PaperCity Magazine

September 2016 - Houston

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New York. More than a repository for glorious and expensive books, Assouline is also an oasis of culture: A shop at the Plaza in New York City offers custom bookbinding services, while the first Maison Assouline that opened in 2014 in London's Piccadilly includes an art gallery, bar, custom bookbinding service and bespoke library service that curates books for the reader. Here, Prosper riffs about his favorite topics: books, libraries and a good cup of coffee. The secret behind your coveted books. What I love is to do books like a movie: I'm always framing things with my eyes. When I do a book, I try to tell a story — not always beginning, middle and end in the boring way, but to break the rules. Sometimes it's more like a scrapbook. I want to take your hand for one hour and a half, like in a movie, to give you the feeling of the music, the smells, the people, in a very simple way through pictures. If people get lost in my books, I'm very happy because I know they are going to come back. The formula that makes your books so visually lush. It's no magic formula; it's made with a lot of love with a lot of work. But, seriously, everything is made by hand, in the same kitchen, so it all has the same flavor. There is a huge number of people working on each book. What will the new Assouline store at Forty Five Ten in Dallas be like this fall? It's going to be a big room, made like a big library in your apartment. You can buy SO, ARE YOU LAUNCHING A COFFEE REVOLUTION IN ENGLAND, MUCH LIKE STARBUCKS DID IN AMERICA? PLEASE NEVER MENTION THE WORD STARBUCKS TO ME AGAIN. everything in the room — furniture, carpet, a beautiful big collection of Assouline books, vintage objects I have chosen from travels. Do your grown children work with you? Yes, they all work with us now. Alexandre is the marketing director in New York. The other, Sebastien, is in Paris as the director of Assouline Europe. It's good working with your family. At the end of the day, we don't have to go, 'What did you do today?' Everybody already knows what we did today. Assouline has moved from its offices in Chelsea after 16 years … We moved in April. We are so happy. Sixteen years ago, we loved it because we were on the river, alone, but now Chelsea is a big zoo, with Neiman Marcus opening and so on. So, bye- bye. People told us to go to Brooklyn; we said no. Now we're in the middle of the city on Park Avenue on the 27th floor. On the left side out the window is the Empire State Building, and on the right is the Chrysler Building. You have to come and see, I tell you. The coffee is ready. About your unyielding passion for coffee. Coffee is very important. I hate it when people say, 'I just want a coffee, black coffee.' There is a right way to make it with the cream and sugar. The cup has to be very thin; if it's too heavy, the taste will be very different. You have to put the right amount of sugar and cream, not too much. It's about proportions. We have a big store in London on Piccadilly [Swans Bar at Maison Assouline]. It took me months to figure out how to sell coffee to London — coffee is not so important in England but it is to us. We designed the cups, we designed the spoons — small ones in brass — and we serve the coffee on a handmade brass tray made in Istanbul. Along with the coffee, we also serve lokum or Turkish Delight sweets. The book you've loved most. Right now, it's the Ballets Russes (2011, $845). I love the subject; I love this moment in culture. It was a short moment when everything was possible. There was so much freedom and talent then. It took us two and a half to three years to make it right, and we are fast people, so this was a long time. The Lee Radziwill book is one of your most successful titles, selling more than 60,000 books around the globe. What's the backstory? Lee called us 15 years ago to say, "I would love to meet you." Not "I would like to make a book" but just "… to meet you." Someone wanted to do a biography of her, and she was loath to talk about the Kennedys again and again. So we told her, "We can do something completely different; we are in illustrated books." We decided to create this scrapbook, Happy Times (2001, $50). I told her to bring me two suitcases of memories from her house. She came to our Paris headquarters with two or three suitcases full of pictures, some still in their frames, and letters, notes. How do you come up with ideas for books? We have a lot of people coming to us with book ideas, but we take maybe three to five a year, because we think it's something we can do. Most of the other ideas we come up with. How many books do you produce a year? Fifty to 60 a year. That's almost one a week. A favorite from 2016. We have 40 new books coming out in September alone. There is a book that I am completely cuckoo about, Mysteries of the Ear ($35). Martine and I met this woman, a doctor, who reads your ears and she understands everything about you from this. We had dinner with her one evening, and decided to do a book about Martine and Prosper Assouline's Paris apartment Assouline offices, New York Assouline Interiors Ultimate Cabinet from the High Society collection Maison Assouline, London 132

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