The Design Scene in Paris
So you are going to Paris…
You set the dates, you purchased flight tickets, maybe you also saved some frequent flyer milages, just in case. You wrote your ‘to do’ lists, your ‘where to eat’ and ‘what to buy’ lists and you told the whole World that you are going to Paris. Paris, in spite of all the cliches, is still the most romantic city in the world. If this is your first time in The City of Lights than this post is not for you (yet) and I suggest you bookmark it and read it for your next time. If this is your second or third time in Paris, then this short Design Scene Guide is for you. This following post is dedicated to those who like design and love to spice up their lives with some style. For those who want to know the City of Light a little bit different. You will not find here the Tour Eiffel, Louvre, Champs Elysees or Montmartre, but you will get a glimpse to some of the stylish stores and places in Paris. This post is for the ‘Advanced Users’ of Paris with a touch of style.
Tre Chic, Magnifique.
Mama Shelter Hotel, designed and owned by Philippe Starck, is located in the 20th arrondissement. If I didn’t have the exact address, I could easily confuse the facade of the hotel with the cultural center and public library next door. But maybe this is the whole idea of the hotel, which wants to give its guests a homey feeling and a sense of security, or at least a feel of being close to Mama. This is also the reason for the logo of the hotel (mama hen legs) and why the concierge and the staff of the reception are wearing aprons with portraits of Mamas. The hotel was opened three and a half years ago (September 5th, 2008) by the Trigano family who also owns Club Med. The Trigano family has hired Philippe Starck to design the hotel and its concept and later on he became one of the owners himself. The vision was to create a hotel that combines an urban concept with a homey atmosphere, a hotel where the guests come to relax, hence the less central location. There are 172 designed rooms in the hotel, all designed in an urban look with an unfinished grey concrete wall. The highlight of the design is the plastic masks that serve as reading lamps next to the beds. The masks were purchased by Starck as there was no budget left for ‘real’ reading lamps. With time, the masks became very popular among the guests who tend to take pictures of themselves wearing these masks. There are two bars and a Pizza bar by the well known chef Alain Sendernes, an outdoor terrace that serves Brunch and a BBQ on the roof in the summer. The design of the main bar space is eclectic and combines long common tables and colored stripped sofas with the portraits of the mothers.
In the lobby of the hotel you can find a small gift shop to buy some unconventional souvenirs from Paris. The hotel is a great solution for those who already know Paris and want to have a different experience.
Mama Shelter, 109 rue de Bagnolet.
Directions: Get off Alexander Dumas station (line 2) or Gambetta station (line 3)
If you are in the neighborhood, visit Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, which is the largest cemetery of Paris, established in 1804 and look for Oscar Wilde, Honore de Balzac, Frédéric Chopin, Camille Pissarro and other well known graves. As the cemetery is located on the high hills of Paris, you can catch a great view of the city, which is highly recommended especially during dusk hours.
Walking on Blvd Beaumarchais, you can find some real Parisian gems. One of them is Merci, a well known chic, ethnical concept store, hidden at the back of a courtyard in number 111 of the Boulevard. At the entrance to the store, there is an old red mini car, which is now serves as the trade mark of the store. It is a three levels store, divided into sections. At the entrance level there is a small cafe with a book store, men clothes collection, perfumes and some little items of decorations, based on a concept the store has in mind. In my latest visit to Merci, the concept was clothes hangers and the entrance level was filled with different kinds of those. In the lower level there is a restaurant with sittings over looking a small flowery patio, selling kitchenware and greenhouse items, and on the second floor you can find women clothing, accessories, vintage and designed furnitures and home accessories. Occasionally, you can find Ives San Lauren’s and Stella McCartney’s items as well as local designers. All the profits of the store go to charity. I highly recommend to dedicate some time and explore every corner of this well designed loft and have a bite of their delicious tart of the day while looking at the greenery outdoors.
Merci, 111 Blvd Beaumarchais.
Directions: Get off Saint Sebastien Froissart station (line .8) and walk on the blvd.
A few steps away from Merci, you can find its kids version at the colorful concept store Bon Ton, which sells kids clothes, shoes and toys. The brand has more stores in the city but this one is a three level high, filled with Kids accessories, decors, clothes and toys with little fitting rooms, playing space and photo booth. Everything is so colorful and every detail is carefully planned. Even the friendly sales women wear colorful clothes that match some of the items. It is definitely friendly store both for kids and their parents.
Bon Ton, 5 Blvd des Filles du Calvarie
Directions: Get off at Filles du Calvarie station (line .8)
Talking about kids, Petit Pan is a wonder of its own. This brand also has a few stores in Paris (in fact, in other locations all over Europe) but the one I’ve visited was at tiny store in the heart of the Latin Quarter at rue du Bac. The brand Petit Pan is known by its colorful fabrics and the little toys and decorations made of paper and bamboo. You can find paper lamps in the shape of fish, flowers, dragons and other animals. Beside the cute and colorful clothes for babies and infants, the store holds lively pillows, little blankets, ribbons and a large variety of rolled fabrics with so many interesting and adorable prints which are hard to choose from. Petit Pan is a great alternative if you are looking for a special gift for a baby or the parents. Everything is so cute and tiny that it will be so easy to carry in your suitcase.
Petit Pan, 95 rue du Bac
Directions: Get off at rue du Bac station (line 12)
One of my favorite streets in Paris is the fashion-chici rue Saint-Honoré. There is a great combination of high-end fashion stores, well dressed and good looking people, well designed cafes and bistros and other unique concept stores, such as Colette (which deserves a post of its own) and Astier de Villatte. Astier de Villatte is well known for its light weight white porcelain plates and dishes, all shown in a big wooden closet at the entrance hall of the store, alongside home perfumes, candles and other colored decorative dishes. It serves as a pilgrimage for porcelain dishes lovers. The store itself is simple and its decoration but the cracking wooden floor gives a sense of an old haunted vintage place.
Astier de Vilatte, 173 rue Saint-Honoré
Directions: Get off Madeleine station (line.8) and walk toward rue Saint-Honoré
Paris is filled with magnificently designed concept stores, and sometimes even in a simple store I visited, I could find something very unique. There is an endless number of boutique hotels, restaurants, bistros, cafes and well designed stores in the City of Light, but the most satisfying thing is to find those you like on your own.