Paris on my mind by Jennifer Gyr - Day 6

By Jennifer Gyr

I fell in love with Paris when as a teenager I was watching Audrey Hepburn swan through the ville lumière in the movie “Funny Face”.  Over the years I have been so lucky to make many trips to this enchanted city with friends and family.  My trip in late February was the first time I was in Paris by myself with my limited French vocabulary of “Bonjour”, “Merci” and “Au Revoir” (which even then I would speak in a whisper so that my Southern accent wouldn’t decimate the beauty of the language).

What a magical week it would be. As Audrey said so perfectly, “Paris is always a good idea”!

A beautiful morning at the Musée Jacquemart-André

I start my day off by visiting one of my favorite small museums – the Musée Jacquemart-André. There is a plethora of incredible house museums, museums devoted to an individual artist or a particular period, or style, and I always try to go to one or two of them whenever I am in Paris. I always enjoy my visit to the Jacquemart-André, which is located in the 8th arrondissement on Boulevard Haussmann. The museum was created in the private home of Edouard André and Nélie Jacquemart. It is located in an opulent Belle Epoque mansion that is worth a visit on its own, as it offers a chance to discover not only masterpieces of art but also the inside of one of the finest mansions of the 19th century. Edouard André was from a wealthy French banking family and he started collecting art at a young age. He was such a well-known collector that Napoleon III personally asked him to oversee the fine arts exhibit of the 1867 Exposition Universelle. In 1869, Edouard started building his personal mansion and it took 7 years to make. The house caused a sensation when it was finished as it was built on the newly-constructed Boulevard Haussmann, one of Paris’ grand boulevards. In 1872, he hired the artist Nélie Jacquemart to paint his portrait. In a lovely twist of fate, they fell in love, got married and traveled around the world creating one of the greatest private art collections.

Musée Jacquemart-André

I spent the morning wandering through the salons, their private quarters and through the art galleries. I then took some time relaxing in their dining room, which is now a tearoom, and enjoyed a cup of coffee while looking out onto the courtyard and the garden. I started musing about the grand parties that took place here. Apparently, the Picture Gallery, the Grand Salon and the Music Room can be opened up into one large ballroom by removing the walls using a complex hydraulic system. They really thought this out when designing the mansion! They could then host lavish parties filled with 1,000 guests. Oh, how I would love to have been a guest at such an affair. I then visited the Winter Garden with its exotic plant collection and the most spectacular double helix staircase above which two large Venetian frescoes by Tiepolo, magnificently hung. This is a more intimate museum but it is packed with masterpieces. From Italian Renaissance art to still-lifes and landscapes by great artists such as Chardin, Boucher, Canaletto, Botticelli, Rembrandt and Frans Hals. There is also furniture, porcelain, sculptures, tapestries and frescoes. It reminds me a lot of one of my favorite museums in NYC, The Frick Collection. Sadly, Edouard died suddenly at age sixty. Nélie continued collecting and per her wishes, after her death in 1912, the private mansion became a museum open to the public and was inaugurated by the President of France in 1913. After a restorative morning, I then slipped out into the midday sun and headed to meet a friend for lunch.

A lunch date at Le Grand Véfour

Le Grand Véfour was the first grand restaurant in Paris. It opened in 1784, even before the revolution, and is nestled in the corner of the arcades of the Palais-Royal. For over 200 years it has attracted all the big names in French politics and culture, such as Victor Hugo, Colette and Jean Cocteau. In fact, rumor has it that Napoléon proposed to Joséphine while dining here. Most of the tables have brass plaques with the name of a famous diner. My friend and I were seated at Balzac’s table. The classic French dishes have such delicate flavors and are created by the star chef Guy Martin but the thing I remember most vividly is the heavenly strawberry and rhubarb dessert. With its early 19th century neoclassical interiors, Le Grand Véfour truly is one of the most beautiful restaurants in Paris. Intricately etched mirrors fill the space and with the gilded décor and the delicate hand-painted panels, the room glistens when the sunlight pours in and reflects all around us.

After saying adieu to my friend, I walk around the Palais-Royal. I always enjoy walking through the arcades with the endless rows of columns. At any time of day, the light streams between the columns and creates the most striking but fleeting patterns that dance at your footsteps. I pass by several shops along the way, including Didier Ludot, the famous vintage haute couture clothing store, as he always has a fashionable window display. I then grab a cup of coffee (yes, I love coffee) at Café Kitsuné and sit out in the garden of the Palais to have a quiet moment before my packed afternoon filled with lots of walking and window shopping and the occasional purchase.

“At any time of day, the light streams between the columns and creates the most striking but fleeting patterns that dance at your footsteps.”

A fun afternoon shopping

I then proceed to two of my favorite places I always visit when I am in Paris: Astier de Villatte (173 rue Saint-Honoré in the 1st), is like a cabinet of curiosities with their sought-after line of beautiful white ceramic pieces. They are a contemporary ceramics company but some of their shapes date from the 18th century. It is a wonderful combination of functionality and ancient beauty. Each piece is made by hand in their workshop in Paris. Even though the circles on a cup might not be perfect and can be a bit out of proportion, this imperfection shows that you will never get two pieces that are the same and each is unique in itself. Their signature white glaze has a slightly darker tone and you can see bits of the clay peeking through. There is a certain charm to their pieces as if they were passed down to you from your quirky but elegant great-aunt or you would find them in a still-life painting. The owners wanted their ceramics to be made in Paris as the city is a constant source of inspiration. They believe that a part of Paris is a dream and can be like a film or theater set and they are creating these fantasy pieces for these sets. In the shop, one can feel the remnants of the past as it is housed in an 18th century silversmithy where, apparently, Napoléon once visited (I seem to be following in his footsteps today).

After spending 20 minutes picking out a few pieces to buy (again, no piece is alike so you really take time thinking about which coffee cup or egg cup to buy as they are all slightly different), I walk down a short hallway and enter a back room. It feels like a secret chamber because the white ceramic pieces now burst with color with a collection done by the American découpage artist John Derian. Flowers, animals, seashells – the natural world is seen on plates, cups and vases. I am so happy to see this collaboration as John Derian has a shop in NYC that I visit as often as I can. His place is a destination for bohemian-chic shopping especially at Christmastime with hundreds of ornaments filling the store. It happens to be located a block away from our Par Excellence showroom at 6 East 2nd Street. And lucky for us New Yorkers, at this shop he sells pieces from Astier de Villatte (both his collection and the white ceramic pieces).

I then walk two blocks to visit Maison Sarah Lavoine at 9 rue Saint-Roch. Sarah is an interior designer and several years ago she opened this shop to sell items that are made in France by quality craftsmen. From furniture, tableware, stationery, decorative objects to even clothes I always find something to take home. The shop itself feels like walking into your cool French friend’s apartment with everything so perfectly arranged. Sarah has a line of tableware, stationery and fabrics with a bold sense of color combinations that I love (think teal with black). These bold color combos make you feel like you are spending summer eating outside in the countryside or by the sea.

Tableware at Maison Sarah Lavoine

I then head a block over to the Tuileries and find a park bench to sit and rest before heading back to the Left Bank. I love the act of people watching in Paris. Either sitting in one of the many beautiful gardens dotting the city or whiling away time sitting outside a café somehow time seems to stand still and you get lost in your thoughts as you watch the flâneurs stroll past. Getting my second wind of the day, I cross the Seine and head back into the 7th. I am walking down rue de Varenne and notice a door to a building is open and I happen to glance in. It revealed the most beautiful entry way with a purple door (my favorite) that led to a courtyard surrounded by a group of lovely buildings. I love these enchanting surprises when you find something wonderful hidden behind a door. I continue on down the street and then I do a double take and have to stop. What I thought was a jewelry store was in fact a chocolate shop. Jacques Genin (27 rue de Varenne) is famous for its caramels, pâte de fruits and exquisite chocolates and with its pristine futuristic laboratory-like shop it makes one stop and take notice.

Looking through the window at Jacques Genin chocolate shop

Unfortunately, I was running a bit late and couldn’t pop inside for a taste as I had something more urgent to buy – shoes! My chic French friend recommended Chatelles at 94 rue du Bac. It is a Parisian brand of slippers (flats, loafers, however you want to call them. I call them comfortable) that you can customize with color and fabric of the shoe to the tassels, initials and pompoms to accessorize the shoe to make it unique and your own. Inspired by English history, designed in Paris and made by hand using the best Italian leather in a workshop in Portugal. To add something extra secret, a Victor Hugo quote is engraved on the insole, “I cannot live…Far away from you any longer”. I can’t live without these shoes as they get me comfortably around the big cities. The hard part was what to pick – camo fabric or black leather? Tassel or initial? Hmmm….

A selection of shoes at Chatelles

A dinner filled with the most amazing desserts

After dropping off a few small shopping parcels at my hotel, I jump in an Uber to meet a friend for dinner at La Poule au Pot (9 rue Vauvilliers, 1st arr.). What a treat I was in for. The small restaurant has a 1950s throwback feel with floral wallpaper, lace curtains and pink tablecloths. But don’t let that fool you as it turns out to be more like a “Haute Bistro”. The restaurant has been around for over 80 years but it was recently re-imagined by the new chef, Jean-Francois Piège. He is another star chef who used to be the head chef at the restaurant at the Hôtel de Crillon and now owns several restaurants around the city. This one is his favorite and he happened to be there that night cooking up a feast. It is traditional French cuisine but done in an old school way. All of the French classics were on the menu. I even had an omelet for dinner. Nothing beats a French omelet. Throughout our meal I kept seeing the waitress walking around holding a large glass baking dish and she would scoop out the most amazing looking dessert periodically to guests who all gleefully accepted. I couldn’t wait to try it but when the dessert menu arrived, I could not find it. I asked about it and as it turns out, it is their famous crème caramel that comes with your coffee order. Needless to say, I had two coffees that night. Absolutely delicious! It is a profoundly French restaurant full of Parisians tightly packed elbow to elbow but enjoying every moment of being there in the most convivial atmosphere. To top it off, I was fan geeking all night long as the French actor, Vincent Lindon, was sitting with a group of friends a few tables away. Oh, and they were playing 70s and 80s pop music. I was hooked.

After leaving the restaurant we decided to head to Le Meurice Hôtel for a night cap but I had ulterior motives as I wanted to try a special dessert (don’t judge – I am in France). Cédric Grolet is a genius pastry chef (he was named the World’s Best Pastry Chef in 2018). His desserts are something you have to see to believe. We settle into the leather chairs at the bar and I immediately order the lime dessert. When it arrived, I couldn’t believe my eyes, there was a lime in front of me, or was there? I used my spoon to break it in half, and deliciousness oozed out. Cédric reconstructed the lime out of the essence of the fruit. He is known for these legendary trompe-l’oeil sculpted fruit. He has 1.6 million followers on Instagram so that should give you a hint on how masterful his work is. The taste is pure essence. As Cedric so aptly says, “Beauty brings them in, but taste brings them back”. I will definitely be back!

As I say goodnight to my friend and wait for my Uber to arrive, I notice the shimmering lights all around me as I look into the window of the Le Meurice and then across the street to the Tuileries. It reminds me of my visit with Etienne yesterday at the Ozone atelier. Paris is always so beautifully lit as if a theatrical lighting expert worked his magic.

To be continued … à suivre….et à bientôt!

 

📸  by Jennifer Gyr

 

Jennifer Gyr is a Creative Consultant at Par Excellence. After obtaining a degree in Art History and Photography, she was a Helena Rubenstein Intern at MoMA in NYC and she completed the “Works of Art” course at Sotheby’s in London. She then worked for several years at the photography gallery Hamiltons Gallery in London and at Hyperion Press and Keith de Lellis Gallery in NYC. She was a private photography dealer for many years and served as an archivist and curator of a private photography collection in NYC. She also archived the estate of the photographer Horst P. Horst. She has curated several exhibitions and consulted on numerous photo books and exhibitions including with The National Portrait Gallery in London. When not seeking her next travel inspiration she lives in Brooklyn with her Swiss husband.

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Paris on my mind by Jennifer Gyr - Day 5

By Jennifer Gyr

I fell in love with Paris when as a teenager I was watching Audrey Hepburn swan through the ville lumière in the movie “Funny Face”.  Over the years I have been so lucky to make many trips to this enchanted city with friends and family.  My trip in late February was the first time I was in Paris by myself with my limited French vocabulary of “Bonjour”, “Merci” and “Au Revoir” (which even then I would speak in a whisper so that my Southern accent wouldn’t decimate the beauty of the language).

What a magical week it would be. As Audrey said so perfectly, “Paris is always a good idea”!

A visit to Ozone’s workshop:

It is a rainy morning and as my Uber slowly winds its way through the clogged streets of the morning rush hour, I make my way to the Marais. I was so looking forward to meeting Etienne Gounot and his team at Ozone, a contemporary lighting design company. As I walked through the narrow entryway that led me to an interior courtyard, I could see the workshop nestled in the back. I was warmly greeted by Etienne and he immediately offered me a homemade canelé that was made for a colleague’s birthday that day. Dessert at 9:30 am. I love France! We settled into a corner table and for the next hour we poured through their latest catalog. I was entranced by all of the beautiful lighting designs they made over the years. Etienne and his co-founder, Eric Jähnke, were industrial engineers and met while working together. A friendship quickly formed over their love of lighting design and in 2000 they created Ozone. They work closely with architects, interior designers and private clients to create the perfect lighting for each project. They combine traditional French high-end craftsmanship with the latest in LED technology. Their designs range from classic to modernist and minimal.

Eric Jähnke & Etienne Gounot

I am immediately struck by the “Parisienne Opéra” chandelier, which looked like the iconic Parisian streetlamps. Etienne smiled and said that the designer, the architect Régis Botta, was inspired by a nocturnal walk under the streetlights of Paris. The name of the collection was perfect. Paris was the world’s first city to use electric lighting on the avenue de l’Opéra in 1878. The glass domes resembled the lantern part of the streetlights, and the chandelier could feel like dots of lights floating above you reminding you of Paris, the City of Light.

The next project that stopped me dead in my tracks was a project they did for the Elie Saab flagship store in London. They created a dramatic three-story cubist metal structure with light boxes fitted throughout. This monumental light sculpture soars from the ground floor up through the center space of a grand circular staircase lighting one’s path along the way. They seem to sculpt with light. What is so astonishing is that you don’t see the light source. They seem to have harnessed the light and it glows from within. Etienne and Eric are engineers by training but their love of art shows through in their work. They are engineers and artisans combining science with art and creating a poetic universe.

Etienne loves taking photographs as it allows him to capture light in all its forms. Light creates a special atmosphere. One can see that shadow and light interactions are important, because a world without shadows is flat. Etienne thinks that the most beautiful light comes at sunrise. This shows through in Ozone’s work as all of their lighting is warm and diffused, never harsh. It feels as if they have captured the glow of the sun, as you can see so sublimely in their “Line L200” wall lamp that was designed by Etienne and Eric. Using an aluminum structure, they wrapped the light with a soft diffusion material evoking a Japanese design. This diffused light is meditative and serene, making the large light fixture appear weightless as if it could float into the air if it was not anchored to the wall. Etienne is inspired by Japanese aesthetics as he developed a deep love of this art when he lived in Asia for several years early in his career. Looking at this collection reminds me of a wonderful Victor Hugo quote, “To see beauty is to see light”.

“Light creates a special atmosphere. One can see that shadow and light interactions are important, because a world without shadows is flat.”

We then started discussing one of my favorite projects, the Monsieur Bleu restaurant at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. In 2013, the French architect, Joseph Dirand, designed the space and collaborated with Ozone on the “Joseph Dirand Gelule Wall Lamp”. This oblong metal sconce looks like it is hovering in front of the wall, and it seems that the light emanating from behind is holding it in place, showing that light is powerful and strong. It has a futuristic quality about it. Joseph also included in the restaurant Ozone’s re-issued “Brasilia” chandeliers that were designed by Michel Boyer in the 1970s. This chandelier had been originally designed for the French Embassy in Brazil. These ethereal lamps seem to float in mid-air. All of the lighting used is indirect to avoid casting shadows and it creates an inviting and flattering atmosphere for the diners. I love the use of the vintage design of the Brasilia chandeliers with the contemporary design of the Gelule wall lamps to seamlessly combine the past with the present in a timeless interior.

We then take a tour around the workshop. All of Ozone’s lighting pieces are designed and made by hand in Paris and assembled in their intimate workshop (the metal pieces are manufactured in nearby metal workshops). Metal framework for a new design just arrived and I watched them open up the packages to see the design for the first time. Large, round metal circles of varying sizes appeared one after another. This is part of a chandelier design they created for a private residence in France. As it is for a private client, no photos were allowed but I did see the drawing and was awed by another creative way of showcasing light in a way I had never seen before. Etienne’s two colleagues started assembling the metal pieces and preparing them for the LED panels. I saw them but was sworn to secrecy as their lighting configuration was top secret (not that I could spill any secrets anyway, as it was beyond my comprehension). To me that is the magic of seeing this process. The end result is so beautiful that one forgets that there is masterful technology and extremely sophisticated engineering behind the creation. All of the electrical parts and tools are organized perfectly around the workshop and one can see that these magicians take great pride in their work.

As I am about to leave, Etienne surprises me with a sneak preview of their latest collection that will be released in a few weeks. Etienne and Eric design many of the pieces themselves but they also have a series where they collaborate on collections with architects and designers such as Joseph Dirand, Jean-Michel Wilmotte and Régis Botta. This newest collection is designed by Glenn Sestig and is called “Tennessee”. I told Etienne that it was such a wonderful coincidence that this was the title as my mother is from Tennessee. It is called Tennessee as a tribute to the great outdoors, cult American music and Tennessee Williams. This collection has a beautiful combination of architectural and decorative elements with the soft, round paper shades morphing into the strong metal framework. I love how a Belgian designer collaborates with a French company to produce a collection inspired by an American idea.

As I walk out into the courtyard and make my way back to the street, I think about how important light is in any architectural and interior projects. Light is one of the most important elements of any room. How wonderful that Ozone is based in the heart of the City of Light.

On a side note, I highly recommend looking at Ozone’s Instagram account. They are always including inspirational photos of the changing nature of light and capturing light in its infinite ways. I sent a thank you text to Etienne the next day and he responded with a lovely note that included a quick video of the Eiffel Tower’s shimmering light show just as the sun was setting. It was twinkling like stars and he captured the magic of light exactly how he imagines it with what he and his colleagues create at Ozone.

Ozone Instagram Account

A stroll through the Marais:

I had the rest of the afternoon off, and I did what I love to do when traveling. Using Google Maps, I plugged in my final destination (an art gallery about 15 minutes away from Ozone) and started meandering through the streets, not knowing where I was going but discovering interesting things along the way. I would turn down a street on a whim knowing that Google Maps was watching over me and would never let me become entirely “lost”. I decided to take a skinny pedestrian street that connected two larger streets. I then saw something before me that for a moment made me feel like I was in “Les Misérables” (it was fresh in my mind as before my trip I watched my friend’s daughter perform in that play). Right in front of me and practically filling the entire width of the street was a large wooden “barricade”. I then thought that perhaps it was “street art” but I quickly noticed that it was actually holding up the bulging wall. I filled my exercise quota in 30 seconds by sprinting as fast as I could past the tension filled assemblage. This burst of adrenaline was soon replaced by a soothing ahhh as I turned onto a different street and could see that every doorway had flowering hearts and lovely sayings painted onto the wooden doors. I love these constant surprises. As someone who lives in a big city and when I see so many people walking around town with their noses buried in their phones, I always think to myself, “look up” as you will see so many inspiring things. Around the corner I passed a shop with the most beautiful shop window. At Muskhane, the windows were filled with whimsical items all made of felt. As a matter of fact, the entire store is filled only with decorative felt objects.

I then reached my final destination, the photography gallery, La Galerie de l’Instant on Rue de Poitou in the 3rd arrondissement. I wanted to see their current exhibition of photographs of Jane Birkin from the late 60s/early 70s. The photographs were taken by her brother Andrew Birkin and the photographer Tony Frank and they capture Jane in candid and unique moments in her life. I was especially drawn to those that included her great love Serge Gainsbourg especially after recently seeing the home they shared in the 7th. Downstairs in the stone basement they had an exhibition highlighting other photographers they represented and I saw beautiful images of Kate Moss and Marilyn Monroe among many others. I had the gallery to myself and I was able to quietly linger and enjoy seeing many classic images and discovering new ones.

I then headed back to Le Saint, my hotel on the Left Bank, and settled into the sofa in the living room of the hotel. In front of a roaring fire, I had a wonderful dinner and started planning my excursions for the next day. Halfway through my meal, an elegant elderly gentleman arrived and sat down in the chair next to the fireplace. He pulled out a cashmere blanket from his bag and wrapped it around his lap covering his legs. It was late February so sitting by the fire was a wonderful way to end the day. He pulled out a book and started reading and right on cue the waiter appeared with a cup of hot chocolate that he placed by his chair even though I never saw him place an order. We started chatting and it turns out he lives in the neighborhood but he is a regular at the hotel enjoying a few quiet moments relaxing by the fire and reading. I notice this in NYC too – so many hotels now are so comfortable and welcoming that they become an extension of one’s small apartment in the big city. I do that myself when I find time. The Bowery Hotel is located across the street from our offices at Par Excellence. Sometimes before or after a meeting I will venture down to the hotel for a cup of tea by the fire or will meet a friend to catch up. Suddenly, being at this hotel in Paris sitting by the fire felt a bit like home.

Having dinner by the fireplace at Le Saint Hotel

To be continued … à suivre….et à bientôt!

 

📸  by Jennifer Gyr

 

Jennifer Gyr is a Creative Consultant at Par Excellence. After obtaining a degree in Art History and Photography, she was a Helena Rubenstein Intern at MoMA in NYC and she completed the “Works of Art” course at Sotheby’s in London. She then worked for several years at the photography gallery Hamiltons Gallery in London and at Hyperion Press and Keith de Lellis Gallery in NYC. She was a private photography dealer for many years and served as an archivist and curator of a private photography collection in NYC. She also archived the estate of the photographer Horst P. Horst. She has curated several exhibitions and consulted on numerous photo books and exhibitions including with The National Portrait Gallery in London. When not seeking her next travel inspiration she lives in Brooklyn with her Swiss husband.

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"What Inspires Me" with Anna Beeber

At Par Excellence, we had the chance to interview the inspiring Anna Beeber, partner at Champalimaud Design firm. Here, she talks about the philosophy 
behind her creative process, her career at Champalimaud Design which she joined in 2010, her favorite architecture places and best tips in New York.

From product design, interior design to construction management, she has lead renowned projects such as New York’s iconic hotels The Carlyle and The Waldorf Astoria, the Su Casa in Puerto Rico, as well as a series of luxury residential projects, among them a Park Avenue residence where our partner Atelier Jouffre intervened.

Internally, Anna collaborates closely with founder Alexandra Champalimaud on the Champalimaud Collection including private label furniture, fabrics and trims available at Holland & Sherry and rugs for The Rug Company.

Could you tell us a bit about your path and career?

I studied Sociology at Georgetown University with the hopes of entering the non-profit world and working to enhance quality of life in America.  But jobs were scarce, and I ended up working in real estate instead.  While touring incredible homes in Washington, D.C., I realized that many people had no idea what they were doing with their interiors – everyone’s houses seemed a mess!  I decided to trade my goal of enhancing people’s lives through policy for the shot at improving their lives through good design.

My boyfriend at the time (now my husband) was transferred from his job in New York to London and I desperately wanted to follow. I was fortunate to secure a spot at Inchbald School of Design in London where I studied Interior Architecture. Upon graduation I went to work at a small residential firm before moving back to New York in 2010 and joining Champalimaud Design.

 

Is your love for design related to your education or are you self-taught?

I love creating order and harmony and helping people sort through their priorities. This promotes a balanced environment that is reflective of one’s personal style. Thinking back, I realize I always practiced this – my sister Julia and I shared a room as young girls and we redecorated every Wednesday afternoon. As I got older, I found myself redecorating and reorganizing my friends’ bedrooms and later their apartments and houses.

Of course, I had no idea what I was doing until I went to design school. My education at Inchbald gave me the vocabulary to articulate the process and the confidence to pursue a career in the field.

 

What attracted you to join Champalimaud Design in 2010?

I am lucky to be friends with Alexandra Champalimaud’s family and had long admired her work and the reach of the studio. She is an extraordinarily charming and sophisticated woman with a magnetic personality. I love her sense of irreverence, natural style, and ambition. I wanted to work with her from the moment I met her; I knew I could learn an enormous amount about design and life in general.

 

What is the project you are the proudest of?

I am most proud of the projects that we complete successfully despite great challenge. There have been many that fit this category! And for so many different reasons – extreme climates, difficult access because of remote or distant locations, delays due to weather or natural disasters, and on and on.

Recently we completed the renovation of Su Casa, the magical Presidential Suite at the Ritz Reserve in Dorado Beach Puerto Rico. My first visit to the property was shortly after Hurricane Maria ravaged the island. I stayed in the only working hotel room on the shuttered yet sprawling resort. There was an incredible rain storm the first night of my arrival and I felt quite fearful listening to the pounding waves and howling wind. The following day I toured the property with the ownership group and got a glimpse of the overwhelming damage caused by the Hurricane. Hearts were breaking over the loss of beautiful trees, the loss of jobs, and the loss of life on the island.

But our client was incredibly resilient and optimistic and lovely to work with. Together, as a team, we came up with a beautiful design strategy to enhance the property within a very short timeline. Along with some of my colleagues, we had the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time on site and I found the entire process enormously fulfilling. To see the completed project a year later, sparkling in the sunshine with flowers and trees growing everywhere and our incredible furnishings installed in the renovated house was truly incredible.

Photos by Emily Andrews 

Where do you find your inspiration? Is there a designer or era you are particularly fond of?

Each project presents a different set of ingredients and I love to dig into these particularities to find inspiration. Our clients are all incredibly complex and interesting and each location is diverse. Because we work on a plethora of projects in many different regions, I find the program of each space to be energizing. From a private family retreat on a ski mountain to a 5-star boutique hotel on a beach, we get to work through the logistics and particularities associated with each space. I love listening to our client’s initial dreams for the property and using those desires to launch the search for inspiration.

 

What is your relation with craftsmanship? How does it blend into your projects?

Our job would not be possible without the incredible craftspeople that we work with on a daily basis; it is the relationship with these experts that continually inspires me.  In many ways, our job as designer is simply a connector: we are connecting our clients to the people who will execute their projects.  And along the way we try to elevate the vision and harmonize the various elements of the project to create a beautiful outcome.

“We are lucky to work all over the world and it is such a joy to meet people with unique talents in each part of the globe. Often we will take our initial sketches and drawings to the craftspeople and have detailed conversations about how to improve the concept. We are very open to the advice they are willing to share and we return to many over and over again because of their incredible skills. I have learned so much through these conversations and continually seek them out.” – Anna Beeber

We saw that back in 2016 you transformed with the help of Drew Lang a raw loft space into your new inspired modern home. What was the process like? Did you follow the same methodology as when you’re at work?

We lived in our loft for 4 years before renovating. During this time, I drew countless floor plans and layouts. But I always had a clear vision for what the space should look like from the day we bought it. I tend to think that the most successful projects are those that have strict design rules. They help build a rhythm in the space that enriches the overall feeling. Sometimes that means I am quite strict with clients to enforce the rules. And in the same way, I was strict with myself during the design process. There are so many beautiful choices when selecting materials, finishes and details. But they cannot all live within the same apartment!

“The experience of renovating my own properties including our loft in NYC has made me a much better design partner for our clients at Champalimaud Design. Inherent to the process of construction are great revelations and joyful moments, but there are many more moments of frustration, never-ending delays, and extraordinary costs. Because of my own experiences, I understand how my clients feel during the emotional process and I have a bit more patience and sympathy as a result.” – Anna Beeber

What is your favorite color or material of the moment?

There are so many exotic materials that we get to use and we are lucky to have clients who allow us to source incredible textiles made from metal threads, rare stones like Grand Antique (one of my favorites!), cast bronze, mirrored stainless steel and on and on.

But I personally cannot help but be continually drawn to the humblest materials: cotton, linen, and wool. They are timeless, they drape beautifully, they upholster perfectly.

 

Which city do you like best in terms of architecture? Or one building that strikes you every time?

This is a hard question! One of my favorite places is Barcelona. There are several distinct architectural styles ranging from Gothic to Modern and everything in between. It’s organized but simultaneously full of surprises, vibrant and colorful. There is an energy and grit in the streets that somehow compliments the buildings, most of which show a patina. It isn’t manicured and as a result the character oozes our of each neighborhood.

For the same reasons I love Istanbul. There is a sense of culture revealed through the architecture that is transportive. It’s almost as if the buildings are whispering their secrets and the layers are rich. I love that the buildings are all jumbled up with Byzantine, Medieval and Avant-Guarde structures living together on the same street. The history of the city is as complex as the architecture and I love the chaos.

Can you disclose something about yourself that might surprise us?

You would probably be surprised to know that I was born in a farm truck on the side of the road in central Alaska in the middle of winter. Luckily, my mother is a midwife and is incredibly resourceful, so she was perfectly equipped to handle the ordeal. I, however, needed to spend a few days in an incubator warming up.

 

Your favorite Blog/Instagram/Podcast?

After living in Washington, D.C. for 8 years, I’m afraid I carry the burden of the typical political junkie. My favorite Podcast is Preet Bharara’s “Stay Tuned with Preet. It’s informative and educational and helps me understand the legal side of politics.

I love the instagram account @tinyheartsfarm. They are a flower farm near my house upstate in the Hudson Valley and a source of inspiration for my gardening efforts.

NEW YORK TIPS!

Favorite museums/galleries

I love the galleries on 10th Street & University – Bernd Goeckler, Hostler Burrows and Maison Gerard. The Future Perfect is just a few blocks away on Great Jones Street.

Favorite restaurants

I am lucky to live in a neighborhood with incredible restaurants and love that I can walk a few blocks and enjoy many different cuisines. My perennial favorite is Indochine which is across the street from my house and has never been out of style since the moment it opened in the mid-80s.

“And Atla, just down the street on Lafayette, is my favorite newcomer. The contemporary Mexican menu changes regularly but thankfully their cocktails remain consistent. I have grown quite addicted the “E.S.L.” – Anna Beeber

Favorite place

The Public Theater is my favorite place in Manhattan. Home of the former Astor Library, the Romanesque revival building was purchased by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society in the 1920s and provided aid for Jewish refugees until it fell into disuse.  In the 60s it was turned into a theater and eventually became one of the first landmarked buildings in New York City. The Public Theater undertook a massive restoration recently and it is now a beautiful cornerstone of my neighborhood. The performances in the theater and Joe’s Pub are legendary and we will often catch a couple in one evening. Drinks in the Library provide a nice intermission.

Dive into Anna Beeber’ universe through her Instagram account

Discover Champalimaud Design’ projects here and their Instagram account

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William Amor, up-cycling creator of artificial flowers

An article by Signatures Singulières

Recycled plastic floral metaphors 

Plastic artist William Amor transforms plastic waste into graceful flower bouquet. Jewelry, interior decorations, monumental installations… The founder of Créations Messagères transforms discarded materials into many beauty pieces, always combined with messages committed to nature.

William Amor in his atelier Créations Messagères

An ode to love and nature

Last October, a vast field of 250 poppies arose in the Palais Brongniart in Paris. This bucolic installation illustrated Kenzo Parfums’ values of love and sharing. These artificial poppies also showcased William Amor’s up-cycling expertise. Created by the French artist, each of the giant flowers was in fact made from an assembly of recycled plastic waste. William Amor has already been at the origin of such monumental installations. A “poetic flight” of fake flowers enchanted the Révelations fine craft and creation fair last year. Similarly, an artificial plant cascade sprang from a spectacular wall lamp in the heart of a luxury mall in Hong Kong. This seemingly floral effervescence is in fact the work of the “neglected materials’ ennobler” William Amor. To do this, this magician borrows processes from craftsmen such as jewelers, embroiderers and plumassiers.

Révélations fair in the Grand Palais, Paris. « L’envolée Poétique » wall lamp, ennoblement of plastic bags, food packaging and marine rope. William Amor - Atelier Créations Messagères

An up-cycling botanical creator

Former resident of the Ateliers de Paris and botanical enthusiast, William Amor defines himself as an “ennobler of neglected materials”. Indeed, this plastic artist creates works exclusively from plastic abandoned in nature. The result consists in hours of meticulous work to metamorphose shapeless ends into petals, stamens and colored stems. William Amor has thus implemented special cutting, shaping and dyeing processes. This up-cycling creator also revisits in his own way the gestures of traditional floral decorators and plumassiers. The outcome: a series of techniques to transform the smallest piece of discarded plastic into floral detail. Pieces of plastic bottles and bags are transformed into camellias, blueberries, poppies and other graceful flowers. In addition to these exceptional compositions’ beauty, these colorful nuanced flowers carry a committed message in favor of the environment.

Rose-heart pleats in plastic bags. William Amor

An engaged floral art

Not only does William Amor create works of art, but he also changes our outlook on waste. An old crumpled plastic bag thus becomes matter to create beauty following the example of precious stones. These wastes that clutter up nature begin a new life after being embellished. To that extent, William Amor tells us, in his own way, poetic stories about the preservation of the living.

Giant Poppy studio - Kenzo. William Amor - Atelier Créations Messagères

Founder of Créations Messagères, the artist also has a social and solidarity fiber. Since 2018, he has been calling on disabled collaborators in partnership with specialized structures such as ESAT (French settlement and work assistance service). Trained with William Amor’s know-how, the team works on the artist’s projects. In addition to interior design decors, the up-cycler designer creates small, delicate compositions such as a jewelry series. An opportunity to adorn oneself with pretty floral messages!

Flower decoration in the Guerlain boutique on the Champs-Elysées
Clematis flower
Flowers in recycled plastic bottles. William Amor
Above left: floral creation "Tulipa" in plastic bottle. Paris Design Week. Mariott Renaissance hotel. Above right: Yves Rocher trophy
Mimosa made from cigarette butts

Créations Messagères
William Amor
4 A, Villa du Lavoir
75010 Paris

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NYC X DESIGN AWARD 2020

BIG CONGRATS TO MATHIEU LEHANNEUR AND ALL PAR EXCELLENCE’S CRAFTSMEN! 

Penthouse of the 32 East First Street New York designed by the renowned interior designer Mathieu Lehanneur has been awarded Model Apartment of the year by  the NYCxDESIGN Awards that honors outstanding projects and products in categories that span major areas of design.

Most of the furnitures were featured at the “AD Intérieurs” exhibition in Paris, France in 2018.

Mathieu Lehanneur collaborated and invited Par Excellence craftsmen to conceive the pieces for an immaculate meditation room. For the very first time the French designer entrusted all our partners to fabricate a collection of furniture, that we can admire now at the penthouse! Each of our partners has made an incredible contribution.

 

Endless Knot wall lamp by Ateliers Saint-Jacques and Ozone

Shape of Silence Sideboard by Jouffre and Ateliers Saint-Jacques 

Siamese Mirrors by Ateliers Saint-Jacques

Twisted Infinity suspension by Declercq Passementiers and Ozone 

Flat Hole Rug by La Manufacture de Tapis de Bourgogne

Straw Marquetry Table by Lison de Caunes

 

 

 

 

Photos by Evan Joseph

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Paris on my mind by Jennifer Gyr - Day 4

By Jennifer Gyr

I fell in love with Paris when as a teenager I was watching Audrey Hepburn swan through the ville lumière in the movie “Funny Face”.  Over the years I have been so lucky to make many trips to this enchanted city with friends and family.  My trip in late February was the first time I was in Paris by myself with my limited French vocabulary of “Bonjour”, “Merci” and “Au Revoir” (which even then I would speak in a whisper so that my Southern accent wouldn’t decimate the beauty of the language).

What a magical week it would be. As Audrey said so perfectly, “Paris is always a good idea”!

Today I am off to see another one of our partners, Declercq Passementiers. I am so looking forward to meeting Margot Declercq, who represents the 7th generation of this family and works closely with her father Jerome. The company has been designing and making trimmings and tassels in Paris since 1852. You must go onto their website to see their family tree: It is a testament to a long-standing tradition of passing on their passion, knowledge, artistry and technique through generations.

JEROME DECLERCQ BY ©FRANCOIS DOURY

A trip through time and history with Declercq Passementiers 

Margot, who is in her late 20s, shows me around her beautiful showroom that is filled floor to ceiling with so many exquisite trimmings and tassels. My eye immediately falls upon two large wooden looms that look like they belong in a museum. I ask about them and Margot jumps on one to show me how it works (the machines are from the late 1800s and are in amazing working condition). The first one requires her to lean forward in a harness, so that she is almost hanging above the threading apparatus. While pushing wooden pedals with her feet, she weaves five different shuttles back and forth between two ribbons to create an intricate pattern along the ribbon. While leaning forward in the harness, stepping down on the pedals to tighten the ribbons between each pass and counting the pattern steps in just a few minutes, she nimbly creates what looks like woven gold into the most beautifully intricate design.  I am spell-bound by the process. This not only takes patience and hand-eye coordination, but the right know-how to not miss a beat and to visualize the pattern playing out, as there were neither pattern books nor notes in sight. We then turned to the second 19th century wooden machine. This one is even taller and almost reaches the ceiling. It is fully automated. When Margot turns it on, watching the mechanical gears and cranks moving, and hearing the clanking sound, makes me feel like we are in Thomas Edison’s lab and are turning on the machine that will light the first bulb. Once again, I am amazed to see how the rows of individual different colored threads are being woven into yet another intricate design and turning it into a trimming for a curtain or a piece of furniture

We start discussing how they have to prepare the material before they can even start weaving, from dying the materials to spooling the thread. They even have to hand twist some threads to create the decorative braid that will then be used in the weaving process. Some of the materials are placed on the mechanical looms to create the ribbons and braids, while others are hand-woven to create the complex velvet ribbons, braids and fringes. Margot then shows me a large tassel and I could see the various stages of craftsmanship where everything was done mostly by hand. You really start to think about how design objects are made and who makes them – the artisan at work, years of practice, precision, know-how, passion and dedication. She mentioned that a lot of their employees have worked there 20, 30 and even 40+ years. They create braids, fringes, tassels, rosettes and many other beautiful shapes. It is like making jewels out of thread.

You really start to think about how design objects are made and who makes them – the artisan at work, years of practice, precision, know-how, passion and dedication

Speaking of jewels, the next thing I will be seeing is one of the highlights of my trip to Paris. We proceed to a wall of tall wooden glass front cabinets and inside I see the most delicate and refined group of tassels and trimmings, and they belonged to… Marie Antoinette! I feel a sense of awe seeing the light pastel colors and delicate trimmings, which encapsulate her sense of style and personality. I could even imagine her wearing some of the rosettes and fringe pieces in her hair, around her neck or adorning her dresses besides her furniture and curtains and bed. There is even a bouquet of flowers made out of fringes and an extremely delicate looking woven basket with light pink flowers and greenery scattered all around. It looks like a lovely bird’s nest that fell on the forest ground and flowers started growing on it. Do we even think about such detail and artistry when we buy things in our times? Their imagination was so fertile. I then looked at the next cabinet and it felt like a trumpet started playing and everything got bigger and bolder and more masculine and imperial: I was now looking at tassels that were made for Napoleon personally. In 1972, Declercq acquired a very old trimmings company from the 18th century, which included the archives of Marie Antoinette, Napoleon and Louis XVI, as well as old pattern books, which they now have on their library shelves. Louis XVI’s and Napoleon’s were impressive to see, but Marie Antoinette’s really made a lasting impression on me. Margot pointed out a trim that belonged to her, and again it had the most delicate, small flowers, bows and greenery tumbling off of a pale, woven ribbon. She told me that recently a Japanese couple asked Declercq to recreate this trim, and they used it all over their bedroom as they wanted to feel like Marie Antoinette. We then passed by a mannequin that they had adorned with a makeshift dress made of tassels and trimmings and it got me thinking that this beautiful craft doesn’t have to be just for your home. Let your imagination carry you away.

As I was leaving and saying my goodbyes, a large piece of trim hanging near the door caught my eye.  Purple is my favorite color, and I loved how regal it looked so I asked her about it. Margot gave me a big smile and said, “My father designed it and he named it after me”. The family legacy lives on.

A lovely stop at Buly 1803

I headed back to the 6th and 7th to visit two of my favorite stores that I always go to every time I am in Paris.

I walk across the Pont Neuf and enter another world at l’Officine Universelle Buly (also known as Buly 1803) on Rue Bonaparte in the 6th. This is one of the most unique beauty boutiques in Paris (and perhaps the world). Their products, packaging, store design, history and even the store clerks make this such a special experience. I open the large glass door and am immediately transported back in time to an 18th century apothecary and I feel like I have stepped into a Visconti meets Wes Anderson film. There is such attention to detail from the grand noble wooden cabinets filled with the most beautiful array of lotions and potions flanked by rich marble countertops where you can sample the products. I walk over the worn blue-green tiles with the Buly “coat of arms” and feel like I am walking in an old Italian palazzo. The company began over 200 years ago and had trend-setting formulations. Sadly, it had faded away but thankfully was revived a few years ago with new owners. The salesclerks all wear black skirts and tights and black sweaters over a stiff white shirt. A salesclerk graciously greets you upon your arrival and stays with you and gives you all of her attention during the sampling, selecting and buying. My lovely salesclerk had the perfect black bob and red lipstick. Tres chic. The soaps, lotions and perfumes have the most intoxicating, decadent and alluring scents. It was so hard to pick one so I settled on “Rose” and bought several as gifts.

Then the fun really begins as one becomes their own designer in picking out all the details. The clerk swiftly disappears to imprint the initials in gold or silver of each recipient of the soaps. I am then presented with a large album to select a vintage label to adorn the soap boxes that are then intricately wrapped in exquisite paper. The most beguiling prospect of the entire event is the final detail. An in-store calligrapher sits at a beautifully appointed desk with an inkwell and quill and in front of you delicately writes each name of the recipient of each gift. I even had to buy one for myself just to have this special and unique objets d’art. This is not a shop to come to in a hurry. Instead, you will revel in the act of slowing down and enjoying every moment there.

Inside Karl Lagerfeld’s Bookstore

My final stop of the day is what I consider my “candy store” as I can never leave with just one item. The celebrated fashion designer, Karl Lagerfeld, opened a bookstore, 7L Bookshop, in 1999 on Rue de Lille right across the street from my friends’ 1831 Art Gallery, in the heart of Carre Rive Gauche. As Karl once said, “I have a fatal attraction for books. A disease I don’t want to be cured of…I could not live without them”. I, too, suffer from this “disease”. The bookstore has a fascinating selection, ranging from photography, design, interior design and architecture to fashion, jewelry, textiles, gardens and cookbooks. They also have catalogs on international exhibitions (which can be hard to find) and several books written and edited by Karl himself. I feel like it is a “book museum” as I am always learning and being introduced to a broad range of topics. Karl was legendary in his book buying sprees.

A SELECTION OF BOOKS AT 7L BOOSKSHOP

“I have a fatal attraction for books. A disease I don’t want to be cured of…I could not live without them” – Karl Lagerfeld

About 20 years ago, I was at Rizzoli’s bookstore at its old location on 57th Street in NYC. I was standing in the photography section on the skinny 2nd floor mezzanine when I saw a flurry of activity right next to me. There was Karl Lagerfeld taking book after book from the shelves and placing them in an ever-growing pile in the arms of his strong assistant. I was trying to emulate this master at his very own bookstore but had to limit myself to 5 books as there was only enough space in my suitcase.

 

Karl’s personal book collection numbered well over 300,000 volumes. And the majority of those books were in his private library behind the door in the back of this bookshop. Oh, how I would have loved to have gone through that door to see the double height studio packed floor to ceiling (and 2 floors) with books. He even built bookcases over every door to house more books. This is something I also did in my small Brooklyn apartment. You have to use space where you can find it. Legend has it that he stacked his books horizontally rather than vertically so that he didn’t have to tilt his head sideways to read the titles. He had a sofa that went on for practically the length of the room and an equally long coffee table to match filled with magazines from around the world. Come to think of it, I should have snuck into the library so that I could happily stay there during the quarantine. Don’t they say that “books feed the soul”? I would have been set. Sadly, Karl died a year ago and his estate is still being sorted out. Apparently, he was so keen of living in the moment that he made no plans for the future of his estate. I join the growing chorus of voices asking that this special place be turned into a research library so that this cornucopia of art and design tomes can be enjoyed by all.

 

KARL LAGERFELD'S PERSONAL LIBRARY

After once again closing down a store (this seems to be a recurring theme for me) I head back to my hotel to read a book before falling asleep and thinking, “When I die, I want to go to Karl Lagerfeld’s library”.

To be continued … à suivre….et à bientôt!

 

📸  by Jennifer Gyr

     Featured image: Antonio Luce

 

Jennifer Gyr is a Creative Consultant at Par Excellence. After obtaining a degree in Art History and Photography, she was a Helena Rubenstein Intern at MoMA in NYC and she completed the “Works of Art” course at Sotheby’s in London. She then worked for several years at the photography gallery Hamiltons Gallery in London and at Hyperion Press and Keith de Lellis Gallery in NYC. She was a private photography dealer for many years and served as an archivist and curator of a private photography collection in NYC. She also archived the estate of the photographer Horst P. Horst. She has curated several exhibitions and consulted on numerous photo books and exhibitions including with The National Portrait Gallery in London. When not seeking her next travel inspiration she lives in Brooklyn with her Swiss husband.

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Paris on my mind by Jennifer Gyr - Day 3

By Jennifer Gyr

I fell in love with Paris when as a teenager I was watching Audrey Hepburn swan through the ville lumière in the movie “Funny Face”.  Over the years I have been so lucky to make many trips to this enchanted city with friends and family.  My trip in late February was the first time I was in Paris by myself with my limited French vocabulary of “Bonjour”, “Merci” and “Au Revoir” (which even then I would speak in a whisper so that my Southern accent wouldn’t decimate the beauty of the language).

What a magical week it would be. As Audrey said so perfectly, “Paris is always a good idea”!

I am staying on the Left Bank in the 7th arrondissement, one of my most favorite areas of Paris. I picked my hotel, Le Saint, as it is right on the edge of the Carre Rive Gauche which is only a few blocks wide and you can walk everywhere as it is so centrally located. Today I am meeting friends for a gallery tour of the area. I quickly have a coffee downstairs in the breakfast room of the hotel, and I look out the window as Parisians walk by starting their day. It seems like no one is ever late for an appointment here as the pace can be quick but is never hurried. In NYC, we always seem to be running down the sidewalks, always somewhere we need to be in a haste. It is one of those brisk February mornings, and I notice how everyone has their scarves tied in such different and elegant ways. From the young student walking to class to the businessman heading to a meeting, the scarves are wrapped around their necks like sculptures, giving them an effortless chic. Whenever I wear a scarf, it ends up looking like it blew through the wind and landed on me haphazardly.

My hotel is located on Rue du Pre aux Clercs, which translates to “The Meadow of the Clerics”. Apparently in Medieval times, this area was a large meadow and was the site of an old dueling ground. If these grounds could talk… On the way to meet my friends, I stop in a small shop around the corner. What I thought would be a small tabac (the French version of our own corner deli) is instead like going through Alice in Wonderland’s looking glass. One can buy shampoo there, but also wine, cheese, baguettes and the most decadent looking desserts. It gives a whole new meaning to “I am just popping to the corner shop for some milk” (with dessert on the side for good measure).

I then walk one block further and turn the corner onto Rue de Verneuil and see the most glorious shot of color on a dreamy Left Bank street: A “graffitied house” stops me dead in my tracks. As I walk closer to the front door, I see a sign by the bell saying “Gainsbourg”. This was Serge Gainsbourg’s house! The celebrated French singer and icon moved in here in 1969 with his beloved muse Jane Birkin (she would eventually move out later). He lived there until he died in the house in 1991. Its outer wall is an ever-evolving tribute in graffiti and art. His daughter, Charlotte Gainsbourg, has left everything intact inside, just as it was when her father died. Even the butts of his favorite Gitanes cigarettes are still in the ashtray by the piano where he composed many of his famous songs. Serge had all the walls and ceilings of the interior painted black to give him a calming and cocoon like feel. He lived all day with the lights on, so day to night was a blur. Although he was a celebrated musician, he aspired to be a painter. It is fitting that his home’s exterior is a painted homage to him, a living memorial.

I arrive at my friends’ gallery a few minutes late, breathless from my recent discovery. In Paris there is always a magical discovery to be made. My lovely friends Jean-Louis and Aude Herledan own the beautiful 1831 Art Gallery. Aude is a painter and sculptor and I was so pleased to finally see her work in person. After a delicious lunch at a local bistro (with wine of course), we bid adieu to Aude, and Jean-Louis and I set off on an afternoon tour of the neighborhood’s arts and antiques galleries. Jean-Louis is the President of Carre Rive Gauche, an organization representing over 100 arts and antiques galleries located in the heart of the 7th arrondissement. This arts district forms the perfect square as it is bordered by Quai Voltaire, Rue des Saints-Peres, Rue de l’Universite and Rue de Poitiers. It is next door to the Musee d’Orsay and right across the River Seine from The Louvre.  As Thomas Jefferson so aptly stated: “A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty and in the point of life”. I had the perfect tour guide to see about 7,000 years of decorative arts within a few small blocks. I must mention that during the tour I was so caught up in meeting all of the dealers and hearing about their gallery and looking at top pieces that I didn’t take a single photo. I was definitely “living in the moment”. All of the photos here were taken later when the galleries were closed and I took photos of the storefronts.

A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty and in the point of life” – Thomas Jefferson

In the course of about 4 hours, we visited around 20 galleries and I could have spent several days more immersing myself in all of them. I saw exceptional antique French clocks from the Louis XIV-Louis XVI periods at La Pendulerie, ceramics from the 17th and 18th centuries at JM Bealu & Fils, paintings by Madeline Grenier at Galerie Antoine Villeneuve, furniture and objets d’art from the 17th-19th centuries at Philippe Vichot, antiques and decorative arts from 1890-1970 at Galerie Lafon-Vosseler and marine and science objects, canes and curiosities at Galerie Delalande. At Gabrielle Laroche they show furniture and sculpture from the Middle Ages, Renaissance and the 17th century. I was so inspired to see up close a French Renaissance cabinet with perspective carving. It brought back my days of being an art history student and learning about perspective in art and to see a fine example from that time period was a revelation. After viewing the museum quality European paintings from the 16th-19th centuries at F. Baulme Fine Arts, Monsieur Baulme brought me downstairs to the basement of his gallery on the Quai Voltaire and showed me a secret door hidden behind a curtain. The door led to a passageway where in the old days one could bring their small boat from the Seine and dock inside the basement area. That was such a wonderful surprise! Next door to the gallery we passed Magasin Sennelier. It is a famous art supply store that opened in this spot in 1887. They sold art supplies to artists such as Cezanne, Degas, Gauguin, Pissarro, Soutine, Modigliani, Kandinsky, Bonnard, Picasso and Karl Lagerfeld among others. The colors they sold were once hand-milled behind the store in a workshop and they even invented several colors including Coral Pink, Cinnabar Green, Helios Red and Chinese Orange. David Hockney used the colors Helios Red and Chinese Orange in his “Grand Canyon” (1998). It is still a much beloved store today. As Jean-Louis and I made our way down the Quai Voltaire at the end of a very inspiring day, we reflected on how wonderful this area of Paris is with its rich artistic heritage. It has long been a haven for all types of artists to live and work such as Juliette Recamier, Charles Baudelaire, Amedeo Modigliani, Alexandre Dumas, Jean Auguste Ingres, Max Ernst, Oscar Wilde and Serge Gainsbourg. They all imbue the spirit of the neighborhood.

I was so inspired to see up close a French Renaissance cabinet with perspective carving

With Juliette Recamier in mind, I head off to meet my friend Maik at the nearby restaurant Le Recamier. The restaurant is tucked away on a pedestrian only side street in the heart of St Germain. Only once we settled into our seats and I looked at the menu did I realize why this place is such a beloved Parisian institution. The entire menu was full of souffles! Ok, there might have been a few salads and a meat dish but I quickly realized we could eat an entire souffle meal with both savory and sweet choices. For our main course, we shared a delectable lobster souffle and a mushroom souffle. Sharing is highly recommended as you must taste each flavor. The souffles were like airy clouds and both the lobster and mushroom felt light and creamy. For dessert I couldn’t wait to try the caramel salted butter souffle and then Maik’s choice arrived. A Grand Marnier souffle with an entire bottle of Grand Marnier placed on the table to be able to pour the liqueur over the souffle yourself with no limits (and the bottle was not taken away for some time). Needless to say, we lingered over these treats a long time. It was the perfect way to end this lovely day.

To be continued … à suivre….et à bientôt!

 

📸  by Jennifer Gyr

 

Jennifer Gyr is a Creative Consultant at Par Excellence. After obtaining a degree in Art History and Photography, she was a Helena Rubenstein Intern at MoMA in NYC and she completed the graduate “Works of Art” course at Sotheby’s in London. She then worked for several years at the photography gallery Hamiltons Gallery in London and at Hyperion Press and Keith de Lellis Gallery in NYC. She was a private photography dealer for many years and served as an archivist and curator of a private photography collection in NYC. She also archived the estate of the photographer Horst P. Horst. She has curated several exhibitions and consulted on numerous photo books and exhibitions including with The National Portrait Gallery in London. When not seeking her next travel inspiration she lives in Brooklyn with her Swiss husband.

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Hervé Obligi, stone sculptor and marquetry artist

An article by Signatures Singulières

Surrounded by amethyst, rock crystal, Tuscan paesine, jade, Armenian obsidian etc. Hervé Obligi exercises a rare profession where the mineral world serves as raw material. Signatures Singulières had the pleasure of meeting this artist of immense talent in his studio in Montreuil.

“Horizon” table in rock crystal marquetry. Tuscan peas and gold leaf, assembled on a glass tray. Oxidized steel base. Diameter 98 cm x height 76 cm. Hervé Obligi.

Art and technique

Both craftsman and artist, he works with stone in his workshop in Montreuil. Born in Champagne, this cabinetmaker by training began by working in marquetry and wood carving. But over time, he became a specialist in the cutting of hard stones. In addition, his talents in this area are numerous.
On the one hand, he restores 18th century objects for the Palace of Versailles and the Louvre. On the other, he responds to orders from the Orsay quay and French embassies (New York, Washington, Geneva ONU, London, Moscow, Beirut, etc.).
Most recently, he set about restoring the pavements of the Hotel de la Paiva in Paris. In addition, Hervé Obligi creates unique pieces like these hard stone decorative panels for the French Embassy in Gabon. He also works with big names in jewelry, clocks for Cartier and watches for Piaget.

Large round mineral table in marble stone from Buxy (gray / blue) and Lapis Lazuli. Hervé Obligi.

A vast creative universe

Among Hervé Obligi’s creations, there are precious watch faces but also extraordinary fountain pens designed as real sculptures. Or a table made of rock crystal, Tuscan paesine and gold or in Lapis Lazuli and marble stone from Buxy. In addition, many mysterious creations are added to the already long list of his achievements. Without forgetting his participation in a number of works with international decorators and antique dealers! Finally, he exhibits in many countries and since 2016 he has been represented in New York by the Maison Gérard gallery.

Mechanized slate base and rock crystal which opens and reveals an iron-eyed column where the “Golden Calf” fountain pen is placed. The column opens on a writing object. Hervé Obligi.

A unique and ancestral know-how

This art of engraving on hard, precious or fine stones with nuances and unique properties, is called glyptics. This includes the size, and the hollow sculpture (intaglio) or relief (cameo). Glyptic know-how is recognized in France by its inclusion in the inventory of intangible cultural heritage. For this reason, appointed Master of Art in 2015, title awarded for life, Hervé Obligi will notably have the mission of transmitting the excellence of his knowledge and skills to a student of his choice.

Hervé Obligi  

25, Jean Moulin Street

93100 Montreuil

Tél. : +33 (0)1 48 57 17 54

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"What Inspires Me" with Pierre-Yves Guenec

Ateliers Saint-Jacques has four master workshops comprised of Metal, Wood, Stone and Bronze all part of the Fondation De Coubertin based near Paris which is dedicated to craftsmanship and passing along the legacy through apprenticeship programs (Discover their workshops here).  They educate the best workers in the world and prepare them to become the highest skilled craftsmen. They are often requested for the most incredible projects and construction sites.

Seduced by the idea of working hand-in-hand with different crafts and highly skilled French craftsmen, Ateliers Saint-Jacques joined the Par Excellence Collective in New-York City a couple of years ago. Since then, we had the chance to work with Pierre-Yves Guenec and discover his own universe that he kindly shared with us for this interview. From finding his vocation and his passion, to his aspirations for craftsmanship in general and for Ateliers Saint-Jacques, discover Pierre-Yves’ natural talent to tell stories and make us reflect on our world.

Could you tell us a bit about your path and career? Where does this desire to craft, forge and create comes from?

I went to craftmanship rather old considering that most of my friends started around 16. Back at university I studied fine arts, literature and philosophy and was far from thinking of a life in workshops. After a few years of those courses a special need grew in me. I wanted something more technical but also more real and I was struggling to give a sense to an artistic career. When I left school at 21, I had no idea of what I would do as a living, but I knew I had to work. It is at this moment that I remembered seeing my father blacksmithing on some old photography and thought that it would be an interesting mix of artistic creation and technical challenges. First, I decided to confront the work and the metal without any fantasize and went to work in an industrial factory. There, the welding, the transformation of huge pieces of steel and all the skills I was taught blew my mind. After graduating from a boilermaker school in western France, I decided I needed more, and I knocked on the door of the elite of European craftsmen: the Compagnons du Devoir. My course with them took eight years, traveling each year to a new city and a new workshop, meeting incredible masters that would transform my life forever. Since nearly 1000 years, the Compagnons teach crafts to young men and women along with ethic and spirituality through a course that’s unique in today’s world : brothers from 16 to 99 years old help each other, bounded by the same passion with no other interest than preserving the crafts and improving them. During 6 to 10 years, young people travel, live, and work all together to learn before starting their own duty of making the world a more beautiful place and teaching the next generation. At the end I worked at the Ateliers Saint Jacques and what I thought would be another one-year experience became a lot more. Last year I was given the opportunity to develop the Ateliers and we opened a USA branch that I manage. I am also in charge of the exportations worldwide and the communication.

What is the most common reaction you get when you tell people you meet about your job?

Most of the people are surprised that such old trades still exist today. We live in a society that is very disconnected from the realities of making and producing. People seem to imagine that things just appear during the night through a magical process so it is always nice to see a spark in someone’s eye when they realize that people are still working with their hands to transform stone, wood or iron into special creations. Right after this first reaction, there are always a lot of questions about the work, the training, etc. and I feel bad because it is like taking all the attention. I think people are craving for real things, things that have sense and give sense. I like to think that thanks to their passionate way of living their life, craftsmen can contribute to give a bit of hope to the world.

What is one of your projects you are the proudest of? Could you explain why you chose this one and how you felt when you were part of this project?

It is hard to chose one specific project because there have been many great experiences and I am only at the beginning of my career, so I tend to look forward rather than backward. If I really had to choose, I would speak about the restauration of the Royale Chapel of Versailles in 2018. I was still a business manager at the metal workshop at that time and was given the responsibility of this project. More than the building by itself -which is a masterpiece of architecture, it was my team that made me very proud. Those craftsmen dedicated more than two years of their life to restore the ironworks of the stained glass in very hard conditions. There was lead, asbestos, bad weathers, access difficulties and they did an amazing work while keeping a joyful spirit. I learned many things from them and consider myself a very lucky man to have worked with such people.

What is one building that strikes you every time? Could you describe it to us in your own words?

I love the remaining LU tower from my home city, Nantes. It is a crazy building, colorful and totally unexpected, build in 1905. More than the mad architecture, what I really love about this is that it was a factory. It remembers us that we need beauty, no matter what. Yes, a museum or an embassy need to be beautiful, but so needs a factory. People spend around 40 hours a week at their worksite, whether it is offices or production plant and I think that it is cruel to make them spend so much time in ugly premises. There is a strong message in this tower, and I believe in tomorrow’s architecture to make Beauty something for everybody again. Architects and craftsmen have a big responsibility and a duty to make the world a more beautiful place, for the wellbeing of every human, wealthy or not.

Another building that really strikes me by its proportion and its unusual architecture is Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco. It was finished in 1971 and designed by local architects John Michael Lee, Paul A. Ryan and Angus McSweeney, collaborating with internationally known architects Pier Luigi Nervi and Pietro Belluschi, then the Dean of the School of Architecture at MIT. If a temple ever looked like a temple, it is this one. It feels like it is out of time. It was futuristic for the era, yet it looks like a 10 000-year-old temple. You understand directly what the building is about when you first see it. It is a masterpiece in my opinion.

What is your favorite city in the world in terms of architecture?

I think my favorite city is Vienna. There something very special here than I can hardly describe with words. As an imperial city, it was build to show power and has amazing 19th century buildings but what makes it so special is how the Secession transformed what could have been a rigid, boring and “bourgeois” architecture into a masterpiece of artistic innovation. In my sense, the Austrians started this modern era we are still in today. They understood that the purpose of ornamentation was not to create a fake world nor to hide the bad proportions of a building but to highlight pure lines. To understand the roots of the architecture we are building today, Vienna is one of the places to visit I believe.

Could you talk about one of your favorite artist/designer or architects?

They are many creators that are very important to me, from Myron to Schiele, Vitruve to Nouvel, and I spend most of my time surrounded by the artistic works of others. If I had to choose one, I would pick Walter Gropius. Not really for his career but for what he wrote in 1919:

“When young people who take a joy in artistic creation once more begin their life’s work by learning a trade, then the unproductive “artist” will no longer be condemned to deficient artistry, for their skill will now be preserved for the crafts, in which they will be able to achieve excellence. Architects, sculptors, painters, we all must return to the crafts! For art is not a “profession.” There is no essential difference between the artist and the craftsman. The artist is an exalted craftsman. In rare moments of inspiration, transcending the consciousness of his will, the grace of heaven may cause his work to blossom into art. But proficiency in a craft is essential to every artist. Therein lies the prime source of creative imagination.” – Walter Gropius

Can you disclose something about yourself that might surprise us?
Apart from playing in extrem metal bands you mean?

Passing craft techniques to the future generation and maintaining this heritage is a core mission at Ateliers Saint-Jacques, when did you realized that this was your vocation as well?

I think it answered a deep question I had since my childhood : what is my purpose to this world ? When going for an artistic career, I felt very self-centered and something was not feeling right but when I entered the Compagnons, it suddenly became very clear that I could devote my life to a greater good. What we do here gives a lot of sense to every of our action as each of us is a link of a great chain. We are powerless by ourselves but put together we achieve both temporal and spiritual things. Because craftsmanship is not only about the techniques or the trades themselves. Those are only a way to give every individual a purpose, a goal, a place, and the philosophy that comes with it. The real purpose of everything we do is to make people happy by giving them what others gave to us and showing them how free we can get thanks to craftsmanship.

What do you hope for Ateliers Saint-Jacques’ future and the next generations of craftsmen?

I want the Ateliers Saint Jacques and the Fondation de Coubertin to become a place of teaching and exchange for both designers and craftsmen. Nowadays, young craftsmen study in our school their techniques in order to improve in the workshop or in the office when answering engineering questions for designers, as well as studying art history, philosophy or literature so they can open to the world. What I am looking at is opening this to design student as well so they could learn the entire creating process. I am dreaming of a new Bauhaus and I think that the Foundation could be an amazing place to start this. For the next generation of craftsmen, my biggest wish is for them to have a better recognition of their work and lifestyle. Creation would be nothing without the dirty hands from the workshops and I hope that tomorrow’s world will understand this. Men and women who produce masterpiece thanks to their dedication deserve recognition and respect and their names to be written next to the others.

What projects does Ateliers Saint Jacques currently have in the work?

Our activities are currently divided in two big parts which are heritage building restauration and new creations. We are working on a few private castles that I am not allowed to talk about but for the buildings that everybody would know, we are still working at Versailles for the Royal Chapel and we work at Notre Dame de Paris. About the new creations, we are very proud to work on several projects for the French designers Joseph Dirand and Pierre Yovanovitch. I personally love both of their styles and it is a great honor to build their creations. we are mostly working at private residences, in New York, Florida, California as well as Japan, Switzerland, Qatar and France with talented people such as Andrew Skurman, Peter Marino, Toro & Lieutard, Studio Razavi, Noe Duchaufour Lawrence. Unfortunately, there is nothing that I am allowed to talk about specifically.

Dive into Pierre-Yves’ universe through his Instagram account

Discover Ateliers Saint-Jacques’ projects here

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"What Inspires Me" with Etienne Gounot

Etienne Gounot and Eric Jähnke, two former industrial engineers, created together the company Ozone in 2000. Their concept is based on close collaboration with architects and private individuals to find the perfect lighting. Ozone creates its own lights: chandeliers, ceiling lights, suspensions etc. And some of their products are signed by Michel Boyer, Jean-Michel Wilmotte, Joseph Dirand, Pierre Paulin, Régis Botta and more recently Glenn Sestig. Their products combine Parisian artisan tradition with the latest LED lighting technologies which makes them so unique.

A few years ago Ozone joined the Par Excellence collective in NYC. Thanks to this, we often have a glimpse at Etienne Gounot’s poetic universe. We decided to dive deeper to understand his inspirations and the way he perceives the world around him through a series of photos.

You seem to take a lot of pictures and videos that we can sometimes find on Ozone’s Instagram account. This help us to have a glimpse at your daily inspirations and obviously light, colors, shadow, highlights and reflections are in the spotlight.

Yes I enjoy taking pictures both professionally and in my daily life. Photography captures light. Light reveals space and forms. The link between photography, light and design is strong. However light is immaterial, it always ripes from the vision of the photographer. I felt in this endless pursuit of light. I also use pictures as memories of particular moments when I feel a special atmosphere, a deep connection with myself and the environment.

Social medias only fit to a certain category of pictures due to the small screen sizes and the very quick « consumption » by the spectator. The two have selected are more destined to large prints.

Could you describe 2 or 3 of your favorite pictures you have taken in your life?

I love Nature in black and white. I find green not renders so well on pictures. When transformed into grey, it evokes stone or metal. In this picture I love the misty atmosphere of Réunion Island and the mystic light pouring from above.

The second picture is shot during my favorite period of the year, my summer vacations in Greece.  The sunsets are gorgeous there. Accidentally the camera did not focus, producing an attracting blur effect, like a dream of light.

Where does this desire to design and create comes from?

I think the majority of people have a desire to create, design and craft. In our world of increasing virtuality, technology and standardized consumption, we feel a growing separateness between us and the world, which sometimes arouses loneliness and despair. The connection to the materiality, the expression of ourself, the production of something real that we can see and touch fills this gap. Self-esteem and meaning of life are then restored.

But few decide and succeed to live on it. We decided with Eric to live on our creation when we started Ozone 20 years ago. From a handmade table lamp that gave me my first emotion, we have developed a complete design, collection and manufacturing project.

What is one of your favorite Ozone’s creation? Could you describe it with your own words and explain why you chose this one?

Classique V is one of my favorite creation. It is real creation à deux, reflecting both personalities of Eric and me. As a result, it blends in almost every interiors, from a classic heritage to a modernist or minimal apartment. The bold ring contrasts nicely with the organic hanging branches. The delicate paper shade matches well with the sharp polished metal. And the diffused warm light is divine.

Tell us about a view that you can’t get enough of, that strikes you every time?

The perspectives I can catch at the Palais Royal in Paris are striking. It is almost abstract, focus points can hardly be seen. Light through the columns is always changing and plays with them in a spellbinding rhythm. I also feel a strong historical background there.

What is the project you are the proudest of and what would be your dream project?

Monsieur Bleu may be the project of which I am the proudest. It is the synthesis of our link to the past with Michel Boyer, to the present with Joseph Dirand, and to our philosophy of lighting a space: Ultra warm light diffused by large shades, producing sunset-like feeling. It is now an iconic place.

As for a dream, I look forward to collaborating in such project in NYC!

What is the artwork you own that you are most proud of?

I am not particularly proud of possessing some artworks. They just help me to live.

Can you disclose something about yourself that might surprise us?

I do not really like objects. My dream space is almost empty. Spirituality is for me above materialism. But I am not sure it surprises you.

Can you talk about your collaboration with Glenn Sestig and your recent work on the Tennessee collection?

At the first meeting with us, 10 years ago, Glenn immediately appreciated the geometric style and the high quality of our lights. Since then, he has collaborated with Ozone on several residential projects in Europe.

In 2019 the idea of developing a new collection for Ozone was born. It will be called Tennessee as a tribute to great outdoors, cult American music and Tennessee Williams. After Michel Boyer, Joseph Dirand, Régis Botta, Jean-Michel Wilmotte, Pierre Paulin, Eric and me, Glenn Sestig joined the Ozone designer team!

The new Tennessee collection gives shape to Glenn Sestig’s passion for light, rhythm and refined finishes. Combining force and sophistication, the lights are designed to fit seamlessly to his projects. The soft, round paper shade contrasts well with the rigorous construction of the fixture.  It embeds a warm and efficient light studied by Ozone. Available in 8 models of wall lights and pendant lights, the collection is architectural and decorative at the same time. The arrangement of identical light modules brings rhythm and warmth to the space. The models are available in bronze and gunmetal finishes.

Glenn Sestig has built his collection on Ozone’s renowned expertise in fine lighting and careful manufacturing.

Dive into Etienne Gounot’s universe through Ozone’s instagram account 

Discover Ozone’s products and projects here

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