• 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
Paris Picasso Museum re-opens after refit
Photo: AFP

Paris Picasso Museum re-opens after refit

After a five-year closure for what was supposed to be a two-year refurbishment, Paris's Picasso Museum re-opened Saturday with arguments over the €52 million project still reverberating. READ  

Renault chief sees 2015 auto market slowdown
Photo: AFP

Renault chief sees 2015 auto market slowdown

French carmaker Renault chairman, Carlos Ghosn, said Saturday that he expects slower growth in Europe's auto market next year as it continues to recover from the global economic crisis. READ  

French unemployment hits new record high
Photo: AFP

French unemployment hits new record high

Unemployment in France hit a new record in September, with official statistics published Friday showing 3.43 million people claimed jobless benefits. READ  

French claim success in Isis air raids
Photo: AFP/ECPAD/EMA/ARMEE DE L'AIR

French claim success in Isis air raids

France's Chief of the Defense Staff Pierre de Villiers has claimed that air strikes on Thursday and Friday by French, US and allied aircraft "hurt" Islamic State forces. READ  

French website exposes EU budget letter
French President Francois Hollande. Photo: AFP

French website exposes EU budget letter

A confidential letter sent to France by the EU Commission demanding clarifications on its 2015 budget, which will break EU spending rules, was unveiled Friday by a French news website. READ  

Le Pen: France needs to take control of borders
Front National president Marine Le Pen speaks to the press during a visit in the city of Calais, northern France. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

Le Pen: France needs to take control of borders

National Front leader Marine Le Pen visited the northern port city of Calais on Friday where tensions are high as authorities under increasing pressure to control the influx of illegal migrants trying to get to Britain. READ  

Burglar in the buff snared by French police
A burglar in the buff was snared red handed and bare-bottomed by French police this week. Photo: Shutterstock

Burglar in the buff snared by French police

French police were called out to a bizarre incident this week when they received calls from scared residents in villages in central France alerting them to the presence of a burglar who was targeting homes in the buff. READ  

France to bring in Ebola checks 'on all transport'
A passenger arriving at Charles de Gaulle airport is checked for Ebola. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP

France to bring in Ebola checks 'on all transport'

French president François Hollande said on Friday that measures to counter the risk of Ebola reaching France will be increased with tests to be carried out on people arriving in France on “all forms of transport”, meaning boats as well as planes. READ  

French military chief: 'It's safe to say we hurt Isis'
France and its allies "hurt" Isis forces in Iraq, French military chief has said. Photo: AFP

French military chief: 'It's safe to say we hurt Isis'

The leader of France's armed forces said his country's military "hurt" Isis forces in a recent raid led by the international coalition battling the extremists in Iraq. READ  

What's on in France
What's on in France: 11 things to do in November
The annual cider festival in Le Sap Normandy, just one of the many things to do in France in November. Photo: JCMayzaud

What's on in France: 11 things to do in November

If you're short of ideas for what to do in France in November, we've gathered together a list of 11 events that are well worth checking out, especially if you're into art, wine, music or just can't wait to get in the Christmas spirit. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
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
Culture
10 French customs that confuse Anglos
National
IN PICTURES: A look inside France's 'most notorious' prison
International
Isis urges killing of 'spiteful, dirty' French
National
Paris installs new device to stop 'love lock' craze
National
Paris cabby dies in vicious high-heel attack
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