There’s a hip neighborhood in the 11th arrondissement around Bastille, in Paris, where a lot of cool design and clothing stores have popped up over the past few years. Whether you’re Parisian or from out of town, it’s worth taking some time to visit Welcome Bio Bazar, the SLOW lifestyle boutique on the rue Boulle. I took a tour with Lélia Thimonier, the architect who designed the entire store. As soon as we walked in, I couldn’t stop oohing and aahing over every single little thing. I felt comfortable, like I was at a friend’s apartment – say, if that friend happened to live in a beautiful loft, filled with natural light, vintage furniture and accessories, and exquisite kitchen and home decor made of raw, noble and sustainable materials. Even though you’re there to shop, the place is also designed as a meeting spot, and you can linger over coffee or at one of the free workshops (check out their Facebook page for the schedule).
The Welcome Bio team took over an old bicycle repair shop at the corner of the rue Boulle, the street where they had already opened an organic food store and a restaurant. They asked Lélia to design it by preserving the industrial feel of the place, while drawing inspiration from typical Parisian apartments and country homes in bleached and natural wood. It’s a living, breathing space, with entire areas of the store clearly defined as the bedroom, the garden, the bathroom, the playroom, etc with a green and environmentally-friendly approach. You can shop well-designed, quality and artisanal goods, the kind that will become familiar with daily use, but will be cherished and kept forever, thus inspiring more sustainable and ethical choices.
Upcycling and environmentally-friendly are themes that Lélia kept in mind to furnish the store: she had shelving built from old ladders and worktops made of industrial piping. After removing the asphalt for ecological reasons, she left the floors bare and had them varnished. She also removed coating to reveal the original walls, made of brick and Parisian stones. She kept the bicycle workshop vibe by using steel framework and an atrium design to separate the living/store area from the kitchen/café area.
This being France, at Welcome Bio Bazar, the concept of SLOW food (SLOW= Sustainable, Durable, Local, Organic) is taken a step further: SLOW living means you take your time to enjoy the present moment. The little things in life. For instance, how about taking your time to sip on a slow-drip coffee at the cafe? Or nibbling on one of their home-made, organic, seasonal snacks … Shop for slow stationery from La Papeterie Française, or slow cosmetics from Lamazuna. The beautiful, fanciful, handmade dishware from Faiencerie Georges make for unique gifts to bring back home if you’re visiting Paris, as do soft, organic, pastel-colored hemp sheets from Couleur Chanvre. Head downstairs to browse though the adorable children’s toys, organic and fair-trade, from Deuz. An Etsy corner featuring Parisian artists changes every season. In the cute garden area, Mama Petula’s plant installations make our green thumb twitch a little – if we had one, but let’s say we don’t: there are free workshops with indoor and outdoor plant themes.
I asked Lélia what her design crush in the store was: the Petlamp lampshades that hang from the ceiling. Each one is unique, made of recycled plastic bottles, and handwoven using traditional weaving techniques from across the world. Look up, take in the playful colors, and hopefully you’ll leave the store with a smile on your face from the zen moment you spent there. I know I did.
Thank you so much, Lélia Thimonier!