Mail carriers cannot find the address to this modern-day wunderkammer, where each figure finds its own beastly and colorful avatar.
The most-hated street in Paris
With the Dufayel department store on one side, and the Sacré Coeur hill on the other, Rue André del Sarte is the most-hated street amongst Parisian mailmen. It was originally named after Saint André, got renamed during the French Revolution, and for some time was dedicated to the now-forgotten Luc Lambin. Eventually, the plaque on the corner went back to displaying the name “André”, but it wasn’t Saint André this time, it was the Renaissance painter André del Sarte, which is the French spelling of the Florentine Andrea del Sarto’s name.
As Eugène Gaignette writes in his Bulletin du Vieux Montmartre in 1922, “the post office, which wasn’t familiar with the Italian painter, would send our letters to Rue Saint André des Arts, especially because it was often the very senders who would address them to ‘Rue Saint André del Sarthe’”.
In a space once occupied by a shop selling African crafts, today stands The Woods Gallery, a concept store filled with vintage designer furniture, fashion, and contemporary art founded by husband and wife duo Simon Lecoy and Lauren Altounian in 2017; a space no more than seventy square meters in size where every inch transports the onlooker to a different period in the history of interior design, particularly French, Italian and American.
On view in the window display is the Ultrafragola lamp-mirror by Ettore Sottsass, whose shape evokes the female mane. More than a store or a gallery, The Woods Gallery looks like a living room that opens up onto the street: at the entrance, the Superellisse table by Piet Hein, Arne Jacobsen and Bruno Mathsson, on the left is the Quadrifoglio lamp designed by Gae Aulento for Guzzini in 1970.
Simon Lecoy and Lauren Altounian
Simon is in charge of design and vintage furniture, but downstairs, in the workshop below the shop, Lauren creates her fashion line, which she defines as “vintage rock”. The collection, which the store takes its name from, is called “The Wood”, and it ranges from leather to the classic turtlenecks of the 60s and 70s. It is made of pieces made with the leftover fabrics that producers buy in bulk.
A law graduate, Lauren’s interest in fashion was born at the Dior boutique on Avenue Montaigne, where she worked for five years after graduation. She then started working as a stylist for magazines and music videos, and later signed up for courses at the Esmond Academy in Paris. A choice that resonates with her family history – her parents managed a boutique in Lyon, her grandfather was a taylor and her grandmother a seamstress.
“My idea to use limited print high-quality fabrics seemed like an obstacle in the beginning, but has turned out to be a creative flywheel,” explains Lauren. “I have given discarded fabrics value again” – all garments are made using 100% French vintage salvaged or eco-friendly fabrics. “Just like the objects Simon selects, I’d like my clothes to withstand the waves of ever-changing fashions,” Lauren added.
The husband, Simon, is a former filmmaker-turned graphic designer: “I use the same selection criteria as when I was buying just for myself. This kind of pocket-sized gallery combining both our passions is sort of like an extension of our home, and we want it to feel that way for our visitors, too.” Simon sits on a black leather Eames Lounge chair from the 1970s he brought back from the US. “For a long time we worked in the same studio. We opened the store when we realized that working in someone else’s space limited our creativity. Every day in this space is a reaffirmation of our independence.”
Modern and postmodern
Modern and postmodern become intertwined in the store. There’s the Herman Miller fiberglass chairs, from the United States, the garden gnomes by the German artist Ottmar Hörl. They’re exhibited among art and design books on the wood and steel shelving designed by Nils Strinning in 1949 and are now produced by the Scandinavian company String Furniture. On each side the chairs made by Frenchman Pierre Paulin for Artifort, Charles and Ray Eames’ Herman Millers from the fifties and seventies, and the 21st century editions of the steel chairs designed by Harry Bertoia for Knoll. Through the shop’s website, customers can be the first to hear about new arrivals and purchase products from anywhere in the world, although the clientele is still primarily French.
The store holds exhibits of contemporary artists on rotation, lasting three months each. A part of them always stays behind: Delphine Cauly’s prints/Éte 1981, or the graffiti made by French street artist Fuzi – who painted a vintage Eames DSR chair exclusively for The Woods Gallery. A modern-day Wunderkammer where each figure finds its own beastly and colorful avatar.
22 Rue André del Sarte