As my Instagram followers already know, I’ve been devouring a new book, Home Sweet Maison: The French Art of Making a Home by Danielle Postel-Vinay. It is amazing!
Postel-Vinay walks the reader room by room (beginning with l’entree) to single out the little touches in each room that help give it that French mystique. Note this isn’t “French Farmhouse” or “Shabby Chic” or “Parisian Modern” or any particular style at all. Instead it focuses on the purpose of the room and how the French tend to make it their own.
Example: l’entree (equivalent to the American foyer or entryway) tends to have very personal touches. Rather than a bland landscape painting and a Pottery Barn knick knack, a French entree is highly personalized with objects and art that hint at — but never shout — who lives in the home.
The entree exposes one’s intimate lives through deeply personal, emotionally charged objects that tell a story about who you are, where you came from and who you want to be.
Each room that Postel-Vinay walks through has this same theme: what makes the room uniquely French as opposed to the rather cookie-cutter decor and styling so often found in an American home?
Embedded into the text of each room are hints and commentary regarding French culture and history. For example, la cuisine (the kitchen) is distinctly separate from the salon (living room) and salle a mange (dining room) and is starkly utilitarian: no porcelain tchotke, chalkboard sign or decorative milk bottle in sight.
…[A] French kitchen is a space with one purpose: the preparation of food.
The author theorizes this may be a cultural leftover from when kitchens were dirty, smelly wood-fueled hearths that — if you were lucky — only the servants ever saw. In older French homes, the sink is located in a separate vestibule just off the main room of the kitchen, a leftover from the days of the scullery.
I love this book. I found it both fascinating in the tidbits of French culture it contains and in the ideas that it gave me for my own house. In fact, if you were wondering why I didn’t get a post up on Friday, it’s because I was busy giving my living room a fresh coat of neutral white paint!