The House that Dior Built: choose any door

Christian Dior must have had trials during his short life, but he doesn’t appear the kind of gentleman to be stopped by the likes of wars, great depressions, lost family fortunes, or childhood dreams realized, and just as quickly snatched from within his grasp.

 

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Les Arts Decoratifs . through 7 January 2018

Born in Granville, France – a seaside town in Normandy, Christian’s Father was a fertilizer magnate, who thought Christian was destined to be a Diplomat.  Christian had other plans.  From a young age he expressed an interest in art, and asked for his Father’s backing in a Parisian Gallery that he was to open with a childhood friend.  While his Father agreed – he insisted he keep the family name out of it.  The gallery was a great success, showcasing artists including Picasso along side less well known artists of the time like Marc Chigall, and forming lifelong friends.  The war, and the subsequent depression led to the loss of the family fortune, and the backing that Dior depended on to continue gallery operations, and it was forced to close.

Ever resilient, Dior simply went to work selling fashion sketches, eventually working for Robert Piguet in 1937 where he was allowed to include pieces of his own design in one of Piguet’s shows – they were well received.

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Les Couturiers outside their workshop…where all the magic happened.

After Dior’s military service was complete he returned to Paris to work for Lucien Lelong’s Fashion House.  Together they struggled to keep fashion alive in war torn Paris, designing for the wealthy wives of Nazi soldiers.  Dior credits Lucien for teaching him “the virtues of simplicity from which true elegance must come.”  They remained friends and confidants throughout his life.

A brilliantly set stage helped to recreate the mystique of the time.

Dior opened his “House” in 1947 with the launch of his first show – Corelle – Circlet of Flower Petals.  The collection was coined the “New Look” by the Editor-in-Chief, Carmel Snow and launched the brand which continues to thrive today.  A consummate perfectionist that loved the female form, Dior made curvaceousness all the rage.  A fortuitous clash of photography and fashion paved the way for a phenomenal pairing of artistic talents, exotic shoots, and the coupling of fashion and fashionable places that undoubtably enhanced the upward trajectory of the label.

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This year – the 70th Anniversary of the House of Dior led to the exhibition from which I just returned at Les Arts Decoritifs.

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Floral Perfection.

CHRISTIAN DIOR, COUTURIER DU RÊVE

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Percale wrapped in ivy and ribbon.

Over 300 gowns from his collection, miniature doll sized models, and toiles are on display through 7 January 2018.  Book your ticket now.   It was the single best museum exhibit I have ever seen, anywhere.  Tiffany agreed.  We could have spent all day in the museum setting off alarms that signal we were far too close to the dresses.  Signal away

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Toiles . Mocking up the designs.

– I will never feel close enough until I have slipped one on and headed to the ball.  The detailing, the beads, the fabrics, the folds, the genius, the glamour, it is all there.  From frocks to hats, shoes, jewelry, bags, and a stunning photography collection that captures some of the very best in advertisements.  The ode to starlets that wore his gowns and catapulted his name into the mainstream are beautifully displayed through film clips, and photographs, that have you spinning your head from one side of the display to the other, to first see the screen image that was created, and to then catch a glimpse of the real life confection, just over your shoulder, and through a throng of admirers, on the other side of the isle made me woozy with wonder and want.

Samples and sketches and created in miniature before the final piece is developed.

To think that it began with Dior holed up in his home, furiously sketching away, and then those sketches were turned over to the head seamstress – “Couturiere” that created the mock ups in the Atelier – the workshop – then presenting these to Dior, always with the same question….”have we achieved your vision for this piece Mr. Dior…thousands of hours can go into a single dress.  The mock-ups are pieces of art in their own right.  I would have walked right out of that exhibit in any one of those gauzy white creations – without a touch of color or a single embellishment owned one of the single most sublime creations that ever have I set my eyes upon.

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A prolific designer – in just 10 years he created a lasting legacy.

Now hip hop.  Pack that suitcase and book your ticket.  This exhibit cannot be missed.  J’adore Dior!

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I’m ready for a garden party with the Queen.

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I think I’ve used up all my adjectives…it’s beyond.

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Show up for work!

 

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Blow your own horn.

 

 

 

Swatch Watch: finding fabric in the City of Lights

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4 bis rue d’Orsel
75018 Paris

The 8th is home to some amazing fabric stores.  Whether it’s upholstery fabric or fashion you’re on the look-out for, start here.  Marche Saint Pierre, Sacre Coupons, and L’Atelier D’origins are just a few of the dozen that sit at the base of Sacre Coeur.  A bustling neighborhood full of tourists and Parisians alike, somehow on my last visit I participated in a food tour that cut right through the heart of this neighborhood, my eyes apparently remained fixed on the chocolates, cheeses, wines, and pastries, because I don’t remember seeing all the pretty prints that share storefront space with the gastronomique delights that I sampled.

My mother must have visited this neighborhood because she arrived home from a trip to Paris with a suitcase full of fabric.  This fabric she carted around for years – literally years!  This was normal for Pat Falla.  She had trouble making decisions.  Perhaps that’s why I make so many of them, with little thought to the sheer number of ill conceived avenues I have pursued as a result.  I guess I believe that forward momentum is more important than perfection. At any rate, the fabric did in fact get used but not by Pat.  My sister Mary Beth found it, had it made into curtains and hung them in one of her homes.  They looked pretty good.

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Nicole folding my beautiful fabric!

I too will be leaving Paris with a suitcase full of fabric.  I really had no intention of buying any, and then there it was – shimmering and winking at me.  I fell for it. It will be right at home in home No. 4.  Now if only one of those French Bergers would fit in my suitcase, I’d have something to drape the fabric on.  A good problem to have.

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2 rue Charles Nodier
75018 Paris

Heureusement Samedi!

 

Coup de Foudre: Paris awaits

Even though this French expression suggests the sudden striking of emotion – a thunderbolt of love – I struck anew by its power, every time I visit Paris.  Wednesday I get to sneak away in the night and awake in the warm embrace of the City of Lights.

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Marche aux Puce . Paris

It’s been three years since my last visit.  I’ve been warned by my friends and family NOT to visit Marche aux Puce again.  For those of you that have just started following, this is the flee market at which I purchased the infamous Italian, Mid-Century-Modern, Chandelier.  There were a number of indignities associated with this purchase, not the least of which was the fact that the vendor sent me a chandelier – but not the chandelier that I bought when I was at the market.  It was close, but a little worse for the wear.  I paid a fortune to have it rewired, have my ceiling reinforced, and hung, not once, but three times.  A story for another day.

Paris 1st

I submit here in advance my apologies to all – I will be going to Marche aux, and I make no promises that I won’t return with another monumental light fixture.  What fun would a trip to Paris be without the dream of a magical find at the market?  A trip that I wouldn’t be interested in taking – that’s the kind.

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Frank Gehry designed Foundation Louis Vuitton

I’ll be staying in the 1st – which I haven’t stayed in before.  I’ve stayed in the 3rd, the 6th, 7th and 8th.  I love La Belle Juliette in the 8th Arrondissement, on Rue Cherche Midi, but I like to try new things, and the hot, hip boutique style hotels that have been popping up in the 1st caught my attention.  Hotel Therese is where I will be for my super fast 3 day trip.

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1948 Couture Dior . need I say more?

Here’s what I plan to do because its what I love almost more than anything else…eat, drink, and shop – for clothing and furnishing, fixtures, and materials.  Les Arts Decoratifs has an exhibit, that for me, is a must see.  The House of Dior opened its doors 70 years ago – that’s 1947, I know because my company, Elaine Construction is also celebrating its 70th anniversary.  How cool is that.  Over 300 couture dresses are on display, so it goes without saying – I have purchased the tickets to this exhibit already.

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Grand Coeur . 41 Rue du Temple . Paris

Foundation Louis Vuitton, designed by Frank Gehry is an architectural wonder.  It has been on my list, and this trip I will get to see it in person.  The texture and the light, pattern, and materials are amazing sources of inspiration and awe for me.  I can’t wait to see this building, and by the way, I hear the exhibits aren’t bad either.

I can’t wait to tell you all about it.  Happy Saturday.

Can a rookie house flipper pocket $1 million?

That’s the questions that Jaci Conry of the Boston Globe asked when she interviewed me for her cover story in The Boston Globe Magazine.  On-line today at http://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/real-estate/2016/12/30/can-novice-make-million-flipping-homes/WRmD9u24SEpu6Wj5bHV94O/story.html?s_campaign=8315, out in print tomorrow.  Nice way to close out the year, and open 2017.  Time will tell.

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No. 4 . Underway . David L. Ryan Globe Staff Photographer

It’s funny, and interesting to me, the strong emotions that bubble to the surface when the topic of conversation is house flipping.  One reader reprimanded me for driving up the prices in the South End, making properties unaffordable for the average guy or gal.  To this I can only say “I don’t think I am average at all…I’m special, but why wouldn’t I think that?, I’m me”.  Still, I did start with just $15,000., and the price of real estate in the South End was unaffordable for me when I started, it still is, but someday, I hope it will not be.  When I generate enough sweat and tears, when I have pushed through when I would rather have put on a party dress and heels, when all the dust settles, I hope, that I will be one of those lucky few that really owns a home.

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Falla with Micah Viana of Naysa Builders examining Visual Comfort’s Calais Chandelier meant for the bedroom.  David L. Ryan Globe Staff Photographer.

Until then, I plan to continue to make mistakes, share the error of my ways, take pride in doing something right, and well, and in service to these old buildings.  These grand and historic brownstones.  These beautiful, and sometimes broken representations of our city’s history.  To be a part of that, is to be part of something that is bigger than me.  It’s important.

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No. 1 . Charlestown . a working kitchen in the end.  Photo:  Falla

Yes, I could spend less money on the construction, but I choose not to for several reasons – I love design, and like my inexplicable adoration for architects and interior designers, I have a deep appreciation for beautifully crafted things.  Lighting fixtures, sculptural tables, the weight and feel of a door knob in your hand, these things speak to me.  I am drawn to them.  This Quest allows me to be near people and things that inspire me.  This Quest allowed me to fly to Paris and hunt down that mid-century modern sputnik chandelier in the flee market.

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Mid-Century Madness.  Italian Sputnik via Le Marche aux Puces . Paris.  So beautiful I want to cry.  Photo:  Carly Gillis Photography

It gave to me an amazing trip with my dear friend Tiffany who shares my obsession with travel, and fashion, and home improvement, and design.  Experiences like that keep me warm at night.  The second reason I invest in these buildings has to do with a sense of stewardship for them.  I believe one should always endeavor to leave something or someone, a little better than before they knew you.

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Property No. 2 . Milford Street.  Photo:  Carly Gillis Photography

To the gent that asked:  “Who needs all this renovation aggravation, why not just marry someone that owns a lot of property?”  I can only say….”now why didn’t I think of that?”

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Property No. 3 . Waltham Street . Photo:  Carly Gillis Photography

On this last day of the year, I encourage you all to do it your way, and own it.  Good-bye 2016.  You’ve been a good one.

Belle of the Ball . A good feeling

La Belle Juliette 1

I’ve been raving about that little boutique beauty, La Belle Juliette, and yet I am not quite finished.  There is something about great design that just feels right.  If you analyze it too much you can always come up with a number of decisions that you wouldn’t have made.  The red laquered chair, the cherubs that have a little too much of that Victorian Age feel for your liking, the hallways that are a little too dark – don’t do it.  There is brilliance in the whole.  The whole person, the whole place, a whole idea.  Everything and everyone has imperfections.  It adds to the intrigue, eradicates sterility, and increases our overall comfort, for we know that we can live up to it, and in a place like that.  When everything is in order, we feel that something is off, a sensation that we are not welcome, that we don’t belong.  Great design makes you feel like you are coming home, even if its to a place that you have never been to before.  A calm washes over you, it delights and surprises, and makes you want to return again and again.  Such was the experience at La Belle Juliette for me.

Belle of the Ball No. 2

Belle of the Ball No. 2

The color selection included a variety of greys, which it is no secret I adore, a series of pastel hues; pink, violet, pale greens, aquas, and tiffany blues, metalic accents, and the interesting decision to include bold red furnishings.  No room that I had access to utilzed less than three or four paint colors in a single space.  Sometimes subtle differences, others not.  Color can be hard to get right, particularly in these dangersous quantities, which is why we see so many interior designers stick to a very neutral palette.  It’s safe, it’s clean, it’s unopinionated.  It’s boring.  There – I said it.  I find it very boring.  To my eye, La Belle mostly got it right.  I know this because I can see in my minds eye the lovely color combinations they visioned, and a warm happiness spreads through me.

Belle of the Ball No. 3

Belle of the Ball No. 3

I realize the appeal won’t be there for everyone.  No worries.  There are thousands of hotels from which to choose in Paris.  I hope that your next visit takes you, and that you experience the same childlike delight, that La Belle J. gave me.  Wherever you find yourself, don’t miss out on a visit to La Spa de La Belle Juliette.  www.spa-belle-juliette.com.  The very best masage I have ever had, with absolutely not a single qualification.  Simply the best.