The Holiday Table Art As Inspiration
For decorating ideas that go beyond Christmas cliches, F&W asked three free-thinking Parisian artists to design holiday tables.
Working out of a cramped studio at Agence Louis XIV, one of France's trendiest ad agencies, and using materials as simple as corrugated cardboard, glue and Magic Markers, 33-year-old Amelie Dillemann is making a name for herself in the galleries of Paris. It all began seven years ago: Worried about her brother, who was grieving over a breakup, she pieced together a tribute to the moods of a broken heart—a monster with a long, nasty tongue, a knight with his heart in his hands, angry clouds tossing lightning bolts—"to remind him that love is something to live for, not die over." Since then she's captured a strong following with her droll painted-cardboard re-creations of 18th-century furniture.
For her Christmas table, Dillemann combined comfort with a fillip of anxiety. "I wanted to express some traditional aspects of family," she says, "so I chose colors that are warm but also maybe a little strange for Christmas. Black is pure and beautiful, and it blends very smoothly with orange." The artfully draped gold tablecloth glows against a background of rust-colored walls. On the mantle, she has created a surreal still life, resting a small mirror against a larger one and adding oddly simple elements: a plate of plums, books, a candle and a "Rohan" wineglass from Baccarat. Her ideas are a long way from traditional holiday decoration, but as Dillemann shows here, even the unconventional can be inviting.
The former embroidery director for Ateliers Brocard (the firm that fabricated Napoléon's coronation cape), Miguel Cisterna is now seeing his whimsical creations in an elegant gallery on the Left Bank and in a growing number of chic private houses. (His latest project is a set of dinner-table chairs for Catherine Deneuve.) Reared by shopkeepers in a small Chilean coal-mining town, he dreamed as a boy of phantasmagoric luxuries: grasshoppers of spun gold, dragonflies with gems in their bellies. Now he and his wife, Myriam, stitch these magical images onto silk and linen in their living-room workshop in Paris.
Raffia, glass paste and golden filaments went into Cisterna's Christmas table. Sheer napkins as light as butterfly wings hang off the edges; the handsome silverware anchoring them is "Malmaison," by Christofle. Each china plate holds a Golden Delicious apple literally painted gold. The "Trianon" wineglasses, made of crystal and gold, are by Cristal St. Louis. Along with the 18th-century chairs, Cisterna has pulled a bench up to the table; in addition to candles he uses an electric lamp; and for added effect he has set off the space with a folding screen.
"In Chile," Cisterna says, "the very rich are always concealing their wealth behind walls, hiding it behind screens. And that is what we're doing here when we cover the golden threads and jewels of the insects in bodies of simple raffia."
Pierre Griperay sells hats and shoes by day in the salons of the superbly stylish designer Philippe Model; by evening, working from Model's 17th-century mansion, he creates fanciful sets for fashion spreads, ad agencies and private parties. Model hired Griperay a decade ago, after they met and found themselves talking all night on a train to Paris—Griperay was returning from Italy, where he had gone to celebrate his graduation from civil-engineering school.
Griperay uses ordinary materials—principally, rusted wire mesh covered with casein, a kind of curdled milk paste—to fabricate his playful postmodern versions of French Baroque objects. "All my work," he says, "has been guided by voices from the invisible world." His chandeliers, hat racks and sconces provide alleyways into this strange universe: "These are shapes that help me to fly and to dream," he says. "I try to interpret all these 17th- and 18th-century forms, like certain images of"—he pauses—"big body parts, and they are here"—he sweeps his hand in a smooth arc—"in my candelabra."
Aiming at once for serenity and mystery, Griperay covered his Christmas table with a luxurious swath of white fake fur and then topped it with his antic casein candlesticks and sculptures. The secret of the scene is its monochrome hue: Except for a few intense accents (like the blue candles, the silver platters of purple plums and the blue glass holding a silver spoon, at left), everything is white. What about the traditional holiday colors, the bright reds and greens? "Non! Non!" Griperay recoils in horror. "They give me a headache!"