Monday, June 30, 2014

Adieu…saying goodbye

Saturday June 21st was a very sad day… a very sad day indeed as we said goodbye to a brilliant, great man, the father of my husband. Robert Gardner left us as we were holding his hands, his last breath into the sunset overlooking the Charles River.

I  very quietly looked at life though his lens, slowly developing a passion for African art, traveling the world with my then young children to show them the bare essentials in life, to introduce them to cultures so foreign to us.

My children as we did, had a quiet moment to say goodbye to their grand father, a forbidding figure at times, but a proof that one can live a full life, a life of one's choosing.



Robert Gardner on the banks of the Ganges in the mid-1980s. CreditNed Johnston

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Robert Gardner, an intrepid filmmaker who specialized in anthropological documentaries, examining lives in remote societies around the globe, died on June 21 in Boston. He was 88.
The cause was cardiac failure, his wife, Dr. Adele Pressman, said.
Mr. Gardner, who had been a student of art history at Harvard, began making films in the early 1950s after visiting Turkey with the archaeologist and scholar Thomas Whittemore and starting graduate school in anthropology at the University of Washington.
His work, known for its sophisticated visual language and sparse narration, unveiled ethnographically distinctive peoples and practices with patience and a kind of objective astonishment.
“For much of a career that has spanned more than a half-century and circumnavigated the globe,” Manohla Dargis wrote in The New York Times in 2011, on the occasion of a partial retrospective of his work at Film Forum in Manhattan, “Mr. Gardner has trained the camera on people whose lives, rituals, beliefs and bodily ornamentation can seem so far from early-21st-century Western life as to be from another galaxy.”
His first important feature-length film, “Dead Birds,” arose from a 1961 trip he made to what was then Netherlands New Guinea (now part of Indonesia), where he observed the rituals of a prehistoric highlands people known as the Dani, whose traditions, values and quotidian practices were largely based on, in Mr. Gardner’s words, “an elaborate system of intertribal warfare and revenge.”
The expedition included 23-year-old Michael Rockefeller, son of Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York, who later that year disappeared after traveling to another part of New Guinea. Mr. Gardner accompanied the governor in what turned out to be a fruitless search for his son, whose body was never found.
Among the admirers of the film, released in 1964, were the poet Robert Lowell (Mr. Gardner’s cousin) and the anthropologist Margaret Mead. Ms. Dargis called it “a landmark in the field” and “a document, a time capsule, about a society on the edge, both in terms of the marginalization of its population and the material changes that will come with the shrinking world.”
Mr. Gardner’s 1974 film, “Rivers of Sand,” depicted the Hamer people of Ethiopia, whose society is baldly and cruelly male-dominated.
“In their isolation, they seemed to have refined this not uncommon principle of social organization into a remarkably pure state,” Mr. Gardner wrote. “Hamer men are masters and their women are slaves. The film tries to disclose the effect on mood and behavior of lives governed by the idea of sexual inequality.”
Mr. Gardner’s other films include “Deep Hearts” (1981), about a nomadic tribe in central Africa (he filmed the tribe in the Niger Republic) with complex rituals related to human beauty; and “Forest of Bliss” (1986), which takes place in Benares (now Varanasi), India, the city on the banks of the Ganges, held sacred by the Hindus, where many go to cremate their dead. That film depicts daily life as something of an unexplained mystery, unspooling from sunrise to sunrise without narration or dialogue.
“What is that grizzled, bare-chested master of ceremony, aglow in the flames, up to — holding fire in his palm and sprinkling bits of it about, croaking what must be some sort of prayer?” Walter Goodman wrote in his review in The Times. “What do all those chants and ritualized movements and bright colors signify? To what fate are these dead being consigned? Can it be legal, not to mention sanitary, to plop the corpses into the river?
“You will not find the answers here to such questions,” Mr. Goodman continued. “But the pictures are so strong, the vision so sustained that mundane curiosity seems almost irreverent. ‘Forest of Bliss’ itself is a kind of ceremony.”
Robert Grosvenor Gardner was born into a socially prominent family in Brookline, Mass., on Nov. 5, 1925. His father, George Peabody Gardner, was a banker and financier and a descendant of the arts patrons and philanthropists John Lowell Gardner and Isabella Stewart Gardner. His mother, Rose Phinney Grosvenor, was the daughter of a textiles magnate.
He attended the Park School in Brookline and St. Mark’s School, in Southborough, Mass., before graduating from Harvard. After traveling to Turkey with Mr. Whittemore, an expert in Byzantine art and architecture, Mr. Gardner taught briefly at the College of Puget Sound in Tacoma (now the University of Puget Sound). He enrolled in but did not complete a graduate program in anthropology at the University of Washington, where he made a short film, “Blunden Harbor,” about the Kwakiutl Indians, from a coastal village on Vancouver Island in British Columbia.
Invited to take pictures and conduct research on an expedition in the Kalahari desert in Africa, he then returned to Massachusetts and helped start a film production and research unit at Harvard’s Peabody Museum. This became the Film Study Center, which he directed from 1957 to 1997. The Peabody Museum sponsored the New Guinea expedition in 1961.
Mr. Gardner’s books include “Gardens of War: Life and Death in the New Guinea Stone Age,” written with Karl G. Heider, and “Making ‘Forest of Bliss’: Intention, Circumstance and Chance in Nonfiction Film,” with Akos Ostor. Through much of the 1970s, Mr. Gardner was the host of “Screening Room,” a television series devoted to interviews with independent filmmakers, on WCVB in Boston.
Mr. Gardner’s first marriage ended in divorce. In addition to Dr. Pressman, a psychiatrist, whom he married in 1983, he is survived by a brother, Jack; a sister, Rosie Cutler; a daughter, Eve Gardner; four sons, Stewart, Luke, Caleb and Noah; and six grandchildren.

My favorite photograph on our library's wall taken by Robert in the Baliam Valley in  New Guinea

A Bientôt,


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Floral Design

Growing up on a farm in France, I have inherited my grand mother's love for flowers. My garden is a true labor of love and I have spent a good part of my life, designing, planting, caring for my flowers and trees.

One of my pleasures is to cut flowers in the early morning and arrange bouquets for the house. This has turned into a real passion, and I have done all the flower arrangements for friend's weddings, engagement parties and events.

I designed white and blue arrangements for my friend's  big birthday  bash . A perfect evening of great food, music, dancing under the star, and the most glorious sunset over the Long Island sound. Sadly, I had no time to take any photographs.

I realized that I haven't shared the flowers arrangements and tablescape I designed for the Greenwich Red Cross Gala event in May. For this affair, I relied on Lenox as they so kindly loaned me the beautiful tableware and glasses designed by Dona Karan as well as the silverware designed by Kate Spade. I incorporated my personal hand made ceramic plates lined with pure gold from the artist Jan Burts.

In a collaborate effort, Peter Farsano and I created the table cloth, inspired by the leaves designs that I saw on women's face in Burma. I reached out to Peter with my hand drawn design which he turned into a wonderful linen fabric.

You can see Peter's wonderful line of hand printed fabrics on:

A Bientôt,


Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

Belle Isle

I just returned from Paris and Belle Isle in Brittany. Belle isle is an enchanting island (blog post to follow) and one cannot forget its tumultuous past while hiking along its wild coast , with german blockaus being part of World war II military landscape and Hitler's "Atlantic Wall". One can find these monstrous structures all along the West coast of France,  protecting the Atlantic coast from allied invasions. Locals residents as well as prisoners from concentration camps built these bunkers which housed generators, ammunition storage and rockets.

I have read numbers of history books and novels taking place during World War II and have an endless fascination for this part of history that showed the worst lack of humanity and yet the incredible courage in each human being, a period of hatred and great love all at ounce.

On a walk to my village with my dad, a couple of hours before my flight back, he pointed to a small "place" in our village, remembering how his father used to hide gasoline for the "Resistants" among the fruit crates and store it there for the night. Then I went up to our cemetery to say goodbye to my beloved aunt who recently passed away and read the names of all the departed ones, young sons of the village who died in the two World wars.

One must never forget and truly be thankful for the selflessness of others who died for us.

My french village: Clemont dessous

In Memoriam…

A Bientôt,


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Marsha, of Splenderosa, our fabulous group leader, is ending the spring monthly "By Invitation Only" with a loaded topic!

"Top 5 Things That Make You Crazy:

in other words, how to improve the universe from our own point of view, of course."

Top 5 things that make me crazy... need to think about it, but 5 things that will improve the universe is a little tasking... especially waking up from a 2 days whirlwind of working on table design for the Red Cross Gala event, as well as the flower centerpieces, installing and then, breaking down at one in the morning (Post to follow). Please forgive me for narrowing it down to my own little universe.

MESS ... I am not a nerd but cannot stand mess, clothes on armchairs, stack of things piling up, bathrooms products all over the counter, towels on the floor, I could go on and on. I live with my three men who must have some kind of vision syndrome,  that shields them from looking at their surroundings and makes them oblivious to mess. I can trace their activities from the shedding of clothes and stuff, tools, food left open, empty bottles to the delight of my dogs who love to snuggle on jackets and sweaters. I am the "CLEAN UP" monster. I have been at times known to empty my sons' room or cottage (where my older son lives) and throw everything in the courtyard. It is quite a sight, but get the job done! I like a house without clutter, open and airy and with no "stuff".Being more of a minimalist when it comes to furniture in my house, clutter has no room for it.

GLASSES... I am always loosing my glasses and don't even want to tally up my yearly budget in glasses. Usually, the more expensive such as my Chanel, Cartier, Gucci and others, the shorter their life span...of course, I rarely loose the ones bought out of desperation at the corner drugstore.

LATENESS... I always try to get to my appointments on time, as I believe that it is the respectful thing to do, however, commuting to New York everyday, I am at the mercy of trains, traffic, subways and hate starting my day being stressed out for being late. On the other hand, I get very annoyed when clients, vendors, request really early appointment and show up late without a care. it really messes up the day.

FRIED FOOD... the smell of fried food sends me running. The other day, I actually was enjoying a sunny moment on a bench in the city...being early for an appointment. To my dismay, the local cart was selling some revolting smelling fried "stuff" I did not even want to know what was being fried, some poor creature, no doubt.

WAKING TO MAY HUSBAND'S EARLY MORNING POLITICAL RANTS... Needless to say my husband and I do not share the same political views, and I have to endure his early morning rantings reading the news on his Ipad. No matter how I object, wanting to keep some piece and calm before the usual storm hits,but  there is no stopping him. I swear, it is a disease, some kind of early insanity for which no cure has yet been found.

On such a positive note, I wish every member of our group a wonderful summer.
I cannot wait to read about all your summer plans, projects and vacations.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Design on a Dime benefit

Last week was a whirlwind, between business, design work and installing our Design on a dime booth, my head was literally in the clouds. As a result, i lost, glasses, camera, one of my projects' floorplans (which we had to redo). To add to the list, the day following the event, we started a HUGE sale at Interieurs.

I am now gearing for my next benefit event which is the highlight of Greenwich Westchester social calendar, The Red Cross Gala. I am designing a table and forgot a major detail...the flower centerpiece, I also designed a fabric pattern exclusively for the table and....the fabric is lost somewhere in transit.The event is on Saturday May 3rd. Mercifully, I am waking up to a beautiful morning and will shortly go and check my favorite nursery for a dose of "gardening fix", as I am in dire need of perennials and replacement roses.

Design on A Dime was an amazing success, The private cocktail for viewing only was packed and socialites, as well as designers, were taking a mental note of what they will purchase. The furniture is donated by each  designer. In my case, I received wonderful items from our vendors, Innergaze with whom we do the most high end cabinetry work, built the white console. Romo donated all the amazing fabrics for the seating, and Mario Valle our wonderful upholster made the pieces. I commissioned the wonderful artist Gerry Mercado to do the two graf. paintings. Robert, at window mode, made tons of pillows for us as well, Design Within Reach and Soho Concept donated the 2 armchairs.Interieurs took care of all the rest of the pieces, rug, accessories, vintage lamp, heating pillar etc....

As soon at the red cords were pulled, the shopping frenzee started. I was stunned, within less than half an hour our entire booth was sold!!! paintings, upholstered sectional, rug, chairs, tables, accessories....everything SOLD!!!! I took a risk by going so bold, when the rest of the booths were rather traditional and it really paid off. The energy within our team was amazing, as exhausted but happy, we felt that we contributed a little to the ones in need. 
Housing Work is truly an outstanding organization and it is so rewarding to see designers come together for such a great cause.

WE had a late start, 11am installing the electrical wires to crate a ceiling

We could not proceed placing the furniture until the canvases were mounted , stressful was the word as the count down - everyone had  to be out by 4pm started. A benefit Gala Dinner was to be held that evening. By 3:30 we hung the paintings.Neighbors were looking at us with compassion and horror, never thinking we would make it on time and commenting on how insane we were to be so calm....

Estera and I with Gerry, a well deserved hug! Gerry was thrilled to see his painting being snatched away

Now the fun starts...

A couple of my favorite vignettes:

A Bientot,


Looking for a designer? Would love to help...

Monday, April 14, 2014

Design On A Dime

This year again, I will participate in the fabulous fund raising event  "Design On  A Dime". 
This April, Housing Works will celebrate the 10th anniversary of New York City most popular interior design benefit.
The event will be held at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea. The event last for 3 days and features 50 of the wold's top interior designers. Each designer will create a room vignette and all merchandise will be offered  at 50 to 70 percent off retail. Rosario Dawson, actress and AIDS advocate is the honorary chair, Michael Boodro, editor in chief of Elle Decor will be one of the co-chair.
The highlight of this event is the opening Night Reception on April 24th, with hundreds of VIPs and  celebrities who mingles with us, designers and shop, shop and shop some more...

All profits of Design on a Dime go to Housing Works whose goal is to provide New Yorkers living with aids, housing and services.

Last year, our booth was designed for an imaginary dandy. I was in Africa while my team was putting the booth together. I did most of the creative, donating pieces from my Showroom INTERIEURS as well as relying on our vendors 'generous donations. I had a fond thought for my associates on the night of the party, while sipping wine under the African sky…

This time, for a 10th anniversary, I am going bold, making a statement…. It has been quite a process. Furniture showrooms  were not as generous and I had to rely on our chore vendors. Romo fabrics with whom we have a wonderful relationship provided us with their brand new collection off fabrics…simply amazing! powerful black and white statement. Mario Valle upholstered the sectional whose frames were made by…myself and my dear husband. We learned carpentry in a week-end as we  could not find anyone willing to make the frames… the result between Mario's incredible skills and Romo fabulous textiles is beyond my expectations. Innergaze who is behind our most challenging projects, designed and built a console, while rugs, accessories and accent furniture and lighting came from the Interieurs Showroom. Even my son was involved as he designed a fish tank for the occasion.
The artist, whose name I will reveal after the opening, is working on 2 huge canvas which will be graffiti art. I am really into graffiti… see my Buenos Aires post here.

If you are in New York or planning to visit, please do come to the event and visit our Interieurs booth.

Design on A Dime 2013 inspiration

Interieurs Design Studio by Francine Gardner booth 2013

Below are  the inspirations for the upcoming Design on A Dime 2014

Final rendering for our booth:

Would love to hear your thoughts!!! too crazy ?

A Bientôt,


Looking to design your house? would love to be of help…no worries, my designs can be more tame...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Off on a cruise...

On the Irrawaddy river in Myanmar

This month, Marsha of Splenderosa is really in need of some sunshine and suggested to the members of "By Invitation Only" to share their thoughts on vacationing on a cruise: when to go, where to go, what to wear etc...

I have to admit that the thought of going on a cruise has no appeal to me....sorry... Every year I would treat my parents to a cruise in different parts of the world. When the time comes that I can no longer go on far-away exotic trips, I will only then likely be seduced by the idea of traveling in luxury and being catered to.

My idea of a cruise is to travel quietly with no one on the boat but the required personnel, being able to relax completely without having to think on what to wear, what to eat. Years ago I found myself in an embarrassing situation while booking a short cruise on Ha-long Bay in Vietnam for 5 days . As always, I required total privacy and requested a private cruise. To our horror, the beautiful cruise ship, reminiscent of the traditional Vietnamese teak boats, came to pick my husband , children, our guide an I  and... no one else...only our 2 cabins were occupied. It was a dream as we had full freedom, no schedule, swam in the sea and went to visit an amazing island and traditional vietnamese floating boat-villages by small motorboat.

My favorite cruise was on the Irrawaddy river in Burma. The boat was rather small, perhaps 20 cabins, a beautiful traditional wheel boat that slowly passed through the most magnificent landscapes.  Only an other Canadian gentleman was on the cruise. For hours on end we would watch the local life, get fish from the fishermen, eat on deck... time had stopped ... I felt as one of the characters in George Orwell Burmese Days, a favorite novel which inspired me to take my family to Burma.  Not much had changed since...

I would suggest to anyone to once in their life, visit Burma, an extraordinary beautiful country. 

On deck at sunrise, with my sons

I pack VERY light! Washable items only, sunglasses, a hat, walking shoes, flipflops and my invaluable Prada flats in black, and silver. For this type of fairly exotic traveling, I tend to wear khaki pants or shorts with a white shirt and great belt.

In the evening I love to wear long printed cotton dresses. I tend to collect them from various countries, djellabahs from Marrakesh, Indian Saris, great dresses from Callypso.

A Bientot,


My Interieurs Design Studio website will be soon launching.... are you looking for a designer? Check out our

Please check out "By Invitation Only" members' posts....always inspiring

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