bonjour everybody! please accept my apologies for not gettng back to announce the winner of the book last weekend as promised. i’m heading out for a month and it’s been crazy trying to tie up loose ends and just generally keep it together. the poor blog seems to come last which is sad cause it’s actually my favorite venue and I really thank you all for your wonderful comments through the week. i wish I had a case of books and could give one to each of you! but i will be getting review copies of lots of books this summer so there’ll be plentry of giveaways on the horizon. in the meantime, the random number generator was #63, so please, Ms. Lewis send me your address and i’ll get it out to you right away!
in other news, i came across this interview just now that my dear friend and colleague did with me a while ago. i’m reposting it here since some of you are going to paris this summer and i’ve been getting a lot of emails and questions, so i hope this helps and i’ll elaborate on it over the next couple posts. our iphone app also has lots of info like metro, hours etc. it’s on the sidebar.
Interview by Linda Donahue (well an excerpt anyway, you can see the full thing here: parisiensalon.com-the-paris-apartment
Your book, The Paris Apartment, is all about how to bring Paris style home—no matter where you live. What was your inspiration for writing it?
I was asked to write a book on my style about 6 months after opening the shop. At the time it was something I had never thought about so it was a bit of a struggle figuring it out. It ended up to be my philosophies at the time, which are still the principals I hold true today. Basically it’s twofold: That four walls can become anything, and that everyone has a personal style to uncover and develop instead of following trends.
What would be the top tip you could give someone to bring some Paris style into their home?
Authenticity. Even if your rooms are completely furnished with IKEA, it will gain character from at least one great piece, from an antique mirror to a chair or chandelier. Don’t ever decorate with kitschy stuff like Eiffel tower lamps or Frenchy stuff from TJ Maxx with ‘Paris’ written on it!
Does Paris style have to be expensive?
Not at all. Flea markets are one-stop shopping and everyone knows that’s where the bargains are. That’s why dealers and decorators shop them early mornings to get the best stuff. If you wait till the end of the weekend you’re likely to get even better bargains cause some people don’t want to pack it back up.
You were featured in Travel + Leisure magazine as you took some clients through the Paris flea markets. There seem to be so many such markets in Paris? Which ones do you consider the best?
Well actually there are only 3 or 4 flea markets in the Paris proper and Cligancourt is the largest and most comprehensive. It’s a city in itself, with both upscale and dangerous neighborhoods, so it helps to know where you’re going. I would say if you only had time to visit one though, go to Vanves because you’ll get the experience without having to figure out how to navigate the maze that is Cligancourt!
After the countless trips you’ve made to the flea markets over the years, do you have an easy time navigating through them?
Finally! It literally took years to figure out Cligancourt. Every time I go I learn something new. It’s a part of Paris’ history that the city treasures and protects so it’s constantly growing and adapting. There are so many sub markets and alley ways and secret sections and dealer’s areas and special showings…it’s absolute infinity!
The Vanves flea market seems much easier to navigate than St-Ouen. What kinds of treasures can one expect to find there?
Vanves is a great microcosm because it’s just two streets. You can find a condensed version of the larger markets with furniture, ephemera, lighting, accessories, books, lamps, and rugs. I’ve found some of my best treasures there.
What’s the difference between antiquités, brocante and vide-greniers?
They difference is in the range from bric a brac to high-end items. You’re going to find the chi-chi stuff at a place with antiquités, (usually auctions and shops), more affordable items at brocante fairs (outdoor fairs that are seasonal) and much lower (but still great) household goodies at vide-greniers, which are also known as ‘attic sales’, usually held on the street like a block party.
Can you get through Vanves in a single morning or afternoon?
Yes bu it’s tricky cause it closes at 1pm so you have to get there really early. Even so, you have a lot of ground to cover. The good news is you can go there on both Saturday and Sunday and still have time to visit other markets. Different vendors are there each day so it’s worth it to go back twice in one weekend.
When is the best time to hit the flea markets?
Marche d’Aligre is held almost everyday and that’s right in the city center. Vanves is weekends only and Cligancourt has special days for dealers on Friday mornings. Otherwise you can find everyone there on the weekends and a couple on Mondays. Montrieul is Mondays.
St-Ouen (also known as Clignacourt) is the biggest flea market in Europe. I’ve heard that people have gotten lost in there. Is there a strategy one should adapt before even attempting to visit the flea market?
Not really because you’re bound to find everything you want whether you cover the entire market or not. The truth is you could never cover the whole market. Ok, well, I have, actually! But it’s nearly impossible even for me. I suggest taking your time to look down every alley and not have an agenda. Bargains can be found everywhere.
Is there a difference between the different markets in St-Ouen?
Yes. Every one of the markets has a range from true high priced antiques to the one euro items.
It’s expected by all the vendors that there will be negotiations involved in any purchase. Any advice on that? And is the inability to speak French a barrier to a successful negotiation?
If something is a great price I don’t negotiate, especially on small items. But if I’m purchasing two or more things I’ll ask for the best price for all of it together. When you’re asking for a price, always ask for the ‘Pour Export’ price (that is, if you’re shipping it), because they know you’ll have to pay duties and taxes and always give you a break. If it’s a small item, ask ‘How much is this?’ (Combien, monsieur?) Or ‘How much for both?’ (combien pour le deux?).
So, say someone makes a big purchase—a piece of furniture, for instance. How would they get that purchase back to their home (if they don’t happen to live in Paris)?
There are a number of shippers on the premises at Cligancourt and I like Edet and Hedleys. Most of them are on the main road, rue de Rosiers where everyone goes when they get off the Metro and make their way through the market. All are English speaking and will walk you through the process, which is involved but not overly complicated.
So, the Paris flea markets are a good place to go to bring that Paris style home with you. Any last words of advice to those who decide to hit the markets while in Paris?
Be careful at all the markets. As wonderful as they are, there are pickpockets and dangerous characters about. Wear good walking shoes, bring cash, and if you’re going to charge something, use Visa or MC because they can’t stand AmEx, and most vendors won’t take it.
I always bring an extra duffle bag to fill with treasures, so when you’re there, look for small things to bring back like compacts, sketches, small paintings, fabrics, books, jewelry boxes, lampshades, candlesticks and photographs. Have fun!
Photo by One and Only Paris Photography.
bonjour encore et bonne année! i hope your new year is off to a smashing start. i don’t have any particular resolutions other than to make every day one to remember in some small way. blogging’s always been a good indicator of what’s going on cause it’s kind of a journal. i’ll be trying to use it this year as a tool for working on new projects and books. that said, today i’m continuing to uncover the private lives of style icons who are influencing my new tome, boudoir moderne and of course it wouldn’t be complete (let alone get started), without a nod to coco chanel.
i went on overload researching her life apartment at 31 Rue Cambon in Paris and once i started finding images it was hard to quit so i enjoyed the indulgence. when you google ‘chanel bedroom’ all sorts of logos and fluff come up but nothing could be further from the way she lived.
not that her home wasn’t opulent. she lived in a modest apartment but every inch of it was carefully curated that tended to and nurtured her in every way. her home was her backdrop, her stage. and she loved posing as the star of the show.
“Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury”
this chair is one that greets you upon entry. it’s become famous for this series of shots of her lounging as a lady of leisure and grace. chanel was such a complex woman that to discuss who she was and her life and times is way out of my realm, but my observations from the shots collected did tell a story about what she was probably like behind closed doors. first of all she was not afraid to be photographed at any age. she accepted herself and saw beauty as an essence much more than face. and she was very philosophical!
‘Nature gives you the face you have at twenty; it is up to you to merit the face you have at fifty’
she was always dressed to the nines. maybe she did kick back in once in a while but even when she took her hat off she was still cool and sophisticated.
‘I don’t understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little – if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that’s the day she has a date with destiny. And it’s best to be as pretty as possible for destiny’
chanel seems to have had a very generous spirit for sharing her home, her life and her work. thankfully from an early age she welcomed photographers in so we could get a glimpse of how she lived.
although some of it’s staged, i have a feeling it wasn’t far from reality. let’s go inside.
“Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance”
‘My life didn’t please me, so I created my life’
once we strip off some of the facade, a very soft woman appears at home.
this was actually her bed at la pausa but i didn’t come across any other boudoir of hers besides the one at the ritz. still it shows a playful side with a star tucked in the headboard as well as a feather (she entertained)! and of couse, dressed to the hilt in silk pajamas.
“As long as you know men are like children, you know everything!”
as any self respecting woman did, she kept a beautiful vanity filled with silver trinkets, powders and perfumes. and i think that’s a negilgee hanging to the right!
“Where should one use perfume?” a young woman asked. “Wherever one wants to be kissed!”
once back in the seriousness of daylight, she was all business. this is her pretty ladies’ desk for writing letters
and her home office where she refined her very definite ideas about life and style
“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”
‘I wanted to give a woman comfortable clothes that would flow with her body. A woman is closest to being naked when she is well-dressed.’
later in life she lets us in again to see an apartment that has grown in some ways, matured in its decor with the addition of travel mementos, books and statues
she must have treasured her roaring fireplace
and surrounded herself with beautiful books
lounging was apparently a pastime she enjoyed to the fullest without apology and understood that downtime in life was as important as success.
‘How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something but to be someone.’
‘There are people who have money and people who are rich’
this series of shots was one of her most revealing
“Elegance is not the prerogative of those who have just escaped from adolescence, but of those who have already taken possession of their future.”
doing the things we all do
eating, reading, working
on the phone
and although most of the shots are of her alone, the now iconic suede sofa she designed often hosted friends
who came for intimate chats
or host an audience while working with girls who came for fittings
‘Adornment, what a science! Beauty, what a weapon! Modesty, what elegance!’
i think she was happy because she had a happy home
it seems she created a perfect little world just upstairs above her shop and it was her wonderland. a place she could go for refuge, that was a comfortable and reassuring as the arms of a lover.
it was probably most comforting as she put on her face for life outside as the kingpin of CHANEL, that she knew just up that staircase was a little piece of heaven waiting for her. thank god the french have kept it intact.
this may be my favorite shot, seeing her totally relaxed, unpressured, her true nature at peace. everything home should be for all of us.
‘I am not young but I feel young. The day I feel old, I will go to bed and stay there. J’aime la vie! I feel that to live is a wonderful thing.’
p.s. a new book is coming out i thought you may enjoy. i’ll try to get a copy or two for a giveaway. till then have a wonderful weekend!