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The old saying goes, ‘Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.’ That pretty much summed it up for our designers—that is, until their love affair with Paris began.
Sending this wildly talented group of creative minds to Paris was dangerous. Would they swoon over the city’s sexy aura? Revel in the romance? Crave the haute cuisine? Develop a Parisian case of artistic whimsy?
Thankfully, it was all of the above—our fabulous designers found the elegance of the city intoxicating, and the creative stimulation contagious. Merci, Paris!
And so it began—crossing the pond with the intention of leaving no interesting stone unearthed. From Coco to Rococo, they were determined to find inspiration to bring home and weave into sound American design and attitude—the cornerstone of the new, modern Ethan Allen.
First stop on this quest was the most famous of Parisian flea markets, Les Puces Saint Ouen. It was here where a neoclassical bust sat atop an Art Deco armoire and a Louis XIV chair leaned precariously against what looked like an original Joan Miro canvas, among other fabulous things. The kaleidoscope of colors and textures, time periods, and styles was both surreal and consoling. It was a literal treasure chest, one whose wares were quite easy to get lost in.
A short stroll to the next market, where a stack of unique mirrors with bleached, whitewashed frames leaned against a wall, ten deep. It was not the process of sifting through each mirror to find the “gem” that was appealing here—it was looking at the display of them as a whole, placed the way they were, which was undoubtedly done without a thought—that garnered the most intrigue among the group. It just looked so…enormously effortless and well, fabulously French. It was this very stack of mirrors that sparked the design flame within them for the French Vanilla series, replete with creamy finishes and harmonic silhouettes.
On to the Boulevard Saint-Germain on the Left Bank, where they found busy bistro tables cluttering the sidewalk, with conversation and wine flowing freely—even though it was hardly past noon. Ah, oui!
What’s different about Parisians is they don’t allow themselves to be guided by any set of rules whether in fashion, food, art, or design. There are no rights and wrongs—just enormously confident collections of objets d’art.
Our team perused Paris for days, from the Left Bank to the Right, the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre. They trolled for tole and toile, matelassé and more. A piece of fabulously weathered, rustic Provencal pottery inspired our mustard- and mushroom-hued Renee collection. An enormous wrought iron chandelier with too many candleholders to count was the concept behind the curvaceous Tristan twelve-light chandelier. And an ancient architectural artifact sparked the idea for the tabletop acanthus leaf—a perfect conversation piece to set atop a chic book of photography—Helmut Newton’s, perhaps.
The concept clear in everyone’s minds (besides a unanimous vote to stay in Paris just a little bit longer) was that it was high time to introduce a new French Modern way of living to the Ethan Allen portfolio. One which redefined the traditional boundaries of French design by losing the boundaries altogether. And what could be more modern than that? C’est magnifique!
Classic design. Modern perspective.sm