Have we grown weary of all the glossy magazines advising us on how to replicate French style, French cooking, French kissing? Zut! What is it about this culture that makes everyone so covetous? We may have some ideas…
Clockwise: Cover of ‘L’amante’ by Marguerite Duras, ‘L’arret De Mort’ by Maurice Blanchot, Serge Gainsbourg, Brigitte Bardot, Serge & Jane Birkin, Francoise Hardy
If you ever question the love of France, get comfy and google ‘Paris Syndrome’. Of particular susceptibility are young women, who, apparently, hold an idealized view of the city and it’s surrounding country and are struck when the illusion is revealed upon their visit.
For us, this obsession with all things French began with literature. Did you go through that very earnest existentialist phase while making your way through the French classics? No? I thought I had the French culture figured out solely through their authors. It’s an obvious mistake, but a funny one at that. I wonder if the opposite is true for them? Are there any young French kids reading Emerson, Ginsberg or Fitzgerald and thinking they have a handle on American culture? Too bad society can’t be summed up in such a way. If only we could be as good or as complicated as the words of our lauded writers. Lately, a culture seems to be perceived (and maybe judged) more by what’s popular on television or the news. Yet, at least to me as an outsider, the French still seem like they’ve mastered the art of living well.
Perhaps we choose to still savor what we can from this fascination. To that end, this blog entry is for all the happily seduced Francophiles out there with us. We’ve created a list of our favorite French interior designers and included tricks of the trade that we think are exemplified in their work.
Resist over-styling! Sometimes in our best efforts to achieve a desired look, we can over do it and end up with a fraudulent space that has been staged for display. As with any artistic endeavor, it’s vital to know when a lighter touch is required. Realizing the history or quality of a piece to create a message in your home is the place to start. If you have a quality antique or you’re working with a gorgeous slab of marble, maybe see if the piece wants to stand alone. Sometimes the beauty of an item can be swallowed by surrounding ornamentation. Your style begins and ends with your eye. Trusting yourself is a learned skill that becomes easier with practice.
We agree: keep your favorite heirlooms center-stage! These are the instruments of your home that invite questions and stories. A room without a question is stale. We love when we see a space and our critic’s eye darts from accusation to wonder to admiration. Be bold and keep Uncle Bob’s weird taxidermy if you like it. You have to sense when you should strike out with irreverence and when to hold solid as you weather the passing trends.
Always preserve original architectural details whenever possible! The French teach a master class in preservation, which they have much to preserve. And much like the French, we in South Louisiana and in New Orleans, in particular, are spoiled with historic architecture all around. Even if your home looks like a Mies Van Der Rohe workshop on modernism, keeping classical architecture as your framework yields high rewards. We have immense respect for homeowners that properly restore classical architecture. Preservation doesn’t come without it’s challenges, but it is worth doing to the very best of our capabilities.
Embrace contradictions! We rarely see a fully realized period home that we find noteworthy. It’s not that a period room can’t be lovely; it just does’t speak with a lot of forethought. The careful curation of your favorite pieces, whether antique or otherwise, feels more honest. Find furniture that strikes you, and let it be your template. You’ll be surprised at the seemingly discordant pieces that can work together harmoniously.