“A LONDONER IN PARIS”: THE SYBARITIC WORLD OF BULY 1803



 

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If you are a ‘flâneur‘ in Paris, you will be familiar with seeing olde worlde façades of apothecaries. Very few, however, have kept the original interiors.
Not too dissimilarly to Antoinette Poisson (see last Monday’s post here), today’s feature, steeped in history, showcases how an establishment founded in 1803 was reborn and re-imagined for 2014 in St Germain-des-Près.

On the instruction of his friend Christophe d’Aboville (previous artistic director at David Hicks France), A-Gent of Style made his way last week to Buly 1803,
6 rue Bonaparte, to see for himself the new beauty brand and its unique boutique launched on April 1st which has been garnering a lot of attention and press since.


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The evocative universe of Buly is twofold; it is a decorative tour de force as well as a step back into early 19th century history. As soon as you walk in L’Officine Universelle Buly, you are transported into a space and an age celebrating the apothecaries of yesteryear and the refined establishments of the master perfumers. Parisian Jean-Vincent Bully was one of them and a famous one at that; his “Vinaigre de Toilette” was highly popular then and Bully even inspired Balzac to create one of his eponymous protagonists for one of his novels, César Birotteau. Inspired by archives of his 18th century officine (dispensary) and business, a new, modernised Buly was resurrected and rejuvenated, losing one l on the way to the 21st century to avoid the pejorative connotation in English. The timeless and charming result is a complete success; it is as if the store had always been there and its products simply a ‘remembrance of things past’.


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Self-described as a “universal trading post for beauty secrets amassed over the centuries”, Buly 1803‘s universe is filled with scents and aromas but also heritage, traditions, memories and mysteries. Glass jars and vials filled with oils, perfume bottles and flasks, soaps, powders, creams, clays, candles, scented matches and accessories, all adorned with traditional but terribly chic packaging inspired by old documents, grace the dressers and shelves.

The decor is awash with striking elements: antiqued, glazed terracotta tiling made in Tuscany in glorious turquoise, ceiling and original beams delicately painted in white and blue à la française, reminiscent of faïence, that would make Mark D. Sikes weak at the knees, counters with deeply veined, swirling, rare Italian marble, antique lamps, mirror and ‘swan’ tap, all found at the flea market of Clignancourt and, throughout the boutique, imposing oak and walnut burl woodwork constructed by a carpenter just as in olden times, also inspired by old photos of pharmacies Hôtel Dieu.


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The creative mastermind behind this rejuvenation is Ramdane Touhami, entrepreneur and art director, who has worked in the past with Le Bon Marché, Liberty and who has also renewed bell-covered Cire Trudon candles, now internationally famed.

Behind the concoctions is his elegant wife, Victoire de Taillac, a proficient connoisseur of cosmetics and an expert on the history of beauty in feminity. In partnership with Touhami, de Taillac launched Parfumerie Générale, the first alternative cosmetics store in France. Victoire is also the co-founder with Touhami of Corpus Magazine, a yearly and bilingual publication on beauty of the bodily and spiritual kind.


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A breath of fresh air from the saturated, mass-produced and mass marketed beauty market, Buly 1803 has invented new skin care products for the face, body and hair, as well as personal and atmospheric perfumes, drawing on the most innovative cosmetic techniques (extraordinarily, the perfumes don’t use alcohol or glycerine but are water-based, which leaves the skin unctuously smooth) and on the virtues of natural ingredients, such as lavender flowers, iris root powder, raspberry seeds, baobab seed oil, sweet almonds, and green desert clay, that contain neither Parabens, phenoxyethanol or Silicon.

A-Gent of Style dutifully tried, only for the sake of research of course, the Pommade Virginale, a miraculous cream for the face. Needless to say, he is now a convert. And so will you, after your compulsory visit to this atypical, trend-setting boutique next time you are in the French capital.


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– Photos by Buly 1803 and A-Gent of Style






PAD PARIS 2014





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Nothing would make A-Gent of Style happier today than being instantly transported to the City of Light to attend the preview of this year’s new iteration of
the Pavilion of Art and Design, more familiarly known now as the PAD, returning to the Jardin des Tuileries and now in its 18th edition.

A-Gent of Style, a customary enthusiast of the Paris and also London fair for the last five years (you can see a couple of his previous features here and here) had to break his own-made tradition this spring as he has been invited by KLC School of Design, of which he is an alumnus, to give a few lectures at the end of this week, a great honour and privilege he could not possibly refrain from accepting.


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PAD, pioneering event for Art and Design aficionados and collectors, has been reinventing for almost the past two decades the Cabinet d’Amateur and the notion of eclecticism, anticipating the aesthetic aspirations of its time. Season after season, it offers an intimate cocoon to those who have made decorative arts and design the core of their collection, driven by passion and heritage.

 
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Every edition evolves in aim to create an unprecedented dialogue between modern art, historical and contemporary design and jewellry. This year will give greater room to Primitive Art, and will highlight the vitality of raising such perspectives. The engaging aspect of PAD is its invitation to enter a personal collection, conceived by a selection of seventy-five local and international art dealers – all of whom are leaders in their fields, eager to address each passionate collector in a unique manner. In this salon, mind is enlivened and imagination is exhilarated, as entering a place where the contemporary taste for 20th and 21st century decorative art is born.

 


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This year again, the PAD Prize Jury will select from among the exhibitors the Award-Winning stand, Award-Winning Design Piece and Award-Winning 20th Century Decorative Art Piece. Each Award acknowledges the display and curatorial signature of the galleries’ booths and vignettes, as well as the quality and innovation of the works brought to the fair.

The Selection Committee, comprised of renowned art dealers, including some of A-Gent of Style‘s favourites such as Jacques Lacoste, Mathieu Richard, Chahan, Dansk Møbelkunst, Carpenters Workshop Gallery, Gallery 88, Yves Gastou and Rossella Colombari is responsible for the examination of each new candidacy at the fair according to the high standards for which the PAD has become known.


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Since the PAD won’t open its doors to the public until tomorrow and his mole in Paris is not available today, A-Gent of Style sadly could not show you on time for today’s feature the stunning stands and seductive vignettes of this year’s sophisticated fair but in the meanwhile here is his selection of some of the wondrous objets on show ready to dazzle the connoisseurs during its four-day run.

And as usual, don’t hesitate to get in touch with A-Gent of Style at fabricebana@gmail.com if you want to get some information about any piece.



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– Photos by PAD and AD France –







“CELEBRITY HOARDER”: TESSA KENNEDY & CHRISTIE’S



 
Third time lucky. In the last few weeks, A-Gent of Style is delighted to have collaborated with Christie’s on another of their ‘Interiors’ sales (some of you might remember the Michael Inchbald sale and two weeks ago Les Trois Garçons‘).
On saturday morning, Charlotte Young, Christie’s Specialist responsible for today’s collection on the blog, gave A-Gent a preview and private tour of a new exhibition at Christie’s South Kensington celebrating the impressive and eclectic treasure trove of objets amassed by legendary interior designer Tessa Kennedy. The 128 lots will go under the hammer tomorrow Tuesday 18 March at 10 a.m with a low estimate of £153,400 and the most expensive item being the pair of brass mounted mahogany pedestal cabinets belonging to her close friend ballet icon Rudolf Nureyev going for £8000-12,000 (lot 40).

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Tessa Kennedy is an international award-winning interior designer who for the last 50 years has discreetly created interiors with a sense of grandeur and a hint of theatre for an impressive list of elite clients. These include Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, George Harrison, Sam Spiegel, Michael Winner, Pierce Brosnan,
the Saudi Royal family and HM King Hussein of Jordan, as well as significant commercial commissions for De Beers and world-renowned hotels such as Claridges and The Berkeley. She is perhaps best known by the public for designing
the Rivoli Bar at the Ritz which was re-instated in 2001 and for which she was awarded Designer of the Year. In acknowledgment of her work she was made a Fellow of the International Interior Design Association.

Kennedy is the first to admit that interior design was not a career she would have imagined herself pursuing as a young debutante in 1957, despite an artistic ability and an early love of Brighton Pavilion. It was a time when women were not expected to have careers and due to her considerably privileged background as the daughter of Geoffrey Kennedy and Daska Ivanovic, niece to the shipping magnate
Vane Ivanovic, Tessa was expected to marry well and bring up a family, so she was sent to finishing school in Switzerland.


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Swept off her feet at the first party of the season at the Spanish Embassy in 1957 when she met Dominick Elwes, son of the Royal Portrait Painter Simon Elwes, the two hit the world headlines when her father made her a Ward of Court, preventing them from marrying in the UK. They eloped to Cuba where events took a somewhat surreal turn when their stay was curtailed by the onset of the Cuban Revolution in 1958 but not before they were wined and dined by some of America’s most notorious gangsters and had struck up friendships with Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Ernest Hemingway in Havana as they sat around the gambling tables.

Kennedy’s road to interior design was laid by Dominick on their return to London in the early 1960s when he nonchalantly offered her assistance to the emerging and highly successful David Mlinaric after he was forced to turn down a commission from the young couple’s friend Jimmy Goldsmith on the basis that he had too many other projects. Tessa completed the job with vigour, despite having three young children at home and quickly established a reputation for creating luxurious schemes where practicality and the comfort of her clients were always a consideration. Her first accolade was the winning of a competition to design Grovesnor House Hotel while still with Mlinaric in 1968, which gave her the boost she needed to establish her own studio Tessa Kennedy Design with her Mlinaric colleague Michael Sumner. Together they went on to win many other commissions including the design for the Equestrian Club in Riyadh, which resulted in Kennedy being the first woman to work for her own company in Saudi Arabia.


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Naturally the design principles she applies in her work are evident in her own homes. Many of her sumptuous interiors have been featured by House & Garden, World of Interiors, Vogue and Tatler. What these articles and the collection offered here capture is how much of her remarkable life is reflected in the pieces that act as catalysts for anecdotes about amusing or poignant events with her friends and the process of collecting as a whole.

A selection of the lots were inherited from her grandmother Milica Popovic, whose brother was Dusan Popovic one of the founders of Yugoslavia. She married twice, first to Kennedy’s grandfather Dr. Ivan Rikard Ivanović also a politician and then to the shipping tycoon Božidar ‘Božo’ Banac. Her apartment in Monte Carlo was a hub for social gatherings where Princess Grace and other members of the social elite gathered to watch the Grand Prix from her balcony. But how many other people can say that Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton lent them their private jet in order to fly home from Monaco with their grandmother’s ormolu wall trophies (lot 1) as they were too large to carry on a commercial plane? Or that Marlon Brando gifted them a painting (lot 58) after an extended stay at their Surrey residence while he was filming? Of course these connections are perfectly natural when you are as well-connected as Kennedy and your second husband is the Hollywood film producer Elliot Kastner. Many a summer holiday was spent on set with him and Kennedy’s five children, where cast and crew became a close-knit family. They had such a good time on the set of Missouri Breaks in the mid-1970s that Marlon Brando gave Kennedy his jacket (lot 121) as a memento. But what is so enjoyable about these stories is although modestly told there is an underlying pride in the glamorous connections that time has not diminished.


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The biggest influence on Kennedy’s collection was the ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev whom she met at a party at the Royal Palace in Monte Carlo in the 1960s whilst visiting her grandmother and with whom she shared a close friendship with until his death in 1993. Their joint interest in rich textiles and opulent costume, ecclesiastical and gothic tastes is perhaps most obvious in the design of her bedroom.
The Aubusson hangings were among several lots purchased from the Nureyev collection which Christie’s sold in two parts (New York and London) in 1995. She has fond memories of collecting Nureyev from the stage door at the Royal Opera House after his performances and driving him past all the antique shops she had been to that week, having selected items she knew he would like to see as they drove past. The half-tester bed (lot 79) also reveals how the right piece is often worth the wait. She first spotted it in the window of an antique shop in Islington where she was distraught to find it had already been sold but a year later it was back in the window as the buyer had moved to a smaller property. This time it had been promised to Filmways Pictures to dress the set of The Eye of the Devil (1966) but Kennedy could not let it go. She bought it immediately and rented it to the film company instead.




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Some of you might already be slightly familiar with the sale as it has garnered a lot of attention lately in the press, notably in the ‘Curtain Call’ article of House & Garden April edition which features for the final time Kennedy’s Knightsbridge lavish and theatrical apartment with its opulent dining room’s crimson silk velvet walls.
But whilst this title is fitting for the apartment it seems that Kennedy herself is not quite ready to hang up her hat.

A-Gent of Style was particularly taken by the decadent Renzo Mongiardino-esque silk voile-tented hallway and also the nook-cum-dining room wrapped in Claremont’s sublime, multifarious print Coccini. Here is the fabulous shoot with all the items in the sale in situ:


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And below is what A-Gent of Style saw as he went around the exhibition and discovered some of the treasures that made Tessa Kennedy’s glamourous and romantic life already so full (if these objects could speak!). Given the provenance and stories behind most objets, it wouldn’t be surprising if the lots went for much higher than their estimates. A-Gent can also testify that most of the objets are in good condition and have not lost the lustre of Kennedy’s glitzy, Hollywood-meets-royalty, jet-set style.

A-Gent of Style also had the great privilege to meet the charming decorator herself who delighted him with a few anecdotes (a few years ago, Tessa’s children wanted her to sign up for ‘Celebrity hoarders’, a Channel 4 series with regular people) and talked about the difference between a cut velvet and a gaufrage, as you do at 11.30 a.m on a Saturday (the headboard of her storied Gothic bed below is made out of cut velvet and is not gaufraged, a small but exacting detail A-Gent of Style would like to share with those of you who might lose sleep for not knowing).

You can view the full catalogue of the sale here. Happy biding!



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A-Gent of Style would like to thank Christie’s and especially Charlotte Young,
this sale’s specialist, for all their help and support.

 – Photos by Christie’s, House & Garden, A-Gent of Style and Tessa Kennedy
(new follower on A-Gent of Style‘s Instagram!) –




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