The Best of France–in a box
Sharon Santoni creates the most luxurious box on the market
If you can’t make it to France this year, have France come to you with My Stylish French Box. This quarterly subscription box based on the seasons of the year features the kinds of exceptional beauty and home decorating goodies you stumble upon when you visit France, the ones you’d love to keep for yourself after spotting them in private homes, boutique hotels or posh bed & breakfasts.
“It has to be stuff that I love, stuff that I would use in my own home,” says Sharon Santoni, the mastermind behind My Stylish French Box. Thanks to her blog, My French Country Home, and her exclusive travel excursions, Santoni has developed an international following for her knowledge of the French lifestyle. Now, she can share her passion for her adopted country–she’s a Brit married to a Frenchman living in Normandy–and the delights that France has to offer directly to her audience.
Santoni’s boxes include home goods, accessories, limited edition cards, and trinkets which are kept secret until the last box has been delivered. The sold-out February box is Marie Antoinette-themed and the only details Santoni will reveal about the May box is that it will be “white, fresh and Spring-like.”
Santoni’s composition formula for My Stylish French box includes the rule that every box, upon opening, must smell amazing. “We all know how lovely it is to receive something very special that feels good, looks wonderful and smells divine when you open it,” she explains. “And if someone has taken the trouble to tie a satin bow and add a few things to the top of the box, you enjoy the experience even more.”To achieve this sensory impact, each box is loaded with at least one fragrant item such as a candle from Cire Trudon or a collection of soaps from Fragonard, the iconic Parisian perfume house founded in 1926. These scented goods along with the other items are packed into the box two weeks ahead of shipping so that when the recipient opens it, she is treated to a unique sensory–and French–experience.
Fashion and home accessories are also tucked into the box. Last August’s box featured a typical French linen scarf (from Couleur Chanvre), while November contained a linen table runner from Charvet Editions, a century-plus-old manufacturer of natural fabrics that is also one of the last linen weavers in France. Other accessories come from local artisans such as the ribbon and porcelain bracelet, also in the August shipment, by ceramist Justine Lacoste.
With each box Santoni plays with the notion of “something old, something new,” tracking down vintage or antique pieces from fairs and flea markets she writes about in her blog. The November box, for example, offered crystal chandelier “tears” re-fashioned as Christmas tree ornaments; another box held an antique key. After receiving many requests for personal shopping excursions to dig up such items, Santoni organizes antique and lifestyle trips in Paris and Normandy and is adding Provence to the schedule this year. One of her favorite stops is to the Foire de Chatou, a twice-yearly happening in the Paris suburb of Chatou; it is packed with antiques, flea market finds, fine art and regional food specialties.
My Stylish French Box does not as a rule include food items but the November 2017 box incorporated tea from the legendary 1854 tea company Mariage Frères. Santoni plans to organize a gourmet box sometime this year. The sturdy white, reusable box (on par with Hermes or Dior for storage) with an embossed logo is made by a vendor that supplies some of the top luxury brands in France.
Ten years ago, Santoni, a former full-time mom, could never have imagined that her blog–which she photographs herself–would reach and charm over two million readers. The turning point came in 2009 when the last of her four children turned 13 and the others had started university. Santoni started to feel “redundant.” “I was rapidly coming to realization that I needed something to do otherwise I was going to drive the whole family around the bend,” she says. “So New Year’s Eve, I lifted my glass of champagne and said 2010 is the year I reinvent myself.”
By chance, a friend of hers had sent Santoni her own blog to read. Santoni began to explore other blogs and discovered a world that she hadn’t known existed, adding that she didn’t even know what a blog was. “I just felt that [my friend] had opened the doors on this huge party that was going on that I had no idea about, and if I wanted to, I was allowed to walk through those doors and join in,” Santoni recalls.
After launching the blog in 2010, Santoni ventured further into social media with Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Twitter. She authored two books, My French Country Home: Entertaining Through the Seasons, out last year and My Stylish French Girlfriends, 2015.
Books and boxes later, Santoni, never a formally trained writer, is fully immersed in her new trade. She says the fact that she’s British, not French, is what has honed her skills of observation. “If you’re French and you’ve grown up with it, than it’s normal,” she says, with “it” referring to the fact that the French take their stylish lives, their grand architecture, and the kind of craftsmanship that makes French goods truly unique, for granted because it’s all so familiar. “You have to have one step back to observe and keep your eyes open to know that it’s all so great and so French.”