French Way with Design
Betty Lou Phillips
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A new look is emerging in France’s apartments as well as its imposing chateaux and country manors. Along with signature pieces of national identity―such as finely crafted wood pieces, splendid mirrors, and grandmère’s well cared for linens―European mid-century modern furnishings also adorn settings in this age of merging sensibilities.
Homes photographed in France and the U.S. show abstract works of art mingling easily with painted furniture, budget-friendly finds from assorted cultures―such as wool rugs and handembroidered linens from India―and pottery, artisan-made pillows, throws and vintage textiles from remote markets in Morocco.
headboard covered in Belgian linen and white matelassé bedding join forces to bring a modicum of romance to a guest room. Matelassé, French for “padded,” is woven on a jacquard loom, producing an embossed, quilted look. Light streams into a guest suite with an iron bed and the soft colors favored by Madame de Pompadour. What’s Au Courant? While the color wheel is a universal tool considered helpful in pairing hues, the French brush off any suggestion that world authorities can improve on
this day Europeans stack paintings and drawings high on walls and over doors in a manner called salon style. Meanwhile, half a world away, works of art loom in moderne fashion—that is, in a single row surrounded by ample space. Either way, displaying works of art is an art in itself, much harder than it looks, even for a people seemingly having a sixth sense for style. It isn’t surprising, then, that the French borrow tips from none other than their famous museums, which offer timeless lessons
rare to find age-appropriate frames, mostly because not many survived the French Revolution, much less two World Wars. F For pared-down simplicity, a stretched canvas can hang frameless against a backdrop of dramatic architecture. F The idea of propping paintings on fireplaces reaches back to seventeenth-century England. At the time, lofty gilt mirrors hung above smoke-stained chimneypieces in France’s grandiosely paneled rooms, coloring the capital’s gray light. Some boiserie had oil
obsession, is testimony to the late king’s fastidiousness and in keeping with his foresight. In truth, the French leave no creative idea unimplemented, in hopes of making their living quarters special. Whether selecting quality leather for a chair or replacing door hardware, the attention to minutiae is striking. Finely etched knobs, surface bolts and crémone bolts that could almost pass for artwork bestow added nobility on groaning doors and tall, narrow windows. Crisp crown moldings,
Robshaw print—inspired by the textile designer’s trip to the plains of Rajasthan, India—with an air of glamour, while a fringed cashmere Ralph Lauren throw bearing an embroidered street name graces the sofa. Below: When a narrow tape darts across a chair skirt, the result is eye-catching. Tape is from Samuel & Sons; fabric by Quadrille; area rug is Stark. No bedroom is complete without flowers, and artfully clipped leaves can set an arrangement apart. At small, informal get-togethers, the