Wednesday, January 29, 2014



tab·ou·ret [tab-er-it, tab-uh-ret, -rey]

noun [tab-er-it, tab-uh-ret, -rey]

1.   a low seat without back or arms, for one person; stool.

2.   a frame for embroidery.

3.   a small, usually portable stand, cabinet, or chest of drawers, as for holding work supplies.

4.   a small tabor.

mid 17th century < French tabouret literally, small drum, from Middle French, diminutive of tabor, tabour drum, from Old French.

The French word tabouret refers to an upholstered footstool or bench.

Louis XIV Tabourets with Tassels and Lavish Carvings. From the Collection of Jacques Doucet, 1912.

The history of stools in Europe can be traced back to the late 1500's. During the reign of King Louis XIV, when chairs were status symbols and no ordinary person could aspire to own one, a hierarchical seating system featured a fauteuil (an armchair) for the king and queen to sit upon. One did not just take a seat when the King or Queen was present. This was dictated by etiquette.

Tabouret and Fauteuil in Louis XIV Style

No one else was allowed an armchair in their presence, except for another monarch visiting the French court. He or she would be offered an armchair as well. A chair with a back but no arms was considered appropriate for those closest in rank to the king, such as his brother, sister or children, and a tabouret was provided only for the more privileged ladies of the court to sit upon in the royal presence. Everyone else was required to stand, no matter their age or fortune.

The court tabouret was an elaborate, upholstered stool with curved wooden legs and tassels, carried by a liveried and wigged servant. It was a much desired honor to sit in the presence of the royal family and a lady’s rank determined how lavishly her tabouret was decorated.  A duchess was automatically granted the honor of sitting in front of the queen.

Pair of Louis XV Tabourets. Circa 1735-1740. Realized $216,000 at Christie's Auction.

This little French stool was such a highly treasured stool and symbol of privilege that when Louis XIV's mother, the Regent Anne of Austria granted the tabouret to two non-duchesses, it caused a disturbance like no other. Such a protest was made that she had to revoke them.

Fig. 4032. Tabouret Loius XIII. Prix, en noyer ciré : 20 francs.
Fig. 4033. Tabouret Louis XIV. Prix, en noyer ciré : 25 francs.
Fig. 4034. Tabouret Louis XVI. Prix, en noyer ciré : 20 francs.
From Le Dictionnaire Pratique de Menuiserie - Ebénisterie - Charpente 
By J. Justin Stoeck, 1900

Tabourets of various designs later became fashionable as household furniture, particularly in France and England.

Louis XVI Needlepoint Tabouret
Louis XIII Style Tabouret
Louis XIII Tabouret
Henri II Tabouret. Circa 1890. Leather Seat with Nailhead Trim.
Country French Tabourets with Rush Seats
Louis XIII Os de Mouton Tabouret
Louis XIII Barley Twist Tabouret
Modern Tabouret with Acrylic Legs and Natural Hide Seat

Remember, next time you "take a seat" on what you thought was just an ordinary stool, you're sitting royalty.

But Lolo, he gets the back and the arms...a seat fit for a king!

Á Bientôt!

Lolo & Mimi

Friday, January 24, 2014


One of the questions our customers ask most often is how to combine antiques with modern or traditional interiors. Our answer? Mix...don't match! Forget matchy matchy! Decorating a home with different furniture styles, colors and patterns can sometimes be hard to do, but "casual elegance is all about the mix," according to interior designer Charlotte Moss.

Designers mix antique furniture with modern and traditional interiors to create a look that appears as though it's evolved over time. Antiques add texture, contrast and depth and are a wonderful addition to any room. Mixing antiques into your design brings balance and an element of the unexpected. They make a room feel more interesting and elegant, beautiful but not overdone. It's essential to mix different styles together and incorporate multiple levels to enhance a space. Mix hard textures with soft textures such as rustic leather with upholstery, and combine different furniture shapes together, like round coffee tables and square side tables. While some people prefer to decorate their home in a particular style (Traditional, Mid-Century Modern, Industrial Chic, Country French), blending styles is a wonderful way to create a unique space that makes a statement about your personal style. 

Here are a few tips on using old+new to create an unexpected mix that is
 fun+fabulous instead of chaotic+cluttered:

A. Be Creative. The problem many have with antiques is keeping them from looking outdated and uncomfortable. But you don't have to do away with the old and only bring in the new. Use what you have and add to the mix to create a fresher style that is uniquely yours!
  •  A Louis Philippe mirror looks great over a Mid-Century Modern chest. It looks equally as great over an antique chest when there's a contrast in shapes and textures and colors. 
  • A French farm table paired with industrial style aluminum chairs creates fabulous contrast. The same can be said of an industrial table paired with country French chairs. 
Wood and Metal Contrast.
  • A modern light fixture hanging in a room full of rustic antiques makes a powerful statement. An antique chandelier in a modern room stands out and adds character, as well. 
  • A modern Lucite or glass dining table surrounded by Louis Ghost chairs and an antique French settee is WOW when paired with an ornate crystal chandelier. Louis Ghost chairs look just as WOW around an antique farm table. 
Interior designer Michael Moloney's dining room mixes a whitewashed antique French settee
with Philippe Starck’s "Louis Ghost" chairs by Kartell.
  • Mix an Art Deco armoire with modern furnishings for a clean, classic look with a modern twist.
A Delightful Mix of Modern and Art Deco with Parisian Flea Market Finds.
By Beth McMillan of McMillan Interiors. 

B. Change. One of the easiest ways to add antiques into the mix is to update them. But don't just restore them to their original condition. Use bold, modern fabrics and bright, vivid paint colors to add a contemporary twist. Don’t be limited by a piece’s original intention or definition. 
  • An antique buffet or sideboard can be just as much at home in a sunroom, living room or bedroom as a formal dining room.  
This Louis XVI French Buffet makes a perfect sofa table
in our living room because of its size and scale.

The contrast of textures and colors works well, also.
  • Reupholster your grandma's chair in an ultra modern fabric. Paint it bright orange or hot pink. 
This definitely isn't your grandma's chair anymore!
Chair by Design Industry WorkroomInteriors by Barri Thompson. Photograph by Graham Yelton
  • Place a beat up antique chair in its original condition beside a modern piece.
  • Again, Louis Ghost chairs are the perfect example of an "updated" antique.
Louis Ghost Chair is a modern take on a Neoclassical Chair.

C. LOLO - Leave Out [at] Least One.  Leave out at least one item to avoid clashing styles. Keep things simple. Less is more. Too much clutter and too many tchotchkes and too much matchy matchy is...well...JUST TOO MUCH! Grouping too many accessories of opposing design styles together can leave your living room looking like a vide grenier. Remember the LOLO rule: Leave Out [at] Least One.
  • All it takes is a single piece of modern art mixed with antiques to make a room pop. Less is more.
The nickel sculpture really pops against the black and white. Louis XVI commode with bronze ormoluand wreathed drawer pulls resting on fluted tapering cylindrical feet with gilt-bronze collars and sabots.
Photo by: Fran Parente
  • A fireplace mantel in a modern room can really become a focal point if there's a single, ornate, antique piece placed on it.

A beautiful mix of old+new.

Antiques can be a subtle background decoration or the focal point of an entire room, but without proper handling they can just as easily become forgettable or distracting. If you remember to make them a part of the interior design plan, and not just a tacked-on afterthought, then they can easily become the highlight of any home. 

Á Bientôt!

Lolo & Mimi

Wednesday, January 22, 2014



os de mou·ton [os duh moo-ton]

noun  [os duh moo-ton] bone of mutton

Furniturerefers to sinuous stretchers that are the quintessential element of Louis XIII furniture.

Also called sheep bone.

1940–45; < French: literally, mutton bone.

Plate I

I love chairs. What's not to love about them? Chairs are a key element in design and add a special touch to any room. Many antique chairs are purely decorative because they become too frail or delicate after a hundred years or more of use. But not Os de Mouton, or Sheep Bone chairs. As the French name suggests, the shape of the chair legs is literally based on the legs of a lamb. A solid frame and shapely legs give these chairs a classic, timeless appearance while graceful carvings, paired with upholstered backs and seats with nailhead trim, add elegance.

Os de Mouton Settee and Armchair. Circa Early 1900's. Walnut.
Chapeau de Gendarme Shaped Backs with Nailhead Trim  
Set of 6 Os de Mouton Chairs. Circa 1880's. Walnut.
Chapeau de Gendarme Shaped Backs with Nailhead Trim.
Pair of Os de Mouton Arm Chairs with Ottoman. Circa 1890's. Walnut.
Chapeau de Gendarme Shaped Chair Back. Upholstered with Nailhead Trim.

Os de Mouton chairs are functional as well as decorative. The best known innovation from the Louis XIII period, this quintessential French chair looks wonderful with most any style dining table and provides balance and extra seating in a room. During the 17th-century, the Os de Mouton chair filled many exquisite dining halls of grand chateaus across the French countryside.

Pair of Os de Mouton Chairs Used as Accent Chairs For Extra Seating
Os de Mouton Chairs Paired With Rustic Dining Table

A single chair can inspire an entire room's decor. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Every chair should be a throne and hold a king." Let this classic French chair be your throne!

Os de Mouton Side Chair. Circa 1890's. Walnut.
New Striped Linen Upholstery with Nailhead Trim.

Á Bientôt!

Lolo & Mimi

Sunday, January 19, 2014


Lolo's Potage Parmentier 
(Potato Leek Soup)

Soup's On! Lolo's Potage Parmentier (Potato Leek Soup)

Soup's on! January is National Soup Month, and there are few soups as comforting as the old French standby, Potage Parmentier. Naturally creamy, with a wonderful leek flavor, it's a hearty, comfort food that’s perfect for chilly winter evenings by the fire. Lolo grew up eating Potage Parmentier and likes it even better warmed up the next day with crusty French bread...the way his mom served it. It freezes well, so you can make a big batch and enjoy it later. This versatile soup tastes so good, it's hard to believe it's really just vegetables, water (or chicken stock), butter and salt simmered together. Add watercress and you have Potage au Cresson, or chill it, lace it with cream and you have Vichyssoise.  Hot or cold, most French soups are simple to make and can be made ready hours before serving time. The perfect family meal or a nice surprise to share with a friend, Potage Parmentier is on at our house!

Lolo shared an interesting story with me about Potage Parmentier and how the classic French soup derived its name. When France sent its army out against Frederick the Great’s in the Seven Years' War, a 19-year-old pharmacist named Antoine-Augustin Parmentier signed up. He ended up locked in a Prussian prison, and served by some accounts, a total of five stints in the cooler. Parmentier was forced to eat nothing but potatoes while being held prisoner. For most of us that wouldn't be such a bad punishment, but for a Frenchman like Parmentier, it was "quelle horreur!" 

Portrait of Antoine-Augustin Parmentier Painted by François Dumont, 1812

At that time potatoes, which were discovered in Peru in 1532 by the conquistadores, were known to the French only as hog feed. The potato had been introduced to Europe as early as 1640, but (outside of Ireland) was usually used for animal feed. The cultivation of the potato for human consumption was banned by the French Parliament because the French feared it was poisonous and contributed to leprosy. Parmentier chose to eat the potatoes rather than starve. Far from being sick of potatoes by the time of his release in 1763, he acknowledged the fact that he was in very good health. Was this a sign that potatoes did have nutritive virtues?

For Parmentier, it was. Years later his prison experience came to mind when he was conducting research on nutrition. He suggested potatoes might be good for patients with dysentery. In 1772, the French medical establishment declared potatoes edible. Resistance continued from the religious community, however. They still believed potatoes to be inedible and kept Parmentier from cultivating them in his test gardens or feeding them to patients at the Invalides Hospital where he worked.

Parmentier then began a series of publicity stunts. He began hosting lavish dinners where he served various potato dishes to dignitaries, like Benjamin Franklin, and royalty. He was able to persuade Louis XVI to encourage potato cultivation in France. The king gave Parmentier 100 acres of royal land in the plain of Sablon in Neuilly, a site formerly used as a parade ground for troops. The soil was poor, but poor soil did not cause a problem for the cultivation of potatoes. Parmentier then surrounded his personal potato patch with armed guards to suggest the potatoes were a delicacy reserved for the king's table and nobility. Nothing piques interest like forbidden fruit. When Parmentier pulled his guards off duty at night, the local peasants sacked the fields, delighted to get a taste of how the upper class lived. 

1886 engraving of Parmentier showing potatoes to Louis XVI

All of his staging and efforts paid off. France finally embraced the potato in 1785, when a famine struck northern France and food shortages were rife in Paris. Parmentier set up potato soup kitchens throughout Paris, convincing the poor, huddled masses to eat a potato rather than starve to death. Ultimately, Louis XVI recognized his work by saying, "France will thank you some day for having found bread for the poor."

Louis XVI placing a potato blossom in his buttonhole.
Parmentier presents the potato to Louis XVI and his family by Albert Chereau

At Louis XVI’s birthday party in 1786, Parmentier presented the king and Marie-Antoinette a bouquet of potato flowers. Louis pinned a flower to his lapel and Marie wove a garland into her hair. If that pair made the potato fashionable, the rest would follow suit. And you can be sure they followed! The nobles and ladies in their entourage did the same as France's aristocracy sat down to a dinner heavy on potato dishes. It's said the incident became a topic of conversation throughout France as the bourgeois took to donning potato flowers to show their grasp of modern fashion. 

Parmentier offers a bunch of Potato Flowers to King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
Louis XVI put the flowers in his buttonhole and the whole Court followed his example.

During the siege of the first Paris Commune in 1795, the Jardin des Tuileries were even converted into potato fields to stave off famine and hunger. Potatoes were later declared to be the food of the French Revolution, available in quantity when all else was in short supply. For this, Parmentier was honored by Napoleon, who made him one of the first members of his Legion d'Honneur. Parmentier died in 1813 at the age of 76. He is celebrated in France by the many places and food dishes which are named for him. 

Around the Parmentier Métro stop on the Avenue Parmentier in Paris.
Avenue Parmentier, 11th Arrondissement, Paris
Statue of Parmentier at Montdidier

Lolo's Potage Parmentier (Potato Leek Soup)

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: About 1 hour
Yield: 2 quarts of soup serving 6 to 8


4 leeks (whites only), thoroughly rinsed and sliced
1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
5 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large pieces (Tip: don’t substitute another type of potato in this recipe; only russet potatoes have enough starch to get the proper consistency in the soup.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter 
Heavy pinch kosher salt, plus additional for seasoning
8 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup crème fraiche or heavy cream
1/2 cup sour cream (optional)


 1. Prepare the leeks and onion. Using a sharp knife, halve the white part of the leek lengthwise and rinse well under cold running water to rid the leek of any sand. Slice thinly crosswise and set aside. Prepare the onion as you would usually, chop into small-ish pieces – it doesn’t really matter if they’re not very small as you will purée the soup later.
2. Prepare the potatoes. Peel the potatoes and chop them. 
3. Sweat the vegetables. In a 6-quart saucepan heat the olive oil and butter over a medium heat. Add the onion and leeks and a heavy pinch of salt and sweat without browning, stirring more or less constantly for about 8 minutes. When you’re sweating the vegetables you don’t want anything to brown at all, just become tender. Cover the pot, decrease the heat to medium-low and cook until the leeks are tender, approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Simmer the soup. Add the chicken stock, potatoes, bay leaf and thyme, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and gently simmer until the potatoes are soft, approximately 30 to 45 minutes. Don't let potatoes get mushy, though. Remove the bay leaf.
5. Purée the soup. Remove the soup from the heat and purée in a food processor or blender, working in batches if necessary. (Alternately, if you own an immersion blender, purée the soup directly in the pot.) Return the puréed soup to pot and stir in the crème fraiche. Let simmer until soup has thickened, about 20 minutes.  
6. Bon Appétit. Season to taste, if necessary. You can stir in some sour cream, or serve each bowl with a dollop if you’d like the soup a tad creamier. Serve immediately, or chill and serve cold.

Note: When blending hot liquids, remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes. Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid; that prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times, then process on high speed until smooth.

Soup's On!

Lolo started cooking at the age of 15 at the Café Français in Nantes, France. Lolo eyeballs measurements and relies more on common sense, instinct and tasting than on direction following. 

Bon Appétit

Lolo and Mimi

Sunday, January 12, 2014


We recently shared a link on Facebook about the discovery of an abandoned Parisian apartment that was "a time capsule, full of treasures." Lolo and I were enamored with the story and the beautiful antiques and art perfectly preserved so many years later. Seems like we weren't the only ones! The story has been circulating since 2010, but it's so enchanting and mysterious that we decided to dig a little deeper to find out more about the elusive Madame de Florian and her colorful grandmother, Marthe de Florian, an upscale courtesan and actress.

Paris Apartment of Madame de Florian
Source: The Telegraph

The dusty details reveal a love story, a romance that took place during La Belle Époque in the
midst of Paris's debauchery-filled nightlife scene. A romance that would've remained secret if not for
Monsieur Olivier Choppin-Janvry, an auctioneer commissioned to inventory the possessions of a
decadent flat in the ninth arrondissement, on the Right Bank, near the cabarets and red light district.
A flat that had been untouched for nearly 70 years after its owner fled Paris for the
South of France before the outbreak of World War II, never to return again. 

"The Can-Can", c 1900, Folies Bergere, Moulin Rouge

Madame de Florian was only 23 years old when she deserted the fabulous flat she had
inherited from her grandmother. She continued to pay rent until her death at age 91 in 2010.
The flat, near the Trinité church in Paris, remained undisturbed under lock and key until
 experts entered it for the first time since de Florian's sudden flight in 1942. 

Madame de Florian's Undisturbed Flat
Source: The Telegraph

While auction houses are regularly commissioned to inventory the contents of
a decedent's estate,I'm sure Monsieur Choppin-Janvry had no idea of the treasures
inside or the secret he wasabout to unlock. Behind the door, under a thick layer
of dust, lay a wonderfully preserved très chic Parisian apartment filled with beautiful
antiques and artwork. Monsieur Choppin-Janvry spoke of the moment he made the
discovery and “the smell of old dust.” One expert described entering the untouched,
cobweb-filled flat like stumbling into the castle of Sleeping Beauty, where time
had stood still since 1900...when Marthe de Florian herself had occupied
the now famous flat.

Taxidermy in one's home was a sign of affluence.
Source: The Telegraph

As Choppin-Janvry began to make his way through the flat, walking over aubusson 
carpets and under high, wood beam ceilings, he passed an old wood stove and 
stone sink in the kitchen, a stuffed ostrich alongside Mickey Mouse and Porky Pig, 
and happened upon the most feminine of finds, a dressing table covered with
perfume bottles, silver mirrors and tortoise combs. (Seems Marthe and her granddaughter
shared my vanity affair. Some things never change...every girl needs a vanity!)

Madame de Florian's Vanity
Source: The Telegraph

Then monsieur’s heart skipped a beat as he caught sight of a painting. A
portrait of a woman in a pale pink muslin dress stood out among the
luxurious but dusty furnishings and mountains of ephemera.

Portrait of Marthe de Florian by Giovani Boldini

Monsieur had a hunch the painting may have been painted by Giovanni Boldini, one of the most famous portrait artists in 19th century Paris. Known as the "master of swish" because of his flowing style of painting, everyone who was anyone HAD to have their portrait (or their wife's portrait) painted by Boldini. Yet, no record of this painting existed. No reference book mentioned the painting and it was never exhibited, said Marc Ottavi, the art specialist Monsieur consulted about the work. But monsieur's suspicions remained.

Italian Artist Giovanni Boldini

 Marthe was quite the "it" girl in her day...not your ordinary hooker. The era had its common prostitutes or submissive whores, the filles soumises. Above them were les grisettes, usually working women, dressmakers and such, who used sex to supplement their incomes (like Fantine in Les Miserables).  The next level up were les lorettes, respectable mistresses that fell between upper class courtesans and lower class streetwalkers. And then there were les demimondaines, like Marthe, a very singular breed. Demimondaines were known for their extravagant lifestyles, provided of course by a string of wealthy and well-known lovers. Their clothing was envied by every woman in Paris. Even the wealthiest high society matrons could not compete. For they only had one “husband” supplying the goods. Demimondaines were also renowned for drinking, drugs, gambling and outrageous spending, mostly on clothing. Despite their status, they remained forever on the outside.

Les Demi-mondaines

Ahhh...this explained the fine furnishings and the lavish lifestyle Marthe had lived, and the reason she hosted so many admirers in her Paris flat. Monsieur and his team discovered calling cards that she had stashed in drawers throughout the flat. Among them were statesmen of the period and the 72nd Prime Minister of France, George Clemenceau. It was also discovered that she had stacks of love letters from her many lovers tied in little packages with ribbons of different colors. Was it possible that the dapper, talented and charismatic "master of swish," lover of the women he painted, had called on Marthe de Florian? Indeed, he had! Monsieur Choppin-Janvry found a visiting card from Boldini with a scribbled love note and knew he had struck gold. He had the link he needed. It was clear she was his muse, his lover and the beauty in the painting. A reference found in Boldini’s widow's records confirmed the identity of the portrait's subject, dating it to 1898, when de Florian was just 24 years old.

Louis XVI Style Chairs Inside Marthe de Florian's Paris Flat
Source: The Telegraph
Louis XV Style Bergere and Beautiful Triptych Mirror
Source: The Telegraph

The painting is the only object that has been sold from the estate so far. It went up for auction and quickly reached €2.1 million, the highest selling Boldini work of all time.

Gwyneth Paltrow Depicting Marthe de Florian

 As I said earlier, Lolo and I are definitely not the only ones enamored with this
 tale of two madames. Gwyneth Paltrow paid tribute to the painting and Marthe de Florian
in a photo shoot. Many have suggested it's a hoax? What do you think? The apartment remains in the hands of the de Florian estate, keeping the mystery of these two madames behind closed doors. 

Á Bientôt!

Lolo & Mimi