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    Jewels out of the Box

    The fantastical world of illustrator Marin Montagut’s new Paris boutique

    To step inside artist Marin Montagut’s new Left Bank boutique in Paris is like stepping onto a film set — the kind that conjures up an utterly original alternate world, in the style of auteurs such as Wes Anderson or Baz Luhrmann. The Toulouse-born illustrator, known for his whimsical watercolors and his imaginative city guide series, Bonjour…, has a background in film, and he has channeled that cinematic escapism into this fantastical new souvenir shop.

    Photo by Romain Ricard.

    “I opened in June, at a time when people wanted to dream and travel in their minds,” says Montagut of the warm reception of the store, which is situated in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, just a short stroll from the Jardin de Luxembourg. The famous quartier is a recurrent theme in the visual motifs of his work: the neighborhood street signs, such as Rue Madame, and the iconic green garden chairs in the park nearby. “I am not Parisian, so for me everything in this city is a postcard, especially Saint-Germain-des-Prés,” he says.

    Photo by Romain Ricard.

    The boutique is a visitor’s delight, embracing as it does an iconic Parisian charm. A former upholstery atélier and store with a double-glass-fronted façade and century-old flooring, the site had exactly the kind of old-world allure that Montagut had in mind. “Before I signed the lease, I quickly pulled back the carpet to check what was underneath,” he says, gesturing to the terracotta tiling on one side of the boutique and the polished oak floorboards on the other.

    Photo by Romain Ricard.

    To recreate historic-style interiors, Montagut called on the architect Giovanna de Bosredon d’Auguri, who installed a wall-to-wall medley of antique wooden shelves, painting the walls varying shades of green — a hue the artist returns to time and time again. “In all my spaces I have a green wall,” he explains of his home near Oberkampf and his weekend house in Normandy. “When you use this color as a background for objects, it changes everything, and I also love how the tones change with the light throughout the day.”

    Photo by Romain Ricard.

    The overall appeal is that of an eclectic cabinet of curiosities, the shelves brimming with a delightful selection of art and objets. In addition to his signature illustrated city guides and postcards, there is a line-up of reimagined antique glassware — hand-painted in his Montmartre studio — printed ceramic tableware from Portugal, globes with his signature astrological motifs, citrus-scented candles, and cushions and lively scarves from silk specialists in Lyon. What stands apart, though, are Montagut’s quirky, bohemian creations: the Surrealist collage dioramas and the hand-illustrated “secret boxes,” empty hardcover books with hidden compartments.

    Photo by Romain Ricard.

    All of it fits harmoniously with the objects and furniture Montagut finds on his weekly flea-market trawls around Normandy, and the artist can often be found in the store, tweaking these displays into enticing new arrangements.

    Photo by Romain Ricard.

    For a truly exceptional collaboration, look out for the palette of watercolor paints created with the historic Japanese craft manufacturer Kuretake, which includes Montagut’s beloved hue of those famous Luxembourg loungers. These are sold alongside a set of paintbrushes and notebooks he created with Picasso’s preferred Parisian supplier, Senellier, the kind of magic touch that visitors will find utterly transporting — not to mention a balm for the many unable to voyage right now.

    Marin Montagut | 48 Rue Madame Paris, 75005

    Alice Cavanagh

    Alice Cavanagh (@alicemcavanagh) is a Paris-based writer and editor. She writes for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Financial Times and Monocle. She also authored the current Wallpaper City Guide to Paris and the Cereal Paris guide.

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