Keeping the shop interesting for our customers is the most important part of my job. I love that fresh merchandise arrives at the store almost daily. The challenge is to make sure that what we bring in is unique and interesting and sometimes even quirky. It takes discipline to keep our point of view and not get tempted by all the shiny bright objects out there. It would be very easy to keep the store filled with things ordered out of a catalog but then we would be just another store and not Lattice House.
Keeping that discipline requires inspiration. Inspiration for me comes in many forms and from many different sources. Sometimes inspiration hits you in the most surprising places - for example the clubhouse at the Provincetown Tennis Club is so understated, so deceptively simple, yet exactly right for a summer club on Cape Cod. I had to stop before I even signed up for a court to take pictures.
One place that never fails to overwhelm me with ideas and inspiration is when I am lucky enough to travel to Europe.
In summer of 2013, Parker and I decided to travel to France to visit my nephew Hayden who was living in Paris. We planned on spending 5 days in Paris then continue on to the South of France for a friend's birthday celebration in Villefranche-sur-Mer.
This would be my first time in France, and I was totally unprepared for what I was about to see and experience.
We arrived in Paris during a record breaking heat wave. Lucky for us we were staying in a very small hotel called the Relais Christine in the Saint-Germain-des-Pres quarter that catered to American travelers (meaning they had excellent air conditioning and plenty of ice.)
We met my nephew Hayden at the hotel and he took us for a picnic lunch at the Jardin du Luxembourg. Entering the park I was overwhelmed by its scale and the surrounding buildings. We settled into our perfect picnic lunch - feeling very French and looking very American - only to be immediately told to get off the grass! Sheepishly we found some of those dark green french bistro chairs that somehow only look right in France and settled in at the base of the most beautiful water garden I had ever seen.
The next 4 days were spent baking in the terrible heat but seeing as much of Paris as we could. It was sensory overload, my eye kept catching the little things, the tiny details that I found charming. I loved the orange trees in the square planters, the color combinations of the flower beds, the color of the gravel in the Tuileries.
We ended each afternoon totally exhausted but completely happy sitting in the hotel lobby. There we found the hotel's self serve honor bar where they had a fantastic selection of alcohol and mixers. As a bonus, since this hotel cartered to Americans, there was an enormous silver bowl filled with ice. The way the bar was set up was a master class in the elements needed for the perfect home bar and that experience has influenced what we carry today at Lattice House.
We traveled everywhere by subway because I wanted to see how Parisians got around. I was fascinated by the fact that you opened the subway doors manually by flipping a small latch. I insisted on trying to do this one time and could not get the door opened and almost missed our stop.
On Saturday we went out by train to Versailles to see the fountains. It was unbearably hot and very crowded but the palace was extraordinary. A memorable moment came when we were in the Hall of Mirrors, due to the extreme heat the french doors overlooking the gardens were open and the fountains were on. In that moment you could almost imagine the Sun King himself standing there surveying his creation.
However the very best part of our visit to Versailles, and perhaps of our whole trip to Paris, was traveling the grounds by bicycle. We rented bikes outside the gates and used them to travel to Grand Trianon, the Petit Trianon and Marie-Antoinette's farm. Instead of taking pictures of the fountains and statues like everyone else, I took pictures of the fencing used in the gardens, I loved the color green they were painted and the way they were constructed. The picket fences in Marie-Antoinette's garden were especially beautiful. We rode back to the palace grounds, stopped and had lunch (ham and cheese on baguettes). The food stands were pavilions that were painted in black and white stripes, which I found far more intriguing than the palace.
One of the days of our trip Hayden had to work so Parker and I were let loose in Paris alone. Instead of going to the traditional tourist spots we decided to visit a couple of house museums. House museums have always fascinated me, as I find them far more intimate and personal.
After we were finished with the houses we decided to have lunch in a small cafe. Since we were in a residential neighborhood in a corner of Paris, we were off the beaten trail for American tourists. The waiters pretended not to understand a word of English and we pretended to speak French. The end result was a wonderful bistro lunch. While we were eating lunch, the sky opened up and there was a torrential rain storm that flooded the streets and sent people running for cover. Having no idea where we were or how we were getting back to the hotel, we shrugged our shoulders and Parker ordered another bottle of wine - always the right solution.
We have been back to Paris several times since that trip. My first time to Paris will always be special to me, not only since I was able to spend time with my nephew but because it also taught me to keep my eyes open and to appreciate the small details that make something or someplace extraordinary.
Next week we continue on to the South of France ...