Paris at the Vanguard: 4 Design-Centric Boutique Picks

Paris at the Vanguard: 4 Design-Centric Boutique Picks

Already Europe’s capital of elegance, Paris is quickly shaping up as a major centre for innovative design, a trend that’s reflected in everything from the newest arts spaces to restaurants and hotels – and especially in the city’s freshest boutiques. These four aesthetically inclined shops cover all the bases in both their interiors and their wares, offering exceptional architecture, superior quality materials or ingredients and enduring style.

Maison M

“What if readers could enter directly into the pages of their favourite décor magazine?” This was a natural question for Caroline Tossan-Covillard, an ex-style editor for Paris Match magazine and founder of the airy new Maison M boutique in Paris’s 7th arrondissement.

In response, the Paris design expert gathered together an original assortment of beautifully designed objects for the home that covers everything from dining tables to pencils. Not only the objects we fantasise about, but also things that will actually enhance our living spaces in a real way. Indeed, the point of the shop is that nothing is too small or mundane as to be unworthy of her expert eye.

Though thoroughly contemporary and design-forward, the collection doesn’t reject the old-fashioned or the quotidian, but was assembled with the utmost regard for the things we touch, look at and use every day: a hand-hewn candlestick, a pretty dish towel, notebook or matchbox. Herein lies Maison M’s appeal and its credo. Tossan-Covillard scoured Europe and France for items that “combine the beautiful and the useful”.

At Maison M, quality and craftsmanship trump big-name design labels and luxury accessories, and the boutique’s strong aesthetic doesn’t translate into out-of-reach prices. Although most of the merchandise is found in only a few shops around Europe, or is exclusive to the store, Tossan-Covillard took care to keep prices within reach, starting at just a few Euros. It’s also a place you want to linger. Streamlined it may be but the 1,000-square-foot boutique doesn’t feel forebodingly cutting-edge or sterile. Displays that recreate a bedroom nook or study create a pleasant cosiness, complete with a choice book or favourite teacup, which helps customers to visualise how something might work at home and harmonise with their own lifestyle.

Maison M’s assured approach to colour is another strength, showing up in a brilliant crimson chair, a sky-blue pendant lamp or the exuberantly coloured – and highly addictive – ready-to-install wallpapers in mosaic or peacock  patterns by Minakani Lab, which were designed in collaboration with the boutique. A new theme is introduced each month, such as ‘the office desk’ or ‘hosting’, which are displayed in the front window, and special artists and designers are featured all the time, so there’s an ever-evolving range of old favourites and new finds.

Maison M, 25 rue de Bourgogne, Paris 7th. Tel: +33 1 47 53 07 74

La Trésorerie

Move over, Merci, the soaring La Trésorie is Paris’s newest go-to-home design trendsetter. Housed in a historic treasury building, this light-drenched, 300sqm loft space is much more than your common or garden interiors shop. It’s a goldmine for craft- and eco-conscious housewares, hand-picked from all over Europe and France.

The design-conscious owners’ main vision for the emporium was to assemble functional and durable items from quality brands with a tried-and-true history. The products they chose had to be well-priced in natural, straightforward and sustainable materials that are easily recyclable. In the words of the owners, Elsa Coustal, Linau Landeau and Denis Geffrault: “things we use in our daily lives… made with sincerity, originality, timelessness, poetry, and intelligence”.

The bright, functional space is expressive of the store’s ethos and is divided into six easily navigable categories, starting with ‘Petit Mobilier’, which includes coffee and side tables, stools, pendant lighting, rugs, hooks and hangers. ‘Univers Textiles’, meanwhile, features handmade linens for the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and dining table– it’s where you’ll find items you never knew you couldn’t live without, like the smart plaid picnic blankets from Tweedmill in Wales (€25 / €37.50) and a slew of irresistible tea towels and hand-woven linens. Brush fanatics (you know who you are) get their day in heaven amid ‘Droguerie et Nettoyage’, with its ingenious collection of brushes for dusting things like books, lampshades, blinds and all those hard-to-reach nooks and crevices.

There’s a tantalising collection of cookware in ‘Univers de la Cuisine’, some hard to find outside Europe, such as a beautiful range of enamelware from Reiss in Austria. ‘Univers Vaisselle’ has a lust-worthy selection of stylish glass, porcelain and pottery, including much sought-after dishes and bakeware from the French company Pillivuyt and European tea and coffee wares.

The in-store, Scandinavian-style Café Smörgas serves just the right yummy snacks and drinks for a shopping break and the boutique ships anywhere in the world, but there are lots of must-have items that will fit nicely in a carry-on bag.

La Trésorerie, 11 rue du Château d’Eau, Paris 10th. Tel: +33 1 40 40 20 46

Maison Ullens

From its exclusive location in Paris’s exclusive Golden Triangle, just across the street from Azzedine Alaïa, to the drop-dead gorgeous boutique designed by Rem Koolhaas’s OMG agency, everything about Maison Ullens oozes luxury.

Opened in January 2013, this is the Belgian label’s first Paris outpost and it’s clear that they mean to play ball with the ‘big boys’. The line, which debuted just last year, was founded by Belgian philanthropist and art collector Myriam Ullens, who tapped Paris-based designer Véronique Leroy to be her artistic director. This is great news for fans of the hyper-talented Leroy, whose only dedicated boutique, on Rue d’Alger in Paris’s chic Saint-Honoré shopping district, is catnip for international fashion aficionados.

Maison Ullens is as glamorous and opulent a shopping setting as you’ll find in Paris, with extravagantly understated white embossed leather, gleaming pale onyx terrazzo floors and brass fittings, which are all the better to highlight the sumptuous line of ready-to-wear.

The brand focuses on three different “spheres of being” – exotic travel, chic sportswear and urban style – a triumvirate exclusive to jetsetters, to be sure, and priced accordingly. Still, everything here is exceedingly wearable, a knack that many big-name designers have lost sight of in their endless pursuit of novelty. The lines are classic and timeless in luxe fabrics: silk, cashmere, leather, sheepskin. A perfectly cut reversible two-toned cashmere sweater may run in the high triple digits but if you think of it as two sweaters in one the extravagance is almost justifiable.

The standouts for autumn 2014 include a range of flattering, body skimming coats in leather, astrakhan or cashmere – most of them reversible – and some deftly cut dresses that will remain wardrobe staples for years to come. An investment every woman can afford.

Maison Ullens, 4 rue de Marignan, Paris 8th. Tel: +33 1 47 20 23 56

Buly 1803

Stepping into the new Buly boutique is like taking a walk back in time, to 1803 to be exact – around the point when the notable Paris perfumer Jean-Vincent Bully made his fortune with ‘Vinaigre de Toilette’, an aromatic lotion concocted to fight body odour, which was a major concern considering the bathing habits of the period.

Fast-forward to March 2014 and there’s a grand revival of the ancient shop, this time with fanciful, beautifully designed interiors and a slightly updated name. Modelled after an early 19th-century pharmacy, down to the little glass apothecary bottles filled with exotic oils and herbs, couched in wooden nooks, the boutique may be small but it has atmosphere to spare. This isn’t surprising, since its creators are the trendsetting couple Victoire de Taillac (sister of jeweller Marie-Hélène de Taillac) and artist-designer Ramdane Touhami, whose last project was the wildly successful revival of the 17th-century French candlemaker, Cire Trudon.

Buly’s winsome packaging and natural concoctions, some based on the original parfumier’s 200-year-old recipes, are not only charming but rich, light on the skin and deliciously scented. They also have the benefit of foregoing harsh additives, alcohol and synthetic ingredients, and provide further evidence that the epidemic in resuscitations of venerable old fashion, leather goods and perfume houses doesn’t always translate to mass-produced stuff in stylish boxes.

Alongside eight irresistible water-based fragrances – such as ‘Damask Rose’, ‘Scottish Lichen’ and ‘English Honey’ – you’ll find an abbreviated face-care line, with a cleanser and moisturiser. There’s also a body lotion, hand cream, scented soaps, floral waters, purifying clay and a range of raw ingredients to create personalised care for any individual’s needs: emu oil, ‘Poudre de Bukkake’ (made from the droppings of the Japanese bush warbler) and a range of exotic virgin oils. Other must-haves include French essential oils, scented candles and matches, handmade wooden combs and boar’s hair brushes, all of which make fine gifts.

Buly 1803, 6 rue Bonaparte, Paris 6th. Tel: +33 1 43 54 25 62

From France Today magazine

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American journalist Jennifer Ladonne, a Paris resident since 2004, writes regular features on French heritage, culture, travel, food & wine for France Today magazine, and is the restaurants and hotels reviewer for Fodor's Paris, France and Provence travel guides. Her articles have appeared in CNN Travel, AFAR, The Huffington Post, MSN and Business Insider.

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