The Art of Shopping: Paris' Most Beautiful Design Stores and Artisan Studios
Paris is easily one of the world's most artistically inspiring cities—and not just because of its architecture, gardens, galleries, culture, cuisine, and je ne sais quoi.
Even the shops set off sparks of creativity, as artist and designer Marin Montagut demonstrates in his new book, Timeless Paris: Ateliers, Emporiums, Savoir Faire (Flammarion, $40).
Montagut takes readers inside 19 time-tested Parisian design institutions—dedicated to upholstery, hardware, haberdashery, millinery, art supplies, printing, and so on—where generations of artisans have maintained a highly French devotion to impeccable craftsmanship.
Sumptuous photos by Ludovic Balay, Pierre Musselet, and Romain Ricard reveal that these studios and stores are themselves works of art full of color, eye-catching displays, and cabinets of curiosities.
Among the book's more than 300 images are playful illustrations and absorbing collages created by Montagut in response to the various establishments he features. Text by Montagut and Laura Fronty fills you in on each spot's historical highlights so that the next time you're in Paris you can be sure to shop for soft pastels where Edgar Degas did (La Maison du Pastel) or brave the 120-year-old elevator at antiques store Soubrier to scout out a presidential desk from the Ėlysée Palace.
Here are six more places Timeless Paris will make you want to add to your itinerary.
Pictured above: Displays at Marin Montagut's home goods boutique on rue Madame in the 6th arrondissement
The book's author evokes the spirit of his own eponymous boutique (located at 48 rue Madame near the Luxembourg Gardens) in this collage of mystical and nostalgic images. In Timeless Paris, Montagut describes the shop as a "voyage into a childhood wonderland" where he sells the stationery, tableware, and decorative objects he makes by hand, along with antique globes, apothecary jars, insect display cases, and other old-timey bric-a-brac.
Since 1830, the Bouclerie Poursin workshop (35 rue des Vinaigriers, 10th arrondissement) has been supplying saddlery accessories to horsey institutions such as the French cavalry, riding academies, stud farms, and royal courts. In more recent decades, fashion houses including Chanel, Hermès, and Louis Vuitton have relied on the firm's leather goods and renowned brass-pronged buckles. The shop preserves its original metal-stamping machines and cast-iron molds like the one pictured above.
Passementerie is the term for tassels and other ornamental trimming made of braid to decorate drapes and furnishings. Verrier (10 rue Orfila, 20th arrondissement) is the undisputed master of the form, producing more than 300 different styles. Artisans work by hand using 20 wooden looms to turn colorful thread into pom-poms, fringe, rosettes, and other dangly adornments.
What do you clean your household surfaces with—Clorox wipes and lemon-scented Pledge? Très gauche. Produits d'Antan (10 rue Saint-Bernard, 11th arrondissement) is a kind of beauty supply store, but the products are for wood, marble, and metal rather than skin. Give your floors, cabinets, and countertops a spa day with olive oil soap, goose-feather brushes, and Majoline, described in Timeless Paris as a "beauty cream for every type of metal."
Along with the workshops and boutiques, Timeless Paris throws in a handful of small specialist museums that fit in with the emporium theme. One of them is the Musée de Minéralogie (60 Boulevard Saint-Michel, 6th arrondissement) inside the luxe Hôtel de Vendôme. Gems, meteorites, and other pretty rocks in strange shapes fill glass-fronted cases that make the mini museum look like an otherworldly jewelry box.
Sennelier (3 Quai Voltaire, 7th arrondissement) might have the best location of any art supply store on earth: right across the Seine from the Louvre. That's likely one reason why the shop, which has been in the same family since 1887, has been frequented by so many painters—Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, and David Hockney among them. Credit also goes to the quality and head-spinning variety of items lining the oak shelves. Endless paints, pastels, pencils, brushes, sketchpads, and papers all wait to be turned into masterpieces.
Timeless Paris: Ateliers, Emporiums, Savoir Faire ($40) was written and illustrated by Marin Montagut (pictured above) and published by Flammarion.