22 Oct 2017

Crumbling Châteaux

With modern times achanging, old money does not warrant stability and continuity: one way or another the estates it relates to likely meet their fate. Heating bills, maintenance and repair costs, and property taxes end up sealing the deal on one remorseless Winter night.

Passed down the generations, the estates increasingly turn into financial burdens (financial money pits!), unless pockets are deep and/ or resourcefulness (return on investment projects), DIY skills, family team spirit and general stamina are unequivocally high.

Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers (built 13th century), Les Trois-Moutiers, Vienne, France

Maybe any land-related business attached to the estate (farming, winemaking, fruit orchards, garden nurseries, crafts, hospitality) which used to support or supplement its income ends up folding altogether due to high running costs and other expenditures - and the implacability of French taxation (so be said). The château lifestyle may then take a turn for the worse and bite the dust...

Likewise the French château dream may turn sour for those idealist buyers and unpractical investors who succumbed to the lure of a quick, cheap and fanciful purchase, only to find out that they are biting more than they can chew. And then the château lifestyle increasingly becomes a distant vision. 

Château de Maupas (built c.1580), Maupas, Dordogne, France

I have little knowledge about the history of the châteaux featured herein - and the reasons that led to their falling from grace. Regardless, my aim is not to blame or condemn. Mirabelle knows only too well how easy - very easy - it is for a property - grand or otherwise - to fall into disrepair, catch you off-guard, and for its maintenance costs to escalate beyond repair, especially when the property has not been consistently looked after or if you have been dealing with cowboy builders and other rip-off con artists from the associated building trades. Those elderly ladies made out of stone, brick, slate and wood require constant methodical TLC: choose to disregard or overlook it at your peril!

Château de la Boissière (dating back to 19th century), Edern, Brittany, France

Some owner-renovators and passionate volunteers are riding the wave high and proud and making a success out of their property venture, through blood, sweat and tears. First expect cold sleepless nights, spartan comfort, improvised dinners out of a camping stove, and chamber pots for toilets... Or best make a caravan your home while a modicum of comfort is being established in your property. All in all, keep at it and never lose sight of the reward at the end of the dirt track, beyond crumbling plaster and patches of dry rot!

Château de Coat an Noz (built 1870), Belle-Isle-en-Terre, Brittany, France

Source: (1-5) French château photography via Châteaux de France. (1) Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers (built 13th century), Les Trois-Moutiers, Vienne, photography by Pierre Mairé. (2) Château de Maupas (built c.1580), Issac, Dordogne. (3) Château de la Boissière (dating back to 19th century), Edern, Brittany, and (4) Château de Coat an Noz (built 1870), Belle-Isle-en-Terre, Brittany, photography by Morgan Corbet. (5) Château de Bonnefontaine (built 1818-1822), Altwiller, Alsace. (6) Château de Meauce (built c.13th century), Nivernais.

Château de Bonnefontaine (built 1818-22), Altwiller, Alsace, France

P.S: Push open the door to successful current château renovation schemes, including that of Château de Meauce (built 13th century), set in Nivernais, the Central area of la belle France.

Château de Meauce (built c.13th century), Nivernais, France (pict source)

30 Sep 2017

Green with Envy

Rich Autumn colours of Burgundy and pomegranate reds, pumpkin orange, chocolate brown and aubergine purple are all well and good but when green ordinarily sends your heart aflutter, gives a spring to your step and takes nature indoors into a house party celebration of the bounties of life, there is simply no forsaking the colour green for a change of season.

There is not a more visual way to stamp personality onto a home than through wallcoverings and Style Libray is a worthy starting point. Now if green is your cup of green tea like it is mine, they have a sampled variegation of greens to explore at our leisure...

"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." - William Morris

'Cashmere Paisley' wallpaper by Sanderson

As the largest soft furnishings group in the UK, Style Library operates a portfolio of six British brands, two of which of iconic, heritage status Sanderson  and Morris & Co. Sanderson, established 1860 in Islington, London, by Arthur Sanderson, was awarded the Royal Warrant in 1923 and then again in 1955. Morris & Co. was established 1861 by famed textile designer, typographer, poet, philosopher and political theorist William Morris (1834-1896). Mr. Morris is associated with the Pre-Raphaelites and the English Arts & Crafts Movement. His wallpaper designs translate naturalism through the Aesthetic style.

The other brands under the Style Library umbrella are luxury wallcovering creator and archive curator Zoffany, colour trend-setter Harlequin, Scandi-inspired and Mr. Fox prints Scion, and contemporary wallpaper designer Anthology.

'Verdure' fabric by Zoffany
'Strawberry Thief' wallpaper by Morris & Co.
'Caverley' fabric by Sanderson

Sources: (1-5) Style Library. (1) Rest assured: this frilly foliage is no fuddy-duddy! The 'Cashmere Paisley' wallpaper (colourway code: DART21680) is part of the aptly-named Art of the Garden botanical wallpaper collection by Sanderson. A fresh and dainty paisley design in a sage colourway that is more neutral than feminine, Cashmere Paisley will light up a North-facing room like no other. Pair with white-painted woodwork in satin finish and a quality sisal floorcovering to add warm texture. To make the room shine boldly, introduce a statement Murano glass floral chandelier in a contrasting coloured glass of pink or blue. Without a shadow of a doubt, that North-facing room of yours will start enjoying the bright side of life!

(2) For those of us who seek a heritage linen fabric that does not look like it belongs in the National Trust, 'Verdure' (colourway code ZAMW320465) by Zoffany is worth considering. Based on a late 17th century painted cloth, Verdure will take your windows on a wondrous wander across pastoral lands. With the church in the background and tea-time beckoning, the only question on your mind will be: 'More tea, vicar?' The design has a modern (Art Nouveau) quality to it and the teal green oscillates between turquoise and slate.

Green paint shades, top row from left: Misty Mint, Queen Anne Green Light and Green Shoot (all three by Sanderson); bottom row from left: Lime Cloud, Green Almond (both by Sanderson), and Fennel (by Zoffany).

(3) As an action-packed heritage wallpaper for a single feature wall contrasting with the other walls in a plain cream, 'Strawberry Thief' (colourway code DMCR216477) by Morris & Co. beckons. As the pièce de résistance to your dining room, it will be your conversation piece as soon as guests arrive and companion piece once they are gone. Originally a cotton fabric design, it was registered in 1883. One of the most popular Morris fabrics, it is now available as a wallcovering.

(4) For a bird theme that is less prominent than Strawberry Thief, combined with only a few hints of green supported by pops of floral pink on a mustard canvas (referred to here as Chinese Yellow), the 'Caverley' fabric (colourway DCAVCA202) by Sanderson does the trick. It resmbles a tapestry, with a Chinoiserie influence although the design is described as being 'typically English in style' despite its exoticity. It is based upon an early 19th century hand-block print.

(5) Green paint collage by Mirabelle. Paint shades, top row from left: Misty Mint, Queen Anne Green Light and Green Shoot (all three by Sanderson); bottom row from left: Lime Cloud, Green Almond (both by Sanderson), and Fennel (by Zoffany).

6 Sep 2017

Portraits of Bastia, Corsica

Landscape painting - including that of cityscapes and seascapes - contributes a valuable testimony to the history and geography of a place. If carried out meticulously and faithfully in relation to the original viewing, a painting captures and immortalises a scene as photographical evidence - without a camera in sight. This is when a painting becomes an intimate affair and its landscape a portrait. Those paintings relay valuable information to historians, ethnologists, city planners and to anyone interested in their locale.

'Vue du Port de Bastia en 1928', oil on canvas by Marc Bardon (1928)

My quest for period paintings depicting the Corsican seaside city of Bastia has taken me on a delightful journey! You could rightfully describe it as a labour of love. Unsurprisingly, the sea is captured by every artist whose oeuvre I am curating hereby. The sea is at the epicentre of the island city's historical, political and socio-economical structure. The maritime theme is strong and hardy and brings to each painting a unique colour representation!

*Put into context of the time period* Fish abounds and the sea feeds and builds the coastal communities. Voyage out of and to the island involves the vast expanse of water that surrounds it. Trade sails into and out of the island too. Let us not forget that danger lurks out from the sea (storms, epidemics, wars, invasions). The sea is a messenger, bearer of glad tidings and toller of bad news. The sea transports us.

'Corse, Bastia, le Vieux Port', oil on canvas by Marc Bardon (1939)

It brings a spectrum of mental states and emotions in tune with the aches and pains of our soul: solace, providence, daydream, hope, wish, desire, escapism, synchronicity, loneliness and desperation. It gets us to intensely scrutinise the horizon, seeking to pierce the secret of what lies beyond in order to satisfy the eternal life quest of curiosity. Ultimately the sea washes our bodies and absolves us of our sins. Ultimately the sea wreaks havoc and swallows into its watery grave lives, ship wreckages, antique towns and secrets aplenty. And when the calm finally settles over the climatic vicissitudes, the sea takes on a hue of contentment; it glitters in the golden sun, twinkles, bedazzles, spellbounds and bewitches us all over again.

I like to see the sea as a character all to itself: a whimsical, misunderstood friend or foe, according to its moods. It is ever-changing: undulates and scintillates, ebbs and flows, gently sways and then build up a crescendo, swelling up with the wind, then throwing itself at the shore in anger or desperation. It plays with the reflection of the sky always, composing as its mirror a captivating tableau that marries transience and a more permanent state of mind.

'Une Vue du Vieux Port de Bastia', oil on board by Hector Filippi
'Vieux Port de Bastia', oil on canvas by Léon-Charles Canniccioni (c.1927-30)
'Bastia, le Vieux Port et l'Eglise', oil on board by Rémy E. Landeau
'Vue du Vieux Port de Bastia', oil on canvas by Frédéric Bourgeois de Mercey (1839)
'Le Vieux Port de Bastia', oil on canvas by Léon-Charles Canniccioni
'Vue de Bastia, Côté Sud', watercolour by Jean-Jérôme Levie
'The Bombardment of Bastia, 6 November 1745', oil on canvas by Samuel Scott
'Vue de Bastia depuis Toga', oil on canvas by Louis-Auguste Lapito (1844), pict source
'Vue de Bastia depuis les Hauteurs du Cap Corse', oil on cardboard by Lucien Peri
'Bastia, Citadelle', acrylic and oil on canvas by François de Casabianca (2017)
Le Vieux Port de Bastia, as it stands today (c.2016), pictured from Hôtel des Gouverneurs

P.S: If you enjoyed the paintings of Bastia, you should view the postcards.

10 Aug 2017

Fresh, Crisp and Leafy

Mirabelle never imagined for one second that placemat and napkin sets would catch her eye, catch her all wobbly, get her excited and get an article in the process with adjectives like fresh and crisp and leafy... When was the last time such adjectives were used in unison for those little accents of table linen?

Maybe placemats leave you indifferent too... until now! Because you and I hadn't yet crossed paths with the French luxury linen company D. Porthault, that's why!

Need a little convincing? Surely not as I can see you gaze admiratively at the exquisite artistic sets below... And since you're asking, Tempête Tropicale is my favourite. How about yours?

Tempête Tropicale
Anagramme Lilac
Lilas Blue
Feuilles d'Olivier Soft Green

Always ahead of the game, The Glam Pad has just announced the imminent release of D. Porthault: The Art of Luxury Linens, a coffee table book showcasing those eponymous colour-rich home collection textiles, sure to brighten up our bedside cabinets as we move towards shorter days and longer nights. With such a book to hand, we'll naturally want to stay tucked up in bed just a little longer, flicking through the pages, enjoying the visual treats and redesigning our abodes! Sweet dreams and happy home projects to you!

Available to purchase from Gibbs Smith

6 Aug 2017

Corsican Brands That Sparkle - Orezza

There are so many different ways to approach Corsica and describe its fiercely proud spirit, and advertising is one of them. Here are a couple of long-established Corsican brands that set the tone in terms of strong brand identity and notable advertising features.

Both the brands I selected just so happen to be drink-related (one is mineral water, the other a range of alcoholic beverages). It could be that when faced with the unforgiving Summer heat that blesses and curses the Mediterranean island in equal measures, one may get an appreciation as to why thirst quenching is on the mind... followed by a well-deserved apéritif.

But first let's quench our thirst!

Eau d'Orezza:

Bibliothèque Nationale de France

With its 161-year history, Orezza distinguishes itself as the Corsican mineral water par excellence. The longevity stake alone makes it well ahead of the competition, island-wide. And wait for it... In Roman times, the iron-rich sparkling water was already praised for its therapeutic virtues.

In the mid-19th century, the medical profession recognised that the iron-rich water was beneficial for treating anemia, liver and kidney ailments and paludism. A spa establishment was set up in-situ where visitors could take the waters.

Despite competition by cheaper local brands, Orezza remains a staple on Corsican restaurant tables. It is also associated with a number of high-profile Riviera-based sports events. All in all, it remains a success story despite a three-year hiatus in the mid-1990s when the company fizzled out. It was saved from drowning and is now positioned strongly on the market. You could almost say that Orezza is the Corsican San Pellegrino in its own right, and this includes its reversal of fortune.

Napoléon Tête Couronnée, oil on wood by Jacques-Louis David

Orezza water is still being sold in glass bottles to satisfy the purist and the well-heeled but is also available in plastic bottles of different handy formats. Sign of the times, you can buy the water naturelle or with a refreshing hint of mint, grapefruit or citron.

I am unable to date the eagle advert for sure yet from the lettering and art direction I estimate it to be c.1890. The heraldic spread eagle symbolises strength, perspicacity, fearlessness, heritage and immortality. In the Orezza context, one may be tempted to hastily associate it with Emperor Napoléon Bonaparte, Corsica's most illustrious offspring, but such a connection would actually be far-fetched. Besides the eagle representation here is that of a dishevelled bird, whereas Napoléon's was stockier and more polished in looks, not to mention the fact that the crown resting atop the eagle as part of the crest is not the imperial laurel wreath (see above).

Orezza advertising, 2000s

Bear in mind that the classic eagle symbology was resurrected from the Roman empire days by Napoléon. The eagle is popular symbology in heraldry; it is depicted on a variety of royal houses coats of arms and nation flags across the world and as a famous British bank emblem.

These days, Orezza's poster and magazine advertising is of a less solemn and ominous nature than the spread eagle composition. Oh, I love the cheerful vibe that captures what Orezza is really about! Bright, blue, Summery, upbeat and sparkling, featuring a lady who bears an uncanny resemblance to Corsica's modern day muse, Laetitia Casta... I must admit that I only managed to source a poor quality advertising image online, which does no justice to the actual rendering on a glossy upmarket magazine where it belongs, even after a few tweaks. Note to self: fish out my mum's old copies of Kalliste to seek out the full-page advert, scan it and upload it to this post.

Laetitia Casta and friend, photography by Walter Pfeiffer for Vogue Paris, October 2012

Orezza is proving to us that you can be over 160 years old and still be relevant, albeit amongst a bunch of millennials who were likely not brought up on the brand, and be the ubiquitous soft drink on the rallye and party circuit. Cheers to that!

Before you squeeze that slice of lemonn into your glass, make sure to catch Part 2 of our article!

30 Jul 2017

Basket Case

Wicker, Seagrass, Sweet Grass, Bamboo, Sisal, Rattan, Raffia, Jute, Palm, Cork & Co. - any fibre and material that is golden blonde and organic lends itself beautifully to Summer, bringing a sunny coastal note while mellowing a home or dress code. Without further ado, check out Mirabelle's capsule selection for self and the home!

Pandora Gold Metallic Flecked Cork Covered Wedges by Jimmy Choo
Swarovski Crystal Embroidered Satin Adriana Espadrilles, by Oscar de la Renta
Large Natural Heart Raffia Zip Pouch in Lilac, by Aerin Lauder
Pom Pom Beach Bag in Ocean, by Mar Y Sol, via The Little Market
Coastal Inspiration by Maisons du Monde
White Island Tendances Déco, via Maisons du Monde
Mandala Woven Bamboo Box, via Maisons du Monde
Light Taupe Dancer Trivet, by All Across Africa
Oscar de la Renta Home Collection (pict source)
Coastal Inspiration by Maisons du Monde
Small Hope Bowl and other baskets by All Across Africa, via The Little Market
Sampano Storage Basket (detail), via Urbanara
Tiny Whimsical Basket in Gold, by All Across Africa, via The Little Market
Reina Peacock Chair, via Anthropologie

10 Jul 2017

Melania Trumps Fashion

Ladies and gents, when was the last time we took such an interest in a First Lady's attire? Jackie Kennedy set a fashion precedent back in her day for sure but her successors did not follow suit, either by choice or disregard to becoming a style ambassador. Fashion became irrelevant, it faded into backgrounds of tame wallflowers and obligatory tea parties, sugared out and watered down in a self-imposed protocole of blandness and drabness, epitomised by a middle-aged dress attitude and safe colours of creams, magnolias and other sickly pastels worn conservatively in designs unchanged and unchallenged, the sort that typifies English royalty of a certain age.

Dress by Hervé Pierre and coat by Bottega Veneta, Hamburg City Hall, Germany

I mean, who could have gushed over Barbara Bush's granny-like attire, or even Nancy Reagan's, one blue rinse and two carat diamonds up from your grandma's Sunday best. I will not even talk about Laura Bush because we are then in garden society board meeting territory. And I doubt Michelle Obama ever transited from her office job to FLOTUS in all honesty.

Scuba-knit découpage dress by Delpozo, Copernicus Science Center, Warsaw, Poland

Now a soft revolution is taking place in the closets. Melania is a fashion ambassador that fashion designer dreams are made of. Apart from the likes of Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford and Zac Posen who adamantly chose to shun her at their peril. Beware because wherever Melania goes, the garments she wore that day sell out like hot cakes! A boon for designers like Dolce & Gabbana who are making sure the world knows how proud they are to dress the First Lady who to them personifies the #DGWoman par excellence!

Dolce & Gabbana floral coat, G7 First Ladies visit, Catania, Italy

Aside from certain high-ticket accessories (her ethical fashion faux-pas Hermès crocodile-skin Birkin handbag and her $51,500 D&G floral coat), Melania's dress attire generally does not exceed the $2,100-$3,000 bracket, a snip by billionaire standards - and only a little extravagant by middle-class standards: either mummy gets her designer dress or the family takes a two-week vacation in the sun.

FL Melania in a $51,500 Dolce & Gabbana coat. The price tag will trigger liberals, but -- too bad! The Trump family epitomizes the American Dream.” - TrumpAdmin.daily.updates

Scuba-knit découpage dress by Delpozo, Warsaw, Poland

Talking of crocodile skin, every Melania fan who supports her style but refuses to compromise on their animal advocacy values at the same time, dreams that Melania will one day soon enough add another feather of compassion in her cap by wearing fur and animal skin no more. Well, fret not because Pamela Anderson took up the challenge earlier this year by sending Melania a fur-free coat from ethical faux-fur Russian company Only Me that did not go unnoticed. Melania pledged to ditch the fur, while this could be the start of a beautiful friendship for those two ladies, you never know!

“Amid all the mania at the inauguration, you looked stunning in an outfit by Ralph Lauren—one of many fur-free designers.  I am so happy that you chose not to wear fur! As first lady, you will help set style trends, and by remaining compassionate with your choices, you will warm the hearts of many.” - Pamela Anderson in a letter to Melania Trump

We never expected a lady like Melania to fade away in a background of magnolia wallflowers. She has the demure elegance, the grace, the poise, the features, the shape, the beauty all rolled into divine proportions to carry off much more than her predecessors' safe shades and patterns. She knows how to hold herself, carry herself and project a statement of sensibility and confidence. So far as the FLOTUS, she has worn items by couture houses as diverse as Ralph Lauren (on inauguration day) and Hervé Pierre (on inauguration night), Dolce & Gabbana, Emilio Pucci, Delpozo, Diane Von Furstenberg, Michael Kors, Bottega Veneta, and high-heel footwear maestros Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin. Rest assured that the list will have reached stellar heights by the end of the Trump presidency.

Floral-print crêpe gown by Emilio Pucci, The White House, Washington DC

On an interview last year with Harper's Bazaar, Melania was asked which First Lady she admired most and found most inspirational in terms of style and was prompted with the names of Jackie and Nancy. She brushed those away in a snip and replied emphatically that her fellow fashion model Carla Bruni-Sarkozy (former French First Lady) was her inspiration. What a statement! Why fade away between the teapot and the Bourbon biscuit when you can carry on being what you were made famous for: an attractive, confident, head-turning fashion icon!

First Lady Melania Trump, wearing a Dolce & Gabbana outfit, official White House portrait

Yet Melania goes beyond the superficiality of fashion. She carefully chooses her dresses to bring a message, like her Delpozo scuba-knit dress she wore on her visit to Poland and whose pop art colours carry a strong nationalistic message (they reflect the colours worn by the Polish military). Prior to her husband being elected, she also wore a vibrant pink Gucci pussy-bow blouse at the second presidential TV debates, following her husband's notorious 'Grab them by the pussy' line. If this was not her tongue-in-cheek way of diffusing a hyped-up situation, I wonder what was.

Gucci pussy-bow blouse, second presidential TV debates (October 2016)

Melania is proving that a former fashion model is not a clothes horse. She has come a long way since inauguration day where her reserve, nervousness and slight reticence at times were palpable, especially under the magnified anti-Trump media scrutiny. Melania is blossoming out right before our very eyes as a First Lady who has managed to incorporate her love of fashion into her political agenda. She is a Trump powerhouse all to herself and will be remembered in her own right by bringing more than just fashion personality (back) into the political arena.

Sharp and crisp on her way to Bedminster NJ! 

We can thank Melania for the fact that she is putting feminity back into both the fashion and political agendas. She makes a woman proud to be a woman once again. She shows us that you can be in your mid-forties and still be and look relevant, dapper and (so be said) a smouldering sex bomb. And with that, Melania slaps feminism in the face: no you shouldn't be sloppy in looks and attitudes in order to prove yourself to the world. Feminity is to be celebrated and embraced, not diminished and ridiculed!

She's a woman, a mother, a wife and a lady too! (pict source)

You watch my words: by empowering women through their reaffirmed graceful feminity and the values she stands for, Melania will come to be remembered as the best FLOTUS ever. The irony of it all is that she wasn't even born in the US and yet she incarnates American values more than her predecessors, some of whom harboured a strong anti-American stance (anti-prosperity, anti-ambition). Overall Melania is proving that being of foreign origin and having an accent should not prevent you from rising to the top - with grace. When it comes to the improbable marriage of politics and fashion, you seek a complimentarity of style between the two and Melania struck the balance effortlessly.  

I might not be American and not approve each and every one of her fashion choices but Melania sure is my First Lady.


More of Melania on Instagram: @trumpadmin.daily.updates ° @flotus ° @theofficialmelaniatrump ° @realdonaldtrump ° @stefanogabbana °


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