Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Art of Dining

"The art of dining well is no slight art, the pleasure not a slight pleasure"

Michel de Montaigne

A huge white banquet damask tablecloth that falls to the floor. This is a throwback to the ancient past when the tablecloth was used as a napkin to clean one's fingers (as most of the time people did not use forks!!!). Some antique damask tablecloths are real works of art and priced accordingly.

One should always set a table with a minimum of two glasses, the water glass on the left and the wine glass on its right. When there is red and white wine the white wine glass should be positioned at the far right.

However it is altogether appropriate to have a formal service with an elegant but short tablecloth. And all the better for a woman to show off her legs.

Of course it's always possible to have the best of both worlds, a formal service with a tablecloth that reaches the floor and a shorter cloth placed on top to the best effect. This one for example has elaborate embroidery which is set off by the colored cloth underneath.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My bed for an empire

A bed stripped to its essentials: this is minimalism.

The dream of the eternal virgin.... (so clean that men are prohibited).

A well made contemporary version of the traditional bed, sometimes known as a "lit bateau," or boat bed.

A beautiful art nouveau bed designed by Louis Majorelle in 1902.
Known as "le lit nenuphar," or the waterlily bed.
The bolster pillow is oh so typically French!

What's a beautiful bed without comfortable linens...
hand embroidered pure linen sheets, simply the best of the best.

(and anti-allergenic and 100% organic to boot! )

An extravangant 19th century bed (Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris)

A 20th century romantic version of a "lit à la polonnaise." The curtains are made of a modern printed toile inspired by "toile de Jouy" in harmony with the wall paper.

An American four poster bed

In the middle ages individual sleeping rooms were non-existent. More often than not, even the bed was shared by several people. If by chance you’ve read Tristan and Iseult you may remember that Tristan slept in the same room as the king and his wife. Surrounding a bed with curtains was a way to not only protect from the cold but to insure a bit of intimacy as well. This kind of decoration later evolved into a sign of stature.

A rustic 19th century canopy bed.

Bed " Lit à la polonnaise" with a round fabric dome ,and elaborate upholstery details.King Georges IV of England acquired such a bed for his private residence Carlton House in the 1780s

Four French rustic beds 18th and 19th century.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Chic is back

Now I understand why my daughters still dream about Jimmy Stewart and Gregory Peck. These two possess the kind of class that is timeless. After taking a look at the Sartorialist I had the impression this kind of man is fast coming back into style. In London, New York, Paris Madrid and all the big cosmopolitan centers successful men are daring to be sophisticated. A propos I noticed the pocket handkerchief is back.


The Sartorialist never misses the smallest detail. A blazer, a pocket handkerchief, a pair of leather shoes (from Lobb for sure) worn without socks with an old pair of jeans, what else... (of course, cashmere is always welcome)

At Barneys it's easy to find one

Et voila!!!!! (as D.H. Lawrence so aptly put it, “The human soul needs actual beauty more than bread "

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

When a tool is a work of art

This traditional workshop has kept in perfect condition two looms dating from the end of the 19th century. The frames were made of walnut. The craftsmen who made them wanted their tools not only to be efficient and strong but beautiful too. They were proud and handled them with love.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The poetic painting of the Islamic world: a neglected art

The art of Islamic painting has often been neglected as well as misunderstood in the Western world. For religious reasons, figurative painting was rare and it most often appeared in the form of book illustration. Most works were not signed as the Islamic world is less individualistic in its philosophy and practice than the west. Poetry is an essestial part of Islamic painting insofar as the painter paints the world of his dreams as opposed to strict reality.
Superb poetic painting from the "Seven Poets Anthology" of 1398: a magical mountain in an everlasting spring. Is this perhaps a reference to the ancient religious tale in which Zoroaster speaks to the world from the top of the mountain? This painting is reminiscent of Pierre Bonnard.

Mohammad Qassem, 17th c.
Ispahan, 1627

Prince Iskandar Anthology
Bahran Gour in the seven portraits room
Shiraz, 1410
Gulbekian Foundation

The Simargh with the dragons, Turkey 15th c.

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Sewing with style

Refinement is everywhere, even in the smallest detail of life. In the distant past almost every woman and girl knew how to sew and embroider, even those of the aristocracy. Thimbles, needle cases and other elements of the sewing kit were often veritable jewels. They were made of gold, silver, porcelain, ivory, bone, wood or brass. Some were decorated with precious stones. These intimate and specialized objects were a kind of illustration of the refinement and love of beauty of the time. Starting a collection is relatively easy as they don't take up much space and as it's possible to find examples in a wide range of prices.

a set of needle case and thimble in silver 18th c. England

A beautifull work of art, London 1735

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Summer in Provence

This summer I spent some time at my sister's country home in Provence. She owns an old bastide (Provencal manor) nestled in the vineyards at the foot of Mont Ventoux. As you can see, the Provencal architectural style of the 18th century has little in common with the "Provencal style" of houses in California or even the Cote d'Azur. First of all, these bastides have few if any windows on the side of the house that faces north. At the time, this was done to protect the house from the dominant north wind, the "Mistral." In addition, the architectural design is almost severe. The walls are extremely thick and the windows relatively small so as to protect the house from the southern heat. Typically, there are many plane trees to bring shade and freshness. The garden is "à la Française" with geometric patterns created by stone walls and shrubbery. As there are many underground springs in the region, the garden remains very green.

A grand piano in the living room: this is the perfect time to relax and play music with friends.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Famous designers of the past: Charles Rennie Mackintosh

In the 19th century it was not uncommon to be at the same time a designer, an architect and a painter. Charles Rennie Mackintoch, one of the most influential "Art Nouveau" designers was all of these at the same time. He wanted to build and design for real people, individuals, and not for the masses. His concern was not only to satisfy the practical needs of people but to allow them to live with works of art. This is a far cry from the concept of "good design" as developed in the United States in the fifties, an ethic of utilitarianism as the main goal of a society of mass products

When he arrived in London in 1915 Charles Rennie Mackintosh produced more than 120 designs for the textile industry.

carnation 1915

Waves 1915

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