Monday, February 2, 2015

Dateline: Paris — I Love Paris

I’ve just returned from an intense working (and fun) week in Paris. Maison & Objet and Deco Off design shows sparked new fabric introductions on the Left Bank. We celebrated our new book, ‘Jean-Louis Deniot Interiors’. The couture season was one of the best and most vibrant of recent years.

Recent news in Paris has been tragic. Last week’s mood was respectful, thoughtful and at the same time upbeat, optimistic and always celebrating creativity, beauty and style talent.

This week I’m presenting my ‘homage to Paris’ with eloquent new images created by my very dear friend, the Paris-based photographer, Xavier Béjot. Xavier is the interior photographer who shot the fantastic images in ‘Jean-Louis Deniot Interiors. His lovely black and white images are exclusive to THE STYLE SALONISTE. Thank you, Xavier.

Come with me for a special Paris visit. I’ve listed my picks of essential new architecture and design locations and thrills. A major highlight last week was a private visit to the Fondation Louis Vuitton, the new masterwork of Frank Gehry.

And I’ve written personal notes about favorites to taste and see.

It is time to set your work aside, and to pop the cork on a bottle of (non-vintage) Champagne…or a perfectly wonderful bottle of Bordeaux…and come with me for a Paris trip. And start making your list and plan for your next visit to Paris.

What to See Now: Fondation Louis Vuitton by Frank Gehry (Bois de Boulogne)

No photographs or critic’s comments I had seen since it opened late last year conveyed the thrill of this complex and magical new structure. It’s Frank Gehry at the height of his powers.

It has been called ‘an art gallery’ or a gallery to house Bernard Arnault’s art collection. That is misleading. It’s all about the building, not the art.

Fondation Louis Vuitton

Gehry’s structure is graphically overpowering, complex, soaring, and balletic. A visitor walks far up into the high glass scales and exposed laminated beams and intricate systems. It’s like a dream factory—highly complex and hallucinatory and mysterious. It even seemed to relate structurally to the flying buttresses and soaring Gothic arches of Notre-Dame.

Tip: book ahead online so that you can enter at a chosen time, without waiting in line. Slowly walk all the way up to the top of the structure, and down beside the waterfall, and then out into the garden to view it from the paths. Security is exceptionally tight, but they will allow you to re-enter. Stay for lunch or a sip at the bar, with views of the garden and ‘scales’.

Highlight: the most impressive gallery displays all working models and drawings of the Gehry design. These and the time-lapse films that capture the multi-year process are worth the trip. Must see.

New Exhibit at the Louis Vuitton Foundation, Just Announced

I noted earlier that the art collection of the foundation seemed an afterthought.

Suzanne Pagé, the foundation’s artistic director, has just announced an exhibition of modern masterpieces to open in April with loans Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” Matisse’s “Dance” and Léger’s “Three Women (Le Grand Déjeuner).” Matisse’s “Dance,” not seen in Paris for 15 years, will be on loan from the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg;

The foundation will also showcase works including Rothko’s “No. 46 (Black, Ocher, Red Over Red),” from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Also reported to be in the show is Brancusi’s “Endless Column, Version 1,” from MoMA.

Very exciting. But still, the building is the true masterpiece. Bravo, M. Gehry.

Insider View: The Mazarine Library

Xavier Béjot photographed these poetic interiors at the Mazarine Library (Bibliotheque Mazarine), an historic library unknown to visitors. But, you can visit and I highly recommend it. It’s near the Pont des Arts, Left Bank.

The Mazarine Library's gallery and exhibitions can be visited when the library is open to the public (Monday to Friday, 10 am to 6 pm). Visitors are asked not to disturb the readers. Brochures are available at the reception desk. It’s a working library, open for scholars and students.

The free guided tours are for individual visitors only. A curator leads at the end of the day; they last about an hour and a half and focus on the history of the library and its collections, buildings, resources and services. Note: check online or stop by. The library is occasionally closed for various reasons.

New at The Louvre

I was fortunate to be invited to a private evening, a visit to the new Richelieu wing of decorative arts with charming new rooms for over 2,000 design objects. They start with the reign of France's Louis XIV, who lived in the Louvre, to his successors Louis XV and Louis XVI.

Plan to spend perhaps a morning or afternoon there, if you are a designer, collector, architect, and lover of beauty.

The small objects—Marie-Antoinette’s exquisite lacquer collections and a room of maritime and celestial navigation tools—are worth the trip.

The new rooms have delightful and highly detailed interiors designed by Jacques Garcia (and with fabrics by Pierre Frey).

This wing, the Louvre's north section, the Richelieu, recently re-opened after eight years of construction. I was entranced by the cabinets of curiosities, petite salons, gold mirrors, silk-covered chairs, and especially Marie-Antoinette’s collections with intricate precious stone inlays and lacquer.

Book online so that you can enter quickly and efficiently. Every moment there is exquisite—and the very reason you are in Paris.

My Favorite Bites and Flavors

I dined at L’Arpege (a classic favorite) and Frenchie, and Restaurant Jean-Francois Piege (I first met him at the Crillon)—oh, and Allard (twice…it is also Pierre Bergé’s favorite)… and enjoyed a few sips at L'Hotel. Then I caught chocolate fever.

Chic new chocolate shops are now on every block of Paris, and it’s tempting to hop in to buy a selection. I did.

My favorite four chocolatiers—by far—are Pierre Marcolini (two shops on the Left Bank), and La Maison du Chocolat (which has seven locations)—and Pierre Hermé, and now Alain Ducasse next door to Café de Flore on rue St.-Benoit.

I love La Maison du Chocolat for the refinement of their flavors (the bites are petite) and exquisite presentation.

I adore Pierre Marcolini (based in Brussels) for his single-estate chocolates from small and rare growers in Madagascar, Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, Guinea and his easy-to-travel chocolate bars to take home.

I love Pierre Hermé’s chocolates – and especially the passionfruit-flavored chocolate bars. They’re easy to take home--after selecting his macaroons (the best in Paris) and an Ispahan pastry, with red rose petals to enjoy on the spot.

And I especially love Alain Ducasse (the great) for opening a very quiet and chic little shop, Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse, near the Deux-Magots and Café de Flore…very hidden. He emphasizes the artisanal nature of his approach. He is bean-to-bar, and one of the only makers who craft every detail of these rare bean chocolates. His flavors: very in-depth, layered, mysterious.

Ducasse’s style (like most Parisian chocolatiers) tends toward dark 78 percent cacao. Ducasse’s individual chocolates are quite understated in style (no embellishment) and the packaging is quiet and not at all glitzy. Ultimate chic.

I chose a Mendiant bar, full of candied fruit and nuts, and Peru and Madagascar bars to take home. Then I sat on the Louis XVI settee and watched the video of Ducasse’s chocolate making. Exciting. In Europe it’s possible to buy online:

Ball in Paris

I’ll be presenting images from a black tie ball interior designer Jean-Louis Deniot presented last week in Paris at the eighteenth-century Hotel de Salomon de Rothschild. It was in honor of our new book, ‘Jean-Louis Deniot Interiors’…and as well to officially mark his fifteenth years in business.

Xavier Béjot, the photographer for the book (and the black and white images here), attended, along with many of the top interior designers and fashion designers of Paris, architects from around the world, and leading creative talents—curator Pamela Golbin, Yiouri and Ria Augousti, Hervé Van de Straeten and Bruno Frisoni, Sean Yashar and Oliver Furst, Holly Hunt, Jamie and Larry Creel, Charlotte Moss, Jay Jeffers and Michael Purdy, Princess Diane de Beauvau-Craon and her niece, vintage expert Didier Ludot, William Holloway, Virginie Deniot, and talents and glamour too fabulous to mention.

More in coming weeks. Stay tuned.


All black and white photography by Xavier Béjot. 


ArchitectDesign™ said...

Great suggestions all! I Love the Pierre Herme chocolates -they're the best in Paris.
With the fallen Euro now is the time for Americans to visit and be supportive of the French -so much to see as always.
We're finally breaking down and perhaps buying our own apartment as we would like our twice a year visits to become more often.
Thank you for the fantastic visit!
PS small typo - Gehry not Geary is the architect of the LV Foundation

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...


Received great response about the PARIS BLOG…especially from grateful friends who are heading there soon…with my list in hand.


Dear Style Saloniste,

Thank you for your beautiful report from a Parisienne ( when not Arlesienne or Malaysienne ) it was so heartening to know that connaisseurs still have a special place in their heart for the city....
With so many negative reports about France in general - many of them emanating from the French themselves - please continue to carry the torch !

Hope to see you one day in Arles,
Warm Wishes,

Julia de Bierre / Galerie HUIT
8, rue de la Calade / 13200 Arles, France

peggybraswell said...

love the photos + great list of places to visit + lets hear it for France

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...


I received a lovely note from TASHI DELEK-

Merci bien! It is sheer bliss to read your blog but today's showing Paris so well has been an even greater pleasure.

katiedid said...

Thank you Diane!
My husband and I are planning a trip to Europe this Spring for our 25th anniversary with 6 days in Paris, so I am devouring all of the information and looking forward to more! We will be staying in the Marais and the Louis Vuitton Foundation has been at the top of our list since we read about it in Vanity Fair and then AD. I am so glad to hear your impressions!
I look forward to seeing you again soon!

All the best,

Katie Denham of katiedid

Kathryn said...

Such beautiful photographs--those skys! Thank you for sharing.

Windlost said...

Hello Diane, I took a quick peruse of this post and I am in heaven already. I have bookmarked to read tomorrow when I can immerse myself properly in your words and images. I love Paris (who doesn't), and studied there for a year as a young woman. We go back as often as we can, several times, and hoping again next year. I cannot wait to visit the new Gehry building and your description was inviting and made me smile with joy!
I also love Maison du Chocolat and have been exposed to so much delight there but will admit I have not tried the other shops (I will add to my list)!
I hope you are well - sounds like a wonderful trip and so glad you were well-treated as you deserve to be! I am so glad to have this little connection to your world of beauty. My heart lives in your words on days like this when I am stuck in a cold Canadian city. Haha. Although Paris in the winter is also rather chilly!!!
xo Terri

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...


This Paris post has been one of my most popular ever on THE STYLE SALONISTE--so I promise I will write more about my experiences and tips for Paris.And I will ask Xavier Béjot to collaborate with me again on a Paris feature.

I received a lovely note today:

"I'm so glad you mentioned Allard. I've been going there with my family since I was a little girl.
Do you know Rochoux chocolate? It's one of my favorites.

Thank you, Teresa-- will try Rochoux when I'm next in Paris.

Chocolatiers: it's a growing trend in Paris. I'm always looking for new ones. I've tried most of the Paris chocolatiers.One flavor/style note: Paris chocolatiers use a much more complex symphony of flavors and a very broad roster of sources. The chocolate flavors are rich and deep and complex, and less sugary. The taste of cacao comes through. Among more commercial chocolates, I love the single estate Valrhona blocks and in particular Ampamakia, a Madagascar block. I've found it at La Grande Epicerie (Bon Marché food hall).And Marcolini has a fantastic Sambirano bar…also a Madagascar estate chocolate. Much to explore. I can't wait to return to Paris. I will take you along with me in … in a new story soon. best DIANE

Philip Bewley said...

Dear Diane,

I just sent this link to my brother who is off to Paris in a few weeks. You have composed the perfect list.
Warm regards,