Conversation Starters

Paris, Palais Royale, Marais 1600s

Bonjour mes amis, ca va?

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve typed those simple little words, close to a year by the looks of it. I miss those carefree days of checking in, coming here just to rendezvous together for a bit with you. But life sped ahead, and somehow the blog got pushed to the bottom of the list, patiently waiting for the day a keystroke would bring it back to the forefront, remaining still as each day passed. And of course so much has happened with all of us, it’s hard to recap. So we won’t, let’s just take it from here.

So what’s going on? Well, I’m back to the blog and biz and thought it might be fun to tell you about a project that’s been brewing for years and is finally underway. Not to give too much of a spoiler but of course it’s Paris related (an obsession of infinite inspiration), but it starts an entire century before the Versailles era we’ve come to equate with the old Paris we’re so familiar with. That glorious time had a predecessor, and it was filled with the darkest of the dark and brightest of the bright in terms of everything from society to science.

The project is a book series on the Salon Hostesses of Paris; the women who, starting with Madame Rambouillet in the 1600s, used their homes for intimate gatherings with locals of all status from the famous to the infamous, to discuss how they would change a decadent, debaucherous and dangerous city into one that celebrated gallantry, manners, preservation of the language, art, litterature, dance, theater and philosophy. And change it they did. Madame Rambouillet was the first salon hostess, an innocently self-created position brought on by her revulsion to the happenings at the Louvre which included immoralilty, backstabbing and general chaos by which she was disgusted and retreated completely into her own world and was determined to have, do and be something different, something beautiful and civilized and precious. She decided to renovate a house close to the palace and named it Hôtel de Rambouillet. She designed it to be grand and open so the light would pour in and her guests could circulate. She used the doors and windows to merge indoor and outdoor living, and created what was to become a place of legend, the Chambre Bleu, where she hosted many evenings from her alcove bed. Through her gracious spirit and ability to inspire, she was a muse and encouraged and extruded conversation from her brilliant writers and thinking guests and who ushered in the Age of Reason and Age of Enlightenment. Conversations were key; they were the foundation of the salon. Discussion, wit, observation, encouragement, appreciation, speculation were all the rage and were often recorded by the guests once they got home.

Of course the story of her life and those surrounding her was outrageously monumental and her legacy is staggering but we’ll leave that to the book! What’s fascinating is how much there is to discover, the records that were kept, the private notes of the guests. Even more remarkable is how one woman was able to influence an entire culture so many centuries ago by simply facilitating conversation and celebrating it as an art.

Engraving of the Grounds, Hotel de Rambouillet: Perspective view of Paris in 1607 from a copperplate by Leonard Gaultier. The Hôtel de Rambouillet is a Parisian hotel known for the literary salon of Catherine de Vivonne (Madame de Rambouillet) held from 1608 until her death in 1665. It was located on rue St-Thomas du Louvre (street perpendicular to rue St-Honoré, approximately on the site of the current Turgot pavilion of the Louvre).

I love digging up old images and records of the property as it was developing. It’s absolutely fascinating that someone would make an engraving like this one above to commemorate the venue.

Blueprints for L’Hotel de Rambouillet

Or this drawing of the beginning ideas for the Hotel de Rambouillet – By today’s terms, a model sketch or blueprints, even graph paper!

Rendering, Hotel de Rambouillet, Paris

This little drawing of the plot may be my favorite and I’d love to find the entire map. The record keeping and documents are just incredible. This was at a time that Paris was exploding. In 1600, Paris was the largest city in europe and growing by the day. We rarely think of those whose hands built the city brick by brick, they’re long forgotten. But they do live on in so many ways, don’t they? The 1600s on one hand was a modern era with many minds being open to building techniques, style nature, mathematics, astronomy and countless inventions including the microscope, the telescope and thermometer. Just to put things into perspective though, Notre Dame was started in the 1100s! C’est fou, non?

But that’s another story.

Anyway I better get back to work but am glad to reconnect. If you’re interested in learing more or want to get on the list for pre-order, let me know. Till then, have a wonderful weekend, hopefully filled with meaningful convos!

August 12, 2022. Tags: , , , . RAMBOUILLET. 6 comments.

“If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere” -Van Gogh, The Paris Years

Boulevard De Clichy, Paris 1887

Bonjour toute le monde, ca va? I’ve been with my family the past few days and we’re watching old movies and
reminiscing about trips we’ve taken over the years. My mom has always loved Van Gogh and with the passing of Kirk Douglas it was only natural that we watch Lust for Life the other night. It got me thinking about sweet, sensitive Vincent and his life so I started searching for paintings he created while living in Paris from 1886-1888.

The Parisian Novels, 1887

View from Theo’s Apartment, 1886

He was someone who purposefully looked for beauty. Somewhere between the years of sunflowers and starry nights, he lived with his brother Theo in Montmartre. His Paris works exceed 200 pieces, so it’s incredible that he only sold 2 canvases in his lifetime. What’s also amazing is how fascinated he was by the same things in Paris that we are today. The view from his window, the rooftops, the chimneys, the light…his works are a sort of gentle, visual map of a changing city at a pivotal time. His letters are a real insight into his mental state, personality and true lust for life.

Theo’s Apartment, 1886

View from the Apartment, rue Lepic


View of Paris from Montmartre, 1886

I love how lush this one is and how we can almost feel the coolness of the green leaves on a summer day. Montmartre is still one of the best places in Paris to find trees outside a window. It’s easy to see why he was so inspired to capture the essence of the day.

View of Paris, 1886

Like a puzzle, we can piece together his two years in the city and understand what his life was like while living there. Such a wild time. It was the Industrial Revolution after all. An incredible era with exhibitions and new inventions, photography, steam engines, a building boom and a world evolving at the speed of light. Painters, writers, sculptors, philosophers, architects and new plans for every corner. It was probably a lot to take in and he was a sensitive, delicate soul. Seems like he may have spent a lot of time looking out the window onto the busy city, just happy to be an observer sometimes.

Paris Rooftops 1886

As much as the rooftops fascinated him, he did go out and when he did was all over the city from top to bottom, sketching and painting every inch including the places we know and love like the Louvre and the Opera.

The Pont du Carrousel and the Louvre, 1886

It’s amazing to see how much was undeveloped. Paris is an ancient city and yet at that time it still had wide open spaces.

View Of Paris With The Opera, 1886

Allee Jardin du Luxembourg, 1887

Avenue in a Park, 1888

The parks were a refuge then as they are now. Some things just don’t change. As a sensitive person he sought out places that provided a quiet solitude.

In the Boulogne Forrest, 1886

He studied the passersby as well at their daily activities, fascinated by the lives and times of typical Parisians.

State Lottery, Paris 1887

The Brothel, 1887

To get away from the bustling commercial center of town, he spent a lot of time just outside the city limits, in Asnières, an area in the northwestern suburbs along the Seine. His paintings show how Paris was developing and progressing, but he was able to find places of silence and simple pleasures by the Seine, enjoying the boats, the restaurants and gardens and open spaces while documenting the development during those two busy years.

Fortifications of Paris with Houses, 1887

It’s truly fascinating to see how open and uncluttered Paris was at the time. He must have looked for places to set up his easel where he could find glimmers of nature. He really leads us through a changing world and must have kept one step ahead of to avoid the confusion and noise. If we look at his body of work as a whole, his main focus is usually on color, light and natural elements. Cities aren’t normally convenient places to find any of that but he sought it out and translated it onto the canvas.

Walk on the Banks of the Seine in Asnières, 1887

On the Outskirts of Paris, 1887 

The Laundry Boat on the Seine at Asnières

Restaurant de la Sirene at Asnières

Restaurant, La Sirene at Asnières, 1887

Exterior of La Sirene at Asnières, 1887

Banks of the Seine at Pont De Clichy, 1887

The Banks of the Seine, 1887

The Banks of the Seine with Boats, Spring, 1887

 The Seine at the Pont de la Grande Jatte

The Bridge of Courbevoie, Paris, 1887

The Seine at the Pont de Clichy

As much as he loved the outskirts he found his way back to Montmartre and that seemed to be his touchstone as it was also home base. Many of his paintings feature the windmills and gardens and vineyards and cafes which were part of everyday life.

Montmartre, Paris, 1886

Vegetable Gardens in Montmartre, 1887

The Hill of Montmartre with Stone Quarry and Windmills, 1886

Terrasse du Café la Guinguette À Montmartre, 1886

Le Blute-Fin Mill, 1887

Le Moulin de la Galette, 1887

Le Moulin de la Galette, 1887

Montmartre Behind the Moulin de la Galette, 1887

Montmartre Windmills and Allotments, 1887

Factories Near Montmartre, 1887

Sloping Path in Montmartre, 1886

Impasse des Deux Freres, 1887

Sunset At Montmartre, 1887

There are so many more pieces but I guess they will have to wait for another day. For now, dear Vincent continues to live on fascinating us with his life and times and beautiful perspective on the places we know and treasure. His paintings never get old and have an innocence that still touches us to this day. I’m feeling nostalgic about him today, wishing he had found peace and love and satisfaction. We know though that he never did, so Iet’s just end with the song that says it all…

Starry, starry night
Paint your palette blue and grey
Look out on a summer’s day
With eyes that know the darkness in my soulShadows on the hills
Sketch the trees and the daffodils
Catch the breeze and the winter chills
In colours on the snowy linen land

Now I understand
What you tried to say to me
How you suffered for your sanity
How you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they did not know how
Perhaps they’ll listen now

Starry, starry night
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze
Swirling clouds in violet haze
Reflect in Vincent’s eyes of China blue
Colours changing hue
Morning fields of amber grain
Weathered faces lined in pain
Are soothed beneath the artist’s loving hand

Oh, now I understand
What you tried to say to me
How you suffered for your sanity
How you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they did not know how
Perhaps they’ll listen nowFor they could not love you, love you
But still your love was true
And when no hope was left in sight on that starry, starry night
You took your life as lovers often do
But I could have told you, Vincent
This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you

Oh, starry, starry night
Portraits hung in empty halls
Frameless heads on nameless walls
With eyes that watch the world and can’t forget
Like the strangers that you’ve met
The ragged men in ragged clothes
The silver thorn of a bloody rose
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow

Now I think I know
Oh, what you tried to say to me
How you suffered for your sanity
How you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they’re not listening still
Perhaps they never will

February 19, 2020. Tags: , , , . art, France, Paris, Paris Apartments, Van Gogh. 9 comments.

Top 10 French Coffee Table Books for 2020

May I Come In?

Bonjour toute le monde! It’s that time between holidays when there are a few moments of quiet to get lost in the wonderland of the web…and you know what they say, the time we enjoy wasting is not wasted time! That said, it did take a minute to round up this wishlist of books, some of which are written by talented women I’ve admired for years. Each is filled with art, furniture, fabrics and trim, decorated doors and ceilings, chandeliers, outdoor spaces, architecture and style that has stood the test of time. I’d love to have any one of them on my cocktail table. If you’re looking for the perfect gift, check these beauties out for yourself and get lost in a world of imagination. And so, for those who’d rather curl up with a book than a phone…we say, happy reading!

Have more cocktail books to recommend? Please share in the comments below!

French Interiors

At Home in Paris


Paris in Bloom

French House Chic

My Stylish French Girlfriends

Haute Bohemians


In the Company of Women


ok this last one isn’t really a book, it’s a decorative journal with blank pages but i do love the cover!

Just fyi, please note that some of the links are affiliate. I only recommend products I love because I think you’ll love them too!

December 2, 2019. Tags: , , , , , . Books, France, Interiors, Living, Paris, Paris Apartments, Reading. 4 comments.

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