Tuesday, February 28, 2012

French Trumeau Mirrors

Flip through almost any home decor magazine and chances are you'll see at least one French trumeau mirror. Trumeau mirrors are usually so gorgeous and ornate. Put one in a room and it will immediately become the bell of the ball, reducing everything else in the room to just something for the mirror to reflect!

The trumeau mirror was originally manufactured in France in the 18th century. The French word "trumeau" refers to the wall space between windows. Hung on the wall, the Trumeau was designed to add both beauty and brightness to the room. By day the mirror would reflect sunlight throughout the room and at night it would reflect candle light. Candle holders were placed either in front of the mirror or hung on the wall on either side of the mirror.  Some earlier trumeaus were even designed with gilded candle holders attached to either the bottom portion or sides of the frame. These are rarer, thus harder to find.

Trumeaus were almost always painted, rectangular in shape and heavily gilded. The lower half or two-thirds of the frame would contain the mirror and the upper portion was either decorated with ornate gilding or an oil on canvas hand-painted scene.

A reproduction Trumeau Mirror in my previous home in Charleston, West Virginia. I took this picture to show the detail of the mirror and ended up loving the picture because of how it captured the other items in the room.

This mirror was purchased at the Scott's Antique Market outside of Atlanta.

 This picture gives you an idea of the size of this reproduction Trumeau. My ceilings in this home were 8 foot so I rested the mirror on the floor instead of hanging it on the wall.  

Beautiful late 17th Century Trumeau in the home of Arizona designer Christopher Coffin.
(Traditional Home Magazine, September 2007)

French blue antique Trumeau Mirror in Richmond, Virginia home designed by Suellen Gregory.
(Beautiful Southern Homes Magazine Fall/Winter 2007)

Beautiful antique French gilded trumeau with painted scene.
(Country French Magazine)

This image from Veranda Magazine combines two of my favorite docrative items - trumeau mirrors and gilded sunburst design!

Beautiful French grey trumeau mirror. I love, love, love the mirror, chest and chair!

Antique trumeau mirrors are relatively easy to find and there are so many gorgeous ones from which to choose. Unfortunately, the price tags are pretty steep for the true antique ones. I searched on-line and found antique trumeaus priced anywhere from $2,000 on up. There are some gorgeous reproductions available also if you are wanting the dramatic impact of a trumeau mirror and can do without the pedigree!

Au revoir, Mitty

Monday, February 27, 2012

What do you see in this French Facade?

I took this picture last spring after a beautiful day of French tresor (treasure) hunting. Initially I wanted to capture the beautiful stone building, the large French windows and door and the fabulous shade of blue paint on the door, all of which was given an extra "punch" by the green of the simple, yet fabulous Italian Cypress.

I took the picture and then what do you think I noticed? Do you see it?

I think I jumped when I saw "the boy" in the window!  At first I had to do a double take to see if it was a real boy or not. It wasn't of course, but what a great statue it was! I can see the tension in the boy's back, the spine protruding from the skin and the muscles defined as he looks downward.

What a great building facade! Do you like the boy in the window or do you find the statue slightly unsettling?

Au revoir, Mitty

Friday, February 24, 2012

Favorite French Things Friday - French Doors ("Portes")

French Doors. Beautiful, massive, stately, ornate French Doors.

I daydream of someday having a little apartment in a tiny village in France, perhaps in Provence. I don't care if it is one large room as long as it has stucco or stone walls, large windows with decorative wrought iron, stone or wood floors, and a beautiful view out my front window where I can sit and observe the world outside. Oh, and heat and running water would be good!

In my daydreams, the outside of the building playing host to my little apartment is limestone or river stone and has a door that looks like this............

so I could tell you, my friend, to look for me behind the beautiful stained wood door with the elaborately carved stone frieze with a beautiful lady looking down towards you.

Or I might tell you to look for the door with the TWO beautiful ladies looking to greet you.

I might tell you to look for me behind the blue door next to the Olive Oil Store.

Look for me behind the wood carved door with the beautiful wrought iron.

Or perhaps I'll tell you that I'll wait for you under the wisteria and behind the blue metal door.

Or I might simply say, "You'll find me behind door number one................

Push the door bell and I'll let you up! I can't believe you are finally here!

Au revoir, Mitty

(All photos take by "moi" in April/May 2011)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

"Essentially French" by Josephine Ryan

I'm tired today, but it's a good tired. I stayed awake until the early hours of the morning, lying in bed with my new "Mighty Bright" book light reading my new gift to myself, "Essentially French" by Josephine Ryan. This is one of those French design books that compel me to get out my magnifying glass and peruse over every word and every picture, page by page!

Josephine Ryan, the author of "Essentially French," as well as antiques dealer and stylist, spends her time between London and Uzes in the south of France. Her passion, like most of you reading this, is the "lifestyle, climate and furniture" of France. As an antique dealer for the past 20 years, she loves the thrill of the antique hunt, arriving at Brocante Markets  before sunrise often, as she says, "buying by torchlight, wrapped up so tightly you can barely see what you're buying and who you're buying from." As I read this quote I thought to myself that she is speaking for me, speaking my heart and that of every chiner out there.

"Essentially French" takes us into the personal homes of a few select antique dealers, all for whom France and French antiques are a passion, many of whom also own antique shops.  Each home is filled with its owners most cherished finds and reflects their own personal aesthetic, collections and interests. What I love about this book is that each home owner shares the story of their home; the history, how they found it and what it was about their home that made them fall in love with it and think "this is the one for me."

As I looked through each home I flagged the pages that made me sigh and want to recreate a similar room or area in my own home. Many of the rooms I could move right into and not make a change, not move a piece large or small. I do realize though, that much of what I love in these pictures is the actual architecture that houses and surrounds the furniture and decor. The pale plaster, limestone and river stone walls, the original wood plank and stone floors, the fireplaces, the doors - these elements are works of art unto themselves. Without a leg of furniture, the rooms below would still be beautiful.

Here are some of the rooms that made me want to walk into the picture and rest awhile. Enjoy.

Salon with 18th century stone fireplace in the grand farmhouse "bastide" of antiques dealer Appley Hoare. I love the tone-on-tone textural feel of the room. I could sit here for hours! 

I could sit for hours at this wonderful old bistro table. Both the table and four carvers wear their original turquoise paint. If you look closely you see that Ms. Hoare has set out a bottle of pastis for us!

I love the chair, the bistro table bearing a collection of mercury glass balls, a large gilded crown resting on the floor - I could sit here for hours!

I love everything in this picture, the high- backed chair, the chipped and peeling paint on the antique bistro table, the stone floor, the vase with the fiddle leafed fig branch, the architectural sunburst fragment - I could sit here for hours!

Maybe I could pull up a chair and sit in front of this beautiful
white marble fireplace for a while. Between a fire in the fireplace and the mixtures of antiques on the mantle, I would be happy gazing at this a while.

Au revoir, Mitty

Monday, February 20, 2012

Initials "Initiales" in France

Have you ever thought about the initiales or monograms that we love to decorate our clothes and towels with?  I love monogrammed initiales especially those found on vintage fabrics.  I love to use vintage monogrammed fabric to make pillows, use as fabric for upholstery, lampshades - almost anything and everything!

Although used primarily as decoration here in the U.S. (or some might argue unpaid advertisement for clothing designers!) French initiales actually have a purpose beyond their beauty.

Starting in the early 19th century, the French would hand-stitch initiales as a "statement" or proof of ownership. They were artfully rendered but functional nonetheless. It was not uncommon to monogram sheets, pillowcases, napkins, handkerchiefs, shirts, dresses, nightgowns, or almost anything on which you wanted to put your stamp of ownership. Even though the initiales were artfully and beautifully stitched, the addition of beauty was not the purpose of the action. The initiales simply yet boldly said "this belongs to me!"

Not stopping with soft goods, initiales began appearing stitched onto grain sacks, painted on metal grape hods and baskets for picking grapes and olives, painted on ladders used for picking fruit, engraved on silverware, carved into bread boards and wood furniture and forged onto wrought-iron gates and cast-iron fire backs. 

Hand-stitched initiales on French napkins and tablecloths

 Beautifully hand-stitched initiales on vintage French gain sacks

Hand painted initiales on French Market Basket
(Courtesy of the beautiful blog French Garden House )

Initiales painted on vintage French Champagne Baskets
(Photo from the loevely website Vintageweave Interiors)

Initiales painted on vintage French Metal Grape Hods
(Photo courtesy of beautiful blog Trouvais)

Monogrammed French Silver Flatware
(Courtesy of Tongue In Cheek blog)

Initiales on Antique French Fire Back
(courtesy of Authentic Provence)

and, how can I talk about French Initiales without mentioning perhaps the most recognized .............................LV

(Courtesy of Pretty Little Green Things)

Louis Vuitton!

I don't have anything with these initiales, do you?

Au revoir, Mitty

Thursday, February 16, 2012

French Metis Linen - "Linge de metis"

The French seem to have the inate ability to blend beauty and utility creating wonderful everyday items like the monogrammed metis linen sheet above.

What is metis linen? Metis means "mix" which is exactly what metis linen is - usually a mix of 35% cotton and 65% linen (although other fiber combinations were also woven such as 30/70 or 70/30.) "Linen Union" is France's industrial designation for metis, designating pure linen in the warp or woof and cotton in the woof or warp.

Metis linen is the "work horse" of French bedding. It is a heavy duty fabric designed to be washed repeatedly and stand up to the rough washing techniques of long ago. Appearing in France in the early 1900's, metis linen was introduced as a less expensive bedding material than pure linen and quickly became a welcomed wedding gift or part of a young girl's dowry. Metis linen has been handed down through generations and can still be found today.

When I purchased the vintage, monogrammed French metis linen sheet above, I was told by the vendor that these sheets were typical "convent" sheets. Often the Nuns would buy the metis fabric and sew two fabric panels together creating the hand-sewn middle seam shown in the photograph above.

If you are a lover of French linens and have the opportunity to travel to France, the best selection can be found on the stands of the many linen dealers who come to the Isle-sur-la-sorgue Brocante Market on the weekends. I was thrilled when I saw all of the beautiful monogrammed linens meticulously folded and tied into little bundles with bright French ribbon. 

One little helpful hint for the linen lover shopping the French Brocantes - take the time to have the vendor open the bundles and show you or allow you to see all of the items in their entirety. Some of the linens are yellowed by the sun as they sit on the tables in the vendor's booth and this discoloration may or may not wash out. Also, if reselling, obvious stains or discoloration, especially around the monogrammed initials, decrease the value.

Although I find metis linen too stiff for use as sheets, I do think they are perfect for bed coverlets, slip covers and pillows. If you are lucky enough to find a metis sheet with your initials, I'd grab it up! The beautifully hand-monogrammed metis linen sheet above just happens to have the first initials of my husband and I!

Have a pleasant Thursday.

Au revoir, Mitty

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bonne Saint Valentin, Cartes d'amities and Etsy Finds!

"Bonne Saint Valentin"

I just found this wonderful Lavender Linen Heart Sachet in EAB Designs, a great little Etsy Shop! I'd love to have several of these.

I also found these adorable French Script Scalloped Heart Tags in the Etsy Shop, AnistaDesigns.

If you're serving your Valentine breakfast or coffee in bed, here's the perfect spoon for the occasion!

Vintage, Hand stamped "Amour de Ma Vie" "Love of My Life" spoon from the Etsy Shop, Pumpernickel and Wry.

Here's my little collection of vintage "3D" standing German Valentines. I've had these for years and bring them out the first of February every year.

These vintage cards would arrive flat in an envelope and then, when opened,  fold out in three layers and stand upright for display. They're very delicate with elaborate cut outs.

I hope this day is everything you want it to be.

"Bonne Saint Valentin"


Friday, February 10, 2012

Transitions in French Style

I ran across this picture of my living room in my last home in Charleston, WV.  I've always loved raspberry and taupe and used the color combination in most rooms in my house - they were "my colors!" When I moved to My Faux French Chateau I knew that I wanted to gradually transition to a softer look, a quieter palette.

I'm like most people, I can't simply "throw out the old and bring in the new." So I've moved pieces of furniture around my new house, given some to MDD, put some in storage, and added a few new pieces. I've also found my passion for painted and distressed furniture and am incorporating more of these pieces into my home.

I've retained my love for taupe Belgian Linen, moving the small linen sofa in the room above to my little "formal living room" in MFFC.  The "great room" of MFFC (picture below) dwarfed the little sofa so I purchased two matching, large linen sofas for the room.  The oriental carpet above has been rolled up and sent to an Oriental rug store for re-sale and the antique, more worn blue and cream carpet put in it's place.

Making the transition to this new look will take time. And, when MDD has her first home, I'll give her more of my darker, more formal wood furniture and bring in more painted, casual furniture. 

This quieter look suites me and the way I want to live today. Maybe I'm calmer as well - o.k., maybe that's a stretch!

Who knows why, but it works for me and makes me smile.

Au revoir, Mitty

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bringing a Touch of France Home - Mariage Frères - Maison de Thé

There are so many ways to bring a little touch (or taste) of France to your own home.

When I was in Provence in April, I had a "foodie" conversation with Christine, the owner of the B&B where MH and I were staying. Christine shared her views on the French love of food and drink and the emphasis they place on purchasing the best quality of foods available and the preparation of the freshest meals possible. The French eat "what is fresh and in season." The time of year dictates what is available; thus, what is prepared. Food is a priority, with time and money spent on creating memorable meals. A meal is to be savored, eaten leisurely with passion and gratitude.

For the tea lover in France, Mariage Frères teas are the finest.

If you are a tea lover, you'll find great pleasure in a cup of Mariage Frères tea.  At first glance you might mistake these teas as "marriage" teas (as I have to admit I did!) - they are not. "Mariage" is the family surname, "Frères" means "Brothers." In France, Brothers Henri and Edouard Mariage would become known as the premier importers of teas and the preeminent wholesale tea merchant to retailers, hotels and tea rooms.

On their website, www.mariagefreres.com, you can read about the extensive, multi-generational passion for tea held by the Mariage family. This passion culminated in the founding of the Mariage Frères tea company in Paris on June 1, 1854.  Another 130 years later, Mariage Frères began selling "to the public" both in retail locations and by mail-order. Today, Mariage Frères offers more than 500 high quality teas, exclusive teapots, and other tea paraphernalia in their Tea Emporiums and Tea Salons in France, Germany and Japan.

This picture, reproduced from the Mariage Frères website, shows one of the tea counters in a Mariage Frères Tea Emporium. Here, on this "wall of tea," you can choose among 600 tins of tea and tea blends imported from over 30 tea producing countries.

Because of the huge selection, you may want to allow ample time if you visit a Tea Emporium!

Decisions, decisions. 

Do you want a White, Yellow, Green, Blue, Black, Mature, Tea Blend, Flavored or Fruit Tea?

Do you want your tea from China, Formosa, India, Nepal, Ceylon, Japan, the Golden Triangle, Vietnam, other Asian Countries, Asia Minor, Latin America,  Africa or Oceania? 

And now to the tea's "main flavor," do you want Bergamot/Earl Grey, Jasmine, Flowery, Fruity, Citrusy, Vanilla Flavored, Spicy Flavored, Malty, Almond Milk or Lilly of the Valley Flavored or Smoked?

Do you like a Morning, Daytime or Evening blend?

 Do you want your tea loose leaf, in  a brick, sachet or packet?

And lastly, would you like it presented in a Metallic Tin, Decorator Canister, Glass Case or Lacquer Box?

How can you ever decide? So much wonderfulness from which to choose!


Mariage Frères tea houses are said to be perhaps the finest tea houses in the world. They are decorated to evoke images of colonial days greeting guests with the simple elegance of tables covered in white linen, dark wood furniture and large, lush green palms.

In my quest to enjoy this small "taste" of France, I set out to find a local retailer of these wonderful teas. They can be ordered from multiple sites on the Internet, including "The Cultured Cup" located in Dallas, Texas. Or, if you are like me and are too impatient to order them, you can find a couple of Mariage Frères teas at Williams-Sonoma.  With two Mariage Frères teas in my local Williams-Sonoma store from which to choose, I selected the Darjeeling Princeton - a daytime tea!

Mariage Frères Darjeeling Princeton tea in a beautiful black canister.

Loose tea leaves.

My little collection of antique silver tea strainers. The French tea strainer hanging from the teapot was purchased several years ago from a vendor at the Brocante Market in Nice, France. I had never seen one like this before!

I hope you enjoyed this!

Au revoir, Mitty 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

French Tea and Toast for Valentine's Day - (Thé et de pain grillé français)

How about French Tea and Toast for your Valentine's Breakfast?

How about serving him/her breakfast in bed?

A Valentine's Day breakfast of tea and toast is a special and easy way to start your Valentine's morning and win you big points at the same time!

This breakfast tray can be set the night before and the following morning you simply prepare the Thé et de pain grillé.  I've used French Mariage Freres Thé (tea), La Perruche morceau de sucre (sugar cubes), Bonne Maman framboise préserve (raspberry preserves), and French pain Batard  (Batard bread - a country style French bread.) If you feel industrious, you can add a boiled egg, yogurt, or anything else your Valentine enjoys.

If the tray above is a little too fussy for you, how about a simpler breakfast tray?

Or, if the idea of a set tray is just too much for you, how about simply serving your Valentine a cup of coffee or tea in bed. The purpose is to serve, surprise and honor your Valentine. How you tell them "You are special!" may vary - the point is that you do so!

Au revoir, Mitty