x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Factoring in folklore

Cult shop Housed in a historic building, this Parisian boutique is filled with items that revive traditional design skills.


Despite the fact that there's not a single antique among the items on sale in this boutique, stepping through its doors feels like stepping back in time. Part of the reason is historical: the warren of tiny rooms and the rickety staircase leading to what is now a first-floor stockroom remain virtually unchanged since the building was occupied by Guillaume Biennet, a silversmith to Napoleon 1, in the early 1800s. And part of the reason is artistic: the dark smoky grey of the walls and dim lighting chosen by the owners, Benôit Astier de Villatte and Ivan Pericoli, to evoke the mood and show off their stock of white ceramics, handcrafted textiles, mouth-blown glass, handmade cutlery, stationery and - their newest passion - perfumery, to best effect.

Having met at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Pericoli and Astier de Villatte decided to "do things that you couldn't find elsewhere"; things that harness skills or revive design traditions that had been more or less forgotten, things with a certain "folkloric" touch, they explain. They began with the white-glazed terre noire ceramics, inspired mostly by 17th-century designs - working initially with Benôit's brother, Jean-Baptiste Astier de Villatte (who now works under his own brand, Collection Regards) and then developing their own atelier in Paris.

This set the precedent for finding small, craftsman-owned workshops in Europe that would use traditional techniques to produce their "old-yet-new" designs. The textiles - ties, scarves and accessories - are knitted on 1930s machines near Rome; the glasses are from a tiny workshop in western France; the cutlery is made in Italy, and the notebook covers are printed on a 70-year-old press. "The owner apologised because the plates were a little worn and the results were not perfectly uniform," recalls Pericoli with a smile. "We told him that was exactly the way we wanted it."

Judging by the queue that formed outside the shop during the week of Maison & Objet (so long that they had to lock the door), it's the way many design aficionados also want it. Astier de Villatte, 173 rue Saint Honoré, 75001 Paris; + 33 1 43 45 72 72 www.astierdevillatte.com