Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Interview corner: Little Paris

Last month I had the pleasure of styling Little Paris in Crouch End. An idyllic Parisian boutique filled with vintage trinkets and market treasures.





Photography by Corin Ashleigh Brown

Hélène Allen opened the shop in December 2009 with the vision to collect and showcase antiques and beautiful French pieces from her homeland. Her dream of opening her own shop started early and while working for the manager of the Homewares department in Galeries Lafayette in Paris, she began to see a way to make her dream a reality. Little Paris is now well established on Park Road, Crouch End, with a stream of regular customers who come to see the new pieces Hélène sources from the flea markets and antique fairs in and around Paris.

HOW DID LITTLE PARIS COME ABOUT?
I would say that a big driving force was the fact that I wanted to bring elements of everything I love from France to England, which is now my home. With Little Paris I have enjoyed creating a space, which is inviting, unique to London and homely. I think it embodies the spirit of the France I know and love. I can say that I am now living my dream, a dream I’ve planned for a long time.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE AND WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION?
I would definitely describe my style as quirky and eclectic. Much of my inspiration comes from my childhood memories of great places filled with atmosphere and a feeling of a lot of joy. Many of these memories have been in places where the objects and furniture play host to the atmosphere, live and breathe; and have a soul of their own which I find comforting.

YOUR STORE IS A WONDERFUL MIX OF FURNITURE FROM DIFFERENT PERIODS - WHERE DO YOU GO TO COLLECT AND BUY THESE FINDS?
Well all my pieces are sourced from markets around France, particular those in and around Paris. Over the years I have built relationships with dealers that I know and trust. It’s always a thrill to find something wonderful to bring back to my store in London. I would really encourage people to go to their local flea markets. You’ll be amazed at what you can find. It’s a lot of fun bargaining, hunting for objects and finding unique pieces for your home.

WOULD YOU SAY THAT THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE MARKETS HERE IN ENGLAND VS THOSE IN FRANCE?
No I would say markets themselves are all similar but the products available in France can be quite different. Have a look at the website, www.parispuces.com, which can give an insight to the French Flea Markets. Just remember that no matter where you are the best way to find those treasures is to wake up really early, enjoy a 3am extra strong espresso and start on the excursion.

DO YOU RESTORE ANY OF THE PIECES YOU FIND?
Yes we often have to restore furniture. Some of this work I do myself but mostly I use a team in France who I advise for restorations.

WHERE ARE YOU ABLE TO DELIVER?
For the moment, with my lovely van I can deliver around Crouch End for free and deliveries elsewhere around London are made for a small fee.

WHAT IS YOUR TOP TIP FOR STYLING A HOME WITH FINDS FROM MARKETS?
I like the fact that not everything has to be used in the way that it was originally intended. It’s fun to think about how you can use something in a new and different way. For example, the cash desk in my store is a former 1920’s tribunal desk where jurors used to pass sentences. Or my 1940’s tri postal letter sorter is now being used as a desk for my Mac.

Another great idea is to combine the old and new, one style with another. There are many possibilities, for instance you could use lots of pieces from my store to create ‘industrial chic’ by combining Tolix chairs with an original wooden farm table and a kilim rug for example.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE DESIGN OBJECT?
The Bertoia chair.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE IN LONDON?
I absolutely love Battersea Power station but when in comes to interiors one of my favourite places to go is the Loungelover in Shoreditch, I just love their style.

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