A Good Weekend To Read and Celebrate Hard Working Women:

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What a weekend this will be!  Amazon has been wonderful to me today!  I received two new, long awaited books delivered to my front door – no hassles, no bothers, no long lines, no gas guzzling, no red lights.   Ah, the beauty of Amazon, my most faithful love.  These days I order almost everything from Amazon, not just books.   I have ordered light bulbs, shoes, a microphone (for the Skirted Roundtable) and even a new laptop!  And if you just  happen to need one – you can order a chandelier from Amazon.   I’m not aware of anything you can’t buy from this fantastic company.   Alas, they make it too easy to spend money.  They keep your credit card on file and you just have to hit –SEND – and it’s delivered, usually the next day.  Amazing.  Just amazing.   I had preordered these two books and had no idea when they would be released,  so it was a complete and delightful surprise that they arrived just in time for this long weekend.    And, at first glance, they are both winners.    The first book is Rachel Ashwell’s – the Queen of slipcovers, pink, turquoise, and crystal –  her newest effort is Shabby Chic Interiors HERE.  The cover is so beautiful,   I could stare at it all day – the pink, the gilt, the settee, the crystal, the peonies.  And  there is Rachel, as always, looking ravishing in her favorite low waisted jeans.   Oh, Rachel, it makes me sad to think about your current financial woes!   How disappointing it all must be for you!   Hopefully, this book will be a new start for her company, certainly she has no place to go but up at this point, it’s all such an awful shame.   The book certainly looks promising – perhaps her best effort since this one:   

 

 

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The Shabby Chic Home (HERE) is almost ten years old now (!) and it remains a favorite of mine.  I love books that tell the story of one house – from its run down, unattractive beginnings to its perfectly furnished and remodeled finish.   Both this book and the new one are certainly my kind of design books.    If you have never read The Shabby Chic Home, it makes a perfect companion to Rachel’s newest book, which is very similar:  the story of her latest house – room by room, just like her fans like.  The pictures in Shabby Chic Interiors - by Ashwell’s favorite photographer Amy Neunsinger - are gorgeous and worth the price alone. 

 

 

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I don’t want to ruin it for you, so I’ll just show you a few vignette pictures from Rachel’s newest book Shabby Chic Interiors.   Here, the kitchen with its charming wall mounted faucet – I love this!   Only Rachel can make washing dishes look romantic.

 

 

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imageHer bedroom is my favorite room in the new house, the curtains are a luscious silk taffeta in a very, very pale amethyst.  

 

 

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White marble and English styled faucet.  Notice the old fashioned drain stopper - so Rachel.

 

 

imageRachel has a wood cart just like the one in my office!  She calls hers a shoe cart, I call mine a wine bottle cart.  Who’s right I wonder? 

 

 

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The other book Mr. Amazon Man delivered today was Kathryn Ireland’s second, Creating a Home (HERE.)    I wrote about this book a few months ago HERE when it was available for preorder only.   But, it’s out now and it looks beautiful!   The photography is bright and bold – all of her newest fabrics look tempting.   It’s a book for me, that’s for sure – the story of a dilapidated old ranch in Ojai California that Ireland takes under her wing and transforms into a fantasy country estate – although, in the end -  she couldn’t afford its rehab and had to sell.   My favorite series of pictures are of Ireland, dressed in a ball gown, posed around the swimming pool with her three teenaged sons.   Her middle son decides he is through with the photo shoot and the look on her face as she bribes him, scolds him, pleads with him is priceless!    What those pictures say about the manipulation of the family members during those “fun” totally uncandid photographs speaks volumes.   It made me think of all  that Martha Stewart’s daughter must have had to endure as a child – after all, Martha’s husband bolted from that media storm as soon as he could. 

 

 

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Some of the pictures have been seen before in a few magazines, but the majority are new.   I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for Ireland to sell something she had poured her heart and soul into.  She writes that she bought the ranch thinking she and her boys would live there fulltime – the only way she could truly afford it.   Her boys resisted – they had no wish to move from Santa Monica - dashing all of Ireland’s hopes and dreams. 

 

 

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The master bedroom suite, separated from the main house.  I love how the three flooring surfaces come together here: tile, wood, and seagrass.

 

Both Ashwell’s and Ireland’s books are remarkable for this:  they tell the story of two highly independent women, both from England, who came to America on a lark and penniless.   But, through hard work and gritty determination, they both reinvented themselves and became international successes.    Ireland and Ashwell share so much biographic history – it truly is uncanny.   And what better weekend than Labor Day to celebrate what hard work and toil can bring to you – regardless of where you are from, and how little you have to start with.    And though Ashwell is currently suffering through this  economic downturn, I have no doubt that she will rise again, like a Phoenix.   Hopefully, just like Ani DiFranco, another true American success story, says here:

 

Thirty-Two Flavors:

And god help you if you are an ugly girl
'Course too pretty is also your doom
Cuz everyone harbors a secret hatred
For the prettiest girl in the room
And god help you if you are a phoenix
And you dare to rise up from the ash
A thousand eyes will smolder with jealousy
While you are just flying past

 

From our house to yours - I hope you all have a safe and healthy Labor Day Weekend.

The Skirted Roundtable: Home Offices

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image Ah, yes, what a nice, organized home office!   If only it really looked this way. 

 

This week on the Skirted Roundtable (HERE), Linda, Megan and I take the discussion on home offices that started  last week with Vicente Wolf a step further.  Renowned interior designer Wolf thinks a home office is a terrible idea and that one should look for a “real” office, not matter how small it might be.   His opinion on home offices elicited a lot of comments from listeners and provoked much thought on our part  - you see, all three of us have home offices ourselves!

 

 

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My pride and joy:  an antique map of Rome glued onto a board that weighs about 1,000 pounds!   I had to hire three moving men just to get it upstairs.  Yes, upstairs.   You see – besides having a home office, mine is actually located upstairs in one of our extra bedrooms.   Do you understand now why I mostly see clients at their own house?   

 

 

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I am thinking of remodeling Webb Design’s office and putting up a wall of bookcases where the red cabinet is, which truly needs to be painted black anyway.  I have no idea why I bought it in red, but that was years ago during my English Country Manor phase and I had many red accents in my house.   It came from a store in the Rice Village called The El Paso Import Company.    If I do put the bookcase there, the map would need to go and I’d have to call those three men again and have them lug it back down the stairs to my real office – the garage!     My desk is actually a small dining room table that I bought from Pier One.  The  big tin box on top of the desk holds all the office necessities like staplers and scissors and rulers – since I don’t have drawers.    For some reason, desks are much more expensive than dining tables so I often recommend that clients look for a table at Crate and Barrel or Pottery Barn, etc. instead of trying to find a reasonably priced desk.  In addition – table tops are usually bigger than desktops which is wonderful to spread out papers and computers and furniture catalogues.     The lamps all came from Tar-ge’ as did the window shades.  The antique bamboo chair is from my friend, Mindy Brown’s childhood bedroom!  Hi Mindy!   I’m not sure how I ended up with that one!

 

 

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On one side of my office I have this antique work cart that I bought from Chateau Domingue.   It holds all my clippings folders and furniture catalogues which I really never use anymore.   Most companies are online now and the days of catalogues and binders are slowly going away.  I truly never open a binder anymore.   It all comes from the internet. 

 

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I redid the closet in my office to make it into a sample room.   The entire closet is filled with baskets of samples and the closet floor is piled with bags filled with more fabric samples.  These are the ones I don’t even use.  The more current samples are in my other office, you know, the garage.   Hundreds of sample books are piled against the wall of the closet and the newer ones are, you know where.    I have run out of space in my office – perhaps Vicente Wolf has a point after all.   I really need either more space or I need to throw things out.    I recently got a flyer at my from door from Green Junk.  You hire these people to come to your house and they clean it out and take it all away and recycle it!   They take away things like old appliances, electronics, computers ( I have my fair share of old computers!), papers, boxes, fabric samples, binders of obsolete furniture companies – they come in and haul it all away.  I am seriously thinking of calling them because what always stops me cold from reorganizing my office myself is the thought of lugging all the trash down the stairs – to put it where?  On the curb?   Green Junk may be the perfect answer for me.    Maybe I should just call that communist Van Jones and ask his advice on Green Junk. 

 

 

image What is really looks like when it’s not cleaned up for the pictures!  Hey, I actually look like a busy interior designer here!           

 

Be sure to listen to this week’s Skirted Roundtable where we discuss home offices AND what goes on during our first meetings with clients.   To listen, go HERE.                                                            

A Visit With M. Naeve

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Last week I paid a visit to my favorite antique shop in Houston – M. Naeve.  Darling Margaret, the proprietress,  had just gotten in her new shipment so I wanted to see it and share it with you.  Don’t worry – this time my pictures are all in focus, unlike last time I was in M. Naeve and all my snaps were totally blurry!     The most exciting news ala Miss Margaret is she is now on 1st Dibs!   Yes!   So, anyone in the country that wants to share in everything M. Naeve can now do so here.  What I enjoy most about M. Naeve is everything here is authentic and period, which is a real rarity these days.  It’s antiques for the privileged few I know, but looking is free and it’s a lot easier to look in Houston than flying over to Provence!   I’m an addict needing a fix, every so often I just have to stop in and look around and dream.   Margaret knows that when I win the lotto, my first stop will be at her shop.   If you have ever wondered where all the chicest of Houston interior designers get their antiques – rest assured, M. Naeve is at the top of their list.  

 

 

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At the front door was the biggest surprise of the day – chairs from Spain that Margaret bought in Belgium – got that?!   This purchase represents a departure for Margaret who is looking to broaden her appeal, but just a little.    This summer, she spent a few days shopping in Belgium and she couldn’t resist this set of chairs.   We spent a long time talking about Belgian design in general and where she thinks design and the antiques business are headed – in between giggles and cups of coffee, of course!

 

 

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OK, enough talk about  mid century modern and Belgian design, let’s get back to the subject at hand – French and Swedish antiques.  Margaret has two high tea tables, both period, both to die for.  First, there is this table.   And the chandelier -  I just so love this with the amethyst cut crystal.

 

 

 

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And then there is this table – period, again!   Margaret said she just had to buy this table – she couldn’t resist it.  Imagine putting your accessories and books on a table that someone used in the 1700s.    Hard to imagine what that must feel like.  And notice the charming bench in front of the table.  

 

 

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Another period piece – the red chest.   A-maz-ing is all I can say.   J’adore the settee atop it too.

 

 

 

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A rare set of period Swedish Bellman chairs.   Twelve in all.     Isn’t this a gorgeous vignette?  The chairs, the sofa, the chandelier – love it all!

 

 

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I’m crazy for this desk – and especially the book on top of it  – Style by Saladino. 

 

 

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Yummm.   No other word for it!   This would be so great in front of a bed or in a living room or on one side of a dining table. 

 

 

 

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VSC:    Very Special Chair – period, leather, nailheads.  VSC!

 

 

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Painted enfilade with two adorable stools on top.   Nice mirror too!

 

 

 

 

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Check out this banquette!      Too cute!

 

 

 

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Iron park chairs flank an armoire.  The window is full of metal flowers.

 

 

 

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One day I am going to own a fireplace like this – one day,  I promise you!  It might be when I’m in heaven, but one day, I will!

 

 

 

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This table is actually a black stone!   Wonderful set of painted Swedish rococo chairs.

 

 

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I love that Gustavian day bed in the window!    Great chandelier and lantern. 

 

 

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And speaking of lanterns, Margaret sells this line of reproduction lanterns – here are the square ones.

 

 

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And here are these – do they look familiar?

 

 

 

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Yep, it’s where I got my lantern that caused so much upheaval in Mr. Slipper Socks Man’s life with his missing ceiling fan!

 

 

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The South of France – overlooking olive tree farms.  I wonder if Vicki’s farm is one of these?

 

 

 

I asked Margaret about hotels in France that she likes to stay at and first we talked about the South of France. 

 

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Margaret said her favorite town when antiquing is the charming St. Remy de Provence.    She really loves this hotel – the Hotel Chateau del Alpilles.   An old farmhouse, with ties back to medieval times, the hotel was in total disrepair when the current owners bought it and restored it in 1979.  

 

 

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You reach the property through a long allee of traditional French plane trees. 

 

 

 

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At night, it becomes magical.

 

 

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The main building, or the mas, was constructed in the 1800s to take the place of the old farmhouse.

 

 

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The hotel is surrounded by many acres of parkland.  Meals are taken outside in good weather. 

 

 

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Rest spots are found throughout the park.

 

 

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Springs and fountains dot the area along the paths.

 

 

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There are several outbuildings on the property where guests can stay – this is La Chapelle, where weddings used to be held.

 

 

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Even the old wash house was converted into guest rooms!

 

 

 

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The old farmhouse has been converted into several different suite arrangements with meeting rooms on the first floor.

 

 

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The pool area is hidden in the park.

 

 

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Some rooms are filled with antiques, some are more contemporary.

 

 

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What a view – I would set up my lap top right here!

 

 

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The rooms are all furnished differently. 

 

 

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Whenever I look up hotels on their web site, I like to get a “true” idea of what the hotel “really” looks like.  The best way to do that is to search Flickr, Webshots, Picasa and other photo hosting sites.    Most amazing was I found pictures taken by a very young newlywed couple on their honeymoon.  They actually stayed in BOTH hotels that Margaret recommended!   Here is the room they stayed in – so far, so good.  It looks amazingly like the hotel’s web site – a good sign, for sure. What a mirror!

 

 

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The view across the river in Avignon.

 

 

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The next town where Margaret stays is Avignon and her favorite hotel there is La Mirande, which she says is one of her favorite hotels anywhere!

 

 

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Located in a centuries old building that has a long and illustrious history, the hotel is very beautifully decorated with wonderful fabrics.   There is a also a cooking school at the hotel. 

 

 

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The decor is pure French Provencal.   Everything I  just love!  

 

 

 

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Like, the terra cotta floors, the jugs, the stone console, the candlesticks.

 

 

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In the dining room – this looks more like a still life painting!

 

 

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The courtyard at night, where all the action takes place – taken by our famous honeymooning couple.

 

 

 

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In the hotel there are historical salons that you can rent out for private affairs.   This is the Garden Salon.   What a beautiful room to host a wedding shower in!

 

 

 

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Each salon is more charming the next!

 

 

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Beautiful sofa!

 

 

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How does the salon look in “real life” to a visitor?  I found this picture on Picasa – looks as good as the hotel’s web site, I have to say!  The wallcovering is so beautifiul!!!  And notice the gorgeous French doors.  There is nothing prettier than French design in my book.  It is so pleasing to the eye  - don’t you think?  Just pleasing to the eye and that is what it all about.

 

 

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I particularly love the decor of this one – the Red Salon!

 

 

 

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A visitor’s “real” picture of the Red Salon.  

 

 

 

 

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The rooms all have painted paneling with fabric walls above.  So beautiful  - I can see why Margaret loves this hotel so much!

 

 

 

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So charming with these fabrics!  So Pierre Frey.   Just beautiful.   They even have seagrass – what’s not to love?

 

 

 

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I might have to chose this room though with the toile fabric and the heavily veined Carrara marble bathtub!!!!

 

 

 

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This suite is quite charming too – I love that shaving stand.

 

 

 

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So where did our young honeymooning couple stay?   In this suite – and it does look true to the web site actually. 

 

 

 

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Even their bathroom seems the same.

 

 

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Another couple posted their room at La Mirande.

 

 

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And finally – Paris!  Where does Margaret recommend staying in this wonderful city?  

 The Plaza Athenee – is first on her list.   Her absolute favorite place to stay in Paris is the hotel where the last episode of Sex and the City was filmed.  She also likes The Ritz, “so classic" and Hotel San Regis.   

 

 

image But Margaret Naeve’s secret source in Paris is Maison 1400.   Owned by American interior designer, Tom Scheerer, it is a townhouse which also happens to be one of the oldest houses standing in Paris.   The townhouse dates back to the 15th century and is a designated landmark.    It has been completely restored – and it is quite beautiful.  The entire townhouse can be rented for up to 10 people, or each floor can be rented by one or two people.   There is a kitchen or kitchenette in each apartment, so they are totally self sufficient from each other.  

Since the house is 500 years old – more than 20 generations have lived here – amazing!   There is even a medieval limestone well in the basement.   The circular staircase was built around a solid oak tree - “carved down with a handrail its entire 3. 5 stories!”   Even more amazing!

The townhouse was featured in March’s Elle Decor and it is decorated in true Sheerer fashion with Saarinen tables, circular motifs, and even the famous Swedish bird prints he loves so much!     Seeing this townhouse makes me almost give up my fear of flying just to go stay here!!!   Sure.  Well, it sounds good.

 

 

 

 

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The main floor apartment is entered through this foyer with its oversized Flemish chandelier and vivid orange curtains. 

 

 

 

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Styled for Elle Decor, the same foyer looks just a tad more finished!  The famous 500 year staircase is seen here.  I would love to see it in person and try to go up and down it. 

 

 

  image The main apartment has a beautiful limestone floors and a mix of  contemporary and French antique furnishings.

 

 

 

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Across from the sofa is Scheerer’s trademark Saarinen table flanked by a mix of his beloved Thonet chairs and Os de Mouton chairs.

 

 

 

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The master bed is a four poster – the closets are hidden behind the prints on the doors.

 

 

 

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Hard to believe this townhouse is 500 years old!   All the mod cons are here.

 

 

 

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This apartment is two stories – with a mezzanine bedroom overlooking the living area.  There it is – another Saarinen table!

 

 

 

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Scheerer designed the staircase in this apartment leading up to the bedroom.   Les Indiennes fabric at the windows.

 

 

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The bed is so Scheerer!

 

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This apartment is just darling – I would have to stay here.  You can see the staircase that winds around one tree trunk through the doorway.

 

 

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This apartment is definitely the most French styled one.  Notice the Swedish bird prints he uses quite a bit.

 

 

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And, last, the top floor is designed like a tiny tent.  There is even a tinier kitchenette and bathroom in this apartment.  

 

 

 

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Thank you Margaret for the tour of your favorite hotels in France!   Don’t forget if you live in Houston to go see M. Naeve’s new shipment – it’s gorgeous.  And if you don’t live in Houston, be sure to visit her at 1st Dibs, HERE

 

 

And don’t forget the photography giveaway!  You have until Wednesday night to enter!!!