Friday, August 26, 2011

Before and After, Part II – The Paris Apartment


It’s been a fun little blogging journey, but as much as I’ve loved sharing the ups and downs of a Parisian renovation, and as much as I’ve appreciated your kind and encouraging comments along the way, the truth is that the Paris apartment is now done.   Finished.  Fini.  And so today, after three years of dreaming the dream, and a full year of long distance renovations,  I am happy to unveil the last of the  before and afters, and a little sad, because I don’t want it to end!   Thank you for coming along for the ride, and for all your kind support along the way.7

As I mentioned, when we first saw the apartment there were three American students living there.  Luckily, the bones of the apartment were good … but everything else needed a change.  The front hall was the easiest, and all we did was add a little ceiling molding and some wall paper which was hand carried in a ubiquitous big bag from Atlanta, that, thank goodness, always eluded the customs agents at CDG!


The living room bones were all good too, and we made very few structural changes here.  Just a little decorating ….


… and some window dressing made a big difference.Copy of a

Ikea was traded in for some divine antiques from the Paris flea markets.

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Our new curtains in the living room were actually the same ones I have in Atlanta, that have followed me from house to house.  They are Pottery Barn silk in clay … and we just doubled the width and double lined them to make them fuller.  Again, merci to the big suitcase!


Nepo painting late afternoon


Here is a view of the living room looking in to what became the kitchen. 

September 2010 trip 027


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When we first visited the apartment, one of the front rooms was used as a bedroom for the three American students. 


When her stuff was moved out, I almost wanted to keep it empty and open!

DR window

But this became the perfect room for the kitchen.  



Sept 2010 027



Originally we were going to mirror the doors between the living room and the kitchen/dining room.  It was a huge expense and one that Sam Jones, my partner extraordinaire in this renovation, nixed almost immediately.  It wasn’t the first or last time I thanked her for saving me a boat load of money!


 Cropped doors

I love glass doors, and I’m so happy we kept them the way they were.


This lone little fireplace became the cornerstone of the new kitchen.

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And of course here are the infamous chairs with the pink check silk backs, for which Sam Jones practically mugged a pregnant woman in the remnants aisle of Lewis and Sherron fabric store (see our pretty in pink blog).



We were pretty excited that some shots from the kitchen were featured in one of our favorite blogs, Cote de Texas.  

Kitchen niche

But I was a little surprised when I read the readers’ comments about our sink.  After all, the sink seems perfectly adequate to me.  What was the big deal, I wondered.    And then I looked at the picture, and sure enough, the sink looks minute! The last time I was there, I measured it to see if the comments were justified.  The truth is that the photo makes it look smaller -- just as the photo makes some rooms look larger!  The sink is not huge …. but it’s very deep and so it doesn’t feel small.  And I guess that’s just one more way the Europeans make use of tighter spaces.

Hotte with new art color corrected

Here’s the view from the kitchen in to the living room, with our little paint samples dappled on the wall.

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Sam and I debated long and hard about putting a rug in to the living room.  Luckily for us, nobody lives underneath us, so that is one more reason why we didn’t have to.  And as I’ve said from the beginning, I am in love with the Pointe de Hongrie parquet floors, and it just seemed a pity to cover the up.


We’ve already covered one bathroom renovation in the previous before-and-after blog.    We really hesitated about renovating this one because it had just been done by the previous owners.  I actually like the tile … in small doses.  But this was overkill and there was no way of salvaging some of it without looking like it was half done.

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So we kept the same structure, and just tiled right over it.


Even without my morning coffee, this bathroom had a little too much energy for me!

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We’re happy we went ahead with the renovation, but I did have a tough time giving up the cute little sink above!

Shower room with towel racks

Finally, some discerning readers have noticed that we replaced a pillow in some of our pictures:

pillow without monogram

With a monogrammed pillow:

pillow with monogram

And they asked us the significance of the B de V monogram in such a prominent place.


I’m happy to say that when we are not using the apartment, we have entrusted it to the care of an outstanding rental company in Paris called Paris Perfect.  We have checked out Paris Perfect’s apartments first hand on several occasions, and loved every experience.  So we were delighted when they whole heartedly embraced our apartment with the wonderful name, Beaumes de Venise.  And I was so thrilled because it makes for such a nice monogram.  (There is a little fun French snobbery attached to any monogram that contains the word “de” – known in French as a particule, and a way of setting apart the true aristocrats from the riff raff!  Of course ours is purely made up, which makes it even more fun.)

So if you’d like to continue the little journey, and visit the rest of our apartment online, you will find it listed under Beaumes de Venise in the beautiful Paris Perfect website.

And while we may bid adieu to the Paris apartment series, we are not shutting any doors to antiques, fine furnishings and all the fun stuff we were exposed to during this Parisian journey.  In fact if anything, we are busier than ever with doors opening very soon!  We’ll give you a little holiday break and then tell you where these doors are leading us to, right after Labor day.

Ta ta,


Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Ins and Outs of Commissioning a Painting

Lately the phone has been ringing off the hook with clients asking for paintings that they can specifically commission with our artists.

We’re not sure what’s driving this mini gallery phenomenon but we’re always happy to accommodate when we can. Actually, commissions can be very tricky and we walk a little delicately around them. Usually the client has a very definitive idea of what they want. Sometimes they want another version of a painting that the artist has already done. Often they are pulling from their own memories, experiences or even design needs.

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Nancy Franke has painted the terrace at Ann’s Provence home, Les Murets, a couple times for clients who have been there and who want to capture the memory on canvas.

Either way, we like to gently caution that art is a subjective and emotional thing and that the artist needs to be allowed to channel his or her own inspiration. We like to point out that artists generally don’t love recreating a painting they’ve already done so, nine times out of ten, the commission will be its own very individualistic painting.

The process itself can be time-consuming with client-artist meetings, exchanges of photographs and then, finally, the long-awaited final images followed by the unveiling of the real thing.

But as always, our artists have been coming through with flying colors. We recently coordinated a wonderful commission by Dawne Raulet for some clients who had a very clear idea of what they wanted. Dawne is known for her mixed media-photo-encaustic paintings and our clients had fallen in love with a small painting of hers of a beautifully lush magnolia.

Our clients fell in love with Dawne Raulet’s Magnolia, but it was much too small for their space.

The clients had a big wall to fill and they came to us with the very creative approach of painting four separate magnolias, each in a different stage of bloom. We all thought the idea was brilliant and this is what Dawne created for them:

Kimmet commission finalOur clients, whom we absolutely adore, have promised to have us over soon to see these four paintings hung in all their glory in their new home. We can’t wait.

Doug Foltz is working on a commission right now for a couple who love his work. They’ve asked him to recreate a painting that is similar to this one – but they want him to number the dingys with years that their children were born. We love that very personal touch.

Foltz Dinghy

Doug Foltz’s Maine Dingys: the inspiration for a commission he’s painting right now. (The clients actually loved this painting, but Doug’s lovely wife refused to sell it!)

A designer client of ours fell in love with the work of Bonnie Beauchamp Cooke. Bonnie’s well-known for her gorgeously textured paintings of horses and she recently started creating lovely, elongated and sexy figures – all dripping with her layers and layers of medium. The client was working with some space constraints so Bonnie graciously came to the rescue with these three beauties:

Lady 3

Lady 2

Lady 3

And back to Nancy Franke, who is constantly being approached for commissions, especially of children. Nancy has a wonderful impressionistic approach to her portraits so they end being light, loose and full of the subject’s essence.

ayres commision final

This lovely oil on linen commission is of the client’s teenage daughter.

And, finally, check out this absolutely perfect little painting that Nancy did for our Madame, Ann. This one had us all practically in tears:

Christie0001 The photograph that Nancy worked from….


…and the finished painting.

Nothing makes us happier than seeing a look of pure joy and excitement on a client’s face when “their” painting is unveiled for the first time – it’s their leap of faith with the artist (and us) that makes this the best job in the world.

Ta Ta…

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Paris Apartment: La Vie en Rose


… and the pursuit of the perfect pink.

Kitchen Bosquet

We were surprised and delighted that our favorite blog, Cote de Texas, featured the Paris Apartment Kitchen in a recent series on kitchen redos. And we were tickled pink with how many people commented on the pink chairs! Sure enough, that touch of pink is our favorite little exclamation point in the apartment. But it came about in a somewhat circuitous manner, with the help of many of our gallerinas. Here’s the story of pink:

Pink painting

As art gallery owners, it’s perhaps not unexpected that many of our interior decorating decisions first start with the art. It so happens that back in October, Linda and I, having one of the most fun flea marketing days of our lives (and no, this one didn’t involve bumping in to Catherine Deneuve …), found some paintings that we fell in love with and each had to have. The one I selected, whose provenance is unknown, jumped out at me so fast that I knew it belonged in the Paris apartment, and I knew it would have a significant role. I had it framed by our favorite Atlanta framer and for six months, it sat in a plastic bag in the bottom of a closet while I waited for the apartment to be finished, for the dust to settle and for its final destiny to be revealed.

Meanwhile, on another wonderful flea market excursion, this time in the South of France, I found six exquisite chairs that I just had to have. I loved the simple Louis XVI lines, the sturdiness of the frame, the patina of the wood and especially, the nubbly linen upholstery. They were a little pricey but worth it, and I decided to plan the Paris apartment around them.

Les Murets Feb 2011 053

I was very excited about the purchase and couldn’t wait to show them to Sam when she accompanied me on a trip to Les Murets, where I had decided to store the chairs until the apartment was ready.

And then the inevitable happened. We fell in love with the chairs all over again, but this time decided they had to stay at Les Murets, instead of Paris. We divided them up and spread them around the house, and no matter where we put them, they looked perfect:

Either as a desk chair in the office …

Close up of desk

As an occasional chair in a bedroom:

Bedroom upstairs single room cropped

As a pair, flanking a console or in a corner of the living room.

Living room corner

Who knew I needed so many chairs? (I didn’t!) But that left me scrambling to find some similar chairs for Paris, with the knowledge that, having already scoured all the antique markets, I’d have very little choice. In a leap of faith, I decided to order six chairs sight unseen, off of a prominent French website. I crossed my fingers and hoped they would be decent, especially since returning furniture in France is no easy feat.

When the chairs finally arrived, I was surprisingly pleased with the shape and structure and the pretty muted color, called “marron glace,” which means iced chestnut.


But when I grouped them around the kitchen table, and filled in around them with furniture and accessories in my favorite shades of grey, gold, taupe and beige, the room went flat. I knew that a pop of color was missing, but I couldn’t figure out which color. And of course, that is when art (and Sam!) came to the rescue.


The answer jumped out at me right from the canvas of that magical painting: it had to be pink! I went to bed that night dreaming of pink and woke up early to visit every flea market and fabric store I could find, for the right shade of pink. Have you ever tried to buy pink? It is a very tough color! I spent two days desperately scouring the French countryside only to come up with fuchsia, raspberry, melon, cranberry, and just about every fruit color on the planet but no perfect peony pink. I even called a Parisian antique store where I’d remembered seeing a gorgeous swath of antique pink silk fabric draped over a curtain rod in the back room, to ask if it was still available, to which the woman replied, “Of course not! It’s not for sale. It’s an original Louis XVI fabric.” My bad. It’s just that I thought if it was in a store, it might actually be for sale …

And then Sam came to the rescue. Three thousand miles away, she knew exactly what I was looking for, and found it buried in the sale rack of the silk remnants in a fancy Atlanta fabric store. When she sent me the picture of the pink and cream checked silk taffeta, I started jumping up and down. Although she apologized for the quality of the picture, I instantly remembered this fabric from having seen it years ago and wishing at the time that I had a room for it. It was 2 a.m. her time, but I frantically starting texting her: This is it! Buy it! Go get it! Break in! I’ll bail you out of jail!! Please don’t come without it!!

Pink swatch

As luck would have it, she returned to the fabric store in the morning (having slept very little, since I’d kept her up with my frantic texting) and wouldn’t you know that out of the thousands of one-of-a-kind remnants in the store, a very pregnant woman was holding that particular swath, probably trying to figure out if it was enough to do her nursery. Sam kept her cool, walked around a little, and when the woman put the fabric down (probably just for a second to go get a measuring tape), Sam grabbed it and ran upstairs to pay for it. She didn’t check her bag on the plane and arrived safely, with fabric, the very next day in Paris. And that’s when our fun really began!


With the help of a thin backed spoon, Sam carefully lined the backs of the chairs in the silk taffeta and we’ve been holding our breaths ever since to make sure that it stays. (If not, there is a very nice upholsterer down the street in Paris, who assures me that for $400 per chair, he will back it properly! Ouch.)


With just a little touch of it, only on the backs of chairs (oh, and with a few peonies thrown in too), the pink has made all the difference in the kitchen, which instantly went from blah to ta dah! Just to add another touch of it in the living room we found a little lumbar pillow for the sofa.


We bought it in Paris but brought it back to Atlanta for the monogram, whose initials will be explained in the next (and final) blog on the Paris apartment.


And then of course the final piece de resistance, is the touch of pink in the geraniums on the window boxes!


This blog is dedicated to Linda, who helped me find the fabulous first painting that set the tone for the pink; to Sam, who knew how to make it all come together, and who climbed mountains and crossed oceans to deliver the perfect pink; and to Meg, whose unerring support through this whole process has been so generous and fun, and who coined the perfect phrase for the pink chairs when she responded to my fit of insecurity and wrote, “… Love em! They’re so sassy!”

Merci mesdames. Ma vie est en rose, thanks to you.

Ta ta,


PS We’ll be issuing the final before-and-after blog on the Paris apartment next week, and with that, a little news of our own. Don’t go away!