Friday Favorites 10.13.17

It has been a bit of a trying week. Between being stretched thin with all of these work trips and a full docket of work at home and the devastating news of the fires in Northern California, which have affected my beloved Napa Valley, I have been feeling a bit down as of late. To top it all off, Tate woke up with severe back pain on Wednesday morning and could barely lift his neck. The vet seems to think it is a residual injury from his back issues and we are treating it conservatively with medication and plenty of crate rest. It broke my heart to leave my sweet boy that way when I headed to High Point, North Carolina yesterday which is where I am writing you from today.

I am here at Furniture Market for a few meetings and in order to source more things for my clients back home. Paris and High Point could not be more different and while I enjoy High Point, I would love to be back in Paris instead! I will also be speaking on a panel hosted by One Kings Lane on Monday along with William Li, Creative Director of Ralph Lauren Home, Benjamin Reynaert, an editor with Hearst Group (House Beautiful, Elle Decor & Veranda), and Mandy Kellogg Rye of Waiting on Martha. We will be discussing how to build a brand on social media, so it should be a lively and interesting conversation. I will keep you posted on more details, but as of now, I believe the luncheon where the panel will take place is by invitation only. The best part of being in High Point is seeing design friends from all over the country, which I am very much looking forward to. I am also on a mission to find some fabulous new things for our projects.

Style: One of the most memorable experiences from my trip to Paris was seeing the incredible Christian Dior: Couturier du Reve exhibit in celebration of the legendary designer’s 70th anniversary of bringing beauty into the world at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. It was extraordinary in every sense– from seeing the breathtaking couture craftsmanship of each dress to the inspiring level of creativity and detail with which the exhibit is displayed. It was one of the most special things I have ever experienced. I am planning to do a separate post, devoted entirely to this wonderful exhibition soon, but in the meantime, you can read the book, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams which features the same dresses which were on display in Paris.

Design: On Wednesday, I shared the collaboration between me and the talented, forward-thinking Josh Young. Hop on over to Instagram (@ladolcevitablog) today for all of the details and to enter the giveaway  of a “Paloma” portrait that I am hosting today.

Read: If you’ve followed LDV for a while now, then you likely know how special the Napa Valley is to me. It is one of my very favorite places on earth and one where Fabian and I have spent a good amount of time. It has been so heartbreaking to see the devastation left behind by the wildfires that have been ravaging the area this week. The California wine country is home to some incredibly hard-working, determined, and special people. Just think about how they manage to make pure magic out of the earth there, whether it is in a remarkable bottle of wine or in an unforgettable meal using the best produce the U.S. has to offer. I am certain that the area will rebuild and will come back better than ever, but it will surely be a long road ahead. If you love the area and are feeling as melancholy about it as I am, be sure to read From Napa with Love by Alexis Swanson Traina and From the Land by renowned architects Backen, Gillam & Kroeger, both of which are essentially love letters to this special little place on the planet. You can also find 8 ways to help the victims of the wildfires here.

Cook: I am a sucker for a beautifully designed book and Cherry Bombe by Kerry Diamond and Claudia Wu (creators of Cherry Bombe, an indie food magazine) pulled me right in with its crisp typography and chic color combination. Cherry Bombe features recipes and stories from 100 of the most creative women in the food industry including Padma Lakshmi from Top Chef, Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni’s ice creams, Joy Wilson of Joy the Baker, and Chrissy Teigen, the model and best-selling cookbook author. I can’t wait to dig into this and try some new recipes once I get back from High Point.

Shop: When in High Point, comfortable shoes are an absolute must because you can easily be on your feet 12 hours a day. Since it is important to also look polished and presentable, a great pair of flat mules are ideal. I packed this gold pair with me and currently have my eye on these pretty leopard flats with black velvet bow as well as  this chic pair of moss green velvet mules.

Have a wonderful weekend!

LDV Travels: The Best Antiques Shopping Trip in Paris

Around this time last week, I was fresh off of my first antiques buying trip in Paris. Nine days and two new trips later (Birmingham and High Point), I can’t stop thinking about Paris and the wonderful time we had. The trip was one of several Ann Huff and Meg Harrington organize and lead each year. The trips usually consist of small groups– ours included eight shoppers and three women from the Huff Harrington team in order to keep things manageable and create a wonderful sense of camaraderie between all of the women in the group. Our group consisted of interior designers and shop owners, predominantly from the Southeast, as well as a fellow Houstonian who was searching for a good number of special pieces for the house she is building. We all really got into the spirit of things and genuinely enjoyed one another’s company.

I have been raving about the trip to anyone who will listen since I returned because it was an extraordinary experience that had a profound effect on me. For starters, I am the one who usually plans everything in my life, so the prospect of just showing up and having the full itinerary planned and every last detail taken care of was a rare and thoroughly enjoyed luxury. The attention to detail on behalf of Ann, Meg, and their helper Catherine was unbelievable. In addition to scouting all of the antiques markets and fairs we visited prior to our arrival, they acted on our behalf to translate, negotiate, and educate us on our purchases, ensuring that missteps were not made. On top of that, they handle all of the logistics of getting our fabulous finds back stateside. The only decisions I made on this trip were how much I was willing to pay for the items I fell in love with and what to eat at each meal. Everything else was handled for us beautifully.

Upon our arrival in Paris, we all met for coffee, and were then taken to our beautiful apartments in the stylish 7th arrondissement on Paris’ Left Bank. I shared a lovely apartment with two other women, Anne Wagoner, a wonderfully talented interior designer from Raleigh and the lovely Lacresa Allen who owns a shop called The Roost Home in Bluffton, South Carolina. The first day was low key as we were all quite jet-lagged, so we enjoyed a leisurely lunch in a chic, little brasserie in the neighborhood, got settled and unpacked at home, and then went to dinner at the wonderful Fontaine de Mars which was outstanding. These would be the first of countless amazing meals, each one better than the last, and each featuring  three courses and plenty of bubbles and wine!

The following day, we hit the ground running and took the train to the outskirts of Paris where we would spend the day at Chatou, a bi-annual antiques fair similar to Round Top or Brimfield, but better in that it is more condensed and it is Paris after all! 

We all scored some fabulous finds on the first day. I am bringing this sweet Napoleon chair from the late 1800s home. It was the first piece I scored that day.

I also brought home these beautiful gilded brackets, also from the 1800s, which will be fabulous with some pretty vases, mixed with some great art.

This chest is one of my favorite finds from the trip. It is 19th Century Napoleon with beautiful, inlaid drawer fronts, incredible dovetail construction, and a stunning black marble top. It was so fun running around, finding things, then texting Ann and Meg to come help negotiate and write the orders. Their expertise in verifying the quality and provenance of the pieces I bought was absolutely invaluable. At the end of each day shopping, we would all meet up, pop a bottle of champagne, and toast to our buys that day.

We visited the famed Marche aux Puces, or Paris Flea Market a couple of times on this trip. Everyone found some wonderful and interesting things and it was so fun to see the lovely stalls and buildings draped in lush vines.

One of the best parts of shopping at the flea market with Ann and Meg is that they took us to vendors off the beaten path as well as to the dealers only section of the market that is not open to the public.

The items at the market run the gamut from very fine, significant antiques like the ones pictured here to bric a brac and smalls in other parts of the market. There is truly something for everyone.

I spotted these super chic, black and white abstract paintings from the 1960s by a well known French artist by the name of Jacques Nestle and posted them to my Instagram story. I thought about them all day, but didn’t immediately pull the trigger. I ended up going back to get them because I couldn’t get them out of my mind and a client spotted them on my Instagram and wanted them for her house. I plan on making these trips to France more frequently in order to source unique things for my clients because the first trip was a big success.

This is a stunning Louis Philippe chest with a beautiful gray marble top that I am kicking myself for not buying. The vendor agreed to sell it for a song, but I chickened out because I don’t have a spot for it in my house and didn’t want to pay to store it indefinitely. I wish I could go back in time!

{Chic French Rattan Pieces at the Marche aux Puces}

When Fabian and I were in Paris this summer, we bought two handmade Plaster sunburst mirrors from this artist. These pieces are so special and are truly works of art. I’ve fallen in love with them, so I bought a group of them that will likely go into a client project in the future.

Ann and Meg took us to their mirror guy who had the most amazing selection of antique French mirrors. It was funny, but over the course of the trip, we started to notice what we all gravitated to. I loved mirrors, while my friend Anne was pulled towards small paintings at every turn. Part of the fun of shopping with a group like this is that we kept an eye out for each other and often found pieces for the other women in the group.

Back in Paris, we visited some street markets and local antiques shops. We also spent some time in the design district in the St. Germain de Pres neighborhood. The Italian chandelier is also coming home to Houston– not with me, but with the other Houstonian on the trip who saw it and immediately fell in love with it.

One of the nice things about this trip was how balanced it felt. We had plenty of planned activities and time to shop for antiques, but we were also given a few afternoons and evenings to do our own thing, which was nice so that we could explore the city on our own. One afternoon, my friend Anne and I visited the incredible Dior exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. It was breathtaking and one of the most extraordinary things I have ever experienced. I am planning to do a separate blog post on it, so stay tuned!

I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with new friends and showing them some of my favorite places in Paris, such as the Ritz, where we enjoyed a nightcap and conversation after going to my favorite Italian restaurant in Paris.

Everywhere you look in Paris, inspiration beckons. Our nightly walks to group dinners left us marveling at the beautiful architecture in our lovely neighborhood.

{It felt like a dream to walk home from dinner and see the Eiffel Tower in all its majesty.}

This trip had a huge impact on me. I enjoyed each moment and came home feeling completely inspired and energized. I learned so much more about French antiques than I knew before and have literally dreamt about shopping for antiques in Paris since the first night of the trip! For the last two weeks, I have had these recurring trips, which happens to me when I tap into something I am passionate about and become obsessed with. I am already thinking about taking another shopping trip to France with Huff Harrington, but am currently deciding between going back to hunt for antiques in Paris or going to Provence to enjoy a leisurely week in the French countryside in the late spring instead. If you have been wanting to go on a shopping trip to France, I cannot recommend going with Huff Harrington highly enough. It was honestly one of the best trips I have ever taken and I can’t wait to do it again. For more information on their upcoming trips, click here for the 2018 schedule.

The Josh Young x Paloma Contreras Collaboration

Social media is the great connector of the modern age. About a month ago, while perusing the explore page on Instagram, I came across the work of Josh Young, an ingenious designer and artist in Chicago. Upon graduating from Italy’s University Catolica del Sacro Cuore, Josh spent six years in Milan which proved to be incredibly influential on his work which has been featured in Vogue Italia, GQ Italia, and Apartment Therapy. Upon coming across Josh’s work, I  immediately started following him on Instagram and fell in love with his avant-garde approach to classical portraits. I loved the juxtaposition of beautiful portraits with a modern, artfully-placed slash. I am constantly describing my personal aesthetic as a modern interpretation of classic style, so naturally, these cheeky portraits were right up my alley!

{Paloma in my Powder Room}

Eventually, Josh and I connected and we developed an exclusive collaboration appropriately called “Paloma”. “Paloma” is a lovely, bourgeois French woman. I was struck by the beautiful composition and color palette in her portrait and immediately knew that I wanted her accent color to be pink. This is the first portrait in an exclusive series Josh and I are developing together and will launch soon. I hope you love “Paloma” as much as I do! When I received the package and saw the portrait for the first time, I was instantly elated. I always tell my clients that art should not be simply decorative, but it should make you feel something. This portrait made me feel pure joy! I had just returned home from Paris and am completely obsessed with everything Parisian, so she was absolutely perfect. I love her! 

{Sitting Pretty on my Mantle}

Stay tuned, because we will be hosting a giveaway later this week and you can win a “Paloma” portrait of your very own.

The Style Files: Mary McGee

I have admired the work of designer, Mary McGee for almost as long as I have written this blog. She has a wonderful way of creating beautiful, glamorous environments that maintain a sense of effortless ease and has a great talent for mixing antiques with modern pieces. Mary has an innate ability to juxtapose the most refined pieces with relaxed, unexpected elements for a look that is entirely her own. Born in Tennessee, Mary’s upbringing fostered an appreciation for classic, traditional design and a love of color in her work. In addition to designing chic interiors from coast to coast which have graced the pages of House Beautiful, Vogue, and Metropolitan Home, Mary is launching a unique collection of textiles later this fall. Mary McGee x Africa is the culmination of Mary’s love of exotic, high-quality textiles which will be executed in rich, unexpected color palettes for a completely unique look, all through a socially-conscious, sustainable practice. I hope that you will enjoy this in-depth look at Mary’s elegant, polished interiors as well as getting to know more about this talented designer.

Paloma Contreras: How would you describe your style?

Mary McGee: My design aesthetic can be described as classic and feminine, balanced by the casual elegance of modern inspired elements. I like to create spaces that are eclectic with unexpected juxtapositions, like pairing contemporary art with historical periods of furniture.

PC: How has splitting your time from coast to coast influenced your aesthetic?

MM: I go back and forth between L.A., Boston, and Tennessee. I was exposed to so much beauty growing up in the South– historical homes, gorgeous antiques, and relatives that had impeccable taste. I would have to say that I always borrow design ideas from my Tennessee roots to give all my projects a taste of Southern style and charm.

PC: What does your home say about you?

MM: I am a classicist who loves timelessness despite the modern twist I put on  many projects.

PC: Where do you turn for inspiration?

MM: My family, Deeda Blair, and design legends such as Billy Baldwin, Henri Samuel, and David Hicks. My clients are also a source of inspiration.

PC: Who are your personal style icons?

MM: I don’t really have a style icon, but I would say my mother, grandmother, and Catherine Deneuve.

{Mary’s Beautiful Grandmother and Mother}

PC: What trait do you most admire in a person?

MM: Humility. It is so rare these days.

PC: What is your guilty pleasure?

MM: Krispy Kreme

PC: Who or what has been your greatest professional influence?

MM: My grandmother, Talulah. She was an intellectual southern woman who had beautiful style. She had such flair and good taste. She always arranged the most spectacular flowers from her garden, hosted great dinner parties, was a fantastic cook, and loved decorating. However, more than anything, she valued a good education and was concerned about the achievements of her grandchildren. She wanted us to be current and well-versed in global affairs, politics, and business. To have a sense of style and art was just the icing on the cake. Deeda Blair has also been a great source of inspiration. She has been so supportive and encouraging of my career right from the beginning. For many years, Deeda made me scrapbooks and we would sit in her living room in Georgetown and go over fabrics and design ideas.

PC: What is your idea of living “la dolce vita”?

MM: I think living a meaningful life is as good as it gets. Life is not about being rich, popular, or highly educated. Those are superficial things. For me, life is about being REAL, being HUMBLE, and touching the lives of others.

PC: What can we look forward to next from you? 

MM: In late November, simultaneously, I will introduce my brand’s first-ever fabric collection and its charitable initiative born out of the desire to do more than just send beautiful interiors out into the world. The initiative connects Africa’s most marginalized, but talented artisans to the design industry’s top talents, bringing the rarest of skills to the world of high-end decoration. The textiles are a continuation of my refined and glamorous design aesthetic, mixing exotic patterns with alluring colors and intriguing graphics. I believe that art, in any form, is a powerful platform for positive global change. I’m really going to be moving the needle in the world of high-end decoration, transforming the way we produce products and decorate into an environmentally and socially conscious vision.

Go To Outfit: A knee-length camel or black skirt paired with a white Anne Fontaine blouse or a black t-shirt style cashmere sweater

Style Mantra: Classic is always in good taste.

Scent: Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb

Piece of Jewelry: Emerald Chandelier Earrings

Color I Never Tire of: Celadon Green

Flower: White Peonies and Sweet Peas

Indispensable Design Element: Beautiful Vases

Era for Design: I love 18th century French furnishings paired with modern elements of today.

Dream Project: I’m decorating Hogarcito, the historic home built by Marjorie Merriweather Post in Palm Beach. I think it is pretty dreamy.

Fabric/ Textile: Anything from my new collection

Hostess Gift:A bouquet of fresh cut flowers

Meal: Grato in Palm Beach

Drink: Diet Coke 

Way to Unwind: 45 minutes on the elliptical

What I Love Most About My City: In Los Angeles, I love the design resources. In Boston, I love the charm of Back Bay. In Tennessee, I love the land and the Southern way of life.

Weekend Destination: Sea Island, Georgia

Hotel: Hotel de la Tremoille in Paris. Best kept secret in the 8th arrondissement of Paris.

Museum: National Gallery of Art

City: Washington, D.C.– I think it is the most beautiful city in America. It is where I went to college.

Artist: Cy Twombly and Mark Rothko

Actor/Actress: Robert Redford– not for his celebrity but for his commitment to the environment and land conservation.

Risk Worth Taking: Starting your own venture

Greatest Extravagance: Vacations and free time

Go-To Color Palette: I love all colors, but I think cream, black, and lavender together are so chic.

Rule to Break: In decorating there are no rules. If you need rules to follow, you lack real creativity.

Movie Set Design: The Sound of Music

I can never have too many… coffee table books

{Photography Courtesy of Mary McGee}