We all have that one effortlessly stylish friend whose home - filled with amazing one-off pieces apparently thrown together - we envy and admire in equal measure. That friend shops at places like Little Paris. And now so can we. We spoke to its creator, Frenchwoman abroad Hélène Allen to find out more:
Tell us the story behind the creation of Little Paris.
I opened the shop in December 2009 with the vision to collect and showcase antiques and beautiful French pieces from my homeland. My dream of opening my own shop started from a young age and whilst working as the manager of the homeware department in Galeries Lafayette, Paris, I began to see a way to make my dream a reality.
Little Paris returns to France every 3 weeks to source new pieces from flea markets and antique fairs. These frequent visits also allow me to meet up and coming designers, exploring new fashion ideas in jewellery and accessories.
My desire is to bring the beauty and spirit of France to England, which is now my home. With Little Paris I have created a space, which is inviting, homely and unique to London, capturing the essence of the France I know and love.
Little Paris brings a little bit of France to England. What would you say epitomizes French style when it comes to the home?
There is a history behind each piece of furniture from France, a unique story of a past life. French culture centres around gathering together, food and discussion has no end...so a lot of the furniture has a connection with that: the bistro table and chairs, chauffeuse (armchairs specially designed for discussions next to the fireplace ) and so on. But I have also tried to import the new Parisian style with the old industrial & workshop furniture.
I like the fact that not everything has to be used in the way that it was originally intended. It's fun to think about how you can use something in a new and different way. For example, the cash desk in my store is a former 1920s tribunal desk where jurors used to pass sentence. Or my 1940s tri postal letter sorter, which is now being used as a desk for my Mac.
How do you decide what to sell in the shop?
It is by instinct - I have to love the products. Much of my inspiration comes from my childhood memories of great places filled with atmosphere and a feeling of a lot of joy. Many of these memories have been in places where the objects and furniture play host to the atmosphere, live and breathe; and have a soul of their own which I find comforting.
Do you have any current favourite pieces in the shop?
At the moment it is the garden chairs from Jardin du Luxembourg. They are original, romantic, with lots of history and memories, they can change the atmosphere of your home!
What are your most popular items?
The bistro and garden metal tables, the old maps from French schools, and the old posters.
Is your own home very French in style?
I think so. The style of my home is to combine the old and new, one style with another. There are many possibilities – in my home, I have created an 'industrial chic' style by combining Tolix chairs with an original wooden farm table and old plates and jugs.
Would you ever be tempted to open a Little London in Paris? What would you stock?
I will say no, because I am French and unfortunately I do not have the childhood memories of England. But if I had to do it, I would put all the English cliché products, such as tea cups, tea pots, cutlery, Liberty fabrics, vintage clothes and shoes, candles, paint from Little Greene or Farrow and Ball, ribbons, badges, embroidered fabrics, leather baby slippers or Start-Rite shoes and of course an old red post box!
Little Paris, 39 Park Road, Crouch End, London N8 8TE. Tel: 020 8340 9008. www.littleparis.co.uk