This classic approach also passes a huge former mill building set back slightly from the roadside, and spanning the river with an impressive single arch. Beside a small parking area and a display of garden furniture is a wall-sign proclaiming, in quintessentially French sounding terms: ‘Moulin de Tintin - Ameublement - Décoration - Antiquités - Mode - Cadeaux - Accessoires’.

But appearances can be very deceptive, as you’ll discover when you climb some old limestone steps and peek inside. Lying before you is nothing less than the ultimate boutique, on a department-store scale. Currently filling over two floors (soon to become three), it’s packed from floor to ceiling with a dazzling array of eye-catching objects, both new and old. You could furnish an entire lifestyle here, as both French and British ex-pat customers have already discovered.

Le Moulin de Tintin turns out to be the brainchild of Tina and James Good, who are clearly adept at taking adversity in their stride, a quality which saw them powering their way back to fitness after a potentially fatal road accident which very nearly put paid to their ambitious plans for the Moulin. Happily, the dream remained firmly on track, and between them Tina and James have miraculously transformed a once forlorn building into the Aladdin’s Cave we see today. “We had to completely gut it and virtually start again...,” says James. “The biggest job was putting in whole new floors.

With a building of this size – we currently use around 800 square-metres – the quantities involved are huge. And everything has to be inspected, to check that it conforms to the appropriate French regulations. We even had to provide a lift, for disabled customers.”

Happily, despite the epic scale of the refurbishment works they have somehow managed to preserve many of the mill building’s more interesting original features, which now add authentic period charm to the pleasures of browsing the selection of items on display.

There’s no doubt that ‘eclectic’ best sums up the style and feel of what you’ll find during the course of a visit, and all of it is sourced by Tina, who travels extensively to purchase hard-to-find items which have caught her eye. High on her hit-list are end-of-line items from British and European big-name designer labels, which Tina is then able to offer to her customers at startlingly-low prices. With a constantly-changing selection of tempting, once-only offers like these, it’s little wonder that people travel considerable distances to le Moulin, in search of items which are hard to find in France.Tin Tin Page

“They keep coming back, too...,” says Tina. “We always stock plenty of items which are priced within everyone’s reach... people feel relaxed once they’ve seen the price-tags,” says Tina. “I also go to a lot of trouble when putting together our displays. We’ve found that when we group coordinated, affordable items together people – particularly French customers – will often buy several things and ask us to wrap them all as a gift for someone special.”

All very French – and as if to prove the point, during our visit we noticed that the gift-wrapping area, tucked away behind the staircase to the upper fl oor, was indeed being kept very busy preparing a succession of these highly-presentable paquets-cadeaux.

Tin Tin More immediately obvious to shoppers is the fact that in addition to the long list of familiar names filling the shelves (and just about every inch of other available space) there are many other creations which are clearly unique to le Moulin. Tina offers a selection of appealing, affordable household and table linen which she has specially produced for her, while, for those who feel inspired to create their own custom designs at home, she also stocks attractive off - the- roll cotton prints plus soft-furnishing accessories. “Our French customers just love the English traditional style, which they tell us they find very chic...,” observes Tina, with justifiable pride. Not that colourful contemporary style isn’t also well represented, as even a cursory glance at le Moulin’s sizzling selections of things like bags, bed-linens, cushions and kitchenware will confirm.

Look a little closer, though, and a whole new dimension to le Moulin’s founding spirit becomes obvious. “I just love old things,” confesses Tina. “When I see something of real character and quality which I just know someone else will fall in love with, I just have to have it. Obviously, lots of pieces I come across in antique and furniture sales need quite a bit of imagination to see their true potential, but I have a really good upholsterer who I used to work with in England, and who is now living nearby. It’s wonderful seeing a real quality piece of furniture restored to its former beauty, and knowing that sooner or later someone else will come in and think ‘That’s just perfect for our home’. And by now many of the pieces are genuinely unique, since they were one-off items produced to special order in the first place.”

Tin Tin

 Tina’s obvious passion for her ‘finds’ is understandable and clearly infectious, and it doesn’t take long for a quality item to fi nd an appreciative buyer. And she knows precisely where they end up: “I’m sometimes surprised when someone falls for a particularly dominant piece with real love-me-or-hate-me design, but then when we go to deliver it and finally see it in situ I can see right away that it fits in just perfectly. I love that.”Tin Tin

We’ll be watching future developments at le Moulin de Tintin with great interest, not least exactly what James and Tina have in mind for the 50 per cent boost in surface area which will be available to them once the lower floor is opened up. Judging by what they’ve already achieved it’s going to be quite something. But as more and more people are already discovering, le Moulin de Tintin is already that.

WORDS AND PHOTOS: ROGER MOSS

Published in Living Poitou-Charentes June 2012 © All Rights Reserved

LE MOULIN DE TINTIN 

3 Avenue Gay Lussac, 87200 Saint Junien

Tel: +33 (0)5 55 79 57 60 / +33 (0)9 65 13 90 58 / +33 (0)5 79 33 46 54

www.moulin-de-tintin.com

Opening hours: 

Wednesday – Saturday: 10am – 7pm

Sunday: 12pm – 6pm