This is part of Happy Places, a series about making the time to have experiences that bring you joy, but can be hard to justify with a busy schedule.
The Bon Marché, founded in 1838, was Paris's first department store. Every detail of the display is meticulously thought-out to maximize your experience of luxury. It is a sensory overload, a Vogue that you can touch and smell. And, nestled in the seventh arrondissement, the Bon Marché feels slightly more 'insider' than the massive Galeries Lafayette or Printemps.
When I need a pick-me-up, a visit to the Bon Marché has never failed to leave me feeling cheery and inspired. I recently found myself in the neighborhood with an hour to spare, and I decided to risk the potential damage to my wallet to visit my favorite departments.
I always start with the hats on the ground floor. There are some incredible millinery concoctions, both for everyday use and for celebrations. As it is traditional to wear hats to French weddings, this is where I came to equip myself for my dear friends' wedding in Bretagne two summers ago.
My favorite stop on my tour is always the Cire Trudon candle display. Founded in 1643, this wax manufacturer supplied candles to the court of Louis XIV. Their boutique in the sixth arrondissement is outstanding, with candles in every color imaginable, antique candlesticks and candle snuffers, and busts of historical figures in wax. The smaller version in the Bon Marché, however, will do in a pinch. You can procure your wax bust of Napoléon or Marie-Antoinette, your snazzy matches, your candle with a wax cameo, or, most importantly, your scented candle. I am a bit obsessed their scents. Right now, my home is perfumed like a Scottish field after the rain with a Balmoral candle (Top note : foliage, mint, cut grass / Middle note: freesia, tea, iris / Base note: musk, pine wood, sap). When I asked for a suggestion for my next scent, the salesman told me that women tend to like Havana-inspired Ernesto. He laughed at me when I practically swooned with pleasure when I inhaled it.
The best part about testing the scents of these candles are the bell jars that they are under. To smell the candle, you lift this glass covering and immediately stick your nose in the bell jar.
The stationary section of the Bon Marché makes me drool. I have been guilty of spending too much on letterpress greeting cards and impossibly soft leather journals.
Since I was a little girl, I have been searching for the perfect wedding china (that's normal, right?). The china section of the Bon Marché has helped me arrive at my current fantasy: Bernardaud. Not only do they have elegant dinnerware, but they have historical teacups, centerpieces inspired by ceilings in the Opéra Garnier, and collaborations with contemporary artists for limited edition dinnerware services.
Just next to the china are the tea and kitchen sections. On this particular visit to the Bon Marché, I was drawn to the rose, violet and pistachio natural aromas designed to enhance pastries, as well as the Pantone color teacups.
The home section offers parades of chairs, including those inspired by the Parisian park chairs in the Luxembourg and Tuileries.
The lamp department is insane. There are light fixtures in the shape of birdcages, Campbell's soup cans, crumpled handwritten letters... I even later spotted the lamp sold here with exposed light bulbs with attached feather wings in the window of a stately apartment facing the Luxembourg Gardens.
It is always nice to end a visit to the Bon Marché with a couple minutes in one of the cafés. On this visit, I stopped for an Italian coffee at the Primo Piano restaurant. I pulled out my journal, looking out over a green square, and felt content.
I was tempted to visit the Grande Épicerie, the Bon Marché's heavenly grocery store located across the street, but I simply didn't have time.
The Bon Marché
Address: 24 Rue de Sèvres, 75007 Paris ∣ Métro: Sèvres Babylone (lines 10 and 12) ∣ Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 10am to 8pm, open until 9pm on Thursday on Friday