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Montpellier chic

I've just spent a gorgeous few days visiting friends in Montpellier, in the south of France. Not only was the weather spectacular (and I type as manic rain batters the windows this grey, Sunday afternoon) but it is a most stylish city. The French are good at style. And amid the casually beautiful architecture, all cobbled streets and smart limestone apartment blocks with matching grey shutters, there was some serious shopping to be done...

Don't you just love this paper patchwork counter? A great, creative idea, it houses the till at the chic Boutique Square (5 Rue du Petit St Jean, +33 (0) 4 67 66 32 73). I've seen this done before with wallpaper, but not as coherently as this. Perhaps because it is all paper by the same designer – who is in fact, British, and goes under the banner of Miss Print. I'm thinking I might do a whole wall in my living room like this... what do you think? 

Love these JC Castelbajac pop art plates, also from Square. Struggling, however, to find stockists in the UK – though the French designer does have a London shop and is stocked in Harrods. The label is currently in receivership, which may have something to do with it... A good excuse to go to Montpellier, of course – they had lots of these in stock (and French store Printemps seems to have sold them at some point, for €92 the set). A bargain, if you look at them as art.

Aha, the perfect invention for magazine hoarders also short of seating... a clever strap designed to transform those glossy back-issues into a stool. If you don't happen to be in the south of France any time soon, you can also get these from Made in Design, over here. They're £21.90, and by a French company called Eno.

What a luscious lamp. Another Square goodie. However...

For utter lamp heaven (and prices  allowing more plentiful purchases)Absolute Vintage (their website is coming soon, the lovely owner told me) was stuffed with quirky finds.

There was also a super chic shop called Violette (2 Rue Du Petit Saint-Jean, +33 (0) 4 67 92 99 29). Unfortunately, not the most helpful or charming of shop assistants. But one of ace the things they sold, pictured below and on sale online from Dutch by Design at £24.50 in a choice of three colours, was 'Ceci n'est pas un livre' (meaning: this is not a book, in case your French is as bad as my German).

What is it? A marvellously minimal shelf, that cunningly looks like a book. Look closely and you'll see the 'author' is a mysterious S.E.L.F Shelf.

And it's not all about the shopping. What a stunning view...

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