Whisper it, but I am not, actually, naturally stylish. There is a reason this blog is not some gorgeous Tumblr feast of artfully arranged artisan vegetables and thrift store finds. If left to my own devices my wardrobe and home default to 1980s accountant: everything is black and grey and joyless. I see the beauty in other people’s bright, clever worlds, but put me in front of a paint colour chart, and I will totally plump for magnolia. It is a cross I have to bear. I conceal it as best I can by stealing ideas from my friends and taking help wherever I can find it. For instance, I am currently trying to find something nice to put on my kitchen wall, so I have scuttled off to Ma Maison de Papier for help.
Despite my aesthetic handicap, I LOVE Ma Maison de Papier with big, freakish love. I first discovered it a few years ago in the company of Tom, my gay adoptive son (who is not really my adoptive son, and I can’t even remember why we started calling him that). Tom is the opposite of me, and has a nose for finding amazing things and amazing places, so I follow along, like the aesthetic donkey I am, trailing in his wake. He doesn’t even LIVE in Belgium so it was even more shaming, but he dragged me into all sorts of strange and wonderful corners of the city, as well as building my kitchen table. Sigh, I miss him. He is in Chicago becoming Don Draper now.
Ma Maison de Papier is a tiny jumble of a shop just south of the Sablon and it sells beautiful, rare, strange vintage posters, advertising hoardings, postcards and sheet music from Belgium and beyond. There are film posters, propanganda, and lots and lots of wonderful advertising from the late 19th century onwards, through Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Futurism, and post war Expressionism. It is a cosy, peaceful place run by a kind woman called Marie-Laurence who is an expert on vintage ephemera. She is perfectly happy to let you browse for as long as you might like. If you want advice, wonderful; if you don’t, you can just lose yourself in her archives. There’s absolutely no pressure to buy.
My favourite on this visit, was this:
For the 1959 Ypres cat throwing festival (oh yes).
But I also love this high quality chicken in Belgian colours:
Hai, terrible fuzzy phone photo.
Prices are very variable: they start around €80-100 for small works (much less, obviously, for postcards and business cards) and can go up to €5000 or more for something big and rare. The shop uses a bizarre coded letter system for prices that you need great ingenuity and an excellent memory to master. Or you could just ask. I’m very shy about that kind of thing, but Marie-Laurence is lovely and will not make you feel like you are Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, etc etc.
Ma Maison de Papier, 6 Galerie de la Rue de Ruysbroeck. Open Weds-Sat pm only.
(Don’t buy my favourite or I’ll hunt you down and, and … TUT AT YOU)