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A Warehouse of Woven Wonders

My free time is not filled with summer picnics, strolls along Paris Plage or excursions to the country. Instead, every available moment is being spent scouring the markets for the finishing touches on what I’ve affectionately called “the baby” — but officially known as “Le Provençal” — the studio apartment I have been preparing for rental.

While less than 20 square meters seems like it only deserves 2 months and 20,000 euros (that’s what the bank was willing to lend me), when you’re creating a space that is more than your home — in fact, a home for many others to enjoy as well, you can’t help going the extra mile. (At least, I couldn’t.)

So, twice the time and double the price, I’m down to the last little details of decor. In Provence, at every step you find Provençal fabrics, table cloths, bed spreads, hand towels, etc. Not in Paris! The young Parisians are fed up with traditional decor and buildings that are centuries old. The “Bobos” (the bohemian bourgeois) are taking home the look of Ikea and Habitat.

We Americans are “au contraire!” We’re fed up with that which has no history! Isn’t that one reason we love Paris so much? We can’t help but feel the many generations who inhabited the city before us and we want to wallow in its reminders…the old wooden beams that hold the ceilings and floors, the parquet floor boards that have uneven spaces between them, the hand-tooled moldings that are one inch thick with paint, the glass-paned French doors with oval-shaped brass knobs and the cracks in the walls that just keep coming back. We simply love all that character!

So, Saturday afternoon in the rain, I set off with a friend to the Marché de Saint Pierre at the base of Sacré Coeur to find Provençal linens in the many fabric specialty stores that line the streets.

Métros Anvers and Barbès-Rochechouart take you closest to the main streets that house the fabric center of Paris in the 18th arrondissement — Place Saint-Pierre, rue d’Orsel, rue Charles Nodier, rue Livingstone and rue Seveste. There are a few large and formidable retailers there in buildings of about five levels each that contain just about everything you might need to dress your home: Dreyfus Déballage du Marché Saint Pierre at 2, rue Charles Nodier; Tissus Reine at 5, Place Saint-Pierre and Moline Tissus at 1, Place Saint-Pierre.

Dreyfus Déballage is like a warehouse of woven wonders, layer upon layer of all that fabric can be. At Tissus Reine, miniature models in fabulous creations stand as heroines over the stacks of bolts of fabrics they represent. One is more fashionable than the next — you just want to take one home to call a pet! Some of the shops are elegant, showing off only the finest of French fabrics, and sport higher prices to match.

There are shops that virtually produce “drapes while you wait” (we joked) — they will gladly sew up your new drapes from the fabrics you’ve chose in the market. Adjacent shops supply the pillows, curtain rods, cords and tassels.

It’s a world of color and texture. It’s a world of artistic media just waiting for creative hands to mold it into dressings for bodies, homes and furnishings. These are bargains to be had for the price of the effort to DIY (Do It Yourself) a

nd well worth the adventure.

At the end of the day, we were laden like oxen with bags of bed spreads, sheets, pillows and bolsters. When we stood on the quai of the Métro surrounded by our great finds, we both laughed realizing how much simpler it would have been to just hail a taxi rather than build muscle by lugging it all home. Oh well — that would have spoiled half the fun!

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
Email [email protected]

P.S. The furniture from last week’s excursion to the Marché aux Puces is scheduled for delivery this week and next weekend I’ll set out to find flowers for the windows. For now, have a look at the new bedspread and the finishing touches I’ve made on Le Provençal.../parlerparis/apartments/rentals/provencal.html

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