Sunday, August 24, 2014

Maine Spa Treatment

Christmas Cove, South Bristol,Maine

I needed to recharge as we say… the batteries… Could not think of a more beautiful place than my husband's family magnificent spot on the coast of Maine. This is no near as far as Roque Island, our beloved Island way up North in Maine.

Recipe for my "get in shape" in 5 days program:

Be present in the moment, absorb you surroundings, breath in the fresh scented air, feel the ocean,
leave behind newspapers, computers, TV. Listen to the music of the birds.

Up early, I eat a  healthy breakfast of home made bread and jam, scrambled farm eggs with freshly harvested Chantarelle mushrooms and chopped bacon strips all topped off with a glass of fresh juice.

Then onto the bike for a challenging ride. Starting at 10 miles on the first day to 20 miles by the fifth day. The ride is rigorous with steep hills, fast descents, curved lanes which makes it  an interesting and fun work out while  burning calories and  great leg and thigh workout.

Back to the house for a light snack and ready to hike the beautiful wooded trails along the coast. Along the walk, I love to explore in search for beautiful moss and some more Chanterelles which will be perfect for a light lunch. The paths are covered in the most stunning varieties of  moss. The air is richly scented from the pines, the sea, the humus. Breath in….breath out… clean the lungs.

A kitchen with a view

Back at the house, time to collect blueberries that will be transformed into delicious pies.
A lunch of fresh crab salad on home made bread, local peaches for desert, and a strong espresso.

Time to lounge by the pool or on the grass, looking at the bay, a nap, a great book…moment of bliss.

Part two of the "perfect healthy day":

Off to our dock to get the kayaks in the water. I love kayaking, it is a contemplative exercise, silence only broken by the cries of the birds, the sound of the wind. We have had some intense kayaking as well, being caught in some rapid currents. The Maine waterways and ocean is treacherous and one has to be very aware of the change in tides, winds and storms surging. I try to kayak for at least one and a half hours... it is a great exercise for the shoulders, arms and upper back.

Then comes my final ritual, not for the faint of heart: swimming in rather cold water. I always swim in the late afternoon to early evening high tides, when the water had a chance to warm up to a roaring 60 degrees. (Roque island water is in the low to mid 50's…) I have a strict method of counting each stroke. 1000 strokes is close to 1 mile and that is my daily goal, it takes about 1 hour. If the water is too cold, I unfortunately cut it to half a mile to avoid hypothermia. I feel euphoric from the swim, it is truly an amazing feeling. The water is just so cold, so pure, the scent in the air is incredibly fragrant, the nature surrounding me is magnificent and I forget the world….


Last part of the day is running on the dock to get as fast as possible to my well deserved hot water shower. It does take a little while to bring back the body temperature.I dress comfortably and warmly, light a big fire, serve myself a glass of rose and get lost into the sunset.

Dinner is usually clams, lobsters, oysters, fish…all food from the sea and local vegetables.

The day is gone...walking back from the main house to our smaller cottage, we stop to stare at the stars,  They are brilliant in the unpolluted sky.

I thank God, kiss my husband goodnight and enter the world of dreams.

A Bientôt,


Sunday, August 3, 2014

In London

 London in bloom

I just returned from a whirlwind trip to London working on a house project for a client. This was a great but stressful experience as I have never worked so fast from my client's first phone call to installation. I had two months to come up with floorplans, design and procure furniture, lighting , window treatments for a house in London. I will mention that the house was designed sight unseen, from not very precise floorplans and measurements taken by my client during her visits to the house. The painting schedule was done from New York as well with the english paint company Farrow and Ball.

  Living Room before...freshly painted

With such a short amount of time, I resorted to source all furniture from the US and ship everything via a container to the UK. My alarm clock was set at 4am every morning, weekends included as sourcing requires a great deal of time. The concept for the house came to me really quickly and was immediately approved by the client. Budgets were set to a bare minimum because the house will only be lived in for a few years. 

I first looked at my Showroom inventory for the key pieces, Living Room sofa, dining table, armchair and chandelier. Every weekend was spent going through antique markets to get some great textured pieces, such as an antique mirror, a console and various accessories. Budget and time in mind, I resorted to online resources and great high end companies established in North Carolina that carried some real-time inventory. Meanwhile, the clock was ticking as we had a set date for the container to be dispatched. My massive Excel spreadsheet was my survival tool. Every detail of the job was entered, vendor purchases, payments, lead time, cost of shipping.... The project was organized by room to make it easier to control. Each room would have very detailed purchases with photo including furniture, fabrics, upholsterer, labor, lighting, UL costs, accessories, planters, bedding, etc.

 Every week,  I would check status of deliveries with our warehouse receiver. Then came the expected problems of damaged merchandise to be replaced in minimum time. Container was loaded and left on the scheduled date of dispatch. I relaxed by the pool all weekend and then back to sourcing for still missing items, especially lighting. By now, I know the ins and out of!

Then came the time to hop on a plane. I arrived on  a Monday morning, met my client and off we went to look for missing antiques and accessories. The week went by at full speed, all furniture arrived, we only lost a console which was left behind in New York and air shipped later. The house was installed, decorated, orchids throughout, paintings hung, lighting installed, candles lit. This is my favorite moment, the moment that makes you forget the stress, the fears, the exhaustion as you watch your client's reaction when they step into their home for the first time.

 Living Room after (still missing custom rug)

I stayed at the delightful Marylebon Hotel but did not see much of London and am planning to return and check out the transformations to my old student days neighborhood of Kensington, where I lived for two years. However, the days are long in London and I would walk along the streets of Marylebone, eating a light dinner with a glass of wine in one of the many outdoor restaurants. London had changed so much since I lived there. The streets are vibrant, the city is in bloom, people are shopping, restaurants are packed and I heard a lot of laughter.

Can't wait to return and yes indeed, I will pay a visit to the Tate!

 Beautiful Nursery

A Bientot,


Monday, July 28, 2014

Summer days...

Last year, in Mozambique

I live for summer…the perfect dry day, listening to the sounds of the cicadas, forgetting the world and just taking in the sun, the scents of lavender and rosemary. As a child, I spent my summers in Eze Village, a small village overlooking the Mediterranean above Nice. I was  a free, wild child - this was a time when children were safe to run and explore - I would hike down to the beach with my cousins, stop by the local farmer for the taste of a peach. These memories are so vivid that I can still taste the ripe peach, smell the intoxicating thyme, and feel the excitement of running to the beach. I would read  Marcel Pagnol's novels, laying on my blanket and pillows by the shade of the fragrant pine trees. 

Growing up as a teenager, I counted the days to summer, the excitement of going boating on the Atlantic coast of Cap Ferret and Pyla Sur Mer, getting oysters from the local farmers and naps by the sand dunes, listening to  the enchanting sound of the ocean and the exquisite smell  of the pine trees.

During  college summer breaks, I worked in Saint Tropez, a dream job…. showing potential buyers houses to buy or rent. I found out that one actually needs a few hours of sleep … and would dance all night into morning. My vacation from this "stressful" job was to escape to Ibiza with my then boyfriend …now husband of thirty years. In those days, Ibiza was a cool, laid-back island, beautiful white washed houses, hot sandy beaches, clear water and wild nightlife…

These memories of summer are part of who I am and I try to escape to far away places to feel these moments of pure bliss.I, unfortunately, do not live by the beach but summer coming, I work on re- creating the scents, taste, colors and sounds of my childhood. The pool is surrounded by stone walls, white roses, lavender beds, thyme and rosemary. My tented canopy bed is my refuge where I dream, read, nap, think and create interiors for my clients' summer homes. The houses that I design for my clients always have a part of me, as I go back to my perfect childhood days, and  re-create these sensory experiences, the houses of my life's summers. The pictures are in my head and in my heart.

My dream summer houses….

All images from my Pinterest board:

Happy Summer,


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...

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