When strolling through Paris, one cannot help but find oneself out of money. It’s too easily too well spent. And I do not (not!) mean for these ubiquitous luxuries one finds nearly everywhere, with all these logos displayed on it, Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, Chanel, and so on. No, I mean the fine antiques and art stores you find in huge numbers on the left bank, the rive gauche, between quai Voltaire and boulevard St. Germain. Here, you find everything you will ever need for your Paris apartment, the one of your dreams, and if you don’t share that dream, for any other apartment, any other place on this world. Sofas, chairs, tables, paintings, vases, and clocks galore. All very expensive, but no logos whatsoever. If somebody was proud enough of his fine craftsmanship to sign his work, then you’ll find just that, a signature. But no logos.
Long before anybody talked about those wonderfully bleary colours from Farrow & Ball, there were those by Primrose Bordier, the colourist-in-chief of Descamps. If Descamps ever was regarded as a great brand, it was her doing, in a time when everything was brutally colourful, she did mauves, greys and beiges. In towels! Her bedlinens were of blurry non-colours, striped indistinction, never bright, always suavely elegant. My family’s obsession with Primrose Bordier started in the late 1970s in Luxembourg where a wonderful department store on Grand’ Rue, run by Mr Cohen and named Maison Moderne, had a beautiful home department offering Descamps’ entire range, it was also among the very first stores to present Giorgio Armani, when the black label was the master’s only label, but that’s another story, anyway, my mother went nuts with these towels in these amazing colours, all these washed out browns, khakis and even the maroon my mother chose was the mistiest maroon there had ever been, Männerfarben, men’s colours, thus called by a friend of my mother’s who hated everything overly feminine, flower prints especially, as you can guess she hated everything by Porthault, anyway, years and years ago in Hamburg, I bought this duvet cover and pillowcases by Descamps, one of the last before the company changed their identity completely, a greyish, mauve pattern showcasing an indifferent attempt to look like something colourful, a Shelley poem dedicated to a misty heathland morning in the moors…
Of course our garden’s not really a secret one, it belongs to a house with an address, as a matter of fact, the postman knows about us and our house, he delivers our mail on a daily basis, sometimes though, when heavy rain weighs down the overhanging branches of our huge magnolia, a magnolia inhabited by a sweeping wisteria at that, the poor guy has to make it through this our jungle, but as soon as he complains, it’s understandable, he’s very tall, 6.5, I guess, we’re all smaller, I’m the tallest with 6.2, anyway, as soon as he complains the branches get cut, but however successful he has made out our house in this green, flourishing opulence, he’ll never make out some of the roses, or the bust my mother put some place years ago and that I rediscovered only yesterday, or the bamboo wind chime, a wind chime that’s mostly mute as the climbing ivy’s leaves not only hide the apple tree’s apples but also block the orchestration of its pieces, until cut free again that is, but then again, if he did know about all that, it wouldn’t be a secret garden, now would it?
There’s that particular time of day called the blue hour, supposedly a very nice moment to celebrate because it’s so romantic, but I’ve never been really aware of when it starts or ends, I seem to have missed thousands of blue hours in my life—today, however, I was enjoying a blue day. While I was having my first coffee in the garden, the one supposed to bring my brain back to life, the blue hydrangeas in front of our blue garage doors suddenly caught my attention, and I couldn’t stop looking at this blue still life all day, from every angle possible. In fact, it’s so beautiful a scenery that I forgot all about my coffee and had to make a fresh one. Later, I mean. Because I forgot all about making fresh coffee, too…
I spent the entire day in the garden, comfortably installed in a chair, looking at what was in front of me, and wasn’t bored a single moment. He must really be into roses, you might think, and partially you’re right, but truth be told, I had my iPhone with me, initially to take some more shots of the garden in bloom, when it suddenly occurred to me that I had Netflix on it, now an Obama approved entertainment device, and as I felt like something British, I started the original version of House of Cards, after I had made tea of course, as I can’t watch anything British without the most British beverage there is, tea. Over Fortnum & Mason’s Royal Blend—royalty, by the way, is quite British, too— I took a crash course in advanced manipulation and found Ian Richardson’s Francis Urquhart much more interesting a character than Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood, you may replace “interesting” by other adjectives such as vicious, refined, monstruous, vile, evil, foul, wicked, elegant, cynical, or pleasant. Pleasant, mainly because I like a character, any character, well played, quite especially such a complex character as this excelling manipulator on the run. Well done, Mr Richardson. I watched series 1 entirely, intermitted with occasional looks to the left and to the right, to hydrangeas in bloom and ageing terracotta pottery, and if it weren’t for my cat and his dinner, I’d still be outside, watching series 2 and my garden in the moonlight.
I hate new things. I love things with a history attached. Fragrances, for instance. Bois des Iles is from 1926, the year The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was published, Agatha Christie’s first ‘whodunnit’ story featuring Hercule Poirot, her Belgian detective, and reformulated or not, it still smells like Coco Chanel, au petit jour in the backseat of a black Rolls-Royce, wrapped in her sable coat, on her way home from a delightful sexual encounter with some of these men way out of her league, socially speaking, they were all of such noble birth, rich as hell or nouveau pauvre – très nouveau, très pauvre, but in fact, they all were out of hers, they just had names, names they were just born with, she had made herself a name, a name worth millions then and now, she chose her lovers like others chose jewelry, and was hated for it, envied at least, but to hell, she was no bourgeoise, she just dressed them. The dresser it stands on is from the same time, by the way. It belonged to a pharmacist, so the antique dealer I bought it from told me, considering it’s art deco, it wasn’t even new when he bought it. Inherited, maybe. Or a pharmacist who was into art deco, sounds like an interesting man, somebody who had looked out for something special, who wanted to enjoy opening his sock drawer, suavely, pulling it open with the gentlemanly grip burl wood demands. On the other hand, he might have hated it. Too many memories attached. It might have belonged to his wife who left him for another man. A younger one. Although he was only 36 when she left. He waited all his life for her to come back. Didn’t touch her personal things, her silk stockings, kept them as if she would come back for them, or him – as if, she’d reply – maybe it was just one of those things, he kept telling himself. Or maybe not. Maybe he was just way out of her league.
Last weekend, I made some minor interior decorating changes, and some major ones. As for the minor ones, my DVD player is now placed on my Hermès magazines, collected for some many a year, decades even, now finally they have a purpose, and I spare the money for the matching Marcel Breuer Bauhaus table on which the TV set is placed a floor above, so to speak. Then I hall chaired a corner in the living room, scented it with Diptyque’s Benjoin, benzoin, by the way, is the best of scents, and turquoised it with a tiny tray, wooden and lacquered, made in Vietnam, it’s from Hermès in Zurich, achat spontané, and finally, here comes the major change in style: I put apples in a bowl that has been empty ever since I bought it when spending two weeks on the Maldives in 2006. Have more apples, organic of course, that’s my new motto. Healthwise and decorwise.