Saturday, November 14, 2009

My Chinoiserie Fireplace

It was such a surprise and quite an honor to have my "chinoiserie fireplace" featured on the blog, Chinoiserie Chic.

It's my favorite piece in our home and has a special story behind it...

On Feb. 1, 1999, my beloved Grandmother, passed away at the age of 98.
It felt to me as if someone had dimmed the lights in my world. I had never felt such sadness. It just lingered and lingered as each day I learned to live without her in my life.

One day, my brother called to tell me he had found round trip tickets to Paris for $380!!
I immediately called my husband and Mom to see if they wanted to go for Spring Break.
The answer was a resounding YES, so along with our 8 year old son we boarded the flight to Charles de Galle. We had arranged to stay in 2 different Paris Apartments both located in the Latin Quarter. We spent our days sightseeing, eating, shopping and visiting almost every chuch and cathedral in the city. The piece de resistance was going to the Paris Flea Market!! ( You're probably thinking that is where I found my fireplace :)

One day while in the Marais, I peered into the window of a small antique shop where my gaze landed upon the most incredible fireplace I had ever seen! I couldn't breathe...even after spending an entire day perusing the fabulous Paris Flea Market, I hadn't seen anything like this!
It defied description...
It was magnificent! It was over the top! It was French Chinoiserie Fabulous! It was at this very moment when my love affair with all things chinoiserie took root.
The shop was temporarily closed so we went to a cafe to wait for the shop owner's return. Now I must admit that I used to speak french fluently back in the late 1970's while at school in Switzerland, but as you might imagine, I was pretty rusty, although my young son was quite impressed that his Mom was the only one in our group that could get us anywhere! With my heart beating out of my chest, I did my best to convey to the shop owner that I couldn't leave without that fireplace! Between his limited english and my very rusty french we weren't able to work it out.

Alas, I left Paris with only his business card. Upon my return home I found I couldn't live without it so I drove to San Francisco and located a wonderful french antique dealer and proceeded to tell her all about my love affair with a fabulous chinoiserie fireplace, matching over-mantle and fire screen sitting in a small antique shop in the Marais in Paris. She took pity on me and helped facilitate the purchase along with arrangements to have it crated and shipped to the Bay Area. I waited breathlessly for several months until one day I was notified by customs that it had arrived!!! A few days later a crate was deposited onto our driveway! We couldn't wait to see it again. We uncrated it to find it had found it's way to us undamaged and just as beautiful as we had remembered it!

I must digress a bit here to tell you that several days before we left for Paris, a dear friend and neighbor of my Mom's who was in the process of moving, offered me one of his paintings he knew I coveted. I couldn't believe it!! I was overwhelmed by his gesture and thrilled beyond belief. The minute I brought her home and placed her above my (original)
fireplace I knew she would become "The Lady of the House."

Even after several months of anticipation of this day we could barely contain our excitement as we began the process of transforming our fireplace.
We were able to fit the chinoiserie mantle over our existing fireplace mantle because of it's massive size and depth. The hearth was a perfect compliment with it's aged gray concrete but it wasn't quite wide enough, so we eventually hired someone to make it work.
We assembled the matching overmantle and gasped as we placed "The Lady of the House" into the opening and she fit perfectly!!! I've never been one to believe in coincidences and somehow knew she was meant to be with us. Several years later, the dear friend passed on. She has been a gift in the deepest sense.

Our home came into it's own that day. It got it's focal point.

Now, as you walk up the long walkway to our entry and look through the divided lights of our french door, the first thing you will see is our beautiful chinoiserie fireplace with it's matching over-mantle framing "The Lady of the House" beckoning you to come inside...

Our entry

Looking through the divided lights of our french door

A professional photo of our Living Room

"The Lady of the House"
framed by the over-mantle

The original concrete hearth that was widened to accommodate the mantle

An up-close view of the concrete hearth

The matching fire screen

I display the fire screen behind the sofa on an altar table
between a pair of oversized lamps from WSH

Another shot of the fire screen

A detail shot of the top of the mantle



undomestic mama said...

It's lovely! What an awesome story.

Vickie H. said...

Your mantle is almost too beautiful for words! I would have fallen as truly, madly, deeply as you did had I been the one to lay eyes on it first! Thank you for sharing your lovely story. I believe you have been richly blessed. Divine!

Kitty said...

omg. i saw you on chinoiserie chic, and just had to come over. thanks for sharing your beautiful home and your story. you live in my favorite place in the world; i always say "everything's better in california!" cheers, i'm following you! xo kitty

Kitty said...

Therese, you're awesome! I hope you'll share any Wonderland treasures you find on the West Coast! I'll check in again soon to see what you've found! xo kitty

cotedetexas said...

omg! that is so gorgeous!!!! love it - you are so lucky to own that.

loved your comment - it was great. empty nesters! :(

cjsullivan133 said...

So nice meeting you Terri! And so much in common! Loved your story on finding your mantle. Did it at least come with a frenchman to help you polish it? :)
Your new found friend: An Island Girl swimming her way back home..

Kathysue said...

Hi Therese, I love this story and what a gorgeous piece, I see why you were stopped dead in your tracks, it looks as if it has been connected to your lovely home. I am soooo impressed, Amazing! Kathysue

Anonymous said...

Saw your link at fromtherightbank. Any idea who your wallpaper was made by? Lovely home!