At Home with Maison & Objet

To discover what’s new and in vogue in the home design world, there’s no better place than Maison&Objet, the annual trade fair that takes place in Paris every September. Select wares that pass through the doors of this massive exposition will be chosen by local boutiques and leading department stores, eventually making their way into Parisian homes.

As a designer with an affinity for home décor and all things food related, I thought I’d share my top artisanal picks from all over Europe. I have no doubt that these products and the artisans behind them are paving their way towards success in Paris and beyond.

A well-set table is of key importance in any home. Liisu Arro is a third generation artist from Estonia, who now calls Finland home. Her porcelain tableware series “Birds” is inspired by the long, dark Nordic winters. These plates, bowls and cups come to life in vivid turquoise, coral and yellow, emanating warmth as though born from a “Midwinter’s Dream”. A perfect modern compliment to these elegant ceramics is silverware by Dutch designer Heiko Balster. His minimalist stainless steel collection, available in either satin or gloss is impressive in both design and function. Each fork, knife and spoon is designed to rest on the edge of a plate, should that be your preference.

Let’s add linens and candles to our setting. Several year ago, two sisters from Sweden began designing a collection of home products including linen tea towels and aprons. Most recently, Terrible Twins launched their hand-crafted wellness collection including all natural soaps, salt scrubs, bath and body oils and scented candles. Each candle is poured by hand in reusable amber brown glass jars. Every product from the Spa Series is numbered from 1 to 10, referencing its ingredients.

As far as food preparation is concerned, a good cutting board is crucial. Russian brand FUGA creates handcrafted cutting and serving boards, as well as other items of home decoration. Using Northern crafting techniques and only natural materials, each piece is a unique work of art. Made of oak, often considered a symbol of power and strength, and with added healing powers in the tannins, the wood only becomes more beautiful with age.

To bring the outdoors in while adding to a home’s ambiance, plants are essential. Even more so when they become part of the decoration. The latest living green accessory comes from Italy. Inspired by their design of vertical green walls, Ortisgreen has created a smaller version called HOH! Hang.Oasi.Home. Nature can now become integrated in any home, regardless of the size or space.

Maison&Objet also exhibits innovative food and drink. Being a connoisseur of both sweets and wine, I was immediately drawn to The Real Wine Gum. A healthy adult treat containing no artificial colors or alcohol, you can taste your favorite wine on the go with no fear of over-indulging. Flavors include Rosé, Merlot, Chardonnay and the latest addition, Riesling. Also keep an eye out for their new Whiskey flavored gums.

Another sweet discovery comes from France and began in the form of apples. Started by two friends from Normandy, Sassy cider is a modern version of what every Normand grows up drinking. Named for the château where one of the partners was raised, this 100% natural beverage is made of pure fruit extraction with no concentrate. An ideal refreshing apéritif, with varieties include original, pear and rosé.

This article was originally published in Bonjour Paris where you can find other features I’ve written all about food, fashion, art, travel and lifestyle. Enjoy discovering Paris through my eyes!

art into fashion

Artist Sonia Delaunay is one of the inspirations behind my handbags. Arriving to Paris in 1905, Sonia believed “modernity could be expressed through the primacy of color in art and the dynamic interplay of its dissonances and harmonies”. Due in large part to her beliefs and the quality of her work, Delaunay is responsible for bringing art into daily life.

IMG_2309I was overjoyed to spend an afternoon with my muse at her Musée d’Art Moderne retrospective in Paris, what was once her home. ( I often visit her paintings at Pompidou’s permanent collection.) Over 400 works were on display, including paintings, wall decorations, gouaches, prints, fashion items and textiles. A designer’s paradise!

IMG_2318Bringing together the fine and applied arts, Sonia Delaunay desired to liberate color, without restricting it to surface. Her art was brought into life, and into fashion.

IMG_2325Art and life became one. “It was my life and I worked the whole time, but I wasn’t working – I was living – and that is the difference.”

IMG_2336Delaunay’s textiles varied greatly from the naturalistic designs popular in the early 1920s. Her fabrics incorporated geometric shapes, often with strong, bold colors.

IMG_2347I often look at paintings and see them as fabric. That is after all, how I came up with my wearable art designs. For me, there is no better example of this than the work of Delaunay.

IMG_2348“For me there is no gap between my painting and my so-called ‘decorative’ work. I never considered the ‘minor arts’ to be artistically frustrating; on the contrary, it was an extension of my art.”
IMG_2349            Sonia’s vision was uniquely vibrant. For her “color is the skin of the world”.

Sonia Delaunay retrospective ends February 22

 

the happy show

Often I question, what is happiness? Is it something we can control? For me, happiness can be as simple as sitting along the banks of the Seine, watching the sun set behind Notre Dame. Equally, cruising around the spectacular Greek island of Milos on a catamaran beneath a clear blue sky, or floating in a hot air balloon above the natural wonder that is called Cappodocia. Both of these memories elicit great happiness. Come to think of it, almost anything related to travel, beauty, love (or nearly anything sweet), brings me happiness. I recently read an article that shed a little light.

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When I discovered an exhibition based on this very topic, I couldn’t wait to go. Stefan Sagmeister is creator of The Happy Show, a study of happiness, a topic that has long intriqued him and led him on his happiness hunt. This Austrian-born graphic artist, whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in New York City, asks “Is happiness a muscle just like any other?”

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The first question, what makes us happy? (Genetics, Activites & Life Conditions)

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IMG_5727How happy are you on a scale of 1-10? Looks like the gumballs are almost gone in #9.

IMG_4812What makes us unhappy? “Trying to look good limits my life”

IMG_5743It has been proven that taking risks increases happiness. I agree!

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My Italian and I attended the opening of the expo and were very happy to speak with Stefan about his studies on happiness and what inspired him to put together the show, as well as the film he’s working on. For those interested, here are 7 rules for making more happiness from Stefan.

The Happy Show is making it’s way around the world, from Philadelphia to Toronto to Los Angeles and now in Paris at La Gaîté Lyrique. Will the exhibition itself make you happy? You can bet on it.

mid-century maison

The last few weeks have been dedicated to decorating our new home, “Project Nest” as I call it. Growing up with an interior designer mother has certainly influenced this passion, which I consider one of the most fulfilling forms of self-expression. My journey in creating our new living space, which my Italian is leaving mostly up to me, began on France’s renowned site for virtually anything, leboncoin.fr. (Incidentally, also where I found our apartment.)

As someone with an affinity for Mid-Century Modern design, that is where my search commenced. Et voilà! It began with finding my perfect desk and ended with the discovery of my now favorite Scandinavian design shop, Maison Nordik, a new addition to the ever-evolving 18ème.

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As soon as the doors opened, I arrived to admire, and quickly purchase my desk. It was love at first sight, with the desk, as with the store. I met the owners Gregory (French), and Louise (Danish), and quickly discovered their passion for design and their love for beautiful objects, each hand selected.

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There is a new supply of 50’s and 60’s furniture, designer lamps and beautiful ceramics arriving to the store every few weeks, mostly from Denmark. They also now sell Square Modern pillows, an ideal showcase for these minimalist chic coussins. Soon after my desk acquisition (and the rosewood chair to accompany it) Gregory and Louise found us a gorgeous teak dining table, perfect for our soon to be planned dinner parties! Now they are on the hunt for a TV console as I struggle from creating our apartment into a Mid-Century Modern showroom. Would that really be so bad?

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For the fellow Mid-Century Modern aficionados, Maison Nordik is located at 159 rue Marcadet and open from Thursday – Sunday 12:30-7:30 (Monday – Wednesday by appointment). They share a space with a made-to-measure industrial design company and next door lies one of the best laboratory cafés in Paris, Café Lomi. Reasons enough to venture to upper Montmartre!

art inspired

These days as the sun sets early and the cold air settles in, I’m busying myself with designing. New Kasia Dietz handbags in the works! The question is, where does this inspiration come from? In a word: art. The sole reason I started my business. And aside from travel, my great love. As I did in NYC, here in Paris I spend as much time as I can carousing galleries and museums, even just stopping in the Pompidou, or in NYC, the MoMA, or in London, the Tate Modern, to visit my favorites. Paul Klee, Mark Rothko, Franz Klein, to name a few. It is these great artists that inspire me in my own, wearable art. Who says art and fashion can’t mix?

I recently featured the master Paul Klee on a guest post for THATlou.

Mark Rothko’s compositions will always bring me simple and natural bliss.

Franz Klein has a way of creating calm out of chaos. Minimalism at its best.

Stay tuned for Spring 2013, new collections of handbags influenced by abstract expressionism.

The Dream Life of Suzanne Flenard

Moving to a foreign country, as challenging as it is, can afford us the privilege of redefining ourselves by asking the question ‘Who am I and what do I really want to do?’, versus following a path that might not lead to fulfillment, which to us New Yorkers, often means climbing the corporate ladder.

Suzanne Flenard is one such savvy ex-New York gal I met along the expat way. She and her partner Jeremy decided to take a ‘break’ from the grind of life in NYC, having both lived there for over 15 years. Six months of a break has now turned into 3 years and they have never looked back. Paris very quickly became home. Might I add that home to them looks much like a boutique hotel in the Marais, très chic!

As a seasoned professional in the world of interiors, working with furniture companies such as Design Within Reach (one of my personal favorites), Suzanne always had the desire to create something of her own. It was over lunch one day with a mutual friend that we brainstormed ideas for her vision. Over the course of several months, Suzanne set her designing mind into motion. While her foodie partner was busy exploring the gourmet markets of Paris, Suzanne spent many an afternoon carousing Montmartre and the Sentier in search of just the right fabrics (an exercise I know well), not to mention the virtual world… I introduced her to my trusted manufacturer… she impressively designed her own website… et voilà! Square Modern came to life.

What exactly is Square Modern and why is it so unique and eco-friendly? In the words of Suzanne…

Square modern is a limited edition collection of pillows/cushions using reclaimed designer fabric remnants. The idea came about as an interest to introduce the European Community to “Mid-Century Modern” textile designs, in addition to other beautiful modern classics, popular in the United States. These designer fabrics are selected from some of the most exclusive textile manufacturers that exist today: Maharam, Kvadrat, Knoll and Kravet. Square Modern uses primarily reclaimed fabric remnants, often found in limited supply. Therefore, the collection is produced in limited quantity and will continuously change as interesting textiles become available. All cushions are produced in Paris.

I am very proud and excited for Suzanne, living her dream in Paris, a life she could not have foreseen in New York. I for one, possessing a passion for interior design, particularly mid-century modern, already have my eye on a few coussins…

Square Modern is based in Paris and available internationally. Join on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date with the latest limited edition pillows!