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A Dream Come True
by Jialin Luh on Mar 10, 2006
Love struck Diane Valranges deeply and madly when she first set foot in San Francisco 12 years ago. Having realized her first dream in life of becoming a journalist, the French native set her sights and heart on her next dream: moving to our city. Formidable immigration laws obstructed her path, but she came back with a fervor and vision of using her taste for beauty to open a French home décor store. Thus, Peche Mignon is not only a dream come true for Valranges, but also for us lucky San Franciscans who now need only travel as far as the Inner Richmond to procure unique and charming items from France.
But Peche Mignon, French for "guilty pleasure", did not come to fruition at a snap of the fingers. Once Valranges visited and discovered our flair for things European she knew there was much to be done if she were to make her dream come true. Over a course of three years, she visited some 124 home décor stores to check out and take stock of the inventory and wares available to ensure she'd be something totally fresh and new to the scene. She spoke with proprietors of French décor stores in major cities like Chicago, Miami and Seattle and was offered franchise opportunities, but turned these down so she could open a shop entirely her own.
Valranges powered through four months of negotiations to secure the space Peche Mignon now occupies on Clement Street. Once all the legwork had been completed she applied for an investor visa with a manuscript nearly larger than a dictionary. The store itself took two years to build. All the hard work has paid off: within two days of the store opening in October of 2005, Valranges had already sold more than planned and she was now living in San Francisco.
"Paris had become a nuisance with all the traffic, noise and aggressive people," she said. That being said, Valranges returns to France twice a year to pick up wares at trade shows and visit her suppliers. All the products are made in and procured from France. She also notes, "French products are synonymous with quality," a statement that cannot be repudiated when taking stock of Valranges' goods. Each region of France is represented by her selection of products they are known for and that are probably not available at any other place in the city. What is even more fabulous is that Peche Mignon honors bridal registries. Once you go in and take a look at what the shop has to offer, you might want to insist your wedding guests buy all your presents here.
My favorites were the crystalware from Lorraine, the tea sets from Monaco and hand painted plates from Limoge. These plates come in subtle but bright, delicious colors that make it easy to mix and match for an interesting table setting. The decanter, water glasses, wine glasses and champagne flutes in pink and green crystal were so beautiful and unique -- fit for a princess. What I loved most about the tea sets were the accompanying spoons -- little dainty things with feather handles that are curved in such a way that they hang perfectly over the side of the cup. You can also choose from spoons with heart handles and both these options come in brass and silver, $18 a pop. If you like vintage travel posters and decorations, you will definitely love the rectangular tins depicting vintage French scenes and poster art ($12).
The Basque region is known for their brightly colored striped textiles. At Peche Mignon you will find an impressive selection of aprons, table runners, oven mitts, napkins, dish towels, potholders, bread baskets -- enough to outfit your kitchen and table! But the hand-embroidered dish towels ($34) and tablecloths from Alsace are beautiful as well, if offering a more elegant, feminine touch to the bold and spicy colors of the Basque fabrics.
Also for the kitchen and dining room there are all sorts of bowls and plates from Limoges, including sets of 3 nesting flower-shaped plates (presentation, dinner and dessert) that come in pretty pastels like pink and minty green. Grommeted dishtowels are made to hang on hooks and help you keep your kitchen organized. Finish off your table setting with some lovely candles from Brittany.
Peche Mignon also carries a variety of wine accessories: wine glasses and decanters with an "aroma line" that are designed to open the aroma and bouquet of the wine. For the bubbly, you can purchase a bubble indicator ($42) to make sure your champagne is still good to drink. My personal favorite in this department was the Chic Lady corkscrew, with its matte black finish, curvy shape and rhinestone accent.
In an effort to make the store look like home, Valranges put some of her own treasured furniture to use: an antique bed frame she slept with for six years is used to display bed linens from Lyon. The duvet covers, sheet sets and pillowcases are 48% linen and 52% cotton and come in rich hues.
For the baby, items from the Cholet region of France are all the rage. Fun, whimsical trunk/hanger combinations, picture frames and photo albums are ideal for gifts or outfitting a nursery. The fleece sleeping sack and blankets are so soft and cuddly older children might even have a little trouble letting them go.
For the boudoir and beauty needs, body lotions, perfumes and cosmetics from Provence are certain to please. Heart-shaped lavender and lemon grass soaps run $6, with many other luscious scents: cucumber and vanilla-cinnamon to name a few. Pretty scented sachets abound. Valranges also carries scented ceramic garlands in the form of butterflies, flower and leaves ribboned together ($44).
And for something suitable anywhere in the house, opt for the funky lamps in jewel tones with bendable shades ($270-600). The price may seem a bit steep, but Peche Mignon is the exclusive U.S. distributor and these lamps have been all the rage, having been commissioned for photo shoots in décor magazines and all.
Diane Valranges has poured her heart into the creation of Peche Mignon and it shows. In fulfilling her dream of moving here and putting her creative inclinations to test, we have profited richly. Stop in -- you most certainly won't be disappointed.
by Jialin Luh on Mar 10, 2006
Peche Mignon storefront, photo by Patrick Herms
Settings and crystalware, photo by Jialin Luh
Store interior, photo by Jialin Luh