Guy Hibbert is leafing through a new book that takes us on a charming tour of Paris’s best traditional purveyors of everything from buttons and pastels to woodwork.
As we mourn the loss of our favorite neighborhood businesses so often swept away by rising rents and global brands, it is truly heartwarming to discover that Paris still clings to the dearest and best of its heritage empires. In Marin Montagut’s book Timeless Paris, we dive into 19 of his favorite shops and museums. And the 20th? Well, it would be the “purveyor of all kinds of objects”, the author’s own eponymous treasure chest on rue Madame. More on that later – first, a quick tour of this lovely book.
At La Maison du Pastel on rue Rambuteau, Isabelle Roché and her American colleague, artist Margaret Zayer, run a family business that dates back to 1870 and was once frequented by the legendary master pastellists Degas and Quentin de la Tour . In their tucked-away boutique, there are pastels in every shade and texture imaginable. Nothing has changed here for over 150 years. The shelves are lovingly stacked with hand-labeled boxes containing over 1,600 subtly graduated pastel shades. In the Galerie Vivienne, one of the famous glass “passages” of Paris, you will find the Librairie Jousseaume, a bookseller which has been on the same site since the inauguration of the Gallery in 1826. The covered passages once housed families of publishers, printers, engravers and booksellers. Here is a paradise for browsers of used and old volumes where you can walk in the footsteps of Colette and Cocteau.
A visit to the Bouclerie Poursin is living proof that traditional niche manufacturing skills can survive a century of modernization and mass production. It is here, rue des Vinaigriers, in one of the oldest workshops in Paris, that the artisans who create saddlery accessories are found. These handmade and finely crafted brass buckles, belts and accessories were the first choice for the pride of French cavalry regiments, for large equestrian breeding centers and, later, for design houses like Chanel, Hermès or Louis Vuitton.
Visiting any great French mansion or castle, you will not fail to come across woodwork, woodwork and plasterwork. A large part of the finest works came from Féau & Cie on rue Laugier in the 17th arrondissement. The whole history of French decor from the 17th to the 20th century is represented here in the nooks and crannies of a vast labyrinth. Three generations of the Féau family have created what is in fact a living museum of French decorative heritage. No wonder some of the world’s greatest designers come here to get inspiration from their interior design projects.
TO GO BACK IN TIME
The next time you are in Paris and you feel unwell or suffer from an excess of good food and good wine, you could try the remedies available at l’Herboristerie de Place Clichy. Founded in 1880, this charming boutique embodies the survival of historic Paris and still serves a clientele requiring natural herbal teas, infusions and remedies for all kinds of ailments. Complete with the original woodwork, apothecary jars and copper scales, it truly is a trip back in time. Another wonderful store for traditional housewares is Produits d’Antan on rue Saint-Bernard in the faubourg Saint-Antoine. Between original wooded shelves and old signage, Nathalie Lefebvre (who bought the store “out of passion” in 2014) is proud to stock thousands of products to maintain, restore, strip, polish, polish and shine materials whose wood, marble, leather, stone and metals.
Few compilations of beautiful Parisian boutiques could not mention Ultramod rue de Choiseul. They are in fact two shops that face each other: a haberdashery on one side and a milliner and trimmers on the other (think of trimmings and curtain tiebacks). There have been milliners at this address for over 200 years. Whether customers come to buy exquisite silk and velvet ribbons, felt fashioned from rabbit hair, or the highest quality veils, they will find that the inventory has continually grown; for example, stocks include around 40,000 buttons in every shade imaginable, all beautifully organized by color.
OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Timeless Paris brings to life 19 of these fascinating shops and places of wonder. But special mention must go to the author’s own contribution. Attached to traditional craftsmanship, Marin Montagut has opened his own boutique on rue Madame near the Luxembourg Gardens. He reconfigured the old upholsterer’s workshop to create a curiosity shop, a boudoir and a workshop. Spend time in the beautifully restored and authentic style boutique and you could indulge yourself in an antique or piece of art which caught the author’s attention during his travels. Or maybe one of her own unique creations will delight you: stationery, tableware, boxes, cushions, silk scarves – all inspired by her passion for the unique retail heritage that Paris still has to offer.
From France Today magazine