Paris is known the world over for being the place to get the best of everything. When browsing Paris boutiques, I am often struck by how specific they are—here is a store selling only harps, there is a shop for artisan walking canes. Resisting the Walmartization of the modern world, many specialized Paris boutiques also focus on the lovely pleasures of old, continuing today the elegant traditions of yesteryear with charm and style. Two of my favorite stops for such pleasures—and for appreciating a truly feminine experience—are Belle de Jour and La Maison du Roy.
Nestled into a street adjacent to Sacré Coeur, Belle de Jour focuses mainly on perfume bottles, both antique and new. Founded over 20 years ago by Marie-Christine Muller-Vandame, a glass restorer, and Yann Schalburg, a perfume specialist, Belle de Jour prides itself on maintaining a tradition that was once the epitome of luxury. As Marie-Christine explained to me, these ornately decorated, delicate perfume and bathroom sets were once the go-to gift for brides and debutantes of the belle époque. Indeed, the artfulness with which these bottles were crafted still manages to evoke a feeling of rarity, as though each atomizer or each hand mirror was a treasure to cherish.
Here one can find not only antique atomizers, cigarette cases and smelling salts(!) from the belle époque through the art deco era and up to the decadent 1980s, but also (for a gentler budget) newly created perfume bottles crafted by Marie-Christine as well as unique postcards and pocket mirrors (in case you want to feel girly on the go).
Equally romantic though more cleverly hidden away is La Maison du Roy, a shop of 18th-century wonders tucked into the Passage Jouffroy. Entering this Paris boutique is like being transported to Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon. The small and softly lit space is crowded with both antiques and replicas of baroque treasures, some obsolete but absolutely delightful, like three-tiered cake stands, candle stoppers and handcrafted jewelry boxes. Crowns of all sizes adorn the shelves and even the seats of chairs. Don’t miss the upper-level boudoir, where one can find antique desks, authentic men’s costumes and, during the holidays, a most wonderful collection of Christmas ornaments.
Owner Carole Lemoine has been building La Maison du Roy steadily for 20 years, from its flea-market beginnings to a small shop near the Palais Royal, finally settling this unique Paris boutique in the 9th Arrondissement. “Everybody who works here is passionate about the 18th century,” she told me. “We really want to show young people that these objects are very special and to appreciate them is not just for old people!”
I must admit that when I wander through either of these boutiques in Paris, I get the feeling of being a little girl again, like being backstage at the ballet or exploring with awe the treasures of my grandmother’s house—it’s with a sense of wonder, magic and absolute feminine pleasure to discover these objects of old.