A couple of months back, I got a call from my good friend Heather over at Grange, asking me to zhuzh up their showroom kitchen for What’s New, What’s Next, an industry event in which furniture and lighting companies at the New York Design Center host parties for media types to promote their new collections. For those of you who may not know, Grange is a French company that’s been making beautiful, handcrafted wood furniture for over a century. This year’s event, Heather explained, was all about Chateau Chic, during which people would mix and mingle with the editors of Traditional Home, while enjoying the warmth and style of a French chateau.
Here are some of the before shots Heather sent over.
As you can see, the kitchen had great bones: butcher block counters,
nice cabinetry, a rich, warm gray, and best of all, the only working
Aga range in New York City outside of a private residence! Martha has
one in her stable kitchen in Bedford that I decorated for my first story with Living back in 2006.
As a culinary student, I learned that if there’s anything the French love to cook with, it’s copper. Julia Child’s kitchen was full of it! Like most things, servingware goes in and out of fashion, but copper is one of those timeless investments that becomes even more beautiful with age. It’s one of my absolute favorite collections not only because I love the way it looks—remember our kitchen in Lonny?—but because I use it every day. Well…maybe not these days since just about every piece I own is now at the Grange showroom until Friday. Check it out!
For me, Chateau Chic was about abundance. It was about having collections of beautiful cookware—pots and pans, skillets and sauciers, cake pedestals and cutting boards—all in a warm palette of materials, like yellowware, copper, ironstone, Bakelite and wood. In my mind, this was a kitchen for entertaining on the grandest scale, where large families would gather for elaborate Sunday dinners, made with all farm-fresh ingredients and served banquet style.
Art is such a personal thing, but in the kitchen, I prefer images with culinary references. So to add graphic punch to this space, while still keeping it Chateau Chic, I chose this black-and-white botanical from Artaissaince, then framed it in the same way we did our gallery of lithographs at home. Of course, larger-scale art can get expensive, but Artaissaince uses digital technology to size any image exactly to your specifications. I love the way this piece turned out; it transports you, but in a subtle, sophisticated way.
To me, the most interesting spaces always have a good mix of old and new, so to add to my collection of antique copper, I layered in pieces from Mauviel, the most durable and beautiful new copper cookware I’ve ever seen. These truly are the antiques of tomorrow.
In our house, and whenever we entertain, I love mixing servingware from different eras: 1940s Bakelite flatware from the flea market with an 1800s copper pot my good friend Deborah Buck picked up in Paris. Like most of my collections, I’ve simply built them up over time—one piece here, another there—until…well…our modest farmhouse kitchen now fills the shelves of a fictional French chateau!
A working Aga stove and a captive audience could only mean one thing—a cooking demonstration! As a caterer years ago, I used to serve cheese gougères like these at cocktail parties. They’re a delicious, almost addicting, savory cheese hors d’oeuvre made with a cream puff pastry called pate a choux and served at wine tastings in France. So with the kitchen all propped, we arrived on the day of the event toting flowers, farm-fresh ingredients, and beautiful candles to be included in every guest’s gift bag at Grange.
Here I am on the Aga making the pate a choux.
A quick piping with a pastry bag…
and into the oven they went.
Now, anyone who’s ever cooked on an Aga knows it’s unlike any other oven in the world. The entire cooker is incredibly energy efficient, steadily transferring heat from its cast iron core into its ovens and hotplates. For that reason, the process by which an Aga stove releases heat is far gentler than the direct flames of most ovens, preserving flavor, moisture and texture. In my experience, both at Grange and at Martha’s in Bedford, food really does taste better. So while my first batch of gougères cooked in the Aga, guests gathered at the front of the house for wine and champagne.
Soon, though, the wafting aroma led them back,
as it always does, to the kitchen, where a growing crowd gathered, as though guests in a fancy French chateau.
Two of the first to stop by were friends Ann Maine and Sabine Rothman with Traditional Home. Ann is the Editor-in-Chief and Sabine, now Senior Design and Markets Editor, I’ve known for years, ever since my House Beautiful days. Both were super supportive of my new endeavors, not to mention my gougères!
Finally, a huge thank you both to Alix Lerman and Jim Druckman with the New York Design Center and to Heather Ryan, my longtime friend and collaborator at Grange. I have such fond memories of the trip Heather and I took to Paris years ago. She was at Bernardaud and I was at House Beautiful. Our travels together to the Chateau d’Epoisses in the Burgundy region sparked a shared passion for all things Chateau Chic.
It may not be the French countryside, but for a few precious square feet of space in a city that never relents, not a bad place to stop and stay a while…