It was a grey morning with a light sprinkle of rain in Paris. G and I had been wandering the laneways near the Madeleine and the Palais Garnier looking for coffee, when we chanced upon a little store. We were intrigued by the window displays, an eclectic mixture of writing instruments, stamps and cards, all stylishly designed. We went in. It being fairly early in the morning and close to Christmas, we seemed to be the only visitors, although there were quite a few staff tending various departments. The store was modern and minimalist in decor, and was organised into several somewhat disparate departments. There was a philatelic department, equipped with mounted magnifying glasses for examining stamps; an area for designing (and printing) your own envelope and parcel wrappers; as well as a large range of pens, cards, writing paper, and equipment and material for creating your own stationery.
I especially liked the philatelic counter – where I bought my favourite piece of Paris souvenir. Le Carré d’Encre literally means “Ink Square”. The store brought to mind what a post office shop could be like if it was given a complete redesign by someone with both a sense of style and a love of writing, in all its forms. In fact, that seems to be how the store came to be – it is a project of Phil@Poste, the stamps and stamp-collecting section of the French postal authority, La Poste. They took all the fun bits of a post shop (stamps, stationery, cards, even creative envelopes and parcel wrapping) and gave it the glamour treatment – but left out all the boring bits like the queues, teller-style counters, and computer-printed text labels.
Even surrounded by all the grand magasins of Avenue Haussman, this shop definitely stood out as my favourite.