Wednesday, March 30, 2011


It would be good to give much thought, before
you try to find words for something so lost,
for those long childhood afternoons you knew
that vanished so completely -and why?

We're still reminded-: sometimes by a rain,
but we can no longer say what it means;
life was never again so filled with meeting,
with reunion and with passing on

as back then, when nothing happened to us
except what happens to things and creatures:
we lived their world as something human,
and became filled to the brim with figures.

And became as lonely as a sheperd
and as overburdened by vast distances,
and summoned and stirred as from far away,
and slowly, like a long new thread,
introduced into that picture-sequence
where now having to go on bewilders us.

by Rainer Maria Rilke

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Quiet Country

My make-shift mailbox with no mail

We spent a really quiet weekend in the country. It was the first warmish weekend and I wanted to check on the house and make sure there were no leaks. It was so deeply peaceful there that I was able to start reading a 746-page daunting tomb, Proust by Ghislain de Diesbach that my friend George put me up to reading. George, was so alarmed that I had not read Proust in my college days and that I in fact thought Proust was a German writer (based on his Germanic-sounding name and my ignorance,) that he proposed I read Proust's autobiography before reading his work. Easier said than done. But in the country, at least it is quiet enough that I can concentrate. At least natures' noises replace the buzzing of the refrigerator and the swirling of the washing machine and the hum of the ever-illuminated Macintosh.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

My Friend Isabelle

Isabelle's counter

If there is any one person I can credit for my move to France it would be Isabelle Grange. We met in the summer of 2000, before everything changed in the Hudson Valley, before 9/11. Isabelle an amazing painter was living at that time in a beautiful and funky house on the Hudson river, south of Rhinebeck. She had been peering through the Basic French store windows that were covered with white paper, waiting for our grand opening. That summer, Isabelle was working for my friends Steve Abeles and Ray Anastasio, at their beautiful antique store, Balsamo, in Pine Plains. They assured us we'd be friends.

When the doors to Basic French finally opened in August, Isabelle was one of my first customers. We immediately hit it off. I was awed by her talent and her sweet and gentle temperament. Over the years our friendship blossomed even after she moved back to les Monts du lyonnais to be near her family and friends. I often visited her hometown of Larajasse and on 9/11, when I was stuck in Paris during Maison et Objet with no flights scheduled to the US for four days, I called her and stayed with her family. The next summer, I rented a house in Perigord, and during the worst summer deluge, the girls and I drove across France, in 9 1/2 hours, by way of the Massif Central to visit Isabelle. While walking in the country near her family home, we spotted an old stone farm house high on a hill, neglected, savage but beautiful. I said "If that house ever comes on the market, let me know." Three years later I bought that same house, my basic French getaway, one kilometer from where Isabelle grew up.

Isabelle's kitchen
A brilliant artist who studied at l'ecole d'Arts Appliqués in Lyon, then later worked in New York for Raymond Waites as design director, Isabelle has a unique, personal painting style that has greatly evolved over the years. What never changes however, is her attention to detail and her amazing craftsmanship. She can paint anything. Her background as a decorative painter has landed her international projects for wallpaper manufacturers, publishers and high-end decorative design firms. She has exhibited her travel portraits widely and while her personal work is so different from her decorative work, both are highly collectible.

Isabelle's urn prints in her salon

We are thrilled to be carrying some of Isabelle's decorative prints at Basic French, a business collaboration following years of great friendship. To see more of Isabelle's personal work, click here.
To see her decorative work for Objet de Curiosité, click here.

Isabelle Grange, painter

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Thoughts on London...

The girls and I hopped on an Easy Jet in Lyon and landed an hour later at Gatwick airport in London. Hard to believe, but it's time to look for colleges for Halliday and aside from looking in New York and Philadelphia this Spring, we are checking out England. Because, you never know and ya gotta keep your options open.

A bit of window shopping therapy was in order after a long dreary Winter in Lyon, which seemed lacking in fashion stimulation. It did not take us long to get really excited about design and clothes and stuff. London is filled with funky, fun places to go and it made me realize how conservative the French are, even if they have great taste. There is an element of not taking risks which exists in all aspects of French culture and while elegant and understated always works in fashion at least, I have been craving pattern, texture and color, feeling like I want to step out of the mold that the French are so good at staying in.