The French Home: L’Art de la Table
Since UNESCO added French gastronomy to its World Heritage list in 2010, there has been a widespread misunderstanding that French cuisine had finally received official acknowledgment as being tops in the world. In fact, the UNESCO recognition was not for the food itself but for what’s called l’art de la table, the dining rituals that define the French home. From the opening aperitif to closing digestifs, the pairing of dishes with wines, artfully arranged table settings, and the sense of conviviality that reigns with family and friends around the table, it’s what makes a French meal, no matter how simple, so special.
Happily, l’art de la table is something that you can re-create at home even when you can’t find the proper ingredients or if your cooking skills aren’t up to snuff. While in Paris, be sure to visit these addresses for French home essentials, including sumptuous linens, charming porcelain and even some really fun and funky tableware. The conversation and the cuisine? That’s up to you.
Le Jacquard Français
53, rue Bonaparte, in the 6th Arrondissement.
01 53 10 00 81.
Metro: St.-Germain-des-Prés, Mabillon
I admit it. I have a real weakness, perhaps even an addiction, to Jacquard Français linens. The colors and designs are amazing, spanning the moods from pizzazz with bold color combinations to quiet sophistication in neutral shades. You could easily find a set for any occasion. Even better, throw these tablecloths and napkins in the washing machine, and they come out looking good as new and practically wrinkle free. Between the ease and the elegance, there’s no reason not to make every meal a special experience. At the very least, pick up a few dish towels, which make great hostess gifts.
13, rue Jacob, in the 6th.
01 46 33 46 72.
18, rue de l’Arcade, in the 8th.
01 42 66 52 32.
Made in the Loire Valley town from which it takes its name, Gien faience is hard to resist. Go traditional with a set of flowered plates with the look of French toile de Jouy, or contemporary with newer abstract patterns that draw inspiration from India and Turkey. Dishes in the Joli Paris and De Paris à Giverny patterns have long been favored souvenirs, and recently Gien added a new bolder souvenir line, Paris, Paris. If you can’t afford a set or don’t have room in your suitcase, you can always stock up on paper cocktail napkins in many of the brand’s most popular patterns. If you have the time, take a two-hour road trip to the factory store and save big.
Le Comptoir de Famille
18, rue St.-Sulpice, in the 6th.
01 43 26 22 29.
Metro: St.-Germain-des-Prés, Odéon
35, passage Jouffroy, in the 9th.
01 47 70 51 12.
Metro: Grands Boulevards
If it’s country charm you’re looking for in your French home, this is the store for you. Tableware, linens and tabletop accessories, such as carafes, decanters and serving pieces with dominant shades of cream and red, are the standards. The selection changes seasonally, so there’s always something new to tempt you.
103, rue de Rennes, in the 6th.
01 45 48 75 88.
Dressing your table doesn’t have to be expensive or stuffy. This busy shop on the rue de Rennes dishes up cheerful plasticware in every color imaginable, sophisticated enough to suit the most refined tastes while perfectly practical for your next picnic. In addition to glasses, plates, cutlery and serving ware, don’t miss the cheery plasticized tablecloths that can be cut to measure for your deck furniture.
M. P. Samie
45, avenue du Général Leclerc, in the 14th.
01 40 47 59 21.
Metro: Denfert Rochereau
White porcelain is the little black dress of the French home. Dress it up, dress it down, and it always looks good. Many Parisian visitors first encounter the stacks of plates and platters at La Vaissellerie’s many locations, but if you’re looking for a real selection, head to M. P. Samie, in the 14th, just steps from Denfert Rochereau. There are two floors of white porcelain to tempt you, in every shape and size, contemporary and traditional. Don’t miss the bargain bins on the sidewalk for some really good deals.
Measure your table before you leave home (in centimeters) with leaves in and out, and carry the dimensions in your wallet. Don’t forget to also measure outdoor furniture.
If you are pressed for time, hit the home store at Galeries Lafayette or BHV. These stores house miniboutiques for many French tableware brands. The tradeoff for the convenience is a somewhat limited selection of patterns and models.
The twice yearly soldes (in February and July) are not just for clothes. You can save big (30 to 60 percent off) on housewares during these times.
Le Jacquard Français
Le Comptoir de Famille
Anne Schwartz left behind a public policy career in Washington, DC, when her husband got a new job assignment in Paris in 2007. She blogs about her adventures in the City of Light at Just Another American in Paris and provides practical information to Anglophone expats at Posted in Paris.