A cadeau indeed, the remarkably talented and exceptionally gracious Vicki Archer, has given us a glimpse into her life during the holidays, while her latest book tells us more about her life and experiences in France and her gift for making everything she touches divinely beautiful and eminently desirable.
I am giddy with glee and gratitude that she agreed to share her holiday decorating ideas, because, like so many of you, I too am a Vicki Archer groupie.
She is one of those rare talents who has an artistic eye and a creative “pen” as she proves daily on her blog, French Essence, and in her new book of the same name.
Vicki captures what I’ve always seen as the true and rare magic of French decoration. She instinctively comprehends the mysterious, lush volupté in the seemingly nonchalant aesthetic inherent in the perfection of “imperfection” no one does better than the French.
One can throw open the doors of a linen closet in exquisite homes in France and find every immaculate piece of embroidered linen lined-up in perfect rows with lavender sachets nestled among the sheets and towels. But, walk into a salon, a library, a dining room. . . and one will see the “clutter” of collections; a cashmere jeté thrown casually over the arm of a sofa; coffee tables strewn with books alongside other objets of desire. Groupings of photographs, flowers, family treasures — anything really — are placed in such a way that they seem like a still life waiting to be photographed or painted. But quite the contrary, the arrangements exist to evoke pleasure, recall memories.
Every space is welcoming in its warmth, comfort and elegance. Decoration is not façade, it is not theater, it is another aspect of the true art de vivre and joie de vivre in France.
This is what Vicki understands. This is what Vicki does in her own home. This is what her gorgeous book, French Essence, photographed by Carla Coulson, shows and tells us.
French Essence is on my Christmas list — to give — I already have my copy. It is truly the gift that will keep on giving for a lifetime. Furthermore, it is a decorative objet that deserves to be on display for all to see. (If my last order doesn’t arrive in time for Noel, I plan to give it to my best French friend on New Year’s Eve as a hostess gift.)
In Vicki’s own words. . .
When Tish asked me my thoughts about the holidays I realised that I don’t need much of an excuse for decorating. Ever since I can remember I loved to “change and arrange.” Christmas is the one time of the year when I can go all out — the more is always the merrier. Planning is a large part of the fun and I think it’s the perfect way to kick start the festive mood.
Our house is in the countryside so that provides me with plenty of inspiration. I garland the staircase with cut olive branches and spray paint clumps of oak leaves to cover the fireplace mantels. I mass tea lights in crystal glasses up the stairs and in groups on the fireplaces — ‘twinkly’ light feels very Christmassy to me. Candles play a big part in my Christmas decorating, there is something so beautiful about candlelight, especially on Christmas Eve. Creating the mood, the ambience, is a large part of why a home feels festive.
Our pine Christmas tree sits in the middle of our sitting room and again I love lots of fairy lights. This year I am choosing a silver, clear glass, white and emerald green colour scheme for the baubles.
Over the years I have collected many pretty decorations, which have become favourites and our family loves reminiscing and thinking back on the memories associated with them.
I imagine that our table decoration will mirror the silver theme. I am thinking about using a variety of mercury glass bottles that I found in an antique shop in one of the local villages. These bottles were formerly used like “scarecrows” in the fields and once turned upside down and placed on a stake, their reflective properties frightened away the birds. They are so charming in their rustic way and will make a pretty centrepiece for our table this year, along with more cut olive branches and oak leaves. For flowers I am thinking of placing single stem vases of white amaryllis through the centre of the table…
I will lay the table, on a pale gray Provençal quilt, with some simple white china, cut crystal glasses, mismatched silver cutlery, old embroidered white linen napkins and Christmas crackers. As for the presents. . . It’s always last-minute wrapping for me — silver tissue paper, pale grey and emerald green silk ribbon in different widths and a sprig of olive or two. . .
Thank you Tish for asking me to take part in your beautiful holiday series and I wish all your lovely readers a very happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year…..xv