Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Chanel N.2

"the world's most legendary fragrance"
Who does not love Chanel? Fashion, accessories, perfumes... and who is not fascinated by the legendary Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel? In a few months we had two movies (hence the title) to understand her better: first came "Coco before Chanel" and lately "Coco and Igor Stravinsky". I will talk about the latter which is based on the fictional novel "Coco & Igor" by Chris Greenhalgh and describes the affair between Chanel and Stravinsky in Paris in 1920, the same year that Chanel N.5 was created.
"There is time for work, and time for love. That leaves no other time”
is one of Chanel's famous quotes and the movie talks about her at work and in love.
Jan Kounen, the director, shot both French/Russian-language (the one I saw) and English-language versions of the film. I was not particularly excited by the choice of Anna Mouglalis and Mads Mikkelsen impersonating Coco and Igor, they were a bit too static, she had not much visual expression and moved like a runaway model instead of a person so full of personality and complicated character as the real Coco. The same thoughts I had watching Audrey Taoutou in "Coco before Chanel". Yelena Morozova, acting as Igor's wife, instead made on me a better impression and her feelings of happiness, pride and at the end pain and betrayal were very well portrayed.

But let's talk a little about the Interior decoration, very appropriately executed in terms of style.
The beautiful house outside Paris where the love affair takes place surprised Stravinsky's wife at first glance with its black trims, not an usual choice for the time but we all know how much Chanel loved this color/non color. Even after moving in Madame Stravinskaya realizes that there is no color around and she tries to re-decorate her family's rooms putting a Russian colorful shawl on the bed headboard and other small items around. I thought it was a clever touch from the director to help describe more how different the two women were in every aspect.
Copyright Regine Abadia
Coco Chanel had a passion for white camellia flowers so quite appropriately the garden in the movie is filled with white flowers.

Most of the interior white walls have black trims and black stencils reflecting the style of Art Deco which is evident also in the use of non-traditional materials such as glass, mirrors, chrome, and other human-made materials. The geometry is apparent in every room of the mansion, where there are steps, rounded corners, or repeated lines, they always have a basic geometrical foundation. The colors are rigorously white, black and metallics throughout the house.

ecranlarge.com Regine abadia
Even in the bathroom beautiful graphic black wood trims give personality to the otherwise simple room. If you'll go to see the movie please notice also the gorgeous black drapes in several rooms, just the right fullness... and all the graphic patterns on the rugs and the walls.

Photographs from the movie by Régine Abadia
The dining room above appears to me more Art Nouveau than Art Deco but it gives more credibility to the story, since the mansion was supposed to be Coco's country house, obviously not decorated in one day but as in real life made of a few layers of style and objects acquired through the years.

Chanel entering her store, 31 Rue Cambon, in 1962. Image by Douglas Kirkland
Rigorous black and white is still used in every Chanel store around the world. On 31 Rue Cambon, above the store, Coco had a glamorous, lavish apartment, mostly used for entertaining. In fact it did not have a bedroom so she walked every night to The Ritz Hotel across the street to sleep in her private luxurious suite. The famous mirrored staircase, which allowed Coco to view everything when she sat at the top, still remains unchanged. Her apartment, still intact, is filled with antiques and chinoiserie and it is surprisingly ornate, given her love of simple design, it looks nothing like the sleek interiors of the country house in the movie.

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You can see more of her apartment if you click on this link: At Home with Chanel by Vogue.

Coco Chanel, 1920

Igor Stravinsky, 1921

A portrait by Man Ray

A portrait by Cecil Beaton

From the collection of the Metropolitan Museum

Archive Photos/Getty images

"Fashion fades, only style remains the same" she used to say and so much style she had.
Back to the movie, the most appealing parts of "Coco & Igor Stravinsky" were the music and the interior decoration, the love story was exciting even if sad, the glamour of her life not so apparent and I wish I was in charge of the casting, I would have chosen Isabelle Huppert or Juliette Binoche, maybe Fanny Ardant a few years ago.
Who would you choose?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The joy of summer: Semifreddo

Semifreddo in Italian is a demi-frozen light dessert, usually made with cream and crushed hazelnuts or amaretti biscuits. The most difficult part with this recipe is to find white geranium flowers...more common in Italy, but perhaps you can substitute them with other edible flowers. Ingredients: 2 geranium flowers plus some to garnish, 3 sheets of gelatine, 500 Grams of ricotta, 250 Grams of natural yogurt, 2 tablespoons of sugar.
Put the gelatine to soak in cold water for about 15 minutes, then squeeze and melt it with little hot water. Work ricotta and yogurt, add sugar and mix until well blended. Stir in gelatine and the petals well washed and drained. Mix and pour in a rectangular mold. Store in the fridge for at least three hours. Extract it carefully from the mold (with the help of a knife around the edges and a towel immersed in hot water briefly touching the mold it should be easy to unmold the semifreddo on the serving plate). Serve cut into large pieces and garnish with the rest of the petals. Accompany the parfait with iced fresh fruit juice like melon, raspberry, strawberry or an espresso, I would not recommend wine, due to the presence of yogurt.
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A perfect finish for a light summer dinner in a garden.

Photography of table by Albarosa Simonetti

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Brillante choice: E' De Padova

De Padova
A classic piece that can match even the most contemporary interiors. It recreates an atmosphere reminiscent of the elegant British ottoman, with a unique and decorative work of quilted leather typical of the timeless style of èDePadova collections. Very versatile as a wide square seat or a support for books and magazines, perhaps even taking the place of the usual coffee table between sofas.
ÈDePadova is one of my favorite stores in Milan. Maddalena De Padova, the owner, not only is an extremely smart and avant-garde lady but also lived for long time with another icon in the design world, Arch.Vico Magistretti. Here are a few pictures of her house in the center of Milan where light and greenery enter from every window. Magistretti changed completely the layout eliminating several doors and allowing the space to be more open and continuous. As you can see the interior decoration is quite minimalist, very clean, simple and airy, like in a Nordic house. Maddalena De Padova was the first to introduce to Italy many decades ago natural wood furniture, American designers, a totally new style of design and all this reflects in her house, which is also not a typical upscale Milanese house but more like a country house.

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Unusual house exterior for Milan, a jewel hidden in a narrow and short street in the heart of the city, but inside a true Milanese understated elegant home.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A challenge? A solution!

Smart solutions in a 360 square feet apartment allow space for everything. It was a big challenge for Interior decorator Daniela Zelli Vanoli, but with her magic wand she revolutionized the floor plan creating more light and functionality.

The whole apartment has the same woodfloor, which creates continuity and visually enlarge the space. Where the old kitchen was a new bathroom was installed and the bedroom became larger and more comfortable. Every inch was used and niches were discovered inside the thick brick walls.

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I love this B&W photograph.

Red accents give energy, grey tones give subtle elegance.

From the old floor plan you can see the enclosed space between bedroom and living area, which became instead part of the living. The bathroom was moved and that alone allowed more space for the bedroom. Clever the use of some space inside the thick brick walls to allow more storage and a larger shower. The living area has space for entertaining, working, relaxing. 33 mq._04
A really functional and elegant, even if very small, apartment.

Photography by Andrea Vierucci

Friday, July 16, 2010

The joy of summer: fried green tomatoes

8 small green tomatoes, 1 egg, 50 gr. flour, 50 gr. very fine maize flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, 100 gr. sliced smoked salmon, oil for frying, salt and pepper
Wash the tomatoes, leaving the stalk, cut them in half horizontally, salt the inside and leave a few minutes to drain on a rack. Heat plenty of oil in a large pan, sift together the two types of flour, the sugar, a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper. Beat the egg lightly with a fork. Dry the tomatoes with paper towel and immerge them fast in the egg and then in the mixed flours. Fry until golden and dry them again on paper. Distribute them in 4 individual bowls and serve with the salmon, accompanied by a mojito or a glass of chilled Prosecco.

A great appetizer to be enjoyed outdoor celebrating summer.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sex and the rugs

Were you attracted by the title? Hold your expectations...

I have not seen yet the movie "Sex and the city 2" so I will just talk about a beautiful rug in "Sex and the city" first movie. Carrie Bradshaw has grown up and her old apartment has an updated look. I was definitely attracted to the bright blue shade on the walls, it reminded me of a bedroom I had many years ago, almost the same brilliant ocean blue very close to Benjamin Moore's Electric Blue.  Carrie as we all know is a fashionista and her apartment reflected her style so of course she also bought the gorgeous "Overleaf" rug for her bedroom from The Rug Company, Marni designed line.
I don't particularly like the choice of a dark purple with those blue walls, maybe Overleaf in a golden yellow would have been better? What do you think?
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Nevertheless the rug is beautiful.

Two years went by from the last movie and I heard that in "Sex and the city 2" Carrie has spent the time, after her marriage to Big, furnishing their apartment. They left the luxurious penthouse and moved at a lower level in a space reflecting more maturity and their life as a couple.  The apartment reflects the taste of both, vintage pieces, rugs, refined textiles, brilliant colors, flowers and stripes.

She says she has betrayed fashion for interior decoration, even if her huge walk in closet is still full of shoes, gorgeous clothes, dreamy gowns, as I can imagine from this picture.

In her old, single, apartment's walk-in closet the runner is again from The Rug Company, Margherita, part of the same  line, designed by Marni.

And who is this lady? A new friend of Carrie?

No, this is not another character of the movie, but the very creative fashion icon Consuelo Castiglioni founder of Marni, a cutting edge, extremely successful for its unique style, fashion label based in Milan, now expanding into accessories and rugs.  She is the designer of all those fresh patterns you can see at The Rug Company.

Another rug, this time in a tent in the desert, on the sand...so...going back to the movie: will we see also more ethnic interior decoration in their houses after the girls went to Abu Dhabi?
 Photography courtesy of Craig Blankenhorn/New Line Cinema and from The Rug Company website

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A... maze yourself

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A model of a maze in a villa I visited recently, the magnificent Villa Pisani, in Stra, one of the several Ville venete, on the river Brenta, between Padua and Venice, Northern Italy.
Construction of the villa started in the early 18th century in a late baroque style, commissioned by the noble, and then still very wealthy, Pisani family. In its 114 rooms doges, kings and emperors were welcomed and today it has become a national museum with 18th and 19th century works of art and furniture and one of Gianbattista Tiepolo masterpieces.

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The real  maze in the park, where I was happily lost until someone from a small tower in the center gave us directions on how to exit.

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A guest bedroom, with original furniture, decoration and wallpaper.
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The chandelier attracted my attention for quite awhile, I don't particularly like modern sparkling crystal chandeliers but I love antique glass ones.
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The decline of the Pisani family toward the end of the century brought them huge debts so they were forced to sell the villa to Napoleon Bonaparte, who had become King of Italy in 1805.

The Napoleonic apartment is particularly interesting, with remarkable art treasures like this imposing canopy bed with the Emperor's initial on it.

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and his several mattresses...

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I like to think of the following works of art as family album when photography was not invented yet.

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In 1814 the battle of Waterloo decided the history of Europe and brought the Hapsburg imperial family, lords of Veneto, to Villa Pisani.  When Veneto was annexed by the Kingdom of Italy the villa did not become part of the Savoy family possessions but became property of the State.  I know, Italian history is quite complicated, so back to the villa interior decoration.

I suppose it was great to play cards in this room sitting on these elegant 19th century chairs, cheered by the colorful paintings on the walls.

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Another gorgeous chandelier and a rich display of antique textiles underneath.
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Did I say I love glass chandeliers? Even if I obviously would not use  this window treatment in a modern house I appreciate its beauty and the sinuous lines of the light fixture and of the silk draperies are really enchanting when seen together.
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A ceiling painted in 1760 by Giovan Battista Tiepolo in the ballroom at the center of the villa displays the greatest magnificence. It represents The Glory of the Pisani Family by a luminous affresco in his sublime and peculiar style. Luckily this masterpiece is safe, since it risked to be destroyed due to the the great project of modernization of the villa requested by Napoleon when he purchased the villa.

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A view from a gate

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And a view of the superb garden.

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An "amazing" day in an Italian smaller version of Versailles.

Photography by Albarosa Simonetti
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