Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Drinking in the summer sun

And now - time for some rest and relaxation. . .
Hope you will all have a wonderful summer !

Friday, July 24, 2009

a room of his own

Are men neglected when it comes to traditional family homes? Men certainly carve out their own spaces very well and the existence of garconnières has a certain reality when they are on their own, but within the family circle...

A 1950 issue of Plaisir de France touches on the sleeping habits of the French as compares to Anglo-saxon countries. At this period, the article states, Anglo-Saxon countries twin beds seem to be the most current way of outfitting the master suite. In France, the shared bed and bedroom have long been the most frequent custom. Maybe movies made the separate bed configuration seem the only way at the time; filming restrictions wouldn't permit unmarried actors to lie in the same bed. We know, however, that both bedding solutions have always existed. I can think of examples of both separate and shared beds among my own grandparents.

But back to double beds in France 1950 - Should we rethink our habits rather than take it for granted that the bed and bedroom must always be shared the author asks? Custom should not take on the character of a dictate! This can be for the benefit of one as much as the other in a couple. With this in mind, the magazine proposes something we rarely see in magazines: Trois Chambres d'Hommes, three decorative styles for men's bedrooms.

"We think what many think and don't dare to say - that there are those who would find it agréable for a man to have his solitude, for work - or for reading into the late hours without disturbing his partner."

Paris apartment. Alcove with modern lit of Cuban mahogony to accompany the Directoire seating and tables, signed pieces by Jacob. Curtains and draperies of the alcove are of striped satin cream and bordeaux. Mantle with Empire style clock and oil lamps which form the sconces. (decorator Raphael)

Hotel living at Neuilly. Bed-divan and armchairs Brown leather covers the armchairs and bed-divan whose covering is of the same tone surpiqué with yellow. Coffee table, desk, and armchairs made of satinwood. (decorator Jean Pascaud)

Chateau in the Orne region of Normandy. Pine paneling with undulating frieze. Fireplace of green and white glazed brick. Bergère in natural tone chamois skin.

Bedcover and curtains of white cotton cloqué embroidered over with green, as the curtains. Niches painted bright green to set off bibelots (decorators J and B Barroux)

If you're going to do it, do it in style!

photos: The Thin Man, Plaisir de France avril 1950, drawings by Louis Moles 1950

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Remembrance of vacations past

The French side of my family (my husband's) has a habit of remembering what they were doing at different points during the year and comparing this year's April with last year's April, this year's autumn occupations with those of the last year's... "Was there much rain? Were there many mushrooms in the forest? It was dry with a scanty harvest two years ago. Lots of giroles and not many cepes. It was definitely in 1998 that we visited Ecouen; I know because we went there in the new Peugeot that we had just bought the month before. We couldn't have gone to William Christie's concert at the Theatre de Chatelet in 2001 because we knew the Bereaux already and we saw them there. It was in 2003!" And so on and so forth.

If there is any dissension, out come the datebooks to verify, because most things are noted down. Always comparing, pinning down, reliving the rhythm of seasons and events. Keeping time. My own memories are often more nebulous, but their ways have gained me little by little. So as I've been preparing for a different trip this year, I've also been thinking about last summer.

Everyone knows that July and August are not considered the optimal months for visiting Louisiana. Still, when one is in need of true heat and a real change with the sultry grip of a place's reality thrown in, it's a good place to go. The sacro-saint vacances d'été dictate a period of discovery, relaxation, or contemplation for the summer months - and if you can have all three, so much better the bargain.

Last summer at this time, I was in New Orleans and made a point to go down the River Road and off to visit more of southern Louisiana. Some of the places I had never been to and some I hadn't seen for a long time.

Hoary branches dangle over passing alligators

the graceful symmetry of oaken reverences

The Laura plantation, a new discovery for me and one of my favorites from last summer.The site is especially informative and has great pictures of Laura and the plantation's inhabiants.

a closer view of spirited creole color

Louisiana is a nostalgic place. Long ago, I lived there, but there's still room for discovery. Travel is often synonymous with exploring new places and people, but there is also a kind of unveiling of the familiar that comes with a different outlook, emphasized with distance and time. You can't go back? I like to think we share places that touch us and take a little bit of them away with us.
photos of Rosedown, Destrehan, Laura, and Shadows on the Teche plantations

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

pois de senteur

De tous les sens, l'odorat est celui qui me frappe le plus.
Comment l'odeur, le goût, se font-ils parfum,
comment nos nerfs se font-ils nuances, interprètes subtiles, sublimes

de ce qui ne se voit pas, ne s'entend pas, ne s'écrit pas avec des mots ?
L'odeur serait comme une âme, immatérielle.

Of all the senses, the olfactory is the one that strikes me the most. How do smell and taste make perfume? How do our nerves make nuances, subtle, sublime interprets of that which we cannot see, cannot hear, cannot write about with words?
Smell would be like a soul, immaterial.

Marcel Hanoun

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

quatorze juillet

Sizzling, sparkling city. After the pomp of the day's parades on the Champs-Elysées, the night's festivities promise to be exceptional.

Celebrating France's fête nationale and the 120th anniversary of its Iron Lady, a 3D firework display has been planned by the same team that dreamed up the pyrotechnics for the year 2000. Images will be projected on the tower in tribute to Gustav Eiffel and the beauty of his design. The poster above is a bit of a curiosity, so I'll be eager to see how it turns out!

top photo Amandine Masina, poster Mairie de Paris

Monday, July 13, 2009


I was very pleased to participate in Little Augury's summer reading interviews. It's funny how we can discover our own tastes better when we have to pin them down for someone else. Little Augury has a penetrating gaze and a very creative way of interpreting fellow bloggers.

Her interviews are fascinating and fun and give great book ideas -some
of which are perles rares.

Go take a look ! It's not just for my interview, look at all of them. They are sure to inspire !
images: Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face, Félix Vallotton, Jean Cocteau

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Last show?

The robes were mostly black, the salon in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs
was donated, the audience deeply moved.

To one of the most sensitive and original of the couturiers,
good luck and may you rebound from these difficult times.
la mariée

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Voilà l'été

Summer fun music by the Négresses Vertes:
Voila l'été, j'aperçois le soleil
Les nuages filent et le ciel s'éclarcit
Et dans me tête qui bourdonnent?
Les abeilles!
J'entends rugir les plaisirs de la vie
Cest le retour des amours
Qui nous chauffent les oreilles
Il fait si chaud
Qu'il nous poussent des envies
C'est le bonheur rafraîchi d'un cocktail
Les filles sont belles et les dieux sont ravis.
Voilà l'été. . .

Monday, July 6, 2009

élégance masculine

On tailoring - and toilettes in general . . . a few words respecting dress and tailoring may not be out of place; for nothing is trivial in life, and everything to the philosopher has a meaning. As in the old joke about a pudding that has two sides, namely an inside and an outside; I mean, that there is in a man's exterior appearance the consequence of his inward ways of thought, and a gentleman who dresses too grandly, or too absurdly, or too shabbily, has some oddity, or insanity, or meanness in his mind, which developes itself somehow outwardly in the fashion of his garments.
The Book of Snobs
WM Thackeray

I'm going out into lonely territory, but I like ties. Sorry if the weather is hot wherever you are and you don't even want to think about it; I still like ties. They are the most precious article of men's attire these days. Why it had to dwindle down to this is perfectly silly, but that is the case. So why not celebrate that little scrap of fabric you men tie about your necks. Of course, I'm so crazy about fabric that naturally I seek the refinement of ties. There are so
many beautiful patterns to choose from, surely they permit
you to express your personalities a little.

(top photo Thierry Mugler reversible silk shantung tie)

ever chic Bill Nighy in Good Morning, England

1950 Italian advertisement

Balthus with thickly knotted tie photo Man Ray

beautiful textures of linen and silk from Ermenegildo Zegna

"la véritable élégance est moins loin de la simplicité que la fausse"
Marcel Proust

Gary Cooper's nonchalant elegance 1935

Kenzo's mixed patterns

Jean Cocteau with his jacket worn as a magician's cape - not recommended for lesser mortals, but it does set off those long hands well
All photos except that of Bill Nighy from La Grande Histoire de la Cravate by Francois Chaille

Friday, July 3, 2009

Fashion forecasts

Court costume from Louis XIV to Louis XVI was a matter of donning the vestments of function as king or entering into the rites of one's situation in relation to the king. It had little to do with fashion. About appearance, yes, but as it serves a role, fulfills a duty. Last Sunday I rushed out to see the final day of the superb exhibit at the chateau of Versailles, Fastes de cour (Court Pomp) 1650-1800.

Dashing young Louis XV at 7 with jewel encrusted coat

This event required 10 years of preparation. Part of the difficulty in putting it together came from the astounding fact that although Paris was furnishing all the royal courts of Europe of the period, nothing is left of France's own royal wardrobes. All of the precious and fragile costumes exhibited here are from Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Russia, and England where coronation and wedding dress was carefully preserved as relics. Blame the revolution - or look perhaps to the church who often recycled textiles of its noble benefactors for the clergy.

The sumptuous garments, jewels, paintings and documents tell us we are in another sphere. It's not just the richness and solemnity of it all. All is codified. The closer you were to the King as a woman, the longer was your train. For men, a higher rank was distinguished from lower by the addition of a border to his cape. And do not dream of appearing before the king without the adequate attire. Pas question ! Louis XIV was very clever to get this whole etiquette business started and used it as a constant sign of his power. As long as his court was occupied with this, there was no time for plotting against him.

What we realize through the exhibit is that there were no real changes in the shape of royal costume. It is the very image of immutable royal power. Since this power is invested by God; the king is his highest priest or God himself as Louis XIV would have had us believe. The outward sign of his power is the opulence of dress made of silver and gold threads and embroidered with diamonds and other precious stones. Some cloths seem to be made of metal repoussé so sculptural is the effect.
a bouquet made of gemstones intended to be hand held by a lady
of the court St Petersbourg
detail of Louis XV regalia: hand of justice, scepter with fleur de lys, crown

detail of portrait of Marie Antoinette, feminine but with regal attributes:
fleur de lys, hermine, crown

even more feminine
Interesting to note that Marie Antoinette's move toward fashion when she sought a more personal way of adorning herself, took her out of the realm of a royal icon. Her portrait in a fashionable négligé in garden surroundings by Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun in 1783 was considered a scandal. True, we don't recognize her as a queen. The Queen's playing paysanne contributed to delapidating the royal treasury and this for gowns that did not even follow l'etiquette. She was certainly not assuming her role ! She did not look like a queen and would not be one much longer. As irony would have it, the only gown left of this first fashionable queen is the négligé - not in this exhibit - she wore awaiting the guillotine. Yes, we can say that fashion forecasts, only its signs are easier to interpret with hindsight.

Here is a view of the exhibit from the vernissage. It wasn't possible to take pictures so do watch the video even if you don't speak French. I don't know how long it will be kept on youtube.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Life in the chateau

Le luxe est la discipline de la prospérité - André Gide

The house was still far from being ready, but the King
thought he would never get the workmen out unless he moved in himself. As he was adding to it and improving it, he probably never saw it without any scaffolding at all....

He was now finishing the Galerie des Glaces where Le Vau's
first floor terrace had been - the proportions of that facade
sacrificed to the king's need for a vast reception room.
However, what the house lost outside it gained inside, for this gallery is still one of the beauties of the western world.

Seen at night soon after its completion, the painting and the
gilding fresh and new; lit by thousands of candles in silver chandeliers and candelabra, furnished with solid silver consoles and orange tubs; crowded with beauties of both sexes, dressed in satin and lace, embroidered,re-embroidered, over-embroidered with real gold thread, and covered with jewels, it must have been like Aladdin's Cave or some other fable of the Orient.

The Sun King Nancy Mitford

To my friends making home improvements, know you are in good company.