Friday, August 28, 2009

Jacques Grange's Refined Rustic

The morning's traffic report spoke of journées orange and ROUGE this weekend as masses of people head back home from vacation. So summer larks are just about officially over now. And though the weather report predicted hesitating skies (ciels hésitants!), I still have some summery subjects to share.

This is one straw house is not about to be huffed and puffed away, but is one of a group of four owned by Jacques Grange near the dunes of Alentejo, Portugal. They are made of rice-straw thatch and white-washed planks. Outwardly, these houses have kept the appearance of the traditional homes of Portuguese fishermen which are already bristling with charm; the difference here is in the measured detailing.

Since I spent part of my vacation among sticks and stones (previous post), I'm truly in the mood to appreciate the choices made here. What a change from the decorator's Palais Royal apartment! Some great decorators will not be pinned down to a single style. M. Grange is respectful of local tradition.

Banquettes made of cement serve as sunny day beds

Inside the volumes have been changed by taking down walls and new window openings added.
Ethnic pieces from various provenances, furnishing from the 50s and works from Pierre Passebon's gallery have been selected for their simple lines and interesting textures.

Bronze table with painted tiles is a delicate beauty from the Galerie du Passage. The designer was unfortunately not specified.

Bowl by Mario Prassinos on ceramic table by Roger Capron

Square corded armchairs by Audoux-Minet

Italian chairs from the 50s, table from Eric Philippe

American Indian baskets frame the door, Berber rug

1950s ceramics by Jean Buffile

chairs from Galerie du Passage, 18Th century ceramic tile panel from Solar, Lisbon

Sarongs from Indonesia and Syria

The guest room is Jacques Grange's rendition of the local straw tradition complete with pine floor. The bed is covered with a Syrian cloth and an Indian mat is used at the head of the bed. A wonderful place !

Outdoor shower and stools made from the plentiful local cork forests make this simple vacation home a practical place.
The important thing is to break with habit for vacation. Laurence Dougier's article in Maisons Coté Sud states Grange's desire to preserve the truth of place, striving for perfection and elegance of detail. Bien Vu!

photos Nicolas Mathés Maisons Coté Sud

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Log architecture

One of my vacation spots this summer - was it just last week ? -
was in a rented log house straddling the Limousin/Auvergne regions.

Now a log house is no common site in France, so I knew it would be
something special - someone's dream house. A "tree house" as a vacation house. We rent houses often for weekends and vacation times and it is something I truly like. It's a grown up way of playing house - trying out living styles that I wouldn't normally.

In a way, the construction of this house was any thing but rustic despite the
rough-hewn logs. I was pleased with the attention to detail and the
respect for the natural forms in the placement of each and every
trunk of Douglas Pine. Every log was chosen for its position according
to its shape rather than adapting to wood to the general building
plan. The builder certainly enjoyed himself fitting together this puzzle.

Windows are fitted into the knots and irregularities. The closest thing
to this style is a mountain chalet with wide overhang of the eaves.
Here the building tradition is Scandinavian.

This projecting surface, like another one found upstairs inside the house, can serve as an impromptu bar (I put it to test!) or to place a piece of sculpture or plants.

Tender twigs

The builder found just the right log for this beam junction.

Another thing I liked about the house was that just because it was
built of of logs didn't mean that the theme was carried over to the
interior. No clunky log tables and chairs here.
This fireplace from the 17Th century was brought in from Tours.

"Armoire glace Madame"


As for the furnishings, they were mostly contemporary, art deco or
19Th century pieces with modern light fixtures and window
dressings. This is not an interior for purists of any kind ! Somehow -
as a vacation home - it all works.

The downstairs bath.

Handsome modern doors (Bombay rosewood?).

Sliding japonizing door for the upstairs bath.

The Venetian mirror here is faced by a 40s mirror-clad coiffeuse.

The house is neatly settled into land that has been pampered and
planted by the owner for many years prior to building the house.

A little zen garden was begun at the foot of the terrace.

Its 4 ponds are literally jumping with fish and crawfish all day and
night. Their splashes and the occasional sheep serenade from afar
are about the only noises around.

Friday, August 21, 2009


This slogan is also available on a mirror ! Hmmmm.
by Emmanuel Desormeaux et Jérémie Scart

Thursday, August 20, 2009


A fascinating book on the subject of masked balls is Fetes memorables, Bals costumés 1922-1972 (title in English, Legendary Parties). It was written by Jean-Louis de Faucigny-Lucinge, descendant of the the princess of the same name pictured in the first photo of my last post "Artful Evenings."

artful evenings

hotel Masseran
While some were out gallivanting these recent summer days, others were pursuing the most edifying of divertissements, creating living masterpieces, fusing with the artworks with which they could identify and ephemerally striking a harmony with past masters for the time of an evening. Why it was just last month that the Comte and Comtesse de Beaumont thrilled the beau monde with the refinement of their costumed ball in their hotel particulier, Paris, rue du Bac. Ah, but time has warped ! This was another July and the guests some of the most creative of the high living aesthetes of their day, with that other legendary master of fetes and decoration, Charles de Besteigui, was among them.

Such perfection! The mansion's park was decorated by the Count himself and toward the rear of it curtains of green satin parted upon the presentation of each guest or set of guests representing a painting or sculpture.

The tradition of these living paintings, tableaux vivants was especially popular in the 19th century. Scenes depicted in paintings were meticulously reproduced and intended to awe and transport viewers and subjects alike. In very different contexts, this activity was merely a sneaky way to get around censorship and show a bit of flesh by proclaiming artistic endeavor. The most common use of this form of entertainment today comes at Christmas time in living nativity scenes.

The comte de Beaumont, a wealthy descendant of one of the grandes familles de France, was a painter and designer of stage decors for ballet, costumes and jewelery (sometimes for Chanel) and like Besteigui, was known for his masked balls and his generosity as a patron of modern art.

In May 1924 he inaugurated the "Soireés de Paris" at the Theatre de la Cigale at Montmartre. These artistic evenings were given throughout the year and provided music hall, ballet, poetry and theatre with the participation of Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque or Erik Satie and Darius Milhaud. With his wife Edith, Etienne de Beaumont was at the origin of avant-garde films and ballets and after WW II founded the Association Franco-américaine which financed numerous important exhibits. Paul Morand, Maurice Sachs, Jean Cocteau, Marc Allégret, Bernard Faÿ, Léonide Massine, Lucien Daudet, René Crevel have described the fabulous personality of the comte de Beaumont; he and his home, the hotel Masseran, were models for the principal character and setting of Raymond Radiguet's Le Bal du comte d'Orgel. (source: IMEC)

Imagine a collection of these figurines for your mantel !

These photos by Brassai, pictures of another age, call to mind the Welly Bry party in an Edith Wharton 1905 novel in which Lily Bart poses as Gainsborough's portrait of Mrs Lloyd.

Tableaux vivants depend for their effect not only on the happy disposal of lights and the delusive interposition of layers of gauze, but on a corresponding adjustment of the mental vision. To unfurnished minds they remain, in spite of every enhancement of art, only a superior kind of waxworks; but to the responsive fancy they may give magic glimpses of the boundary world between fact and imagination.

Selden's mind was of this order: he could yield to vision-making influences as completely as a child to the spell of a fairy-tale. Mrs Bry's tableaux wanted none of the qualities which go to the producing of such illusions, and under Morpeth's organizing hand the pictures succeeded each other with the rhythmic march of some splendid frieze, in which the fugitive curves of living flesh and the wandering light of young eyes have been subdued to plastic harmony without losing the charm of life.

Edith Wharton The House of Mirth

photos Brassai for Plaisir de France Aout 1935

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

It's nice to go trav'ling

Voyager, c'est demander d'un coup à la distance ce que le temps ne pourrait nous donner que peu à peu.
To travel is to ask all at once of distance what time could give us only little by little.
PAUL MORANDThree weeks spent in three different places means new impressions - sights, smells, tastes, notions -to mix with old ideas. A bit of rest, a bit of sport, a smidgen of glamour, communing with nature, walking in history's paths, exhibits, conversations, books, new faces.... Who can tell the full effects of this potion? Plans and new projects start to bud. Vacation is about all these things.
Getting the big picture.

Criss-crossing civilisations

Taking a closer look.

But it's oh, so nice to come home...

(last photo by my daughter)