Interiors Comme les Français- Famille Chic
I love seeing how other people live. Living in Paris with Famille Chic (and befriending Famille Bohemian) was like heaven for me because I could experience first-hand the way true Parisians live. The most fascinating aspect of observing both families (who in their own right were very different from each other) was observing the interior of their apartments. Here, in Part 1, I will discuss the general interior of Famille Chic’s home.
As I have already touched upon, Famille Chic’s 16th Arrondissement apartment was not typical of the ‘average’ Parisian household. Famille Chic came from a long line of aristocrats and their apartment- while not extravagant (no nouveau riche gaucheness here to speak of) their interior definitely spoke of their distinguished lineage. High ceilings, equally high windows, beautifully restored (probably ancient) wooden floors created the shell for their 4 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment.
As for the decorations, gilded portraits of their ancestors hung on the walls (that seriously looked like they belonged in the Louvre), Persian Rugs adorned the floors, and the furnishings were mostly antiques (the only modern “new-looking” furniture was found in their tiny kitchen- the kitchen table and chairs). Everything in their home was ‘real’. There were no “fake” antiques or decorations purchased from a mass-market home furnishing center. It had all been passed down from their esteemed family members or purchased somewhere abroad. Everything was tasteful and everything had meaning.
Below is a list of my general observations- things I was surprised to find in the home of Famille Chic when I was fresh off the boat (or plane, rather) from America:
- Famille Chic had one small television for the whole house. (We are talking tiny!) No flat screen ‘entertainment’ system Chez Eux. Their discreet little television was placed in their living room almost as an afterthought and was rarely watched. (In fact, their record player got much more use than their TV. Monsieur Chic would religiously play Debussy after each dinner- listening in rhapsody with his eyes shut while drinking his digestif). Every now and then the son of Famille Chic (who was the same age as me and I will call “A” for short) and I would watch a film on the television but because the format of the living room did not revolve around watching television- this was not a very comfortable event. Which brings me to my next observation.
- There was No sofa! No sofa? Where was the huge sectional, or lazy boy recliner I was so used to seeing in American homes? There was none. Probably because Famille Chic would rather die than pass out on an enormous couch in a television-induced coma after work. The set up of their living room included four chairs all facing each other to maximize conversation. There were two large upholstered chairs and two wooden backed chairs.
- The dining room table was très important. Naturally. After work/ school we would all sit at this wonderful antique table with its worn, polished wood and marks from years upon years of fabulous dinners. We would sit there for hours- eating, discussing, drinking…. living.
- One bathroom. (One bathroom?! Was my first thought). I come from a home in America with four bathrooms! I had my own bathroom my entire life! Suddenly I was having to share it with three other people? Quelle Horreur! But actually, it wasn’t bad at all. If anything- it curbed my vanity ;)
- A tiny, utilitarian kitchen that produced some of the best meals I have ever had in my life. There were no stainless steel appliances in this kitchen- no granite countertops or marbled sinks- no state of the art cooking tools either. This was a barebones, (did I mention tiny?) kitchen- modest, humble and tucked away at the back of the house.
What struck me the most about Famille Chic was that they lived extremely well- but did not rely on an abundance of material luxury (there was no keeping up with the Joneses in this home). They clearly lived surrounded by wealth but there was nothing flashy about them. They were modest and humble- the interior of their home revolved around living a good life- eating well, conversation and family.
I hope you will stay tuned for Part Deux…
Above Image of the Salon at Versailles courtesy of msn.com