• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

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

AFP · 18 Oct 2012, 10:48

Published: 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.

Story continues below…

"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
14,000 pregnant women in France took 'birth defect drug'
Dépakine has been linked to an increased risk of various congenital defects. File photo: AFP

Health authorities have been criticized for their slow reaction to warnings that Dépakine can be dangerous during pregnancy.

How to keep cool during France's heatwave
Photo: AFP

Almost all of France is on a heatwave alert. Here's how to keep cool.

Heatwave warnings extended yet again as France bakes
Photo: AFP

The national weather agency has issued orange alerts to a further 23 départements.

Paris warned about high level of ozone pollution
Photo: AFP

Free parking on Thursday to fight the high pollution levels.

French Muslim body to talk burqini ban with government
Photo: AFP

The French Council of Muslims has called an urgent meeting with the interior minister citing a "fear of stigmatization of Muslims in France".

Where to go in France to find the best ice cream
Be quick - it's a scorcher of a summer in France this year. Photo: AFP

The tastiest way to get through the heatwave.

French schools to ramp up security with 'mock attacks'
Photo: AFP

French schools will soon be forced to stage simulated attacks in a bid to prepare children for potential terror attacks, among other measures.

French police 'force woman to remove burqini' on beach
A file photo of a woman in a burqini. Photo: AFP

Pictures have emerged showing armed police officers in southern France apparently forcing a woman to remove her burqini.

Déja vu? Familiar faces in France's presidential race
President Hollande, who hasn't yet announced if he will run, and Nicolas Sarkozy, who is eyeing up the top job next year. Photo: AFP

France is yearning for political renewal, but looks set to be stuck with familiar faces in the presidential race.

Frenchman 'kills Brit in stabbing rampage' in Australia
Photo: AFP

A Frenchman allegedly killed a British woman and stabbed three others in an Australian backpacker's hostel.

Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Society
Here's how to enjoy Paris (while avoiding the heat)
Sponsored Article
5 reasons to try dating in Paris with The Inner Circle
Society
Ten mistakes to avoid when dating a Frenchman
Society
Twelve 'French' things that aren't actually French at all
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
'World's priciest home' on sale in French Riviera for €1 billion
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Lifestyle
RECIPE: How to make the tastiest ratatouille
National
Paris sees Europe's biggest plunge in 'liveability'
National
Life on the home front in rural France's 'war on terror'
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Features
Weird facts you didn't know about the French language
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Society
Paris foodie event cancelled over lack of security
How to tackle six of the trickiest French verbs
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
National
Summer in France - 'the ideal time to find a job'
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
National
'Burqini bans will only divide France more'
National
French vineyards revive horse-drawn ploughs
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
French mayor bans Pokemon Go app from his village
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
National
'To boycott France is to surrender to terrorists'
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Travel
21 photos to make you want to come to France right now
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Society
This is how much the French are obsessed with cheese
National
French MP's call for Facebook ID cards blasted 'as idiotic'
Travel
Summer checklist: Fourteen great travel ideas for France
Travel
Here's why France is still world's top tourist destination
'Wealthy American tourists' snub France over terror fears
National
Where to go swimming in France (and where to avoid)
Society
23 subtle signs you'll never quite master French
2,734
jobs available