The founder of Assouline Publishing has created a VIP environment for design aesthetes in Paris.
Glamorous, beautifully designed, comfortable.... no we are not at the home of Prosper and Martine Assouline, creators of some of the world's most stylish books, but at 35 rue Bonaparte, the couple's newly-opened boutique in Paris. Sink into the piles of cushions and let your eyes wander over the shelves of enticing books, the suitcases brimming with the printed word, the scented candles, called 'Library', 'Wood', 'Leather', and other decorative objects that have become must-haves for the style aesthete. We asked the founder of this unique luxury environment to tell us the story behind it.
You are possibly the first person to turn a publishing company into a brand name, what prompted you to do this?
I wanted to create a new cultural medium.
With your new store you have placed books within the realm of luxury living. Why was this important to you?
We can't live without books, so I wanted to integrate them into a luxury lifestyle environment.
In the store, your books are displayed almost as decorative objects, why is this?
I wanted to find a way of linking books with decoration. I wanted to create the notion of a very attractive present as well as a decorative object.
You collaborate with many leading artists and celebrities, what attracts them to Assouline?
The Assouline style. Creating a style is all about repetition, that is how you build a reputation. Today our style is instantly recognizable.
How did you go about designing the boutique's interior?
I wanted the store to be very contemporary in terms of materials, and to have a convivial atmosphere, with the scent of a library in a large apartment. The only thing I didn't change was the parquet flooring which dates from the 1920s; the place was formerly a picture framers where Picasso came regularly. The red decor was inspired by the deep red of Rubens paintings at the Louvre.
Your scented candles evoke the smells of worn leather as in an old bookshop, how did you and perfumer Olivia Giacobetti arrive at the scents?
Olivia Giacobetti and I spent hours smelling the paper of old and new books in my library. It's very interesting to put your nose in different publications – some books don't smell good at all! We made a selection, and with these came up with a scent that most resembled the ambience of an antiquarian bookshop.
Was the Bon Voyage suitcase designed as a decorative object, or really to travel with? How was the idea conceived?
The idea came from the little blue suitcases of Air France hostesses of the 1950s, as well as old-fashioned trunks smothered with stickers. Seeing a suitcase covered with the names of cities inspires us to dream. It's the same as stamps on passport pages – the suitcase evokes a chic lifestyle.
What artisans did you work with to create your exclusive products, including the books wrapped in materials?
We collaborate with many different people; the most important thing is to have a good idea. For the cover for our book on Rajasthan, for instance, we ordered cotton paper and wild silk and sourced vintage Indian saris for the cover.
Which destinations most inspire your work?
Japan. In particular the department store Isetan and its food section in the basement. The store's respect for presentation never ceases to inspire me. There is also the 10-room Tawaraya hotel in Kyoto. For me this is the most luxurious place in the world thanks to the quality of every detail here: the flower in the vase that curves at just the right angle, the bowl of soup that has a pattern to match the weather outside.
Name your favorite restaurants.
L'Ami Louis in Paris. I go there every week; there's no better place to eat, drink and smoke a cigar. Il Buco, my L'Ami Louis in New York.
Name your favorite places to go clothes shopping.
I don't go shopping as I don't have time, but my favorite tailor is Karacemi [???] in Milan.
What projects are you currently working on?
Opening a boutique in New York before spring 2006.
La Boutique Assouline
35 rue Bonaparte,
T. +33 (0)1 43 29 43 16.