The Argentinian gia Global Honoree—PAUL French Gallery—is a hidden sanctuary where relaxed weekend vibes are celebrated through an eclectic curation of beautiful products in a market-like atmosphere.
by Michelle Hespe
“We wanted to keep the original environment exposed, as we believe in bringing the original sense of things to the surface. To not hide them. We wanted to engage with the space’s story, and even wanted the floors to sound old when you walk on them, so there is that sense of history,” the owners say, explaining how they by coincidence found the old obscured building that became their store, after a thorough renovation work.
“The wheelbarrow that was here is still a part of our store. It tells a story. Even if it is not being used now, we believe that this is a part of the essence of PAUL,” they said.
Originally, the owners were intent on generating a “weekend mood” in the store – so that people visiting would immediately feel relaxed and welcome. “It started with this mood, and over the years it has transformed into an urban space with a sense of comfort. We showcase ways of living in the home with enjoyment and pleasure,” they explain.
In a physical sense, the owners’ goal was to give customers the feel of entering a chic market, and then offering them an entire experience, rather than just a shopping trip. In a less tangible sense, the couple’s aim is for people to feel a part of their store and their brand, and thus to feel a part of something larger – a PAUL community.
“We want and expect our clients to take an active attitude towards the store,” the owners say. “People tend to experience a unique series of sensations when they are here, and they make these their own. Then they convey these feelings to others because they feel strongly about their experiences and what they have discovered. Scent and music play an important role in this as well, as we want people to explore with all of their senses.”
The store’s original conception was based upon “everything to go.” In other words, visitors could buy anything that they saw, tried, tasted or tested.
This concept has developed into the store becoming somewhat like a bazaar merged with a bustling home that has a wine store, a coffee shop, a store dedicated to tea and a plant store & floristry. Guests can sit in a window and enjoy a glass of wine, meet friends and chat over a pot of herbal tea, or relax in a lounge and sip on coffee while reading a book after buying a bunch of flowers for a friend.
It’s a smart approach for any business, as having customers living part of their lives in the store in front of staff means that a gradual understanding of them can grow and be nurtured. The owners and staff can naturally get to know their clients’ style, tastes, and even begin to understand their dreams.
“To create a strong bond with our customers, the first thing we do is to listen to them, understand their tastes, needs and aspirations,” the owners tell.
“We need to be able to interpret what they need or want, give them options and be able to help them make the best decisions. Trying to put ourselves in their place is also very important, as is being able to accompany them throughout the purchase process with empathy, patience and love.”
Much of the warmth of PAUL’s space comes from the deliberately earthy palette, which emphasizes the brand’s focus on wellbeing, sustainability and handmade products. Many of the products for sale are bought and then transformed to make them distinctive and unique.
“Part of our essence is the focus on educating our clients and teaching them to understand the concept of handmade. Nothing is exactly the same when it is handmade,” the owners say.
“We love our handmade and imperfect proposal – we call it perfectly imperfect. When people realize this, they know that they can take something from PAUL and have something unique just for themselves. They can own a part of what they experience.”
The owners also explain that they work closely with wood factories and artisans that only use materials that have been consciously chosen and carefully considered. “Each piece of furniture starts with the planting of several trees for a more sustainable outcome. We value organic and natural material above all,” they say.
Before entering the IHA Global Innovation Awards, the owners did not know much about it and felt that they began to sharpen some ideas by putting them on paper.
“gia made us put everything on paper—a whole lot of information that is in our spirit but that was not then tangible,” the owners say. “By doing this, we were driven to express our deepest concepts in black and white, and we learnt a lot from this.”
The gia jury loved the warm, artistic, sustainable and eclectic nature of PAUL. “The store is like a warm farmhouse or market just waiting to be explored, offering a mix of French country-style and contemporary merchandise,” the judges noted. “It offers a comforting, calming environment that gives shoppers somewhere to relax and be themselves.”
Although the journey has entailed a lot of hard work, the creation of PAUL’s atmosphere was somewhat organic, and the outcome reflects the lives of the owners. It is almost as though they have opened their home and their world to others to enjoy.
“We do what we love, and our business is stable in a very difficult country and economy,” they say. “Our employees and suppliers have grown with us, and our clients keep choosing us. This is what we believe makes us successful. We have achieved it by working hard, trusting our guts and dreaming big.”
Sponsored and organized by The Inspired Home Show and the International Housewares Association (IHA), gia (IHA Global Innovation Awards) is the world’s leading awards program honoring overall excellence, business innovation and creative merchandising in homegoods retailing. For more information about the gia retail program, the co-sponsors or participating in gia, contact Piritta Törrö at email@example.com. Additional information on gia is also available online at TheInspiredHomeShow.com/Awards/gia-Retailing.
For more information about The Inspired Home Show and to pre-register for the 2023 Show, taking place in Chicago on 4-7 March 2023, please visit TheInspiredHomeShow.com.