Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My Anthropomorphic Loves

The Inhabited Silence of Houses

Every once and again when I'm alone at home and all is quiet, I slip off into a sort of 
pulsating atmosphere, where the Things around me beg for attention in a different way.

It's a bit like Disney's Beauty and the Beast,
without the singing and dancing and without the shiny faces.

The furniture seems to motion to me with its extreme stillness. It moans and whispers. Floors creak, armoires adjust themselves with little pops, a drawer opens with a baritone grate. There's a humming in the air.
 My cleaning lady tells me that she says "Bonjour, Maison!" when no one is in. So maybe I'm not alone in feeling a presence --- or maybe crackpots have a way of  finding one another. (A different cleaning lady identified more with another fairy tale. She saw herself as Snow White,  a beneficent presence who worked her magic by cleaning and putting everything right in the house. A lovely image. Unfortunately, her zeal was such that she scrubbed the paint right off the doors with very abrasive lessive St. Marc.)

Don't get me wrong, I don't talk to my furniture, I listen to it.  I do think we can communue with it in  moments of silence for our mutual benefit.

Calvet chair

Furnishings don't have to have a particular shape to make their presence felt at quiet moments, but some do exaggerate the point with their design, vying for attention among the more common lot.

How would you feel about sharing your home with this chair? You couldn't be lonely. You can tell me that you don't like Gaudi, but really, how could you dislike this little guy? Why, he's just stretching out his arms for affection!

Gaudi said, "Those who look for the laws of Nature as a support for their new works collaborate with the creator."  Could that be the secret?

There are furnishings that incorporate the gimmicks of human form as with this Ultra-meuble by Kurt Seligmann or the chair in this Castaing bathroom.
I don't think they have as much personality as pieces whose animate quality is more abstract -- though they are a kick !
Then some furniture is scary at night. My son was afraid of an enormous Ile-de-France armoire that loomed in his bedroom when he was a toddler. It may not have helped that we referred to it as le monstre because of its size, but I don't think we used that term in front of him. I used to have moments of fright when alone in the house for an hour or two as a child. I was sure the antiques my parents collected released their spirits when my parents closed the door.

R.W. Symonds and R. Luytens

It may just be me, but some furniture has more expressiveness than others suggesting a face, a pose, a movement. Does anyone else see a be-whiskered face here? I'm sure this chest of drawers contains many unspoken secrets. These smooth rectilinear surfaces prove that a living quality doesn't have to come out of organically inspired forms...

plaster lamp
Giacometti for Jean Michel Frank

but it often does.
Writhing forms and idiosyncrasies  aside, any furniture can speak to us. The most important thing is probably the vibration of one thing set off by another.
And quiet.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Style Matters

 Maria Yakunchikova-Weber

Un appartement est un état d'âme.

A room is a state of mind.


Robert de Montesquiou

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Stairways: wit and spirit

L'Esprit de l’escalier is an expression that tells the regret of coming up with what we should have said only after leaving leaving the scene of a conversation, when it is too late.

 l’inspiration nous vient en descendant l’escalier de la tribune --
on perd la tête et ne se retrouve qu’au bas de l’escalier.

Inspiration comes to us upon while going down the stairs of the tribune --and--
one loses his head only to find it at the bottom of the stairs

 Denis Diderot, Paradoxe sur le Comédien, 1773

The monumental Lefuel stairway of the Louvre was constructed between 1852 -1858  in the northern buildings of the palace. Named for the architect who designed it, it features many openings to bathe in light its richly sculpted white stone. Situated today in what is known as the Richelieu wing, it leads from the
Sculpture department to the Objets d'art one floor above, then on to
The Northern Schools of painting on the next level.
Furthering its engagement to living artists through a policy of continuing orders, the Louvre Museum has commissioned the creation of glassworks for the stairway by François Morellet,
which he has playfully named
l'Esprit de l’escalier.

Morellet says that he used a technique from the Middle Ages on the
ironwork of the 19th century to make a work of the 21st.
Nicholas Dypre
Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple 1500

In nearby exhibit halls --
more stairs, eloquent of different meanings.
Here, as a symbol of transformation and passages in life. 
The little girl, casting a lonely shadow, is isolated on the steps
as she leaves behind worldly things for a higher path.

Saloman Koninck
Meditating Philosopher 1645

Into the depths of the aged philosopher's study, stairs suggest
profound thought and the inner workings of man. 
We seem to be deep in the intrails of this hollowed, secret space but light beams
in radiantly on the pondering philosopher.
Lucas van Valckenborgh
Tower of Babel 1594

Nemrod's command to Noah's ancestors build the Tower of Babel was a sign of man's
vanity in seeking to reach heaven,  glory and godliness. 
 Forgetting his nature and placing himself first, man would no longer enjoy the benefits of a
common language--for his punishment was the confusion of tongues.
In this case, stairs represent man's arrogance that leads to destruction.
Don't they say somewhere else in the Bible that "pride cometh before a fall?"

a closer look

With  a lightness and elegance very far from the spirit behind the Tower of Babel, François Morellet redesigned the openings and oculi, with a subtle fragmented geometry that is ever so slightly destablising.
The artist, age 83, found the idea of creating a work for the prestigious Louvre intimidating,
and said he wanted to do something that most visitors would not even notice.

J'ai réussi à faire une chose invisible pour la majorité des gens qui passeront là.
I've managed to do something invisible for the majority of people who pass through.

L'Esprit de l'escalier has its say, with a humble but playful approach and sleek imperfection.
Morellet doesn't miss a step.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

1+1=1(x2) Cézanne

Paul Cezanne
Fleurs et fruits c.1880

Fleurs dans un vase bleu   c.1880

Musée de l'Orangerie

These two paintings are fragments of a still life cut apart at an unknown date probably by
famed gallerist Ambroise Vollard.
Each was acquired separately with an interval of many years by Paul Guillaume and by his wife without the collectors' knowledge of their common origin. 

Twice as nice or sacrilege ?

Monday, June 7, 2010

A shower of leaves

Baked clay tiles
by Karen Ledolley-Smith of Normandy

provide a graceful and unexpected way to add a bit of green to homes inside and out.
KLS also creates leaves in autumnal tones, and other designs of vegetal inspiration including petal patterns.
Time to turn over a new leaf?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Rémy Lemoine


Can you guess what this is? If you said a piece of jewelry, you would not be entirely wrong. It is made of precious materials and it does serve to embellish ...

and domesticate the billows and folds of fabric.

Pygmalion and Galatea by Jean-Léon Gérôme

Like so many of us who are interested in art and decoration, I am fascinated by transformations and the final touches that make a scene come alive. I'm not the only one to believe that the best decorators embrace their work fully with talent and training but also with instinct and heart. One of the best ways to express personality and warmth in a home is the right stuff  - that is, beautiful fabric treated well.

 collection d'embrasses Maison Louvet et Mauny

It amuses me to stop and think of the word used in French for the practical term "tie-backs" -
embrasseEmbrasse expresses it prettily. Like the English word embrace, it means to hold but more commonly today in French, to kiss. Now some curtains are fine left hanging straight, but the fact of draping them, aside from being practical, can often be another way to draw out their beauty - just like a loving embrace? The most traditional way to secure the drape is with a tasselled tie-back of passementerie or a band of the
self-same fabric as the curtains. 

Embrace by Paul Klee

But there are other ways to give a finishing touch which holds the curtain in place
and give it the sweet kiss of style. Sometimes there is nothing like going back to the simplist of shapes to achieve the most luxurious sophistication. 

French designer, Rémy Lemoine has dedicated himself to the creation of what may be the most finely crafted accesories for curtains to be found today.  Doubtless, his years of professional experience in fabric design and decorative installations guided his choice. His embrasses are made in limited series or custom-made in a multitude of materials: raphia, wicker, rye straw, patinated wood, Murano glass, gold or silver-plated wood. The possibilities seem endless and he is constantly exploring further techniques and materials.

photo: Le style et la matière

Lemoine's innovation was to rethink the ordinary tie-back as something precious to coordinate with the
style of curtains, not as an after thought, but with just as much care as you would use to select
a piece of jewelry for a particular outfit. A sculptural finishing touch....

"I want to make very simple things with a great deal of range."

His idea is to give the originality of the materials full play in a simple shape that is easy to use.
Only very high standards of  fabrication can permit such simplicity.

Most of the designer's models are made in France. The raphia models are made in Madagascar and
the glass versions in Murano, Italy. The level of craftsmanship is evident.

Rémy Lemoine teamed up with Lison de Caunes to produce one of my favorite models made of straw marquetry, a decorative art tradition that goes back to the 17th century in France when this ordinary material was used to make intricate designs for boxes and furniture. Lison de Caunes is a Meilleur Ouvrier de France, an honor equivalent to Japan's National Treasure designation. This very particular technique is a family tradition; her grandfather, André Grout, worked in straw marquetry as a decorator in the 1920s.

There are quite a few different shapes already in the range and Rémy Lemoine enjoys
working on individual projects to create custom pieces. 

These more ornamental designs embroidered on velvet are the fruit of a colaboration 
between R. Lemoine and Serge Olivarès.

a metal version of Sogni

Luciole (Firefly) is a playful model that lights up. It's really pretty spectacular!

Poram is a tree form made of wrought iron. The fact that it is free-standing
permits it to fit in a room as a sort of sculpture.

A simple plexiglass version of the signature shape, Songi, contrasts with classic silk damask.

 Contact Rémy Lemoine directly at: