Archives for category: French holiday

Ever since we went to the Parisian taxidermists Deyrolle in the summer I have been thinking about wallpaper. In fact, once I started looking, I found I had collected a huge sprawling mass of inspiration. So I have decided to start a little series for you, to keep all my musings bite-size and digestible.

Our house feels light and bright, with white walls and splashes of colour. We have tended to treat the occasional wall like an enormous piece of artwork, and have painted in blocks. Or we’ve used furnishings including curtains as our main colour statement sections. But so far we haven’t done much with paper. I have two spots in mind, in our kitchen under the picture window, and in the music room (which I don’t think I’ve introduced to you yet), on the wall behind the desk.

Deyrolle, I noticed, have designed some truly amazing papier peint, with bugs, beasts and birds aplenty. They sell through another French company called neoDKo which you can access here. My favourite is this crazy essence-of-anatomy-textbook pasted in glorious abandon on a wall.

Collection Patchwork wallpaper via NeoDKo.com

Collection Patchwork wallpaper via neoDKo.com

The extreme minimalism of that interior pictured above provides a clear stage for the drama of all the movement on the walls. Which led me to thinking that the context for using this sort of design is very important: in a busy room you need either order (pattern) or calm (in colours) for your decor. If you were to try and add this wallpaper to an already cluttered space, you would likely just create more confusion, and lose some of the attraction of the ‘patchwork’ in the process. I think for the room where we store files and books, study, practise and play, our walls need to be inspirational, yes, but not distracting. However I could see this design working beautifully behind the dining bench, under the window, in the room where we have an expanse of plain wall and only a few simple pieces of furniture.

Pillar box window in a blank wall: not designed for tall cats

White wall. Prime for development

I would probably fix a line of white wooden trim below the window to act as a frame, and then paper below to the skirting. Another advantage of a wild and busy design here is that the odd splash of soy sauce or ketchup probably wouldn’t stand out. Don’t look too carefully at this picture: despite the serenity of the scene there are definitely the ghosts of little chocolate hands scrubbed out.

So the Deyrolle is definitely a contender for this space. But there are others….

Next time I am going to tell you about wallpapering in the old way: tune in for some tales of stately opulence, and the clever designs which remain modern after half a century.

Tim loves to plan a good holiday itinerary. Since our time in Paris was short, we decided to aim for a few choice highlights in those limited hours, and the day’s structure needed some careful mapping. This is why I was a little dubious when he suggested that one of our destinations should definitely be a taxidermy shop called Deyrolle.

On reflection, though, it sounded like an adventure, and featured favourably in a few trendy blogs and guides (but none of the mainstream guide books). Within six hours of being in Paris we had already scaled the Eiffel Tower at night and bought two epilepsy-inducing coloured flashing light souvenir mini versions, so it felt right and refreshing to take a diversion at this point from the tourist superhighway.

There are cute boutiques and pretty façades all along Rue du Bac, but this is the window of Deyrolle, with a clue as to their unconventional wares:

'I just feel a little nervous but I can't quite put my finger on why.' Rodents perch with domestic birds in a window display at Deyrolle

‘I just feel a little nervous, Jacques, but I can’t quite put my finger on why.’ Rodents perch with domestic birds in a window display at Deyrolle, unaware of the prowlers below

 

Precarious afterlife for these pretty birds as cats prowl tantalisingly close

Precarious afterlife: an aspect of dinner for this feline group

The downstairs felt like a National Trust shop, with calendars, lavender bags, and gilt-rimmed mugs. The boys circled dangerously close to a large vase and dried flower display, fuelled by their sugary second breakfast, and I started to plan a swift exit. However in the corner of the room was a wooden staircase up to the first floor, so we coralled the energetic limbs and mobilised upwards.

Imagine the joy of this friendly chap’s greeting as we reached the top:

Salut! Hairy bear-y welcome

Salut! Hairy bear-y welcome

This classically decorated Parisian apartment is home to a diverse crew of creatures, caught as if on pause in a nature documentary and transplanted to a surreal urban ever-after.

How the antelope feels

How the antelope feels

Two rooms of mammals and birds lead to an extensive collection of butterflies and bugs, populating wide drawers in huge wooden cabinets. The knowledge that you are in fact in a shop gives an extra frisson of excitement…. You know, if I wanted, I could buy that polar bear (€30,000) or that guinea pig (€300) or that giant moth (€30 – realistically I could actually afford this one, although the accompanying box frame is a further cost), I’m engaging in retail therapy in a museum.

Would you mind just moving me a little to the left? I have finished reading about coral now

‘Would you mind just moving me a bit to the left? I have finished reading about coral now’

Tempting as it was, we decided in the end not to purchase a former beastie: it was the beginning of our road trip, and I wasn’t sure how suitable an environment the inside of our Renault Espace would prove to be for two weeks in the south of France in the summer.

I didn't realise it would be this sort of party: eclectic group socialise at Deyrolle

‘I didn’t realise it would be this sort of party, Maude.’ Eclectic group socialise at Deyrolle

 

Designers and artists are incorporating furred and feathered features within all sorts of furniture and as stand-alone pieces for the discerning home designer, as this Financial Times (£) article attests. It is a step on from our trophy heads, creating a cluttered and nostalgic setting as a gesture against the stark lines of modern design. I’ve seen Alex Randall’s Squirrel Wall Lights featured in many design blogs recently, and there are many other variations on this theme if you start looking.

Wearing their burdens lightly: Alex Randall's Squirrel wall sconces

Wearing their burdens lightly: Alex Randall’s perky wall sconces

Right now, we’re content with our live version of animal decor…

Lotus lives life on the edge

Lotus lives life on the edge

…but I guess (whisper it) should something terrible happen to your family pet, you could view it as a little less, well, final?

 

We were in Paris for only two nights, and so had to squeeze in our adventures to a relatively short time. Hence on the first morning we set off to find a perfect breakfast bakery, with tables outside, and delicious creations inside. The Rue des Martyrs was freckled liberally with award-winning cake shops and bread shops, sushi bars and wine bars, delicatessens and cheese emporia, sawdust-sprinkled floors in butchers and punnets of fruit and veg spilling out of greengrocers onto trestles on the pavement.

Stocking the pavement with five-a-day supplies

Stocking the pavement with five-a-day supplies

The only seated refreshments we saw initially were the wobbly plastic chairs outside tabacs. Parisians seemed content to perch on these to enjoy their early morning espresso, but we were after the holiday dream (always a dangerous aim with children in tow), and bakeries weren’t obliging with seating as we traipsed up the hill.

Roll up, roll up! Get your posh ham here.

Roll up, roll up! Get your posh ham here

Thankfully at the top was a tiny cobbled square with trees, benches, and a few local people stretching the legs of their minuscule dogs. At the corner, some artfully arranged painted chairs and rickety tables heralded our boulangerie holy grail.

The colour shop next door. How to match your soft furnishings with your floral arrangements

The ‘colour shop’ next door. How to match your soft furnishings with your floral arrangements

Each boy chose an inordinately enormous cake for his ‘second breakfast’, whilst Tim and I enjoyed a simple croissant each with black coffee, so everyone was happy.

It's not muesli. But it is second breadfast.

It’s not muesli. But it is second breakfast

Our meander back down the hill was slightly less single-minded, and we found some dear little treasure shops nestled between the cafes.

What lovely crockery you have! Quirky little interiors shop

What lovely crockery you have! Quirky little interiors shop

I pretty much wanted everything in here.

So many nice things, so little interest from my tourist companions....

So many nice things, so little interest from my tourist companions….

And through this murky window some existentialist toys contemplated their future.

Don't jump, Claude. Playmobil figures close to the edge

Don’t jump, Claude. Playmobil figures close to the edge

Thus set up, we went on our way to the Metro, and headed to our next, even more magical destination….

Well, we’ve been en vacances! It was lots of fun: a few days’ city break in Paris, a luxury week in a manoir near Bordeaux, and a stay in a mobile home on a campsite near Rochefort.

I loved the understated glamour of our converted manor house, which was typical structurally of the region’s low, cool, rambling old buildings. The owners had made clever work of their renovation, retaining the character of the place with original beams, walls and flooring, and adding elegant furniture pieces and fittings which were not ostentatious.

Check it out; sartorially speaking, it's ok to leave your footwear lying around if it looks this cute

Check it out; sartorially speaking, it’s ok to leave your footwear lying around if it looks this cute

The stair carpet was in a jazzy check, which looked smart and classy against the rough stone walls.

Another thoughtful juxtaposition of old and new was the way that the doorways and windows were framed. Rather than plaster smooth right up to the edges, the large stone blocks surrounding the windows and doors were often left exposed. The kitchen featured an even more inventive form of this, with the regular tiling being cut at the same angle and curve as the plaster.

Curvy: plaster and tiling take part in synchronised wave

Curvy: plaster and tiling take part in synchronised wave

Nifty, huh?

I wasn’t very excited by the tiling in any of the bathrooms, which all featured bleurghhh shades of murky green or rust, but I did love this feature:

Framed: maybe you could hang a shower curtain from it?

Framed: maybe you could hang a shower curtain from it?

I don’t even know what it’s there for, but it does add to the quirkiness and detract from the ceramic faux pas.

Stone walls make an appearance again

Stone walls make an appearance again

Finally, some additions to our selection of Things to Put on Your Walls, French holiday home style.

Farming yoke hovers above Toulouse-Lautrec pieces

Farming yoke hovers above Toulouse-Lautrec pieces

Yes, there is a little line of keys, just right to adorn a bare beam.

And a bemused Bordeaux fermier is wondering just where he put all his spare clefs....

And a bemused Bordeaux fermier is wondering just where he put all his spare clefs….

I know I promised to tell the tale of my living room curtains, but I do also have the most amazing Paris shop for you to discover as well. So we’ll see where we end up… à bientôt.

 

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