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Ajiri Aki is the visionary behind Madame de la Maison, an online boutique offering stylish antiques and linens for entertaining. A true citizen of the world, Ajiri was born in Nigeria, grew up in Austin, then moved to NYC where she worked in fashion. Love ultimately brought her to Paris, where she now resides with her Swiss husband and children.
Missing the joyful fellowship of friends and loved ones back home, Ajiri hosted get-togethers to connect with expats and locals in Paris. “Gathering is truly in my DNA as a Nigerian because we love getting together. Growing up, we always had guests over after church and met up with other Nigerian families every Saturday.” The love of entertaining, combined with her passion for antiques and flea markets, are the sparks from which Madame de la Maison was born as well as her gorgeous book Joie – an ode to finding beauty and joy in the everyday, as the French do. She recently shared her thoughts on effortless French entertaining, what her perfect day in Paris looks like, and Parisian joie de vivre.
The French entertain so effortlessly. What are their secrets?
“Most French people aren’t trying to recreate fancy recipes or present themselves as the perfect home cook. You won’t find any ‘Stepford-style’ hosts or hostesses trying to impress you with perfection… The emphasis is more on everyone enjoying themselves. The majority of French households I’ve been invited to have cabinets with antiques or modern serving dishes they love, and they just set a table, mixing and matching what they have. The meal is usually simple, but we spend long hours around the table drinking and chatting.”
What does a perfect day in Paris look like for you?
“Well, I love waking up and just chilling at home, staring at Paris out the window from my bed. I would sit and read with one of my antique tea cups and a tray in my bed. (Reality check: my children would probably have to be silenced with morning cartoons or off at school for me to quietly enjoy this moment.)
Then, if it’s a weekend, I would head off to a local flea market—or something bigger like the Puces de Saint-Ouen or Vanves—with some girlfriends. I would have a boozy lunch at one of my fave restaurants like Le Mary Celeste, Ober Mamma, or Bonhomie. I tend to like places where the team gives you that feel-good vibe, and there is a lot of energy in the space. If I had the kids, then I am still about the vibes but need space, so perhaps pizzas at Pavillion Puebla or seafood at Dock B in Pantin. After lunch and in need of a stroll to walk off the food, I would wander the Canal St.-Martin and maybe head over to Thanx God I’m a VIP to see what vintage dresses are waiting for me there.
As for the evening, I like meeting friends at my place or theirs for an apéro before we head out to dinner. Some of my favorite dinner spots right now are Le Cheval d’Or, Koko Bistro, Le Servan, and Double Dragon. But if I am being honest, I never jam pack days, and need a lot of leisure time to loaf around before or after any of these activities.”
What do you love the most about Paris?
“I love that Paris feels like slow life in the big city. The pace feels much slower here than my life in New York. Parisians take time to just be! People take proper breaks for coffee and lunch, to chat, read, catch up with friends, or just chill. I love how their idea of joie de vivre reminds you to enjoy simple little things in everyday life. I also really love how much Paris has changed me, and taught me to enjoy my own life more.”
Ajiri’s Perfect Day in Paris Addresses
- Puces de Saint-Ouen, 110 rue des Rosiers, 93400 Saint-Ouen
- Vanves, avenue Marc Sangnier et avenue Georges Lafenestre, 75014 Paris
- Le Mary Celeste, 1 rue Commines, 75003 Paris
- Ober Mamma, 107 boulevard Richard Lenoir, 75011 Paris
- Bonhomie, 22 rue d’Enghien, 75010 Paris
- Pavillion Puebla, avenue Darcel, 75019 Paris
- Dock B, 1 place de la Pointe, 93500 Pantin
- Thanx God I’m a VIP, 12 rue de Lancry, 75010 Paris
- Le Cheval d’Or, 21 rue de la Villette, 75019 Paris
- Koko Bistro, 14 quai de la Loire, 75019 Paris
- Le Servan, 32 rue Saint Maur, 75011 Paris
- Double Dragon, 52 rue Saint Maur, 75011 Paris
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