Finding French Style In Los Angeles

By Patrice Curedale

Close your eyes and say "Paris Flea Market style” and what does your imagination conjure?  Elegant rooms, slightly worn but timelessly stylish, steeped in the faded luxury of chaises longues and glittering chandeliers, or do you imagine high-ceilings in a Paris apartment with French windows and ornate mantels, paired with Mid-century furniture and bold contemporary art?  Where do you land on the scale from French Country to French Modernism? If you are somewhere in between, you love Paris Flea Market Style.  

This style is best embodied by French interior designer Jaques Grange, who has worked his magic around the world for such tastemakers as Yves Saint Laurent. This oft-cited photo of Grange’s Paris apartment (above) is as alluring today as it was when it first charmed readers of Architectural Digest in 2007. Like Paris’ famed flea market, the Marche aux Puces (below), the style follows no rules but recreates itself endlessly through fearlessly combining the past and the present in unexpected ways. 

Marche aux Puces, Paris By Shadowgate from Novara, ITALY

Can this French chic be translated into California cool? Thankfully, the City of Angels has almost as many “Marches Aux Puces” and nearly as many fine antique dealers as does the City Of Lights. Even a style known for its eclecticism has some basic elements. Statement lighting, rich fabrics, fine antiques, mixed with the highest quality modern furnishings and art, and perhaps the greatest challenge for California homes, dramatic architectural details to create the proper “je ne sais quoi.”

LIGHTING: Italian Rococo Pink Opaline Chandelier Melissa Levinson Antiques; FABRICS & RUGS: French Fauteuil in silk brocade and antique iilim at Topanga Vintage Market.

FRENCH ANTIQUES: Gothic Carved Cabinet Tornay LA; FRENCH MODERN: Iosaghini’s Metropolis Sofa 2000 Roche-Bobois

 

ARCHITECTURAL CONTEXT: The same Metropolis sofa in a grand apartment in Paris

JF Chen founder, Joel Chen, thinks the secret of Paris style lies in the character of the Parisian, whom he defines as a well-read, well-traveled connoisseur, enjoying the process of collecting objects and pieces of furniture the way one might collect art, sharing stories of their treasure hunts at the local cafe, and finally inviting everyone up to the apartment to see the latest addition.  

JF Chen - Enormous Collection of 20th Century Home Furnishings

 

Chen goes on to say that the beauty of Parisian style is that it is often unrestrained by decorating rules, color schemes, even symmetry, as it reflects the esoteric, sophisticated aesthetic of the individual above all. “And no glitz,” he adds, “It’s not about glitz and glamour.” We discuss the possibility of juxtaposing a Mid-century chair, such as this leather armchair by Jaques Adnet from his shop, with French antiques. “Yes, certainly,” Chen says,”A Parisian can pull that off. This chair could stand up to a 19th Century fauteuil beautifully.” 

Fauteuils from Melissa Levinson Antiques

And if one is not a Parisienne, one would do well to work with a bi-cultural designer like Janette Mallory of Calabasas to attempt this daring feat. Mallory grew up shopping for antiques at flea markets with her aunt and making frequent trips to Paris. She is known for mixing eras in her work, and is as familiar with LA’s antiques dealers and custom shops as she is with Les Puces.

Rooms designed by Janette Mallory, photography by Casper Stockwell; Bathroom detail with antique French bottles

“I am known as a designer who loves to mix in antiques that add character, history and a little funk,” says Mallory. “There is a beauty to antiques that just can’t be faked.” Her use of lighting is a great example. In these spaces Mallory mixes a pair of playful, spiky 1950s lamps (from a Paris flea), a 1930s alabaster pendant lamp in the dining room (from Paul Ferrante), and a contemporary chandelier in the entry (by Urban Electric).

In the foreground, a chair paying homage to the famous Pedro Friedeberg’s 1962 “hand chair” lends a twist to a traditional American style seating arrangement. The rug, a new take on an ancient Roman tile pattern, is by Mary McDonald.

For a mix of French antiques with an American Cottage style, designer Jennifer Grey has a great touch.

Antique leather fauteuil, custom built mantle and large standing mirror adding architectural detail, design & photography by Jennifer Grey

 

Grey is an avid antiques shopper and will spend whole weekends "junking" around Los Angeles hunting for the right piece for herself or a client. She finds that clients are hesitant to try mixing things up with antiques and modern on their own, but will take more risks with a designer to guide them. “I especially like to add architectural details to our LA homes, with “found” mantles and cornices, or a chair or picture rail to suggest that beautiful layering of detail found in older homes.” Large architectural pieces can be found at the fleas like Topanga Vintage Market, if one is into the hunt, or more conveniently at LA dealers such as “Olde Good Things” and others featured in this California Home + Design article

Jennifer Grey at Topanga Vintage Market with early 20th C. soda fountain stools; photo credit Adam Grey

 

The one element of the style is perhaps hardest for Americans to master...editing. Most Parisians much prefer quality over quantity and this can be seen in the striking spareness of their interior design when compared to most here. This Montreal home is a perfect example.

“Baroque Minimalism” in Montreal, another iteration of Paris Flea Market Style; photo credit: HOUZZ

If this is your end of the Paris style spectrum, you may find help curating from Jamie B. Interiors. Like her name, Jamie B. likes to use the minimum of objects for the maximum effect, and carefully selecting antiques, vintage, modern, and ethnic is all part of the process.  

Mid-century chairs recovered in pinstripe flank a powerfully simple work of art, books as sculpture on Sapien shelf balances the hardwood floor; design and photo by Jamie B.

 

“I seem to attract very open clients who want help creating a unique look, so I begin by interviewing them and asking about their favorite music, foods and travel, not just colors or styles. Then we work through what they have, especially special family pieces they’d like to keep, or their own special finds, and start to create from there.” The designer tells of a photographer client who had a wonderful Chesterfield sofa they decided to keep, and needing a coffee table that bridged the antique sofa and the more contemporary style furniture became an adventure, which ended up leading to apple boxes, often used by photographers on shoots, as a base for a simple glass top.  Something we are sure he has brought his friends over to see.

Whether your story of Parisian style is more left bank, or right bank, taking a few daring design risks will give you the joie de vivre every home needs.

The author’s little corner of Paris Flea Market Style

 

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