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02 March 2011

Luxe, Calme et Volupté

Word of the day: soigné (French; carefully or elegantly done)

I didn't set out to teach French vocabulary, but since the French, as we say, have a word for it, let's take a look at soigné. We all know what a négligé is, but soigné, I think, is often equated to the American jazz age coinage "swanky". Soigné is the near-antonym for négligé; carefully done, as opposed to negligently done. Don't get me started with canapé.

And throw in Luxe, Calme, et Volupté for good measure. Who coined that? Baudelaire? Matisse? No matter, it's about as French as it gets.

Eh bien, where was I? Ah, my living room in Hollywood, circa 1985. The apartment was in a landmarked essay in the streamlined moderne or art déco mode, but the room held exactly two examples of art déco - the Paul Jouve charcoal of an elephant and mahout above the sofa, and a pair of chrome and glass lamps on the piano. (The cocktail table, by Robsjohn-Gibbings, is what? transitional?) As I look at this photo today, I see that it was my latter-day homage to Chanel's famous lair-over-the-shop on the Rue Cambon, the details of which, every good decorator in the world knows well. That salon, too, had very little in the way of actual art déco in it - but it typified, in its own way, the soigné atmosphere of the period as much as did the more doctrinaire modernism of Frank or Ruhlmann.

Say it with me: soigné

Note: Yes, I admit that the bronze bust on the stack of books is négligé. And décoleté.

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