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"In all things in nature there is something marvelous."
"The softest things in the world overcome the hardest things in the world."
If you take the time to really look at the world, you'll discover visual excitement all around you. You can find beauty wherever you goon the street and in shops, at movies and museums, while traveling and visiting friends, or in the pages of catalogs and books. We miss so much of life's pleasure when, in our headlong rush through each day, we forget to pay attention to our surroundings. Yet the simple act of observationlooking up to contemplate the architecture of nearby buildings, or lingering to absorb their detailscan illuminate your inner world. That's where inspiration starts.
The inspirations behind the Paris Apartment aesthetic date back centuries. Period styles such as seventeenth-century baroque, eighteenth-century rococo, nineteenth-century neoclassical or twentieth-century art deco recall long-lost ways of living. Hundreds of years ago, Parisians started painting their walls in rich, vibrant hues and decorating their ceilings with murals. They made abundant use of draperies, curtains, swags, and valances so that not only their windows but their doorways, beds, and walls nestled in voluptuous silks and velvets. They brought fresh flowers and potted plants indoors, transporting the vitality of nature to their rooms. And they filled their homes with knickknacks and details like prints and paintings, candelabra and clocks, porcelain figurines andcut-glass candy dishes.
You can sense this history in the things you see every day. The shapes all around youin ornamental ironwork or stonework, in cornices, finials, and filigreescan take your imagination back through time. Even in quirky old door handles, hinges, switch plates, light fixtures, and chair legs you can discover what Cleopatra, Lorenzo de' Medici, Louis XIV, and Coco Chanel knew about luxury: It's all in the details. The handcrafted beauty of a carved antique chair leg, the superior workmanship of a vintage end table, remind you that you deserve the very best; unique objects like these pamper you. To own a lamp shade or an armoire with a past is to inherit its history. Its age, its style, and the materials it's made of usher you into another, more elegant moment in time.
As you let inspiration flow, follow your intuition to the colors, fabrics, and themes that appeal to you. Let your essential selfthe fanciful, erotic, or outrageous personality you may hide from othersmake your decorating decisions. Perhaps, inexplicably, you'll be drawn to certain pieces or textures or realms that somehow speak to you. Maybe you've always had a passion for your great-aunt's cloisonn‚ collection or for the Victorian settee your best friend inherited. One piece can spark an entire idea, instantly crystallizing the possibilities. Listen to your impulses, and before long you'll know exactly what kind of apartment will satisfy your needs and cravings. This will make the entire redecorating processthe planning, the shopping, and the workeasy and fun.
Every Paris Apartment starts with a fantasy. If you're not sure what yours might be, just remember that the operative word is "luxury." Envision your ideal setting, focusing on the details that make you feel pampered. Does a unified stylistic theme emerge? Do you mix and match a variety of looks? Either approach will work, as long as you base all your decorating decisions on the same original theme. Here are a few fantasy ideas to jog your imagination:
"What is the throne?a bit of wood gilded and covered with velvet."
Have you ever noticed how gorgeous you feel when you wear that velvet cocktail dress, silk scarf, or satin negligee? Nothing thrills the senses quite like fine fabric, whether it's fresh, linen sheets, a toasty cashmere topcoat, or an ancient, buttery-soft T-shirt. The same goes for the fabrics you use to decorate a room: They wrap you in sensations of extravagance and comfort, arousing, yet soothing, the body. As the clothing of a room, fabric is the foundation of the Paris Apartment philosophy.
We "hit the sack" in cozy bedding, frame our view of the world with flowing draperies, adorn our furniture with pretty upholstery, and veil decorating trouble spots with skirts and curtains. Spare to ostentatious, fabric sets the mood of a room. Smooth, fluid silks and satins can summon sensations of coolness; lush, heavy velvets can generate real warmth. The more fabric you use, the stronger the statement and the more sumptuous the effect. When you go beyond cloth to include feather boas, leathers, rugs and carpets, sheepskins and fake or natural fur, the possibilities expand even more.
Don't be afraid to indulge your every fabric fantasy. Shop with your eyes closed and touch everything . . . if it feels good, buy it! Take your booty home and surround yourself with layer after billowing layer. Drape it over everything, let it spill onto the floor. Dressed in an abundance of fabric, any room will entice the senses and gratify your appetite for grandeur.
For the most luxurious results, buy the best fabric you can afford. Don't skimp on velvets, and buy 100 percent cottons or mostly cotton blends. Fabrics and fibers that can help fulfill your Paris Apartment fantasy include:
Stripes and animal prints have an exotic, antique air, as do faux and antique furs and sheepskins. Whatever your choice, look for vintage fabric to save money and bring the past into your space. A few tatters add character, and many of yesterday's fabric designs cannot be found today. Old curtains can be converted into upholstery or altered to fit your windows.
The two main uses for fabric in any Paris Apartment are upholstery and curtains. Chairs and sofas should be covered with strong and durable, yet sensuous, fabrics such as velvet and mohair. Boudoir and slipper chairsor any small chair that only you uselook good in satin. In the bathroom, terry cloth in many shades makes a cute covering for small chairs and stools. Fake fur is well suited to stools, benches, lounge chairs, and sofas, while zebra and leopard prints add a playful touch to dining-room and boudoir chairs.
Almost any fabric can work as drapery, especially satin, velvet, silk, and mohair. Inexpensive cheesecloth makes excellent sheer under curtains, preserving privacy while letting in light. Vintage curtains not only offer the advantage of being pre-sewn, complete with linings and gathers, they often come with matching valances and tiebacks. Whichever fabric you choose, your drapery will draw attention to your windows and accentuate ceiling height. Keep them large to puddle on the floor.
"Perfumes, colors and sounds echo one another."
Sometimes it seems that our emotions are ruled by color: We feel blue, see red, turn green with envy, have black moods, and get tickled pink. Clearly, color is central to your apartment's rebirth, because the shades you choose both express who you are and affect how you feel. As a retreat from the gray, monotonous, postindustrial world, your home should embrace you with vibrant colors that renew your spirits and your energy. Like makeup, which can instantly turn you from wholesome mother to refined professional to smoldering vixen, color can completely alter the mood of a room, transforming an ordinary space into a miniature paradiseor den of iniquity.
Don't be afraid to fill your private sanctuary with lots of color. Banish barren white walls and lifeless beige carpeting from your home forever; immerse yourself in the robust, vivacious hues your soul craves. In eighteenth-century Paris they mixed colors in bold combinations: yellow with violet, pink with gold, azure with lime, emerald with crimson. This Parisian palette reflects a belief that beauty is a necessity, that a room doesn't work if it fails to give pleasure. Indulge yourself in color, and the workaday world will soon seem far away.