Monday, June 27, 2011

Shopping for Paris

Postcards from Paris


With its new kitchen finally delivered and installed, the Paris apartment was begging to be furnished. What better place to shop than the local antique fairs in Paris? (And who better to go with than Huffington pros, Linda Mohan and Sam Jones? Talk about a collective “great eye”!)

Linda and I were pinching ourselves, wandering up the aisles of the fabulous Chatou market, held twice a year on the outskirts of Paris. The first big purchase was the piece de resistance, the gorgeous gilded mirror, for the mantel in the kitchen.

Mirror for mantel

Here I am proudly posing with it before and after its delivery … before I realized that it didn’t fit!

Paris March 2011 146

But luckily, we found another spot for it, which worked even better: Over the living room sofa.

LR mirror cropped

Then Linda and I spotted this table that had beautiful Louis XV lines and a wonderfully worn French walnut finish. Of course Linda had to test it, to make sure that we could fit our American legs under it, because a low apron is a typical problem with a lot of antique French tables.

Chatou Dining room table

But this one passed the test and fit beautifully in the kitchen, just as planned.

Kitchen looking towards street

I’ve always loved fabric with birds and this little scrap of fabric, in one of the antique stalls, just jumped out at me:


There wasn’t enough to do much, so I walked away from it. And when I felt the pull to go back and get it, someone else had picked it up. That’s when I knew I had to have it! Luckily, my competition was as fickle as I was, and before she even walked away and without knowing what I could use it for, I grabbed it. How fortunate, because it is the perfect show curtain!

Shower curtain

It was love at first site when I saw this beautiful and ornate Napoleon III mirror in the Regence style (note that a real “Regence” Mirror would have been four times the price), and thinking that it would work beautifully in the bathroom, I bought it.

Paris March 2011 363

But in the game of musical mirrors that I’ve already mentioned a few times, this elegant beauty ended up in the front hall, and looks even better on the wallpaper (which was hand-carried in my suitcase from Atlanta, by the way!).

Front hall 1

And speaking of musical mirrors, this one that Sam Jones (see her little reflection in it?) and I found at l’Isle sur la Sorgue in the South of France a few weeks later, that was originally planned for the one of the bedrooms …

Paris March 2011 400

… worked perfectly in the kitchen!


Sam and I fell madly in love with these Louis XVI style chairs that we found in the South of France.

Les Murets Feb 2011 052

But then we found that they looked so beautiful in the South of France (this will be in another blog, our renovation of Les Murets), that we decided they had to stay there.

chair in the south

So we robbed Paris to feed Provence, and found some other Louis chairs for Paris … whose backsides we just had to cover in pink and white silk taffeta … a move that Meg immediately coined as “Sassy” – which was just the look we were looking for!

Kitchen Bosquet

One of these chandeliers would have been good enough, but when I found two identical ones … I couldn’t resist!

My twin chandeliers

And a matching pair of sconces to boot? After months on the hunt, I had found just the right ones.


But when I first hung them, I was worried that my little apartment would look like the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles …


But Sam assured me that with a little artwork and a few accessories, it would go from bling to bling to the perfect zing!

LR mirror cropped

Linda and I found this sweet little chandelier at Chatou.

Sept 20 to 27 2010 114

I didn’t realize until it was hung, just how pretty it was. I just love the Swedish lines and how elegant it looks in our little checked bedroom (there’s a story behind the check that will make it to another blog – check that out!).

View from bedroom 1

When Sam and I found the perfect side tables at the Paris flea market, it never occurred to us they would have to join us at lunch, while we waited for a taxi!

Paris March 2011 236

And it never occurred to our unsuspecting taxi driver that this merchandise would pop out from behind the bushes and need to be squeezed in to the cab!

Paris March 2011 238

But how else could we get it home? And how wonderful they look, once we got them there.

Side table

Shopping with these two gallery gals is entertaining and productive. But I did have to tell Linda to leave her little friend behind!

Sept 20 to 27 2010 094

Sorry Linda, no room at the Inn for him!

What fun.

Do you want to how all these purchases play together in Paris? Stay tuned for more … as the Paris apartment is unveiled … little by little.


AH (with Sam and Linda)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Birth of a Kitchen – in Paris

The Paris Apartment, Part XI


Remember a long, long time ago … one of the Huffingtons mentioned she’d found the perfect apartment in Paris, and she even blogged about it? She called it Heaven in the 7th, and dreamed about spending Christmas there with her family.

View towards fp

That naive but happy Huffington was me. And although the apartment needed a new kitchen, and an extra bathroom, and the bedrooms had to be reconfigured, and all the systems had to be renovated and upgraded, I was assured that it was a quick and easy project and told it would take a “good month,” as in the French, “un bon mois.” It actually went from “un bon mois” to “deux mois” to “quatre mois to “huit mois” to, well, let’s just say I could have birthed this renovation and it would have gone faster!

But never mind. It’s almost done … and we are at the fun part. Now looking back, I’ll share a few stories along the way, to finish the saga of the Paris Apartment.

First off, there was the tough decision about moving the kitchen. The problem was that it was located in the wrong part of the apartment – in the back, miles away from the dining area (as is typical of most Haussmann style apartments). But did it make sense to have a kitchen with a view like this?


When in the front of the building, the view was like this?

Cropped View from the window

Once we made the decision to move it, we realized that the practically brand new kitchen in the apartment could not be reconfigured to work in the new space … a blessing in disguise for me since I really didn’t like the existing kitchen, even if it was brand new. After all, did I really want a kitchen like this?

September 2010 trip 196

When I’d been secretly dreaming of something like this?


Luckily, it turns out that we found someone who needed a new kitchen, and our contractor agreed to take it out for free if he could give it to this elderly person – and keep one of the elements for himself. Huge relief!

I wanted a kitchen that was cozy and elegant, and looked as though it had been in the apartment for years. Ironically, I wanted what we Americans call a French style kitchen. But ironically, French style is actually very hard to find in Paris, where tastes run to super modern, high gloss contemporary.

After looking at hundreds of kitchen designs and despairing that none of them had what I wanted, I stumbled upon a small kitchen design store in the northern part of the Marais, and immediately knew I’d found my match.

May 2010 709

Luckily for me, the owner was in and I quickly explained what I was looking for. I had a rough idea of the dimensions and so he sat down, with pencil in hand, and literally sketched out a drawing that was completely perfect.

sketch of kitchen

We talked a little more, and decided to expand the kitchen to the whole room, and so he added on another section.

HUFF Cuisine Final

I approved it on the spot, and with a brief discussion of finances and a solid handshake, we agreed to have him build the kitchen.

My contractor prepped the room for the kitchen installation, and for an eternity, I waited patiently while the “kitchen” looked like this:

PhotoChantier Mme Huff 002

Meanwhile, the kitchen designer was less than communicative, and many months passed before I heard from him. I persistently phoned or emailed but I kept hearing the same chorus: Soon! It’s almost ready!

And then one day my contractor called and said, “Your kitchen has been delivered!” I was so thrilled at long last that I hopped on the next flight and could barely contain my excitement. But somehow “delivered” hadn’t meant “installed,” and this was what I found when I arrived in Paris that morning!

New Kitchen has arrived

On my next visit, the kitchen hadn’t improved much more, but at least I could see the color – which, by the way, was not what I’d ordered – but I’ve learned to like it just the same!

kitchen in progress

The big excitement was when the mirror was delivered, and I proudly posed in front of it:

Paris March 2011 146

But when it came to hanging it over the mantel, it didn’t fit! I had carefully measured for the mirror's installation but hadn’t taken the kitchen cabinet molding into consideration, and my gorgeous piece de resistance was just a 1/2 inch too wide on either side. But no worries, I had another mirror that I’d bought for one of the bedrooms, and in a game of musical mirrors, we managed to find just the perfect solution:

Mirror over mantel

The kitchen is now almost finished and I am the happiest camper. We didn’t get in for Christmas … or Valentine’s day … or Easter or Mother’s Day. But as spring turns to summer, and the sun sets at 10:38 p.m. in Paris, I’ll forget about the long months, the delays, the overruns and the costly mistakes and will be drinking up the last rays of sunlight, in my kitchen with a view, ever thankful for a dream come true.

HUFF Cuisine Final

Kitchen hood with NF painting

Do you want to see more of the finished apartment?

Stay tuned …



Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Clementine Caper

The Paris Apartment, Part X

This is a sad little story with a happy ending.

Quite a while ago, when the idea of owning a Paris apartment was just the germ of a dream, we received the most gorgeous painting at the gallery by Nancy Franke, called Study of Clementine. As we unveiled it and gasped our collective “Ooooh’s”, I announced confidently to everyone present that if I ever owned a Paris apartment, this would be my very first purchase. I crossed my fingers that it wouldn’t sell, and I pursued my dream of finding the perfect apartment. Meg even went so far as to put a hold sticker on Clementine, during my lengthy negotiation process with Parisian “notaires.”

Clementine a study compressed

Interestingly, Clementine got a lot of attention and everyone loved the painting. It even spurred on several other commissions for Nancy Franke, including this beauty below.

ayres commision final

But nobody bought Clementine, and I felt comfortably assured that at the right time, this beautiful painting would be mine. I calmly and confidently waited for it to be the elegant star of my future Parisian pied-a-terre.

And then a terrible thing happened. The hold sign mysteriously came off, and a lovely client (who had actually eyed the painting for over a year, it turns out), came in and bought it. Clementine was gone and although I put up a good face, I was completely devastated.

It took me weeks to get over the loss and I still think about Clementine, happy that I got to enjoy her for those many months at the gallery. And I know she’s in a happy home. But the funny thing is, I let it happen again!

A few weeks after Clementine left the gallery, Nancy Franke brought in a little study of a French girl called “La Jeune Fille.” We all uttered the same collective gasp and everyone said to me, “OK – here’s your new Clementine.” Although I loved the painting, the apartment wasn’t mine yet, and I didn’t want to jinx it, so I took my chances and waited – just a little too long. And once again there were tears of sorrow and disbelief among my co-workers that I could have let two paintings slip by uncontrollably.

La Jeune Fille

Then something wonderful and unexpected happened. We Huffingtons decided to blog about our favorite little paintings in the gallery, and I selected a small jewel by Nancy Franke, called “In the Spotlight.” I loved it from the minute it arrived at the gallery – partially because of the translucence of the colors and partially because it reminds me of my husband and me, and so I enthusiastically blogged about it.

And then Nancy did something extraordinarily generous and totally unexpected: She gave it to me! This was just around the time that we actually did sign the papers on the apartment. So with infinite gratitude, I accepted the painting and the sign that this little jewel would be the cornerstone of the Paris apartment.

in the spotlight 10 x 10

We love it when art sets the tone for interior design, instead of the other way around. So it was quite natural for this painting, “In the Spotlight” to be the inspiration for the colors in Paris, as you can see in the sneak peek at one of our bedrooms. And it’s no coincidence that the painting actually works beautifully in every single room! As we say at the gallery, when you collect what you love, it all works together.

Bedroom 1

I was a grateful and happy camper and going to leave it at that. And then my daughter, just about to graduate from high school, told me one day that she loved the photo of herself holding a flower that I’ve had on my bedside table. It's a photo that was taken when she was five years old and it's always been a favorite. I've watched my daughter come in to the room, pick up the photo, and look at it wistfully. So something occurred to me: Wouldn’t it be the best graduation present ever to have a this picture painted by Nancy Franke? After losing Clementine and “Jeune Fille,” it was undeniable that I still wanted my own beautiful, elusive Nancy Franke figure. And so I commissioned it. And held my breath ...

Imagine the collective gasp when this gorgeous, thoughtful, luminous and sweet painting arrived at the gallery! I couldn't be happier. My daughter hasn’t seen it yet, and I'm carefully planning the perfect time to give it to her. Of course there may be one little catch …


It’s yours, darling, but can it please go to Paris? You can visit it any time!

Ta ta,


PS Many thanks to Nancy Franke, whose work inspires the collective gasp in us every day! And I'm only kidding (sort of) about stealing the painting back from my daughter.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Cool Drink of Water : Doug Foltz

Sizzle. Sizzle. Melt.

That’s what it feels like in Atlanta and much of the South these days. Anyone who is smart (or has a lake/beach house) has fled the city for a cool respite, and we wish we were with them!

If you can’t get to the water, we’ll help bring the water to you. Some beautiful new works by artist Doug Foltz just arrived at the gallery, and they’re the next best thing to being near the beach. You want to dive right into his cool, refreshing seascapes. I can almost feel a soft breeze as I stand in front of the lovely Haven

Haven(48x72) - Copy

Doug is a master of finishing his compositions just enough to get the wheels turning in your head. He leaves room to breathe, come up with your own stories and assumptions about the scene. He’s interested in showing the relationship between the horizon and the water – in Haven it’s a more equitable relationship, whereas in some of his other pieces, the horizon is more dominant.

The Summons 48x48 (LR)The Summons

Copy (2) of TideLine20x20Tide Line

Doug has incorporated warmer tones and more detailed foregrounds into his newer work, as seen below in Breakfast in Darien, and also to some degree in Haven. The sunny yellow marsh grass contrasts with the ominous sky, yet the feeling evoked is fresh and clean – like the way the air feels right after a good summer storm. I like to think that those storm clouds are moving on out and a lovely, cooler (i.e. less humid) afternoon is about to unfold before me.

BreakfastInDarien(48x48) - Copy

Where are you heading this summer to escape the heat? We always have the air cranked down in the gallery so feel free to come cool your heels here while you’re running errands around town!