Friday, November 27, 2009

This Black Friday...Shop in Paris!

Continuing on with my storytelling about my friends at Les Merveilles de Babelou, I thought I would show you some images that we took while visiting them on our last trip in June. So, this Black Friday--shop with me in Paris! Enjoy!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Keith Johnson at Les Merveilles de Babelou

In our more than 15 years shopping in France, we have developed many relationships with dealers and merchants who have become more than business associates, they have become close friends. I was very excited to see one of those people, Francois Casals in his wife's vintage clothing and jewelry boutiques, Les Merveilles de Babelou, featured on Man Shops Globe. This has been an 8 segment series on the Sundance Channel covering the travels of Keith Johnson, buyer for Anthropologie. Check out the video clip! And yes, Mr. Johnson did in fact purchase the fabulous clothing racks.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wallpaper Sacrilege or Some Thanksgiving Fun

Last Thursday was "Design Week" at the DCOTA (Design Center of the Americas), which featured visits by some pretty big heavy weights in the Design World presenting new lines of furniture or fabrics, etc...Barclay Butera, Kathryn Ireland, Lillian August, Amy Lau to name a few. Popular blogger, Claudia Strasser was at Pierre Deux presenting their new line and talking about her French flea market escapades. It's always fun to meet people in person after you've read about them and their lives.
One of the best little parties going on while I was visiting during the "Fall Market Event" on Thursday was the grand opening of the Romo

True to their British roots, their party was entitled "Come together for Beatlemania" and featured black and white vintage photos of the band with the appropriate endless soundtrack. My takeaway from this little shindig was a goodie bag filled with all their newest catalogs (after some delicious hors d'oevres and vino). I must say that they have really stunning textiles, here are a few photos from their website:

When I came home with a bag full of their catalogs, my five year old started to leaf through them with great interest. She also had a Thanksgiving project to do for her class. The task was to "disguise" their turkey so that he wouldn't be eaten on Thanksgiving. With catalogs strewn all over the table we both thought--we can camouflage him with wallpaper! (Okay, so this might not have been everyone's logical response, but it was ours!) Here is a close-up of the result:

Can you find these fine paper samples on our turkey?

Here he is....Wallpaper sacrilege or Thanksgiving fun?

She was very proud to take him to school becuase she knew there was no way anyone else's turkey would be remotely similar. I was a little nervous, but she got an "E" for excellent. Thanks God her teacher had a sense of humor.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Preparing a Thanksgiving Table

This week, my thoughts have turned to the Thanksgiving holiday. I wanted to create a vintage, French-themed table to inspire my clients. One of my goals was to incorporate some not-so-expensive items, so that my customers don't feel like they have to spend a lot of money to have a beautiful and charming table. I began my process by creating a tablescape that was not a "set" table:

I focused it on this small still life painting which I thought represented to be largely what Thanksgiving is all about: giving thanks for the bounty of our nation and eating good food!

After adding a few more items around it, I was not pleased with the end result because the set did not really convey the message of a real Thanksgiving table. So, I started over. This time I began thinking about the elements I wanted to be sure to incorporate. I also had in mind a specific fall color scheme.

Some French vintage napkins ($25. each)

antique Villeroy & Boch majolica plates ($150. each)

Sarreguemines transferware dishes ($35. each) and set of 12 Puiforcat dessert spoons and server (set $1200.--ok, I realize that isn't cheap but they are 19th century sterling and vermeil!)

A few more details here and there and...voila! the tablescape that I sent out to all my customers:

In case you are thinking that this is not hard work, here is a picture of our photo session so you can get an idea of how detailed this whole process actually is. D. is a very talented photographer and he just launched his personal website.

A few more options for your Thanksgiving table:

A pair of English bone china Royal Crown Derby plates ($275. each)

And because I can't load my entire inventory onto my blog, you better just click over to the new Tabletop category page we created on our website. Happy Thanksgiving planning!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The New House Project: Out of Doors

When I first introduced you to our New House Project, I showed the facade of the house but did not include photos of the rest of the property. This is mostly because though a beautiful and expansive lot, it had been allowed to grow uncontrollably for several years. Here is the "front patio" area as it was when we arrived:

The vines growing on the house may look charming at first glance but their effect was to completely block out the light and view from the upstairs. They were choking some palm trees and stopping any flow down the gutters. Here is another photo of vines choking trees, this time in the side yard:

Here's the front patio while the workers were in process:

And finally clean...almost finished:

We felt that the separation between the pavers was too difficult to work with, to hard to fill in with sod, or even with gravel you had to sort of jump to the next paver because each was so far apart. This spacing also prevented a table or chairs to fill the area as undoubtedly one leg would always land off the pavers. My solution was to rearrange the pavers into a path from the garage door through this patio to the driveway. The rest was filled in with sod.

Another before:

And after:

The extensive clean-up and trimming of the property meant that we had at least 6 piles of leaves, branches, etc that looked like this:

Lastly, we opened up some space to allow for walking around the front of the house (in the opposite direction of the front patio) to the side and eventually rear of the house.

The areas you see with the old, red mulch (which I do not like) will be filled with poinsettias this week in anticipation of the holidays. There will also be poinsettias in the front patio area along the bare walls and around the palm tree. Continue around the side and the back looks like this:

Here is where my two youngest little ones play everyday (currently 2 1/2 and 12 months). All of the large trees are avocados, so there is no shortage of squirrels to watch and chase! I created the path with leftover pavers from the front patio and did enclose a gravel area bordering the house where I was certain the grass would not grow due to lack of sunlight. It is all a work in progress but we are quickly enjoying those cooler evenings spending lots of time out of doors. Hope you enjoyed the visit...stop by anytime.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Rough Luxe and New Directions

"Rough Luxe" is an oxymoron that I have been running into quite frequently and I've been reflecting on this nascent movement (trying to determine what it is and isn't.) The WJS Magazine defines it, when referring to those in their 20's, as "a rejection of the minimalism that dominated the world they grew up in...Rough Luxe sounds the death knell for perfectionism" WSJ.

I quite like the term myself and believe that Rough Luxe describes a design aesthetic I have embraced for a while in my home and my shop. Take the photograph above, it is of our showroom's entrance. The floor is marble but not polished... rough yet a luxury. The painting is unframed, giving an arguably luxurious item a toned-down, un-stuffy feel. The sideboard has great history, yet its straight lines and contrasting colors give it a modern and timeless feel - a few accessories on it, but not cluttered. Vintage yet modern: Rough Luxe.

It's a bit of a surprise that I could embrace any movement with the term luxury in it. During the condo-building boom of the past few years (at least here in Miami), the term "luxury" was so overused to describe just about anything that it quickly became a joke between my husband and me. We would drive by huge billboards with scantily clad women draped over them, martini in hand, advertising the latest "luxury" project. The term became so diluted that it is now in the process of being redefined by pairing it with other concepts.

Rough luxe is now the name of a new boutique hotel in London which states this on their home page:

This is Rough Luxe
. Half rough, half luxury. A little bit of luxury in a rough part of London. A little bit of rough in a luxurious London. ..Guests at a Rough Luxe hotel might share a bathroom or have a small room or a small shower cubicle, but the luxury is in the choice of the wine, the bed linen, the art on the walls and the people looking after you. Our look is a mix of old and new, furniture and art; combining colours and beautiful fabrics with cheap materials and existing distressed original walls. Cheap materials are treated as precious items and preserved for their beauty and memory of the site.

Reception Hall at Rough Luxe Hotel

Furthermore, they define the Rough Luxe philosophy as a new way of looking at luxury as part of time and not just as an object of consumption... An enriching personal experience... A time for reflection, the intellectual value of objects ... of social and cultural experiences linked to, lifestyle objects and events.

I must admit that in the past few years I have struggled a bit to appreciate both the minimalism and perfectionism of the trends in the design world. And I think I'm not the only one. Let's face it, much of that style is not all together comfortable or practical and it doesn't allow for a lot of variation and creativity in design. As a long time lover of all things old, the story and journey of a piece has always been a priority in creating an atmosphere that is meaningful. Meaningful in the experience it allows the people who live around it or visit to enjoy. Nothing with a history is ever in "perfect" condition and yes, it is desirable that way. Personally, I'm ecstatic and hopeful that the tide is turning. This does not mean that all 20th century design should be abandoned, I'm certainly not advocating that. Let's just be less strict and more adventurous in the settings we live in. Hopefully everyday can be a little more interesting.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Some close-ups: Antiques + Industrial

Following my popular post on our new house, I received several requests for close-ups on the industrial pieces that we threw into the mix. Here is the wall in the dining room that you couldn't see:

The small cabinet was handcrafted by some Parisian artisans we know who purchase the iron from old factories and re-invent functional uses for it.

I will have to do a whole post on our dear friend, designer and source for them as he was recently featured on the new "Man Shops Globe" series on the Sundance Channel (if you don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry I'll fill you in soon.) On this rather rough iron piece I have two old mercury glass candlesticks and a pair of biscuit porcelain figures one of which was used on my wedding cake. The painting above is a study by the artist Georgette Agutte, for a larger painting that I sold during an exhibition I created surrounding her works in my gallery. She is my favorite artist that I've had the opportunity to represent and I had to keep something for my personal collection. More on her in the future too!

In the niche to the left of the fireplace mantel, I have an antique wedding trunk from the Switzerland. They are called wedding trunks because girls would go filling them with their dowry or trousseau until they were married. It is lightly decorated with a garden urn-turned lamp, a small religious statuette, and a painted porcelain plaque. You can also see in the corner of the photo a painted bench which is not visible in the larger photograph of the room. The purpose of this bench is to have additional seating when we are entertaining, one commenter pointed out that we have seating for only 4 in our living room, well this bench makes it 5 or 6. More than that I don't consider conducive to good conversation.
Our "piece de resistance" so to speak has been our industrial cog wheel center table. It is a really neat piece and I love that it has "ITALY" cast into the base. This is a sign that it is 20th century and not earlier, or it would have read "Italia" instead. I purchased the iron base and then got the beveled top locally--42" was the perfect size. Unlike the candlesticks in my dining room, the mercury demijohn bottle is a reproduction currently made in Poland. We sell them at our shop for $100-$150 depending on the size. They can add just the right amount of "sparkle" to a room. There are a few more further down.

Not only have I begun to mix the industrial with antiques at home but also in our shop. Here is a recent photo of one of the vignettes you would see at Alhambra Antiques if you came in today.

A 19th century trumeau over a factory work table, decorated with some more bottles and some vintage tins. You can just get a glimpse of the industrial lights hanging overhead.
To the left of the console I have this French urn with iron base, another interesting combination of something old and classic juxtaposed with something more recent.

I also just sold this fabulous French Dentist's Cabinet. I loved that it had features of fine furniture, such as a marbletop and cabriole legs while incorporating the functional elements of the glass trays and doors. This must have been one chic Parisian dentist! It is being shipped to Hong Kong for a very cutting edge fashion designer. I'm sure it will look fabulous, I hope she sends me pictures.

Lastly, I also got several requests for my paint color, it is Sherwin Williams Silver Sage 1185. Thanks for dancing with me.
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