Archive | August 2012

Provence, Part III: Dining Delight for Foodies — “Joie de Vivre”

August 20, 2012

One of the tenets I try to follow daily is also — coincidentally — a popular French saying: joie de vivre”, which means joy derived from life. I believe it’s our day-to-day experiences that give us the most happiness throughout our lives. This was amplified immensely during my stay earlier this year in the South of France.

After settling into the house and finalizing some of the accessories for this project, my husband and I decided to explore the local region and visit some neighboring small villages. I would like to share with you some of the design elements both small and large that were memorable for us.  Of course one often hears about towns such as Avignon, Marseille and Arles, which were lovely, but I would like to share with you some smaller, out-of-the-way villages that gave us some stellar experiences.

Up on a small mountain was the town of La Garde Adhémar. The residents there are famous for homemade wood-baked pizza with paper-thin crusts and delicate toppings. The adjacent, more formal restaurant had a collection of vintage plates that would make any dish collector swoon. This town with a population of about 8,000 was so charming, and was also home to a beautiful medieval church.

Another local town that might otherwise be missed is Uzès. Here we had the most artfully displayed ice cream I have ever seen served up in a Murano glass dish with fresh fruit. I do believe good design applies to all things — even ice cream!

In the town of Saint Paul Trois Chateaux, the chef at one of the local restaurants made Bouillabaisse especially for us. It was interesting how the broth came out first (served separately) followed by the shell fish along with a whole fish as well. The added saffron to the broth was wonderful.

In Grignon, we found a charming tea room with homemade orange and lemon tarts. Many of these small towns have weekly markets to visit, and offer products flavored with their famous lavender. Lavender honey, jellies, soaps, syrup and more were in abundance. This is where I purchased some of these fabulous things.

All in all, it has been very rewarding to see how happy my clients are with the results of this project. I am constantly learning and inspired from my travels, which, in turn, hone my design skills. So I thank you for following my journey to Provence and do wish you, as always, to “vivre admirablement” – live beautifully!

We felt so incredibly special as a chef in Saint Paul Trois Chateaux made an amazing Bouillabaisse dish for us. The same chef also created this tortellini salad masterpiece, which was beyond delicious. You can do this at home, too! Included in this salad pictured above is cheese tortellini, prosciutto, fresh peas, asparagus, peppers, lettuce and cucumbers – all topped with a drizzle of olive oil. Serve chilled or room temperature.

We found this gem of a meal in La Garde Adhémar. In a word: superb. Travelers come from far and wide to taste this scrumptious wood-burning oven pizza for which the town’s residents are famous.

Here’s an example of beautifully served ice cream in Uzès, France. This was one of the most marvelous desserts I’ve ever seen presented, and the sweet and refreshing taste was out of this world. It was served in a Murano glass dish topped with fresh fruit.

Our time in Grignon allowed us to see this wonderful lavender field. The town’s weekly markets offer an abundance of lavender products, including honey, jellies, soaps, massage oils, syrup, pillows and more.

Provence, Part II: Arriving and Accessorizing After “Virtual Design”

August 6, 2012

In my first blog post about designing a client’s vacation home in the South of France, I shared some overall thoughts about virtual design and how meticulous, organized and team-oriented you have to be in order for it to be successful. In this second installment, I’m excited to talk about the accessorizing we did in the home once we arrived. It reminded me of the famous quote by American writer, producer and film director Robert Harling, who wrote Steel Magnolias: “The only difference between us and the animals is our ability to accessorize!”

Having done this project virtually, it was such a treat for my husband, Bruce, and I to see the results in person. At first, what struck me most was how seriously old the village was in which this home was located. The charm and quaintness of the town was intoxicating. Once inside the home, I was so pleased to see how all the furnishings fit the space perfectly. I then realized it was time to accessorize and tweak things.

First, I addressed the mantel on the lovely French fireplace (seen in my July 23rd blog post) and found a local antique dealer where I could purchase some leather books that would support an original oil in a creative way. I then added a candle holder and vase of flowers and — voila — suddenly the room began to feel inviting.  Nothing like books and flowers to warm up a space!

In the kitchen, we selected the broken joint tile for the backsplash from a local shop near my studio in La Grange, IL, and had the cabinets built locally as well. I added some old copper pieces that had great patina to bring a dash of warmth and character. I also visited some linen shops for tea towels and napkins. My clients had already selected some lovely dishes.

On to the bedrooms: Appropriately placing a vase here and there, as well as straw hats (all used by the owners), and detailing an empty bookcase became my next goal. For the bedroom bookcase, I collected all the pamphlets about the region, some picture frames, miniature oils and small accessories to add charm to the space. The bookcase was from a resale shop near my design studio that we had refinished and shipped over. We also had all the bedding made in the USA and shipped over as well. At the end of each day, we would have a glass of local Rose wine, some great cheese and bread and just kick back. Stay tuned for a taste of the local color in my next blog post.

The cabinets and broken joint tile for the kitchen backsplash were from the United States. The old copper pieces were purchased upon my arrival in France, and my design-savvy clients found the perfect dishes. Looking at this photo makes me want to make homemade ratatouille followed by crème brulee for dessert!

All of the bedding was made in the United States and shipped to France. In this bedroom, the existing exposed beams lent themselves as a great architectural backdrop to complement distressed-looking furniture. The nightstand you see in this photo and the smaller nightstand in the second bedroom pictured below are actually new pieces made to appear antiqued.

We accessorized by purchasing French vases and French home accents. The casual placement of the homeowners’ straw hats made for great styling in this picture, don’t you think?

For the empty bedroom bookcase, I collected all the pamphlets about the region, picture frames, miniature oils and small accessories to add charm to the space. The bookcase was from a resale shop near my design studio in La Grange, IL, that we had refinished and shipped over.