Monday, September 14, 2009

Autumn tea

Le rituel du thé, cette reconduction précise des mêmes gestes et de la même dégustation, cette accession à des sensations simples, authentiques et raffinées, cette licence donnée à chacun, à peu de frais, de devenir un aristocrate du goût parce que le thé est la boisson des riches comme elle est celle des pauvres, le rituel du thé, donc, a cette vertu extraordinaire d'introduire dans l'absurdité de nos vies une brèche de harmonie sereine. Oui, l'univers conspire à la vacuité, les âmes perdues pleurent la beauté, insignifiance nous encercle. Alors, buvons une tasse de thé. Le silence se fait, on entend le vent qui souffle dehors, les feuilles d'automne bruissent et s'envolent, le chat dort dans une chaude lumière. Et, dans chaque gorgée, se sublime le temps.

The tea ritual, this precise renewal of the same gestures and of the same savoring, this accession to simple sensations, authentic and refined which grants a pass to each of us at little cost to become an aristocrate of taste. Because tea is the drink of the rich just as it is of the poor, and thus the tea ritual has the extraordinary virtue of inserting a breach of serene harmony into the absurdity of our lives. Yes, the universe conspires to vacuity, lost souls morn beauty, insignifiance surrounds us. So, let us drink a cup of tea. Silence comes upon us, we hear the wind blow outside, Autumn leaves rustle and fly away. The cat sleeps in a warm ray of light. And in each sip, time is exalted.

L'élégance du hérisson/The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel BARBERY

The beauty and the rigor of a Japanese school of tea where each gesture of the tea ceremony is part of a meditation.

This has long been one of my favorite paintings of an interior. Isn't it inviting with the tea tray
just barely perceptible on the left? It was painted in 1898 by Thomas Matthews Rooke,
assistant to Burne-Jones.

En prenant le thé by David Emil Joseph de Voter 1825

Thé by Gérard AuburganWhy is tea often associated with melancholy or pensive states?
Silence comes upon us, we hear the wind blow outside...

A book to explore: a French-English bilingual guide of some nice places to explore for tea time.
Salons de thé are more worldly but they are still places where
you take time to savor your steaming cup.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Pattern Profusion

Thinking about my last post on Sophie Digard's textile creations, I wondered where I would imagine seeing her work. I certainly imagine of her fabrics in a real textile lover's home. I got to picturing the way many textile lovers and collectors display their treasures in a way that amounts to a kaleidoscope of color and pattern. This can get oppressive but I think the above picture shows it is all a question of tone and degree.

Collector-decorator-textile specialist Michel Biehn's home/boutique in the charming antiquing town, l' Ile-sur-la-Sorgue in Provence, was sold in 2008. I was there for the first time only this August, so I missed it! It must have been impressive to see the textiles and objects made with as he says "hand and soul" collected since his teen years. Biehn didn't hesitate to mix all sorts of fabrics as the buttoned hound's tooth on the Syrian armchairs from the 30s proves above. The cushion with the circular patterns is Pendjabi; the orange one is Azara (Nomadic Afghan).
As a decorator, Biehn recommends working from a favorite fabric as a point of depart for a room.

His shop looked like a real Ali Baba's cave. The armoire is filled with Provencal quilts from 18Th and 19Th centuries; an Anatolian blanket and Sindh cushions are placed on a a Spanish velvet bench. Since closing shop, Michel Biehn is working on other projects. Something tells me he may still be in the process of selling his collections. His website, La Maison Biehn, is still up and is a delight to see. He is working on a guest house in Fez that combines with a Turkish bath, café, and exposition space.
Biehn is also an author. He has written many interesting books found in English on costume, lifestyle, and cuisine in the south of France. As one who likes good things and in quantity, he has written Healthy Recipes from the South of France (Mincir de plaisir). Since he managed to trim down considerably, it's probably a good book to know about for those of us who want to be reasonable epicureans!

These two have yet to be translated: La conversation des objets: Ou les confessions d'un collectioneur (autobiographical) and Cruelle coqueterie: les artifices de la contrainte (concerning cultural visions of beauty and how we torture ourselves to attain it or il faut souffrir pour être belle).

In general, my favorite way to mix pattern doesn't forget to play off textures against one another.
Suede, damask, a remnant of tapestry, velvet, embroidered mohair...
photo David George

A patchwork of oriental carpets makes for an interesting staircase
photo Andrew Wood

Allegra Hicks expertly mixes her own designs in various weights and fibers with traditional textiles.
Here we see a cintamani embroidered cloth used as a bed cover and Indian silk tussah hangings along side geometric motifs. The foremost cushion is painted with a linear design called Emblem on raw silk. Monochrome shades of yellow keep a restful spirit for the bedroom.

More patterns for the bedroom - this time in contrasting dominants of green and red. Where to you prefer to rest your head?
3 photos Bill Batten

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sophie Digard at Maison et Objet

This year at Maison et Objet the influence of handmade textiles was surprisingly evident. Sophie Digard, well appreciated for her crochet and knit fashion accessories for about 10 years now, has made a recent foray into the world of interior design.

Her textiles may seem akin to what your granny made but the fine qualities of her yarns and the delicate color harmonies carry them into the world of luxury furnishings. Seeing these patterns on another scale gives a jolt. The upholstery for each chair is made to measure and if it takes about 4 months for delivery, the result is of lasting quality.

The craft appeal is plain to see. This seems to be an effective way to add warmth to a modern interior without weighing it down. Many of her patterns are patchworks or mosaics of color. These knobby cushions come in a wide color range of about 50 variants.

Only natural fibers are used and their quality is a pleasure for eye and hand alike.

The wool and linen of this bed set is supple and fine with a real luxury handle.

I particularly liked the subtlety of these textiles.

The entire collection is handmade in Sophie's workshop in Madagascar.

I fear the pictures don't do the cloths justice. Fabric is one of the most difficult things to photograph and a crowded stand makes it even worse! The first sample here has the wonderful textured appearance of handmade paper.

Maybe this shot from a magazine gives a clearer idea of the fine quality of the yarns
and craft in this open work shawl.

top and bottom photos from Selvedge

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Maison et Objet: Jean Boggio for Franz

The stunning designs by Jean Boggio made up one of the most sumptuous stands at
Maison et Objet this season.

Since 2006 this designer from Lyon has paired his talent with the manufacturer Franz resulting in a style that combines French aesthetic with Chinese, creating rich but clean-lined, exotic and art deco inspired furniture and ornaments.

Black acrobats -
Boggio also creates many highly colored porcelain pieces
which are seen in abundance on his site.

His showroom in the rue Danielle Casanova just off the place Vendôme , Paris.

A gold and silversmith by training, Jean Boggio is also known for the fantastic flavor of

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

La rentrée

La rentrée is more than back to school time; it's time for all life forms to get churned up again
to face the bustle of the oncoming Fall. This interior decorator's shop chose just the right fabric to screen the view during it's annual closing period.


Time to open back up !