Header image by Natalie Rapoport. Antoni Gaudi. Sagrada Familia. Barcelona.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Thinking of NY

A serene view at Central Park.
By the noon the strong wind just stopped abruptly. It didn't subside it just has cut it out. Very strange. Storm alert is still on  but rain stopped and it's strangely calm. Down town Toronto is dealing with the damages, mostly fallen trees and electric lines, lots of households experienced power shortage but it's a small aftermath  compare to disaster in NY. So today I feel like share a few images of the city I love. My tiny tribute to a Big Apple.

The CNN reports are frightening and the courage and dedication of very brave reporters exposed to harsh elements, freezing rain and winds, some standing in the raging water above their knees is incredible. They kept the world updated.

 The quiet corner of NY Public Library. 
A delicate china is ready for an elegant tea for a few special guests. 
What the patrons will be talking about? 

NY has the most elegant and stylish shop windows in the world.

 The breathtaking views from Rockefeller Tower Observation Deck.
 Manhattan ship is proudly sailing towards ocean.

How small is our planet...How fragile and helpless the almighty humans can be.

Tragic times. People lost their lives, my heart is going for them and their loved ones. 
The damage is colossal but there's no doubt the resilient city as NY is will spring back as beautiful as ever. A Big Apple has been bitten severely. I wish new yorkers strength and courage.

May everyone stay safe.
Till next time.

*All images  copyright by Natalie Rapoport

Monday, October 29, 2012

Living room is for living

At times like this it’s so nice to stay safe and warm at home. The gusty winds are huffing and puffing outside. Oh that nasty hurricane wolf Sandy! Hopfully our house will withstand this ordeal.
Pouring non stop like crazy.  Brr…
Family, home, safe  -  repeating like mantra...
I'm trying to cheer up and invite you to my home and recently renovated living room.

As much as I admire  wonderful Greet Lefevre designs of Belgian Pearls and her elegant decorating ideas and timeless style it’s just a  dream and inspirational but unattainable ideal for me.
The resent lighting collection of formidable Francine Gardner  Interieurs of L’Art de Vivre left me speechless. Her taste, style and unstoppable quest for original modern solutions with industrial twist are so fascinating as if I ever will have a duplex on the upper East side. I wish… But next time in NY I’ll definitely visit the showroom.
(Just read her comment on Heather’s Lost in Arles. What an adventuress she is going for a walk in wild wind! WOW!)

We have a very small house but eventually we’ll probably downsize to apartment when the second son leave the nest too.
This is what it looked like when we saw it for the first time with previous owners.

Meanwhile I’d love to make changes from time to time.
If you ever have seen the movie Bang Bang Sisters with Susan Sarandon and Goldie Hawn you probably remember the crucial scene when the Sarandon’s character opens her huge closet full of expensive numbers and has a sudden revelation: “Everything I had before was in beige!” and dives into drastic changes.

All of a sudden I wanted something in Kathryne Ireland vibrant and colorful style. But … within given budget. That means that IKEA furniture stays and the fabric and color should do the trick.
The same room just different palette. 
To find a textile in Toronto with both fabric stores chains closed is mission impossible . It leaves only garment district where one can find plenty textiles for bridesmaids gowns or ballroom contest costumes but not for curtains or upholstery.
On-line research brought me to fantastic source www.newtoto.com. They have an impressive selection, mail as many free swatches as you wish and ship promptly your order. Very affordable and the quality is excellent.
So I made myself a slipcover for the couch and shams for the pillows, covered the armchairs and repainted peachy beige walls (which I couldn’t stand any more) into subtle pastel green. Now it works perfectly with our open concept kitchen.
The only decorating element are my numerous travel pictures which act like windows and visually enlarge the room. Each vacation brings new replacements. That’s all.

But what a difference color brings! With houses built so close  the sun is rarely gracing the living room, so natural light is very occasional. I needed to withstand the general gloominess therefore the colors and nautical motives.

Now it’s distinctively different from the prevalent brown/beige/cream/gray neutrals which people mostly prefer choosing ready made, dull and predictable vignettes from the stores. I like it this way: cheerful.

I hope all and everyone who were affected  safely escaped the Hurricane Sandy hardships. So far the forecast still sounds scary for our part of the world.
Wish everyone be safe.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Le Chateau de Fontainebleau

The last few warm and sunny days of Indian Summer are over.  It’s depressingly dark by 6pm and raining non stop in Toronto.
Some light is much needed.  Why not to turn for some glam and glitter to the most authentic sparkling images. Palace of Fontainebleau is less than  an hour away from Paris, proudly displays a spectacular collection of chandeliers different in every room.

The sky was pretty dramatic, so low and heavy, and menacing.  
Say France and Royal Palace and one immediately is thinking of Versailles and its parks and canal and fountains.
I’m taking a risk to be misunderstood if I dare to say that I wasn’t that much impressed with all that grandeur and glamour of Kings chambers  with all those some when white ostrich plumages covered for centuries with layers of dust and simple plank floors. For some reason I expected …more.

The historical staircase where Napoleon bade farewell to his Old Guard.
Yes , world famous Hall of Mirrors is very impressive, who would argue, otherwise it’s all very fragmented, well staged and restored glory of the past, whatever survived Revolution and Commune cataclysms and people’s violent rage against kings.

Too much was lost to be never retrieved. Nevertheless millions of tourists grown up on Duma’s and Druon’s loosely historical novels or at least Anne and Serge Golons’ Angelique series are flooding the palace and gardens.

Versailles is surrounded with aura of a Myth. One still can envision unimaginable festivities staged by Moliere for King Sun, fantastic fireworks and feasts, nobility crowds, enchanted sweet music and ballet scenes, or be carried away by fragrant dreams of Petit Trianon and the hay days, or better to say nights, of the glamorous and nonchalant Marie Antoinette.

The very least I’d like to sound dismissive regarding the pride and masterpiece of French architecture, arts, landscaping, royal glory  and history. Not at all of course! Who am I to not to become speechless  walking through those gold gilded rooms with crystal chandeliers? It took the whole country resource to build Versailles so the Sun King Louis XIV could proudly shine upon the world.

Imagine for a moment that somewhere in Europe there are not one but several as strikingly beautiful palace complexes larger and more glamorous, which suffered  more looting and disrepair and heavy bombarding during WWII, and catastrophic vandalism, but were painstakingly restored to their formidable splendor up to fantastic inlayed floors and silk wall coverings. The palaces, gardens and fountains I’m referring to are Peterhof built by Peter the Great and Catherine’s Palace in Saint Petersburg area which are now World  Heritage Site and Russian heritage. But this would be the whole new story…A propos so to speak.

Back to France. Versailles has largely overshadowed another Royal Chateau of Fontainebleau to such an extend that we were almost the only visitors on that summer day not to mention a Japanese group of overexcited tourists.
Very unjust, though it is on a smaller scale but nevertheless beautiful, lovingly restored, with a huge park which we couldn’t explore as much as we’d like due to a thunderstorm.
Todays Fontainebleau is a classic layered cake as much as the famous pastry of Mille Feuille and equally delicious.

As always the case with Royal Chateaux each suzerain starting with Francis I, who invited Italian architects and Leonardo da Vinci, left his mark adding the wing or the court, the gallery, the new garden layout or just redecorating.
Several kings of France were born here and many honorable guests including Peter the Great of Russia stayed there.
By the late 16th century the Italian Mannerism introduced to France was reshaped into highly influential Fontainebleau style which transformed metal and woodwork, sculpture and painting, interior style and outdoor patterned gardens.

While the Revolution left Versailles savaged and empty the same fate was destined to Fontainebleau which was in desperate condition before Napoleon decided to transform the Château de Fontainebleau into a symbol of his grandeur.

Bonaparte made Fontainebleau his home and later in1814 he bade farewell to his Old Guard  from the top of the famous staircase at the main courtyard before going to exile. His Empire style is well preserved till our days and that’s what visitors can see.
Today the Chateau is the home to the Ecoles d'Arts Americaines founded in 1921, which is primarily  the American  Conservatory offering the best musical education to young musicians. At various years it’s staff included  Ravel, Stravinsky, Mstislav Rastropovich, Leonard Bernstein and Nadia Boulanger.
The École des Beaux-Arts at Fontainebleau, founded in 1923, is focused on architectural education which is only natural considering the setting and live history surrounding the students.

While we were walking trough the enfilade of stately rooms the whole palace was filled with sweet sounds of violin and piano as a regular rehearsal was happening in the beautiful arched hall.

The chateau is surrounded with a small  and very nice little town of Fontainebleau with traditional carousel on the central square near the park. A  few days prior to our visit  there was a European Pony Championship. I wish I knew earlier, what a cute competition we've missed.
So if you happen to be in the King's mood but not up to spending hours in the line to visit Versailles you can be better off with a wonderful day trip to Fontainebleau: equally beautiful.


* All images copyright by Natalie Rapoport

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Skylights of Le Bon Marche

Today’s post by Vicky Archer of French Essence about 160 anniversary of the famous Parisian department store Le Bon Marche inspired me to do a bit of a research.
Notice the perforated ceiling base. And the modern furniture installation is quite at home.

It happened to be a world’s first department store established by Aristide Boucicaut and located on Rue du Bac. (Actually the Brits has another opinion regarding firstness.)
Later the successful growth of the business lead to new additions when architects Boileau and Laplanche were commissioned to enlarge the store sugnificantly between 1869 and 1887.
Around 1877 they contracted Gustave Eiffel to built the metal/glass roof,  the first structure of this kind in the world . That’s why the Bon Marche building is considered a  monument of architectural innovation and a landmark not to be missed.
The ceiling is magnificent !  The day light is streaming trough the ornamented glass.
That is exactly why I was there, to see beautiful interior design and take a glimpse of furniture/lighting department which was quite impressive.
 I can only imagine how beautifully the store will be decorated for the upcoming event.

 This handmade lounge chaise caught my attention as well as a very original light fixture below.

I was probably too preoccupied with the skylights and didn't pay much attention to the goods. Just wondering the galleries was a pleasure. Maybe next time in Paris...

* All images copyright by Natalie Rapoport