Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Worst Home Decor Mistakes – Part I

Decorating your home is quite an undertaking, whether you’re starting from scratch or renovating an existing room. Save yourself some time and angst from those of us who have been there and done that–avoid these common home decor mistakes.

Displaying too many photos, or displaying them in a disorganized fashion. This is often as a result of placing them without a premeditated plan. A few pictures here and there never hurt anyone, but the trouble starts when the photos compete for attention. Keep your displays clean and deliberate; leave plenty of white space in between.

gallery images for home decor
Photo Credits Unknown
gallery images for home decor
Photo courtesy of What Wilson Wants

Uncomfortable dining room chairs, sofa chairs, etc.

You may think you want style over comfort, but in the future you will be so much happier if you do yourself a favor and don’t comprise on comfort. You can have the best of both worlds, the search may just take a bit longer.

Courtesy of Home Design
Art Deco Chairs by Jean-Marc Fray

Following fads blindly. Simply put, don’t do it. Opt for classic styles that withstand time. Fads are called just that for a reason–you never know how long the trend will last, leaving you with an outdated style.

Classic French style by Jean-Marc Fray

Allowing for visible clutter. Let’s face it: We’re all busy. We keep meaning to buy that bookshelf…and keep forgetting. Get creative with your storage solutions and get rid of messy rooms once and for all.

Photo Courtesy of Southshore Decorating



Ottoman with storage by Jean-Marc Fray
Image via Coco Lapine Design
French Buffet by Jean-Marc Fray
Photo Courtesy of This Old House

Investing in non-durable materials throughout your home to save costs. Our best example? Countertops. Unless yo do your homework, you won’t know which materials are the most durable. Some types are a lot more work than others to maintain and/or require frequent replacement. For instance, marble countertops are gorgeous, but many who go that route end up regretting their choice. Quartz, granite, and stainless steal are always safe bets.

Don’t let the aesthetics of a material trick you into forgetting about the upkeep. We suggest incorporating those materials in less used parts of your home, where there’s less wear and tear. So for our countertop example, use use marble in your decor and accessories. Here’s some ideas to get your imagination flowing:


marble home decor

Home Furnishings by Jean-Marc Fray 1)Pair of antique Louis XVI side tables 2) Italian Art Deco Etruscan Horse  3) Brass, Glass Marble Side Tables 4) Louis XVI Mohogany Chest of Drawers

Committing to big, bold colors if you change your mind often. This is especially true for larger furnishings and walls, unless you’re ready to invest in frequent renovations. Use bold colors in your upholstery, home accessories, lighting and accent walls as an alternative––a win-win situation in which you can switch things up without much hassle.

Image courtesy of Decoist


Light purple, hand-blown glass chandelier by Jean-Marc Fray

vintage dinning chairs

Vintage, mid-century walnut dinning chairs with seafoam upholstery by Jean-Marc Fray

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 11_19_05 AM
Photo courtesy of Devon Leigh Homes
Posted by cynthia at 11:01:07 PM
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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

4 French Recipes to Share on Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a holiday to be spent with family and friends. It’s also thought of as the unofficial kick-off for summer; many people have pool parties, cookouts, picnics and backyard gatherings. With that in mind, we want to share our favorite French recipes to share with your loved ones on Memorial Day. Make a little or multiply the recipes to make a lot!

1. Mini Croque Monsieurs

Classic baked ham and cheese with bechamel sauce

Skill Level: Easy

Recipe Serving: Yields 12 Mini Sandwiches

Croque Monsieurs 2
Image courtesy of Big Bears Wife


Cobblestone Bread Co. Million Dollar White Bread (or similar)
Smoked gruyere cheese, in slices
Slices of ham
Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese


Pre-heat the oven to 400F.

1. Lay the slices of bread on a baking sheet. (I lined my baking sheet with foil for easy clean up). Brush each side of each slice with a little bit of melted butter.

3. Once the oven is preheated, toast the sliced of bread in the oven for about 2 minutes. Flip the bread and toast the other side for about 2 minutes. Watch the bread and make sure it doesn’t burn.

4. Remove the bread from the oven and lay out three of the slices. Top them with a layer of mustard, 2 slices of cheese, ham, another 2 slices of cheese and a top slice of bread.
5. Cut each sandwich into 4 pieces. Place the pieces back onto the baking sheet.

Croque Monsieurs 1
Image courtesy of Big Bears Wife

6. 6.In a pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the flour and whisk until smooth and golden in color.

7. Slowly whisk in the milk and turn up the heat a bit. Whisk until the sauce starts to thicken.

8. Add salt and pepper, as desired.

9. Once it starts to thicken, remove it from the heat and add the parmesan cheese, and continue to whisk until the cheese melts.

10. Scoop the sauce on to the tops of the mini sandwiches and serve warm.

2. Madeleines

French butter cake

Skill Level: Medium

Recipe Serving: Yields 24 madeleines

(Hardware Needs: scallop shell pans)

french baking recipe
Image courtesy of The Kitchn

4 oz (1 stick), plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup white sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus 1 tablespoon, divided
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
Powdered sugar (optional)

Small sauce pan
Small bowl
2 medium-sized mixing bowls
Measuring cups and spoons
2 madeleine pans
Pastry brush
Small sieve for dusting with powdered sugar, optional

1. Melt the butter in a small sauce pan. You want it to be golden brown, so let it bubble in the pan until it smells toasty and starts to turn your desired color. Watch out, because the butter turns very quickly from toasty to burnt and the cakes will continue to color after it is off the heat, unless you place them in a new container. Spoon 3 tablespoons of butter into a separate container and set aside.

2. Prepare the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients separately. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup of the flour and the sugar. In another medium bowl, whisk  2 eggs with the vanilla, salt, lemon juice, and lemon zest until the eggs are frothy.

3. Combine the dry and wet ingredients. Add the eggs to the flour. Using a spatula, stir until just combined. Add the 4 ounces of melted butter and continue to stir. It may take a minute for the butter to blend into the mixture but do not over mix.

Photo courtesy of The Kitchn

4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place the batter in the refrigerator to rest, ideally overnight, but can be as little as one hour.

5. Prepare the pans. Add the remaining one tablespoon of flour to the 3 tablespoons reserved butter and stir to combine. Using a pastry brush, brush the interiors of the shells with the butter-flour mixture so that they are well coated. Place the pans in the freezer for at least an hour.

6. Preheat the oven and fill pans. Turn the oven to 350°F. Remove the batter from the refrigerator and one pan from the freezer. Fill each mold with with approximately 1 tablespoon of the batter. Remove the other pan and fill in the same way.

7. Bake the madeleines. Place both pans on a baking sheet for easy handling and place in the oven. Check after 8 minutes and rotate plans. Check again 5 minutes later. The madeleines should be browning around the edges and puffed up a little in the middle. Using your forefinger, press lightly on the center hump — when the madeleines are finished baking, it should spring back at your touch.

Madeleines recipe
Image courtesy of The Kitchn

8. Cool, then dust with powdered sugar. Remove from the oven and let sit for 2 minutes. Using a fork, gently release the madeleines from their molds and put them on a cooling rack (or a towel).

9. Storing instructions: Store cooled madeleines in an airtight container. They will last up to a few days, or freeze them for up to several months. If you are eating them post freeze, let the cakes defrost before topping them with the powdered sugar.

3. Tuna Niçoise Burgers

All the flavors of a niçoise salad, but on a bun

Skill Level: Easy

Recipe Serving: Yields 4 burgers

french burger recipe
Photo courtesy of Food and Wine

1 1/4 pounds fresh tuna, diced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
12 kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon salted capers, rinsed and finely minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil, for brushing
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons anchovy paste
4 brioche buns, toasted (optional)
Sliced tomatoes and arugula (for topping)


1. Spread the tuna, scallions, olives and capers on a plate and freeze for 5 minutes.

2. Transfer to a food processor and pulse until the tuna is finely chopped. Transfer the mixture to a bowl; season with salt and pepper. Form the mixture into four 4-inch patties.

3. Turn on the grill or preheat a grill pan. Brush the burgers with olive oil on both sides and grill over medium-high heat, turning once, until golden and crusty. They should be just cooked through, about 6 minutes.

4. Mix the mayonnaise and anchovy paste in a bowl; spread on the buns. Top with the burgers, tomato and arugula and enjoy!

4. Green Tapenade Pasta Salad

A fresh take on a French classic, Tapenade

Skill Level: Easy

Recipe Servings: 4-6 servings

Image courtesy of Serious Eats


1 pound green spinach penne pasta
1 clove garlic
1 cup pitted Picholine and Niçoise olives (for contrast and color)

1 tablespoon capers
4 anchovy fillets, packed in olive oil
The leaves from 2 stems fresh thyme
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups combined baby spinach and baby arugula leaves, lightly chopped


1. Cook the penne until al dente (or whatever you prefer)  in salted boiling water.

2. Meanwhile, put the garlic clove in the food processor. Once it’s minced, add the olives, capers, anchovy, and thyme. Then, pulse into a crumble for texture. Add the lemon zest, lemon  juice, olive oil and black pepper. Pulse a bit longer. You do want the sauce to be chunky.

3. Drain the pasta thoroughly, and toss with the tapenade. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, then add in the spinach and arugula.

Have a wonderful, safe Memorial Day holiday. We hope you enjoy these French recipes with loved ones.

Posted by cynthia at 11:47:36 PM
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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Art of Spring Brights: 2016 Interior Design Trends

As we continue our foray into interior design trends for 2016, the one major must have as we enter spring and summer seasons is lighting. Symbolic in a literal straight up sense, the warm and glow of light reflected on any surface sounds like perfection after this grueling winter season. Getting rid of of the winter blues aside, when it comes to designing the space of your dreams, lighting is the first powerhouse leap in creating the perfect space. Not only does solidifying your lighting game define the aesthetic qualities of a room, but it acts as an anchor laying down a foundation for the next stage.

lighting options 1
Photo courtesy of Vogue Russia

When starting out with lighting for spring keep in mind the basics. These four themes carry an equal weight of importance in regard to any interior and can make or break a beautiful room.

lighting options - chandeliers
French Napoleon III Style Crystal Prism Chandelier by Jean-Marc Fray
Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 5.32.46 PM
Photo courtesy of Jean-Louis Deniot
lighting options - kitchen example
Photo courtesy of Senato Hotel


All of these questions back up why lighting is priority number one and sets the tone. Your process and journey start here for idea scouting and we highly recommend Murano be one of your contenders.

Posted by cynthia at 09:57:54 PM
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Monday, May 09, 2016

French Styles of Furniture: A Complete Guide

We’ve created the French styles of furniture guide for your reference. Each type has a description including materials, style, provenance, and circa are provided for each item. Dimensions are provided in inches.

Pieces crafted during a specific stylistic period are described by the period name (i.e. Louis XV armoire). Pieces crafted in a specific style, but later than the period of origin are described as “in the style of…” (i.e. Louis XV style armoire).

The Middle Ages – 900 to 1500

middle ages - french style furniture

Furniture in the Middle Ages had to be practical above all else. Large chests of simple construction were made of heavy oak to discourage thieves. The chest or trunk was the most important piece of furniture used to contain valuables and designed to be moved from place to place. They were used as a seat by day, a bed by night (with cushions) and also as tables.

Early furniture followed the lines of medieval architecture. Carving reflected that of churches and cathedrals although few pieces were carved (mostly for the very wealthy or special occasions, such as marriages). Toward the end of the Middle Ages, furniture design reflected the Gothic trend that the architecture was going through at the time. Carving became heavier and more complex, featuring animals and grotesque heads. The cupboard was introduced.

Renaissance – 1500 to 1610

Renaissance - french style furniture
 The Renaissance (or “revival”) started in Italy and reached its height in the 15th century. Under the reign of Louis XII, France seized Milan and returned to France with Italian ideas and craftsmen. The French Renaissance came into its own when Frances I (François 1er), a patron of the arts, took the throne in 1515.

After various Greek and Roman antiquities were unearthed, interest in classicism was sparked and French craftsmen created furniture with deeply carved and ornate designs. Buffets and cabinets were made to look like small buildings with columns, balustrades, windows and panels, similar to Roman or Greek architecture. Furniture often featured ornamentation inspired by Michelangelo and Raphael, or depicted mythological or biblical themes.

Furniture was becoming lighter. Tables took on finer lines and carving, cabinets and dressers replaced chests and cupboards. Clocks, mirrors and screens became more commonplace. Oak was the predominantly used wood. Fruitwoods, such as walnut, were also introduced.

Louis XIII – 1610-1640

louis_xiii - french style furniture

Louis XIII furniture featured massive, solid construction with geometric carving. Furniture design was more opulent with cherubs, scrolls, fruit and flowers as recurring decorative themes.

The emerging middle class of this time fueled the demand for furniture. The French country look was developed for the provincial bourgeois desiring nice furniture yet living far from Paris where the best pieces could be found.

For the first time, people expected furniture to be comfortable as well as beautiful, and fixed upholstery was one of the great inventions of this period. The seats and backs of chairs were padded and leather or tapestry was secured to the chair’s wooden frame.

Louis XIV – 1640-1715

louis_xiv french style furniture

Louis XIV, also known as “The Sun King”, had the longest reign of any European monarch. His focus on opulence and splendor was imposed upon France. The Palace at Versailles is a lasting example of his love of the arts and luxury. French court furniture was built for grandeur rather than comfort and only the king was allowed to sit in an armchair. Stools and benches were covered in velvet, silk, damask, and gold brocade. Chairs and settees were just as elaborate.

Furniture introduced in this period includes the writing table or desk and finely detailed chests, which became one of the most important furniture types of the 18th century. The finest materials were used and the furniture is characterized by intricate marquetry, elaborate carving, gilding,inlaying, lacquer, gold leaf decorations of scalloped shells, lions’ heads,dolphins, laurels and, of course, the sun and its rays.

There was an increasing fascination with the Far East and all things Asian. French craftsmen copied the style and added flourishes of their own. This was the beginning of “chinoiserie“. The “Os de Mouton” chair is the one of the most significant pieces of the era. As the name implies, this chair had curved legs shaped like those of a lamb.

Régence – 1715-1730

regence - french style furniture

Following the death of Louis XIV, his 5 year old great grandson (and heir to the throne) became Louis XV. Since he was too young to take the throne, his uncle Philippe, the Duke of Orleans, was appointed as Regent. The transition between the monarchs became known as the French Regency. Offended by the spectacle of Versailles during the Sun King’s reign, the Duke moved the royal court to Paris, where courtiers lived in less extravagant hotel particuliers or private residences.

It was in this period that the apartment came into being. An apartment of this time, although lavish by today’s standards, would have been a much more intimate setting than the fortress and cathedral like homes of the prior periods. The smaller scale of these homes introduced an era of lighter, more graceful furniture. Asymmetrical curved lines replaced symmetrical straight lines and simple wood veneer replaced extravagant marquetry.

Flowing curves are found throughout Régence furniture. The “bombéstyle commode was developed with plump sides and a convex curved front. Perhaps one of the most important characteristics of the period was the introduction of the cabriole leg. This carved ‘S’ shaped leg was used in armoires, bookcases, desks, sofas, and chairs.

Louis XV – 1730 to 1770

louis_xv french style furniture

Louis XV reigned over the “Golden Age” of French decorative style. His rule was characterized by peace and prosperity during which the “Age of Enlightenment” brought about intellectualism and increasing influence by women of the court. Because of this, Louis XV style furniture (also known as rococo) was exquisite with graceful, feminine lines.

While the Baroque style of Louis XIV was focused on symmetry, rococo favored the asymmetry that came from the Régence era. Fruit woods and rosewood took the place of darker woods. Wood would often be painted or lacquered. Extravagant marquetry and veneers were used as well as ornamental, gilded bronze. Many themes were used in the rococo style and decorative motifs included foliage, flowers, shells, fish, birds, vines, hearts, and ribbons. Parisian homes of this period had large crystal chandeliers and mantels with mirrored painted panels (trumeaux).

Louis XV favored furniture suited to conversation. His chair maker (Jean-Baptiste Tilliard) created the bergère, a curved armchair with a low seat and an exposed wooded frame which was highly carved and often gilded. This elaborate decoration showed that the chair was meant to be free standing and movable rather than placed against a wall.

Other new pieces to appear in this period included the secrétaire (fall-front writing desk), table-à-écrire (writing table), and bureau-à-cylindre (roll-top desk).


Transition – 1750-1775

transition french style furniture

The most prevalent new design influence was public interest in the Roman excavations (Pompeii and Herculaneum). Lines were more angular, and the Greek “key” pattern was created. There were less curves and chair frames became thinner.


Louis XVI – 1770 to 1790

louis_xvi french style furniture

The Louis XVI period marked a return to symmetry, straight lines and classical ornamentation. In 1748, the unearthing of Pompeii brought about a classical revival in furniture making. This Neo-Classical style offered a contrasting response to the Rococo of Louis XV which came to be thought of as frivolous.

While the motifs of the natural world survived (garlands, urns, laurels, dolphins and eagles), they were paired with geometric designs. One of the popular woods of the period was mahogany, which had to be imported and was therefore used only for fine furniture. Instead of the cabriole leg of the Régence and Louis XV periods, a straight, tapered and (often) fluted leg was preferred. Case pieces, such as commodes and buffets, became more angular. Chairs of the period were fashioned in a wide variety of styles. The medallion and oval backed chairs are the most notable, although lyre or vase shaped backs were also common.

For the first time, during the Louis XVI period, chairs were made for solely for decorative purposes rather than comfort or function.

Directoire – 1790 to 1805

directoire french style furniture

Following the French Revolution and execution of Louis XVI there was a natural break from the lavish royal style. The monarchy was gone and France was governed by the Directoire executif (executive directory), from which the name of the style derives. The Directoire period is much more subdued and austere (although many of the themes of the simpler late Louis XVI furniture continued). Geometric patterns were less extravagant. Motifs include arabesque and Etruscan themes, wreaths, torches, and other warlike emblems (reminiscent of the Revolution).

Overall, the circumstances of the war led to a decline in furniture quality and the availability of materials. Brass was often used in place of gilt-bronze and imported woods such as rosewood and mahogany were scarce. Most Directoire pieces were made of walnut and other fruitwoods which could be found in France.

Empire – 1805 to 1815

empire french style furniture

After many years of political instability, Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself emperor of France in 1804. As the Empire period began, the economy boomed and a new haute bourgeois aristocracy who would desire fine furniture and decoration appeared.

Empire furniture is usually large and architectural elements such as columns and pilasters are common. Mahogany and rosewood, as well as ebonized wood were quite popular. Furniture would be decorated with brass and ormolu and inlaid with ivory or mother of pearl. Upholstering was done with embroidered fabrics and heavy brocade, often in bold stripes. Strong symmetrical designs replaced ornate carvings and rounded romantic shapes. Chairs often had stiff, square or rectangular backs and animal claw feet.

In its plainest form, Empire style is dignified and striking; however, furniture and decorative arts of the period are notable for exhibiting a confusion of motifs. Artisans of the time were still heavily influenced by classical Greek and Roman design. A Napoleonic campaign into Egypt brought back a desire for Egyptian motifs, such as sphinxes. Napoleonic symbols were used regularly, specifically the initial “N”, the emperor’s monogram, and the bee(his emblem). Other design elements regularly found in Empire pieces are dolphins, swans, and mythical creatures.

Restoration – 1815 to 1830

restoration french style furniture

Following the defeat and abdication of Napoleon in 1814, France restored the monarchy and Charles X took the throne. The royalty and aristocracy desired a return to luxury and opulence and there was a distinct shift to delicate,rounded forms, and fine decoration in furniture. The large form and geometric design of Empire furniture continued but lighter woods, such aselm and ash, were introduced and used with, or instead of, mahogany.

Coinciding with the reinstatement of the monarchy was the Industrial Revolution. An increasingly prosperous middle class brought about a heightened demand for furniture and innovations in manufacturing made that possible with new methods for furniture making.

Louis Philippe – 1830 to 1850

louis_philippe french style furniture

Charles X was overthrown in 1830 and Louis Philippe, Duke of Orleans, became France’s new leader. He managed both royalists to his right and radicals to the left, while sympathizing with the bourgeois class.

Louis Philippe period furniture maintained the simple, rounded lines of the Restoration, but with less ornamentation. The function of furniture was of prime importance. Walnut and mahogany were the predominant woods.Tables and commodes often had marble tops. A characteristic trait of case pieces in the Louis Philippe style is the “doucine“(soft curve). At the top of buffets, chests, armoires and secretaries a slight curvature is often seen, lending softness to the otherwise straight lines common of the period.

Napoleon III – 1850 to 1880

napoleon_III french style furniture

The “Second Empire” came about when Louis Napoleon (Napoleon Bonaparte’s nephew) declared himself emperor as Napoleon III. Drawing on the past 500 years of French style, the Napoleon III style is an eclectic and somewhat ostentatious mix. Often several furniture styles were mixed for a single piece of furniture. Whimsical shapes, painted wood and mother of pearl were common. Dark woods, ebonized or “japanned” woods, cast iron, paper maché and ivory inlay were implemented. Cabinets, commodes and desks crafted in the manner of Boulle and similar renowned craftsmen of the 18th century became a feature of fashionable salons, though such pieces tended to lack the finesse of the original.

Nesting tables appeared for the first time, as did tilt top “guéridons” or center foot tables. Floating chairs (ottomans, poufs…) as well as richly decorated and very comfortable chairs (chaises, “confidents” or secrets chairs, indiscreet sofas, reclining chairs…) were introduced with thickly padded and tufted upholstery, decorative tassels, braids and skirts.

Art Nouveau – 1880 to 1920

art_nouveau french style furniture

Art Nouveau was, in many ways, a response to the Industrial Revolution. While many people were excited by the advancements in technology and manufacturing, others were staunchly against the idea of mass-produced goods. Designers of the latter inclination were focused on individual craftsmanship and harmony. Art Nouveau is exemplified by organic themes: highly-stylized, flowing curvilinear forms, asymmetrical shapes, and plant motifs, used to create a highly decorated, fantastical style.Insects, swans, peacocks and, last but certainly not least, the female body, added to the supple lines and flowing features of this style.

Art Deco – 1920 to 1940

art deco french style furniture

Art Deco is a simplification of the Art Nouveau style. Forms are sophisticated and feature strong geometric designs. Exotic woods such as rosewood, teak, and mahogany were used. Many materials were used for detail, such as veneers, lacquers and high French polish, plastic, Lucite and metal.

The clean lines of Art Deco period furniture lends itself to integration with other, earlier styles – such as Louis Philippe or Louis XVI. Chairs of this style period lean towards the Directoire or Restoration styles, with comfortable, deep seats, upholstered in fabrics or leather, sometimes entirely. Tables are round, oval or rectangular and many new table forms come into being such as the coffee table, tea table, and other small side tables.

Posted by cynthia at 02:22:30 AM
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