April In Paris preview: Bethlehem storeowner Michelle Olson talks about love of design and what inspires her
BY KAITLYN SCHOCK
Of Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites
On Sunday, April 23 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites will partner with resident boutique owner Michelle Olson to host “April in Paris” — a spring shopping event at Marché Maison at the 1810 Goundie House (501 Main St., Bethlehem).
This special occasion will be the debut of vintage products and pieces from a variety of Paris flea markets.
Sunday's program includes complimentary Rose wine, cocktail samples of Springtime in Paris, an accordionist, and a fresh flower stem bar.
Guests can also find out more about the Marche Voyage Spring 2024 France River Cruise. All purchases qualify guests to win gifts such as a $500 French River Cruise Voucher and a $100 Hotel Bethlehem Brunch for Two.
Olson, who's also a realtor at Carol Dorey Real Estate, has a passion for interior design and unique homes. She found a way to blend the two into an amazing career. Using her love of decorating, she can help buyers envision what homes can be.
Olson has been scouted by HGTV for a special Lehigh Valley episode, and her home has been featured on NBC’s Today Show.
We caught up with her to talk about Sunday's "April In Paris" shopping event and much more.
Kaitlyn Schock for Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites: Good Afternoon! How are you doing?
Michelle Olson: I’m good! Thank you for asking.
What initially got you interested in interior design and your love for vintage pieces?
I've loved design since I was in grade school. I would literally argue with my mom about the way the furniture was placed (laughs). And she would always take me to model homes when I was growing up ... and I just loved it.
Did your love for vintage pieces start then or was that later on?
I think that has happened recently ... more in the last decade.
I just really love the charm, I love the collected look. I love that vintage pieces have stories behind them and they’re unique and not mass-produced.
A lot of the time you are finding vintage pieces in places where you’re traveling and you’re picking something up. Now you’re taking a piece of some other place and that reminds you of a memory.
When you’re looking for vintage pieces, is there ever something that you’re specifically looking for or gravitating towards?
I like to look for vintage linen, silver, china, art … any kind of miniature things.
I gravitate toward anything that's worn. It could be an old cookie tin … anything that really fits that neutral palette. If it’s aged and it's a neutral palette, I am drawn to that.
A lot of it has to do with the palette of the item. I love woods and whites. I like white furniture and then adding lots of texture through different woods and different woven textures.
When you’re designing something, do you usually start with pieces or is it colors … How do you even begin?
One example is ... I was working with a woman, and she loves that "art deco, glam" feel. So, for me, I’m thinking jewel tones, hunter green … So just bringing elements of that in, for example.
Once I knew she loved modern, art deco glam, it took me down that road of wallpaper and the style of the lamps and the chairs…
But, I like to mix certain styles. The art deco glam doesn’t have to hit every part of it. You can pair it with a modern sofa then. You just find those elements that speak to that style for the room.
What inspired you to start Marché Maison with all of your vintage pieces?
I would go to these markets down south, and there were these three-day markets where there would be hundreds of vendors. I was thinking, "The Lehigh Valley. I wish we had something like that."
And around five years ago, when I opened, the Goundie House wasn’t really open to the public ... it had some periodic exhibits. The manager knew what I was trying to accomplish and said, “Why don’t you use the Goundie House?”
So, we did the first Vintage Market event and they thought it went so well, they wanted me to stay. They really loved how it speaks to Goundie himself who was very entrepreneurial. He had a lot of different hats that he wore …
Mine is a female-owned business, and I also have lots of different hats that I wear.
The location of Goundie House has been a great place to show anything vintage because it’s a historic building. I think Goundie would be proud!
When you’re searching for pieces for your store are you looking for specifics or is it more random?
It’s extremely random, whatever is there. You just go everywhere and when you bring all the pieces together, it’s just this awesome mix.
I also have a few wholesalers that I go to for some everyday items like candles and dish towels. For example, I have a Michel Designs line of luxury soaps and lotions.
So, I do have certain things that I carry regularly that aren’t vintage.
At Sunday's “April in Paris” event, what can people expect, and what are some things you are excited about?
My hope is people will come and feel like they have experienced a touch of Paris, a touch of visiting Paris.
I have an idea of how I want the doorway to be, my dad will be playing the accordion. I’m excited about the ambiance.
Then the actual flea market finds that I bought in Paris last month will not be on the shop floor until that day, so this will be the big debut of these pieces. So it’s special that there is going to be a true piece of Paris there. It’s small, vintage-type items.
Then, there will be giveaways with some local Main Street businesses.
When you were in Paris, were the flea markets very different from here?
The linens there are absolutely incredible, and I feel like you can’t really get those here. Also, it just has that French flair that you wouldn’t get from any of our local flea markets.
One of the markets that I went to had an entire row that was just food vendors, which here is unheard of and it’s just so French…there was a crepe vendor…it was just a very unique experience.
Was that your first time in Paris, or have you been before?
I have been, I think, seven times.
Last year, I went by myself — which I had never done. It’s my happy place, so I went by myself and I did the flea markets and brought merchandise back.
This year we went a little earlier, so it worked out that I could finally do an “April in Paris” event in April. So, it’s just very fun — the way that it worked out —and I always dreamed of having an “April in Paris” event. It’s a vision that I’ve had for several years now.
Also, we’re going to have fresh flowers available at the event — which feels Parisian to me. One of the first things I do when I arrive in Paris is purchase fresh flowers for my room. The quality and selection are a florist's haven!
Has Paris always been a big inspiration for you?
It was a milestone birthday, and it was my first time in Paris.
My style back then was very different. I was so in awe. It’s stimulating for a creative person to be there … the beauty, the creativity, the architecture.
Then, when I was there, I was sensing a style that was not my current style. It was neutral and everything was white and I was like, "OK, I need to change my whole house." (laughs)
I just walked away and knew that I wanted a completely different style for my home... and now I still love it.
It’s been a while, I’ve had this style for, I think, eight years now. I still love it.
I really wanted “April In Paris” to be an experience. When people walk into my shop, I really want them to feel a feeling.
And I love when I’m in the store, hearing people talk about the displays and they’ll say it’s magical.
I want people to have not only a shop where great items can be found but also a fully immersive experience to be inspired by.
Kaitlyn Schock is a student intern from Kutztown University and a contributing writer for Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites.
APRIL IN PARIS SHOPPING EVENT
When: Sunday, April 23, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: 1810 Goundie House at 501 Main St., Bethlehem. Next to the Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites Visitor Center
How much: Free to browse
Details and info: 800-360-8687 historicbethlehem.org and marchemaison.com