• France edition
 
Philippe Starck: why I feel the draw of Paris flea market
Photo: Emma Maria/Jimmy Baikovicius

Philippe Starck: why I feel the draw of Paris flea market

Published: 18 Oct 2012 10:48 GMT+02:00
Updated: 18 Oct 2012 10:48 GMT+02:00

France's best known designer – and one of the world's most prolific, having put his name to projects ranging from trains to hotels, furniture and foodstuffs – Starck cites the market on Paris's northern rim, "Les Puces", as a kind of anchor.

Visits with his father to the sprawling network of antique stalls are among his clearest childhood memories, the 63-year-old told AFP.

"For me Les Puces has always been deeply ingrained," Starck said, as workers put the finishing touches to the eatery "Ma Cocotte", his latest project, which opened last week in an industrial-style building at the market entrance.

Though born in the French capital, Starck says he never really knew the city until recently, having lived much of his life abroad.

"All that time I spent away, when I thought of Paris, I thought of Les Puces," said the designer, who with his wife Jasmine often heads straight there when they land in Paris, "even at six in the morning."

"I feel comfortable here, it's a model of the way I would like to live," said Starck, who sees the market and its boisterous community of traders as a kind of "successful Utopian society".

"There is an architecture on a human scale, streets on a human scale, people full of humanity, culture, intelligence, who have their own language – both eloquent and sharp, street-wise Parisian.

"These people have known each other forever, they all know each other's qualities and failings. They have all traded with one another, they have all fallen out and made up again – that's what I love about this place."

'French, but not "beret and baguette"'

But one thing kept nagging at him.

"From noon to 1:00 pm, the traders all pull out a table, their saucisson and bottle of red, and have a laugh and a game of cards," Starck said. "My dream has always been to be around that table with them – and sometimes I was invited – but I never really felt like one of the gang.

"I always found it terribly frustrating, so one day my wife said, 'Why don't we buy a booth, with a big table in the middle for our friends, and we can make it our base.'"

The couple duly hunted down and acquired a booth in the heart of the market, which they plan to open to the public late this year, although what exactly will be on offer -- food or antiques – remains a "surprise".

But from that idea grew another, that of a full-fledged restaurant in a neighbourhood that sorely lacks dining options.

For the project he approached Philippe and Fabienne Amzalak, owners of the Starck-designed restaurant "Bon" in Paris's swanky 16th district, who agreed to put up the cash – €5.5 million, as it turned out – for the project.

Starck designed the exterior of the 250-seat eatery, built on a patch of wasteland, to look like "an industrial ruin from the future", with an ivy-covered red-brick ground level beneath a grey zinc first floor.

Roll-back garage-style windows open in summer to let the air flow through the space, while chimneys dot the space to warm up the winter evenings.

"I wanted something French, but not 'beret and baguette'," he said, "so we went for a kind of workers' canteen feel."

For the interior – with the exception of wooden bistro chairs ordered from the historic Austrian firm Thonet – Starck furnished it almost entirely with objects he and Jasmine ferreted out at Les Puces over the course of two years.

Old books and chunky glass vases line the shelves, mismatched armchairs are clustered around 1950s coffee tables, while multicoloured ceramic plates are embedded into the moulded concrete walls leading up the stairs.

A line of vintage chandeliers runs down a giant communal table, with bar stools, before the open-plan kitchen – which Starck insisted must turn out food that is "real, friendly, as organic as possible – and absolutely healthy."

In practice, that means a lowish-priced selection of classic French – egg mayonnaise or whole artichoke for starters, spit-roasted chicken or croque monsieur sandwich for mains, before a tarte tatin to round off the meal, followed by an after-lunch stroll through the market.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
QUIZ: Find out how French you've become
So how French do you think you are? Photo: Frenchman: Shutterstock

QUIZ: Find out how French you've become

It's impossible to be an expat in France without turning a little bit French. Take our quiz and find out where you land on the Frenchiness scale. READ  

French try to make surly shopkeepers kinder
Tired of bad customer service in France? Photo: Smiling worker: Shutterstock

French try to make surly shopkeepers kinder

Many Anglos have a dim view of customer service in France, but the French aren't happy either with how some shopkeepers treat them. Now a growing programme is labeling shopkeepers who you can expect to be friendly. READ  

Broadcasts cut as fire ravages French radio HQ
A massive fire cut broadcasting for many of France's public radio stations. Photo: France Bleu

Broadcasts cut as fire ravages French radio HQ

A massive fire ripped through the Paris building that houses studios for some of France's public radio stations, prompted broadcasts to be abruptly cut off. It's unclear what sparked the blaze. READ  

Metro and Train strike set for Tuesday in France
A train and metro strike is set for Tuesday in France. Photo: AFP

Metro and Train strike set for Tuesday in France

Commuters should brace themselves for travel chaos next week, with a train and Metro strike set for Tuesday, according to AFP. But it's not clear yet how big of an industrial action it's going to be. READ  

France tries to collect €10k from fatherless girl
The teenager was told last week that she must pay back €10,000 in just 15 days. Euros: Shutterstock

France tries to collect €10k from fatherless girl

A 13-year-old girl in western France has been told she must pay back the €10,000 that was given to her by the state after her sailor father was killed in an accident. READ  

National Front pulls in 'record membership'
The National Front party has a total of 83,000 members – the highest number in the history of the party. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

National Front pulls in 'record membership'

After a year of unprecedented electoral success, Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigrant, anti-EU National Front party is attracting more members than ever before in the 42-year-old party’s history, French media has reported. READ  

Merah-inspired jihadists 'plot attacks in France'
Both men had been motivated by the actions of Mohamed Merah, a French-Algerian national killed by French police in March 2012 after murdering seven people. Photo: AFP

Merah-inspired jihadists 'plot attacks in France'

Morocco said on Thursday it has arrested two jihadists inspired by French terrorist Mohamed Merah who were planning to attack banks and multinational companies in France and in the North African country. READ  

Halloween in France
Paris Catacombs still draw thousands
A file picture shows skulls and bones stacked at the Catacombs of Paris. Photo: Patrick Kovarik/AFP

Paris Catacombs still draw thousands

A place of fear, legend, inspiration and exploration, Paris's skull and bone-lined Catacombs still draw thousands of visitors each year, many of whom queue for hours to explore the ghoulish burial site. READ  

French to try out high-speed Ebola test
The trial will include a prototype device unveiled last week, similar to a home pregnancy test, that may make diagnosis possible in under 15 minutes. Photo: Pascal Guyot/AFP

French to try out high-speed Ebola test

French researchers will conduct trials with prototype Ebola diagnostic tests in Guinea in November, with results expected within weeks for speedy deployment, the head of France's Ebola task force said on Thursday. READ  

Far-right mag's racial slur on minister nets fine
A racist magazine cover has resulted in a fine for a French publication. Photo: AFP

Far-right mag's racial slur on minister nets fine

A far-right publication that compared France's justice minister, who is black, to a monkey was hit on Thursday with a €10,000 fine for making racist statements. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sponsored Article
Offer: Unlimited airmiles from British Airways
National
Eight Halloween events not to miss in Paris
National
10 things to never say to a French person
National
Top 10: When French translations go wrong
National
Parisian bars that serve drinkers free meals
National
France falls to Germans in nude swim tourney
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Nowhere combines sex and art quite like France
National
Why you should never turn down an invitation to a French wedding
Sport
Discover the route of the 2015 Tour de France. There are a few surprises
Gallery
Ten changes that would make learning French so much easier
Culture
IN PICTURES: 'Glass ship' Vuitton ready to set sail in Paris
International
How a giant 'sex toy' earned an American artist a slap in Paris
National
'Unlike in the US the French don't put the blame on the poor'
Gallery
Cover up and don't be too Latin: French travel warnings for the US
Society
Macholand: The online uprising against sexism in France
Gallery
In pictures: The daily life of the 2,000 migrants in Calais
Culture
Erotic promo video earns the Musée d'Orsay our "Only in France" award
International
'I love the UK, but I could die getting there': Struggles of Calais migrants
National
Seven reasons why everyone should work in a bar in France
National
The cost of expat home comforts: How France compares to Europe
International
Why don't Calais migrants stay in France? The Local went to find out
National
What are the pros and cons of working as an au pair in France?
Society
Is France's generous welfare state about to get a little stingier?
Gallery
Extraordinary images of ordinary life in the poor Paris suburbs
Gallery
10 things expats love and loathe about life in France
National
So why don't many women in France breastfeed?
National
'Stop bashing La Belle France' - French PM tells UK press
International
UK warns Brits of 'high threat' from terrorism' in France
National
VIDEO: 'The Kama Sutra is not a dirty little text'
National
What Rome could teach Paris and vice versa
Gallery
What do foreign countries warn their citizens about when visiting France?
Gallery
IN IMAGES: Eiffel Tower opens new glass floor above Paris
Society
Is it really better to grow old in the UK and the US rather than France?
Gallery
It's that time if the year again: French sportsmen reveal (almost) all
Gallery
So what do the French find really weird about Anglos?
Travel
Paris museums to open seven days a week but unions are not happy
Culture
Caption contest: What happened when Jay Z met Sark O?
International
This explains why the French never seem to get a sense of déjà vu?
National
VIDEO: Here's a view from the Eiffel Tower you haven't seen before
Travel
Do Paris's iconic rooftops deserve Unesco World Heritage status?
Opinion
'France cannot reform, the pilots' strike showed us this'
National
'We just don’t work hard enough in France.' Is that true?
International
France has moved to beef up security in various public places
National
Hiking naked in France does not come risk-free
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se