Maison Pierre Frey, founded in 1935, is a luxury fabric and wallcovering manufacturer, long known for creating custom textiles and patterns inspired by classical and contemporary art. While in Paris earlier this year, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to tour their Archives – and I jumped at the chance!
Read on for an excerpt of my journal entry from this day, and to see a photo gallery of images from this special visit:
After a quick cab ride to the Pierre Frey Paris headquarters, Emma and I were introduced to Sophie Rouart who was to be our guide. Sophie was the most lovely, knowledgeable and passionate resource on French history and textiles specifically. As it turned out, Sophie is an art historian as well as co-author of a book on Toiles de Jouy. She has managed the archives at Pierre Frey since 2003 in a space that meets museum quality standards. Each historic fabric (some dating back to the 16th century) has been micro-cleaned, inventoried, and then filed in dedicated drawers. Sophie’s narrative during our tour, delivered in excellent English, was incredibly interesting and dovetailed beautifully with my knowledge of French antiques. She lovingly handled each historic piece with gloves and showed me how these relics have inspired their most current collections. Often, the company looks to these historic pieces for pattern and texture and then updates or changes the colorway. Sophie also demonstrated how the hand blocking techniques were performed and pointed out the resulting imperfections. Today, when copying these old hand blocked patterns, the company intentionally prints these imperfections to give authenticity to the new fabric. It was then time for even more “show and tell” with antique garments constructed from Pierre Frey fabrics, old design mood boards, and even a 3D paper room model. Our time with Sophie passed much too quickly but I will never forget her kindness, the gorgeous and colorful fabrics, and Pierre Frey’s ability to partner with designers to reproduce any of their archived fabrics in ANY color. What a gift!
It is no secret that I have a weakness for antiques. In fact, the majority of my design clients seek me out because I love to mix old and new. While many people appreciate this curated look, the actual execution can be tricky and does take some mastery. I am often asked, “how do I use antiques in my home without it feeling like a museum?” or “which antiques are still in and which should be parted with?”. I have never been a fan of matchy-matchy modern interiors or stuffy antique-ridden spaces, but instead opt for a well thought-out and blended approach. I have always had an appreciation for many different time periods and styles, and believe a piece can be inspiring and beautiful regardless of its provenance.
Successful spaces are all about contrast. Bringing in an antique with warm, rich patina or a chipped, painted finish instantly creates a layered feeling. This communicates that the furnishings and details have been collected over time, and not just purchased all at once. A quote by Stephen Covey that I whole-heartedly echo states, “strength lies in differences, not in similarities.” Simplicity and complexity need each other to fully appreciate both; new and old help each other to shine in interiors.
I, like many of my clients, live for that wonderfully collected, unique mix! While striking a perfect balance is often a challenge, I strive to create juxtaposition, tension, and interest in all of my design projects. Read on to see how I embrace opposites, and why I think mixing old and new is a match made in heaven!
Contrast is Key: Place your treasured vintage collection on display near your favorite contemporary art piece, or showcase a contemporary lamp on an antique chest. Keeping these contrasting items in a few concentrated areas of the home will ensure they look sophisticated and not cluttered. In view, these pieces can play off each other, telling a story in your space – and not to mention are a striking conversation piece.
Thoughtful Updates: I am always going for a look that feels considered – not chaotic. One of my favorite ways to mix old and new is to reupholster an antique furniture piece in a more contemporary fabric. You might also consider simply adding a vintage light fixture or mirror to a more contemporary vignette. It’s amazing how adding just one antique can instantly change the energy in a room, and help the more current pieces to shine.
Cohesion through Unity: Grouping decorative objects, old and new, by a shared quality is a helpful tactic. For instance, creating a vignette of accessories in a cohesive color palette will unify the items, and be more visually pleasing. This juxtaposition will bring about an element of the unexpected, but with the unifying quality this won’t feel mishmashed or jarring.
I think it is so important to surround yourself with things you love. After all, our homes are where we find comfort and recharge. A well orchestrated “mix” can spark inspiration, joy, and energy. Both fashionable and fresh, collected and curated – the mixing of old and new will always be the hallmark of my design style. Good, versatile design is happily at home among both contemporary and antiquity.
While life is certainly looking different these days, I have truly enjoyed the opportunity to spend more time in my own home and focus on what matters most. What does home really mean? For me, it is a place of safety, refuge, and family. I find rest, joy, and comfort there. But over time, doesn’t everything, even our safe haven, become cluttered and affected by the distractions and busyness of life? I have always been one to adhere to a “Spring Cleaning” of sorts, but now more than ever I am inclined to get my “nest” clean and tidy to counteract the chaos surrounding us. While there is much work to be done, it’s nothing a little elbow grease and dedicated attention cannot handle. The season of fresh, new beginnings starts now!
There are many practical and psychological reasons to give your home some much needed love, so “Spring into Clean” and reap the benefits:
- Say Goodbye to Winter: It’s official – winter blues be gone, spring is upon us! With this new season always comes more activity, both inside and outside of the home. For that reason, it’s time to dust off the furniture, deep clean, scrub and organize, declutter your surfaces, open up the windows, and give your home a breath of fresh air! Purging your home of these toxins gives your mind a sense of renewal as well. You’ll reap the many psychological benefits of the annual rhythm of Spring Cleaning. Productivity, peace of mind, and overall well-being will likely be impacted for the better.
- Take Control: While there is so much going on right now that is totally out of our control, it is important to focus on things we can manage, like our homes! We can absolutely take the reins of getting our houses in order. Environment is always incredibly important, but especially so right now when we’re spending so much of our time in the same place. Reduce stress in your surroundings, and get a boost of energy as well. Another huge plus? It is free. Of course, enlist professionals (or your family) to help if need be; but you would be hard-pressed to find a more helpful and impactful active step to take, at potentially zero cost! A win-win.
- Interior Refresh: Perhaps you’ve been contemplating some small home updates, or even a total home makeover with professional design help. In either case, I recommend a major decluttering effort to give yourself a blank slate. It is important to first subtract before adding anything new. The best way to set the stage for an upcoming interior refresh is to honestly and thoroughly edit the old. Let the excitement of what’s to come motivate you to complete this often dreaded task. While we have this rare opportunity, let’s not miss this important first step of the design process and take advantage of our time at home!
I know as well as anyone, working on your home is a process. So much intention and care must be applied to add layers of character, personality, and organization. It can be overwhelming to even think about tackling Spring Cleaning, but perhaps these benefits will help encourage you to just start somewhere. Especially now, it is more than just a heavy duty clean – this can be a way to feel grateful for what we have, cherish those things which are important to us, and inspire a sense of rebirth. Perhaps a fresh start this Spring is just what we all need!
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I thought it time to address my love affair with Louis Philippe. Who is Louis Philippe, and how did his name become a part of my daily vocabulary? In order to answer these questions and more, I will have to give you a brief French history lesson – so sit back and relax!
For nearly two centuries, the House of Bourbon dominated the courts of France, as well as its trends, fashion, and décor. The “Fab Four”, Louis XIII, Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI, had major influence on the arts and design, not only in France but in all of Europe. Each King Louis had his own personality, and thus his own signature style that defined his rule and made its mark on the world. With the execution of Louis XVI and the overthrow of Charles X, Louis Philippe became king. His monarchy was a new type of monarchy based on the support of the people and he became known as the “Citizen’s King”.
King Louis Philippe lived a modest lifestyle, doing away with most of the pomp and excess of the past French monarchies. He tried to please everyone, and famously in doing so, pleased no one. He was the last French ruler to ever hold the title of ‘King of France,’ and ended up being exiled to England.
The Louis Philippe style emerged during its namesake’s reign (1830-1848) in an effort to visually communicate his sensitivity to the French bourgeoisie. Comfort and functionality became the primary consideration with a simple, yet elegant aesthetic. My favorite Louis Philippe pieces are hands-down commodes and mirrors. I adore these pieces because of their decorative caliber, versatility, and ability to blend with more transitional interiors; we always have these beauties in stock at our retail showroom, and on our online platforms. I’ve highlighted these two treasures below, along with their hallmarks:
– The Louis Philippe Commode – If you forced me to pick, I’d say this is my absolute favorite antique. It is typically solid and sturdy with little adornment. It has rounded lines with a marble top. Case pieces like this usually feature some type of “soft curve” to lend softness to the otherwise straight lines that were common of this period. The marble is usually gray, black, or white with some type of decorative profile. The front veneer usually features a beautiful dark wood like walnut, mahogany, or rosewood. These seamlessly incorporate into more transitional interiors.
– The Louis Philippe Mirror – Like the commode, it is simple in form. It is typically rectangular with curved top corners and squared bottom corners. The classic finish is gold or silver leaf. The frames usually have some type of vine, flower, or geometric motif for decoration. They strike the perfect balance of structural and soft, with elegance and character.
While King Louis Philippe might not have pleased his subjects during reign, aesthetically he is a man after my own heart. I adore the simple sophistication of his namesake pieces, and my heart skips a beat when I spy one on my antiquing adventures. Please consider one of these pieces for your own home to add a bit of je ne sais quoi!
I have always considered myself a bit of a Francophile; I love champagne, wine, good cheese, and the French philosophies on many things. I source materials from French manufacturers, and have collected French antiques for more than thirty years. With my upcoming buying trip to Paris in March, I am dreaming about all things French.
I admire the French take on both style and life. Three beliefs come to mind that express my shared sentiments with the French, and these reflect the heart of my own design aesthetic:
- “Faites Simple” The French know that generally less is more, and above all quality and pedigree is everything. I try to similarly keep it simple when purchasing furniture and decorative items for my business and home. This mentality means true value is top priority. For example, a good statement chair can double as a decorative work of art and a functional piece of seating. One quality piece can instantly elevate the status of everything else in the room.
- “Peu a Peu” Rome wasn’t built in a day, but rather little by little. This French saying coincides with what I tell my design clients – great interiors simply take time to pull together. I believe it truly takes the investment of time to get to know a client’s lifestyle and vision. I also want to create spaces that feel collected over time, and not purchased off a showroom floor. These phases of the process and the development of a project are critical, and all about gradual progress. Good things take time, great things take even more time!
- “De Saison” From time to time it is fun to indulge in the trends of the season, but never at the expense of the classics. The French have an innate understanding that trends are temporary and will date a space quickly, as most only last a couple of years. I encourage my clients to keep trends to accessories; these items are much easier and less expensive to replace down the road than the key pieces and furnishings of your home. These philosophies underscore why French interiors exude a certain “je ne sais quoi” – that unspoken, special touch I strive to incorporate into every piece I purchase and project I design. This makes for a timeless, collected, and oh so beautiful outcome.
And one last confession… I married my favorite French antique (well, not really an antique) two years ago – David Shannon LeRoy, formerly “LeRoi”.
Stay tuned as next month I will comment on my affair with Louis Philippe!