The Local: The Parisian Purveyor of Old-World Wonder

The Local: The Parisian Purveyor of Old-World Wonder

Remember the enchanted shop in Joanne Harris’ hit novel Chocolat? French artist Marin Montagut’s cabinet of curiosities in Paris’s 6th arrondissement is the IRL equivalent, selling handmade gifts and keepsakes – along with a sprinkling of magic

but with a knowing wink, meticulously ordered, but alive
with a bubbling stream of locals stopping by to say bonjour,
fragrant with the smell of freshly cut grass, despite being
slap-bang in the heart of Paris’ buzzy Saint-Germain-des-Prés district,
artist Marin Montagut’s boutique is a bricks-and-mortar celebration
of French joie de vivre. To step inside and not find yourself
wide-eyed, grinning like a kid in a candy store? Impossible.

“It was my dream,” Montagut says of the 2020 opening of his Rue
Madame shop, which came hot on the heels of a wildly successful Bon
Marché pop-up, and which is housed within a former upholsterer’s
atelier, behind a double-glass-fronted facade inscribed with the
words “Purveyor of All Kinds of Objects”. “It’s a challenge to take
something very old-school and transform it into something

The shelves of Marin Montagut, Paris
The exterior of Marin Montagut, Paris

Marin Montagut’s art-filled shelves, left, and its green and
glorious facade.

Born in Toulouse to antique dealer parents, the joy of
collecting was already coursing through Montagut’s veins when he
arrived in Paris, at the age of 20. “It was big love – I knew it
was my city,” he says. “I knew nobody, so I explored the back streets alone – the flea markets,
second-hand shops, restaurants, cafés – discovering secret places,
making watercolours of each address.”

These watercolours would form the basis for the map-guidebook
hybrid Bonjour Paris: A Fine Selection of Unique Spots for a
Genuine Paris Experience, which has since been joined by Bonjour
London and Bonjour New York. The book also spawned a French TV show
written and presented by Montagut, who, rather like a modern-day
Peter Pan, dressed in his favourite colour (“green is so beautiful,
the way it changes with the light”), flew through the capital on
his trusty Vespa, taking viewers on a magic carpet ride around the
under-the-radar establishments featured in its pages.

Among the gems the watercolourist pays homage to in the book are
the Académie de la Grande Chaumiere, where, since 1904,
students – including Serge Gainsbourg – have enrolled to practise
their art freely, with teaching based on nude models; Yveline Antiques, which, since 1954, has been
attracting bargain hunters and curious passers-by alike; and the
Graineterie du Marché, the location of Paris’ most
distinguished covered food market for centuries.

“Bonjour Paris was the beginning of the story,” he says. “It was
my first item.”

Marin Montagut interiors, Paris
Marin Montagut, Art Corner

A creative corner, left, and a table topped with

To walk across the hundred-year-old oak floorboards and
painstakingly restored terracotta tiles of Montagut’s emporium,
browsing his ever-growing collection of homeware and objets d’art,
is to be swept into the 38-year-old artist’s poetic world of whimsy
– one inspired both by the cultural heritage of his native France
and his travels around the world. Botanical and ecclesiastically
inspired charts and paintings adorn the walls; shelves and tables
are artfully arranged with handmade enamelled porcelain tableware,
recycled, mouth-blown glassware, cushions, silk scarves,
stationery, scented candles (“freshly cut grass” being the newest
addition to the range) and antique curios and fripperies galore.
There are old-world-style astrological globes, vintage
pharmaceutical jars, a set of watercolours Montagut created in
collaboration with Charvin, Picasso’s paint supplier of choice,
felt baubles – one iteration, in the shape of a teacup, embroidered
with the slogan “votes for women” – prayer cards and customisable
keepsakes. “Our Paris street sign drinking glasses are inspired by
antique glass and each one is painted by hand in our Montmartre
studio,” explains Montagut. “You can have one personalised with the
name of the street where you live, or the street where you first
kissed – your street tells a story.”

One of the beuatiful hand-crafted books, left, and a happy
mish-mash of artwork.

Our suggestion for that hard-to-buy-for someone? One of the
entirely handmade, hand-painted and individually numbered “books of
secrets” – modelled after those used in 18th-century France, with a recess cut into the pages in
which to hide “small intimate wonders”. Or one of the “marvel
showcases” – box-like miniature masterpieces featuring a glass pane
over a papier-mâché structure decorated with Montagut’s favoured
motifs. Sprinkled liberally around the shop, these include
four-leafed clovers, hearts, crowns, religious iconography and the
Eiffel Tower. Cats also appear in their multitudes.

“No, I don’t have a cat,” smiles Montagut, “but I love the
cliché of the cat. I love the cliché of Paris. I love to turn the
cliché into beautiful things.”

And who doesn’t love to hunt for them? At 48 Rue Madame, a world
of wonder awaits.

The Lowdown

To discover more of Marin Montagut’s work and to shop
online, visit

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