Archives from France

Friday
May182012

I think it was the rustic, reclaimed wood coffee table that did me in.

 

It was dark this morning when I reached over and turned my alarm clock off at 9 am.  I almost didn't believe I had set my alarm for the right time because the sky was so dark.  In my drowsy state, I remembered drifting off to sleep last night and hearing the calming sound of rain on the uneven Lacoste stones.  I gathered it was officially a "rainy day" this May morning, and I got out of bed to get ready to spend some time with my parents.

I gazed out onto a misty Luberon valley, sheltered by my plaid umbrella, as I waited at the Goat Gate for my parents to pick me up.  Their gray rental car drove up soon enough, and we discussed our plans for the day.  We decided not to do our original plan, which was to explore the city of Aix en Provence, because in the rain walking around a city could be a drag.  Instead we decided to grab a coffee somewhere and go back to Les Roulettes, my parents' hotel, because I had never seen it before.

After enjoying our coffee in a café, which we're still not sure was open or not, we ducked into a small grocery with fresh fruits, vegetables, and delicious cheeses.  We bought all sorts of food: nectarines, blueberries, red peppers, tomato and basil-spiced cheese, the biggest golden raisins I've ever seen; along with some other things to prepare lunch at the hotel.  And when we reached the hotel, I fell in love.

Seriously though, I had no idea that my future home was already built, decorated, and being temporarily leased as an upscale hotel in France...  The first room I saw was the communal room where the guests shared a small kitchen.  This small kitchen had a stainless steel fridge (I love stainless steel refrigerators), and a stone oven that was no longer in use but was used as a shelf for wine bottles, kitchen accessories, and mismatched, yet all green, dishes.  The sink was a small stone sink with just one small, gold knob and faucet for hot water.  The table separating the kitchen from the sitting area was clad with French tiles, all contained by a border of gray-painted wood.  The table sat in the room in a very French way.  It was very simply there: ready for interaction, plenty of space around it's perimeter, letting three stone candleholders rest on the surface in the perfect way.  My parents and I blew in from the light rain and laid out all of our fruits and vegetables on the table, organizing them and giving each one its place in a green bowl or other beautiful ceramic container that happened to be lying around.

The sitting area was my favorite.  I, as an Interior Designer and well, myself have been waiting for the moment when I walk into a space and the impossible is accomplished: I see before me the very image I have been forming in my mind over many years of exactly what my future living room will look like.  This was it.  This eclectic, cozy, not intimidating but inviting communal space in Les Roulettes was it.  The room had a natural fiber rug (my favorite), French style lounge chairs with a graphic pattern, and neutral fabric (my favorite), and a rustic, almost reclaimed wood coffee table (MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE). 

After getting over my shock of the splendor of this hotel, I had the opportunity to fix a meal in France for the first time.  I made a salad for my mom, my dad, and I.  It was so much fun to chop the fresh fruits and vegetables bought only this morning and throw them together in a bowl, adding olive oil and vinegar resting on a stone stove in a BEAUTIFUL FRENCH KITCHEN!  My parents and I ate up every last bit of that salad and sat on my future sofa, and my future chairs, and read my future collection of Provence Interior Design and African coffee table books (because I WOULD have that in my house right?).  This room was flooded with natural light because of the giant French doors looking out onto the pool, and we sat there for hours.  We talked to each other, read our books, made tea, took pictures, I sketched, and we enjoyed each other's company until the sun came out in the early evening.  I had the opportunity to meet the owner/decorator of the hotel, and complement him on his great taste.  His name is Thomas, and of course my parents have made him adore them already.  Thomas is a very personable, stylish, and peaceful French man from what I could tell of my brief encounter with him.  I am excited to do possibly real estate business with him in the future…

Thursday
May172012

Chinese Dinner

Tonight Café de Artistes (the SCAD dining hall) had a special Chinese Dinner!  The cooks had Julie (a woman who works for SCAD) make an announcement telling all students that if anyone wanted to decorate the cafeteria for the special Chinese dinner, they were welcome.  With the way Julie made the announcement, it was clear the cooks really wanted someone to decorate, so I volunteered.  I love doing this kind of stuff, as some of you might remember from Fourth of July in Africa.  And today, it was a similar situation to Africa: we had no supplies.  There is no arts and crafts store in Lacoste.  We were told to bring all of our art supplies for the quarter because it would be hard to get things in France.  But unfortunately, all the supplies I have are drafting and Interior Design-related, nothing fun or capable of turning into Chinese decorations. 

 To solve our lack-of-supplies problem, I went to Julie and Eleanor’s office and asked them if they had anything I could use.  They then remembered an old exhibition SCAD Lacoste had, where they decorated with Chinese Lanterns.  Julie went in the office safe and took something small out of one of many drawers within the safe.  She handed me a small, green key with the words “Pitot 9” on it.  This was the key to the room where all of the, excuse my English, “crap” is stored.  They told me to go explore Pitot 9, just me: no one else was allowed, and see if I could gather some useful tools. 

 It took me a little while to find the “house” of Pitot 9, Eleanor and Julie told me it was near Pitot 1-8, where the graduate students live, but I think I accidentally walked into a couple graduate student rooms before I found Pitot 9.  When I found the building, the key easily slid into the lock and the door creaked open as I turned the curly, metal handle.  I was greeted with a tight, mint green foyer with a slightly open mint green door blowing in the wind.  I assumed the inside door was open for ventilation because I immediately felt the mustiness of the space.  The foyer was so small I had to close the front door behind me before I could open the mint green door.  I did so as I realized the amount of dust and spider webbs around me.  When I walked into the room, I knew I had hit a jackpot.  I immediately saw the Chinese lanterns, neatly folded in an open box.  This room was just like an attic, discarded old things that are useful, but only pulled out every once in a while.  I saw endless amounts of vases, tablecloths, and interestingly enough: lanterns.  I could tell these piles were things used to decorate SCAD events.  Some of the things looked familiar to me: tasteful décor multiplied into a number fit for a party, ball, or gallery opening. 

 I gathered other items besides the Chinese lanterns such as string, candles, and two long wooden planks that would serve as a nice “Zen-like” surface on which to line candles up.  I was worried I might be missing something, as I knew I had limited time in this room: the small green key in my pocket wasn’t mine forever.  But I also went with the theory of whatever I take, I must carry all the way down the hill, and so I narrowed my findings down to just one box. 

 When it was time to decorate in the afternoon, Fabrice was very happy to see that me, and a small group of people, cared as much about this Chinese dinner as he did.  I will go ahead and say, the French do not do Chinese food as well as the extremely unhealthy, greasy American restaurants do, and there were a lot of disappointed students.  But for me, the fun part of the Chinese dinner was the stressful, yet joyful preparation.  I found out Fabrice is originally from Paris, and I also learned that being a cook means you are a very creative person.  As we hung the Chinese lanterns Fabrice said they must alternate: higher – lower – higher – lower, “because it is good for the eyes.”  Fabrice had all the creative ideas within the decorating crew, and he did most of the work too.  My work was more before the fact: convincing people (with my darling smile) to help me, gathering materials, climbing through spider webs.  And as Fabrice climbed on a tall ladder, a roll of tape in his mouth, he tied lanterns to track lighting on the ceiling.  By 6:30 pm, the room had become more beautiful.  The smell of French eggrolls traveled up the hill, and my classmates and teachers’ smiling faces in the soft glow of the candlelight, was worth the every grain of healthy, non-fried rice.*

Wednesday
May162012

French Tile

Wednesday
May162012

Coffeehouse

The second part of my studio project for this quarter is to design a space that builds community.  The only requirements for this project are that the space must be indoors, it must be 800 square feet, and in some way, it must build a sense of community among the graduate students that will use it (our hypothetical clients).  After a bit of interviewing, I decided to design something I’m surprised I didn’t think of sooner: a coffee shop.  Today I have been working hard on my rendering of the coffee shop.  The shop will be staffed by “work study students:” students that have jobs with SCAD that help them with their financial aid.  I was also told that the types of students that would use this community area will be mostly Fine Arts students: painting majors, illustration majors, etc. and I believe a coffee shop is perfect for that crowd.

In the plan Ben and I have devised, the coffee shop will have movie nights every Friday, helping build a sense of community.  And perhaps Fabrice or the current cook could do a cooking lesson on Monday nights.  As you can hopefully see from the rendering, this coffee shop is cozy.  Ben and I created a fireplace, and a stone bench wrapping all the way around one side of the room.  There is even a raised seating area (which I stole from one of the best coffee shops in Savannah: Sentient Bean), that will be great for watching movies so everyone can see.  Now, what I need help with is thinking of a name.  Ben and I only started thinking about it today, and I would love to hear your ideas.

Here’s some information that might help:

  1. The concept Ben and I are following for our project this quarter is simplicity.  Our slogan of sorts is “simplify your experience.”  Our idea is that the dorm we designed will help simplify the experience of the students, in order to help them focus.  Focus on what?  Well that is for them to decide as they experience Lacoste.
  2. The sub concept I used when thinking about the furnishings of the coffee shop is “berries of the earth.”
  3. Another nice detail is, a painting by Adi’s mom, Rama Sharma hangs above the fireplace.
  4. I’ve included and a picture of the bathroom tile, because I just like that picture.
  5. A lot of café names here in France have the structure of “Café de..”

I would love to hear any ideas for a coffee shop name!

Tuesday
May152012

Good Morning

Another part of today I enjoyed was the morning.  I went for a run: pretty excruciating for some reason this morning, but extremely rewarding at the end and throughout the rest of the day.  And after showering and putting on professional clothes for the field trip it was time for me to meet my parents.  My parents were planning to meet me at Café de Sad some time around 10:00 am to enjoy the Tuesday Farmer's Market (I wanted my mom to taste the delicious nougat and I knew my dad would love trying samples from "The Cheese Guy," as my dad refers to him). 

I reached Café de Sad about thirty minutes early and I saw some familiar faces.  Fabrice, our cook, was frowning at the morning paper and his assistant chef was enjoying a cigarette.  They were probably having a smoke after a busy morning of preparing our breakfast.  I thought about how our cooks must get up in the early hours of the morning to have breakfast ready by 8:00 am, and they typically don’t leave until after dinner (sometimes they trade shifts, but sometimes the same people are here all day).  And so it is a usual tendency, after zooming in and out of the bustling kitchen during meal times, for Fabrice and all his charismatic assistants to walk directly across the road to Café de Sad when the day takes a breath, and they have a moment to pause.

I decided to try and sketch Café de Sad, and so I parked myself on a stone right in front of it.  I drew the outline of the building, the hanging circular lights, the overhead canopy made out of reeds to shade the customers.  I drew Fabrice's frowning face, looking down at the paper and Vanessa's aunt (the assistant chef who's name I forget, but know she is another chef: Vanessa's aunt) exhaling a curling trail of smoke, her arm relaxed on the railing.