Les Fées Mélanc(h)olia: a Parisian cabinet of curiosities

Mid-century modernism in the Haut-Marais

Situated in the Haut-Marais ­– that artsy area in Paris near to the Picasso Museum populated by boulangeries-turned-chic-boutiques – is a wonderful cabinet de curiosités, recently renamed Les Fées Mélanc(h)olia. Formerly Les Fées (“the fairies”), this Yves-Klein-blue emporium on picturesque Rue Charlot is the work of Sylvie Aubry, who has amassed collections of mid-century furniture and home-decor items, including ceramics, photographs and linens, rare stuffed birds, butterflies and some exquisite orchids.

Aubry is a noted Parisian florist – she designs the arrangements for the Hôtel Crillon and the Hôtel Meurice – and her love of nature shines through in the spacious 17th-century rooms that feature her artfully arranged tableaux. The shop reopened last autumn with an emphasis on vintage objects and furnishings from the 1950s to the 1970s, including pieces by such French favourites as Mathieu Mategot, Jacques Biny, Pierre Paulin and André Monpoix, as well as works by the Italian Giò Ponti and the Hungarian architect Marcel Breuer.

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I’ve seen the store in both its iterations and continue to be amazed by the wacky-yet-wonderful combinations that Aubry creates. On a recent visit, a sculptural sideboard, table and chairs by Dutch designer Martin Visser (€9,600), and a rocking chair by Finland’s Ilmari Tapiovaara (€850), were among the most tempting offerings, brought to life by a colourful array of hand-painted ceramics. Candlesticks, cups and assorted old-school ashtrays, c.1960, by the likes of Gerbino (€50 to €900), as well as a rare set of Les Turbots plates from Bavent in Normandy (€500) provided amusement – not to mention a lesson in the making of authentic French pottery. There are even more gems housed in the shop’s beautiful stone cellar: shelves are tastefully arranged with blue-lobster Raku plates (€590), while stacks of cashmere shawls (€290) in muted hues line the simple, exposed stone walls.

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Photographs of forests, sand and sea by Carole Descordes (€1,000), butterflies in glass globes (from €650 to €950) and taxidermy birds – one majestic albino peacock (€4,000, first picture) in particular – all bring a bit of the outdoors into the third arrondissement. A breath of fresh air with flair.

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