The French-Inspired Home
By Carolyn Westbrook
Cico Books – £19.99
On the many occasions that I’ve walked the streets of Paris, the incredible attention to detail, from the architecture to the golden statues that are just an everyday sight in the middle of the street, was all too apparent. The hand-painted facade of a gourmet shop looked as though it belonged in a museum. The patisseries offered their own kind of artwork, with stacks of pastries and goodies piled high on cake plates and displayed to perfection. Store-fronts were breathtaking, as were the interiors and the wares on sale. Even the beautiful aqua subway tile designs in the Metro were a stunning work of art. All in all, a sensory overload but in the best possible way.
To say the above is a mere tip of a most beautiful iceberg, is an understatement of the most profound order.
Paris is indeed stunning in a myriad of ways; including that of its invariable, invaluable degree of detail – so deeply embedded within its glorious structure, design and architecture. One need only gaze at any number of old black and white, Cartier-Bresson photographs, to be immediately transported unto a time, place and era unlike any other.
Is it any wonder then, that so many of us want to tap into some of the majesty of Parisian/French design?
The French-Inspired Home does just that, by equating much of the above onto 155 pages (excluding Index and Acknowledgements) of superlative colour photography, replete with the sort of high-octane, literary inspiration, nominally associated with authoress, Carolyn Westbrook.
Having grown up in the United states, her southern heritage was inevitably infused with French influence – from the chic elegance of New Orleans to the elongated romance of southern plantation houses. As such, her subsequent travels to France have only re-substantiated her unwavering passion for French interior design – which is all too evident amid this rather marvellous book.
To be sure, her embrace for all that is French, often translates into her home décor design that more often than not, includes all nigh things: from bedding and pillows to armoires, armchairs and a menagerie of accessories. One can literally open any page of The French-Inspired Home (at random), and become unequivocally inspired. Be it the simplicity, the layout, the colour(s), or the matching of a certain type of bronzed mirror with that of a certain type of fabric.
For instance, in the section ‘The French Country House,’ Westbrook writes: ”Although the wilderness is never far away from the front door, inside the French country house there is all the comfort, beauty, and refuge you could need. After leaving behind the fast pace of the city, you can revel in the sights and sounds that only a country house can offer. The French country style is not only practical, but creates surroundings that appear effortless. A table arrangement is put together by just going outside and gathering the necessary items from nature. Long, twisting branches laden with the colours of the season, along with sunflowers that grow abundantly in a nearby field, make for an inspiring work of art.”
Indeed they do, but it does have to be said, there’s a certain je ne sais quoi about most French homes, that just doesn’t exist anywhere else. It really is as simple as that – which, like it or not, is nigh impossible to emulate.
Unless of course, one takes the time to study and articulate what it is one is trying to emulate.
All the more reason to embrace this utterly wonderful book, which, lest it be said, is capable of inviting one into a whole new world: ”Inspiration for our displays can come from anywhere, from the delicate pink of a tattered and worn pair of ballet shoes to a painting picked up at a Paris flea market. Just by looking at the interiors in this book, you can see how important display is to their overall appeal […]. As I have said elsewhere, the monetary value of the art is irrelevant. What matters is that I feel a connection with the piece and it draws me in.”
I cannot help but second and third said emotion; along with most of the others throughout this book’s seven chapters.