This is quite a surreal experience for me. I have owned, no worshiped, the book The Paris Apartment for the last 8 years. I have referred to it on many occassions. Then one day the author made a comment on my little ole blog on a post about the Vanves flea market in Paris. I was tickled pink, though I had to pinch myself and shriek like a little girl whose Daddy just bought her the pony she'd always wanted. I had to call Chris over to make sure I wasn't seeing things.
I answered her comment. Soon we were emailing back and forth and a fast cyber-friendship was born as only could be in the world wide bloggosphere. I remain both grateful and stunned. Really.
One of the reasons I love Claudia (yes, there are many), is that she is my poster child for successfully managing many facets of a business. She is an author, business owner, designer, blogger, Flea Market tour guide, consultant and a fellow Francophile.
As someone who has many creative passions, but grew up with others judging me, telling me that I was too scattered-brained and that I needed to focus on only one thing-I appreciate that she has proven those naysayers wrong! It is ok to have your eggs in more than one basket. Frankly, I know myself well enough that I would be bored doing just one thing-as I am sure Claudia would too.
I feel in this respect we are kindred spirits. Soul sisters, if you will.
So, without further ado…
As promised, here is my long-awaited interview with Claudia from The Paris Apartment. Don't forget to read all the way through to the end, where you will find the details of the contest and book giveaway.
What is the first memory you have of being creative?
Rearranging my bedroom furniture at around 9…my parents were shocked I’d moved some pretty large pieces!
How did you fall in love with Paris?
Ah, true love…I guess it started while traveling with my family (dad worked for Air France), then sank in after college when I discovered the fleamarkets.
What can I say, I’m human, and her spell was cast! It’s definitely a love affair that hasn’t faded in the least.
How old were you when you made your first trip there and what spoke to you most on that first trip?
Most of my early memories were kept alive cause my Dad took films of our travels. I think seeing them over the years has planted a seed cause it was pretty picturesque.
He got us at the top of Notre Dame, sitting on the gargoyles, and sailing boats in the fountain at the Luxembourg Gardens.
When did you know you could make a living from your passion?
As soon as I thought of the name! It helped me define my direction and point of view. Up until that point, I had a mishmash of ideas but nothing specific.
How did The Paris Apartment come about?
In 1993 I quit the corporate world and rented a store in NYC. I had no idea what it would be, other than Claudia’s Clutter and it was a hodge podge of furniture from my parent’s attic and the flea.
Once the name hit me it was like I knew exactly what to do. The store was only 300 square feet so I had to focus on something specific. I was fascinated by all things boudoir and saw it as a fun, untapped niche market.
What was harder than you expected when you first went into business?
There are so many facets to your business. You ran a retail store, you do flea market trips, interior design consults and makeovers, you wrote a book, you write a blog and now you are designing and selling your own furniture. Which is your favorite and why?
It’s sort of a curse cause I only put a layer on each here and there. It’s a part of entrepreneurship I guess, so much to do with only so much creative time.
I wish I could focus more on each cause I do love working on them all. My blog is the most fun probably, since it’s interactive and my bloggers give me so much love.
It’s a great creative outlet for no reason at all except pleasure.
What are you currently working on? What is new and in the works?
I have about 6 books in the works, everything from Apartments in Paris to Bachelor Boudoirs. I never seem to finish any of them which is a bit frustrating!
Officially in the works is a furniture line called Boudoir Noir, based on designs from old movies and stills. We hope to debut it at the Maison et Objet next year.
The new web boutique will be launching any day and we’re introducing a line of unfinished furniture. The list goes on and on, everything’s a work in progress!
What is one thing you haven’t done, but hope to do one day?
Have a great partnership and create an affordable organic furniture and bedding line with a major manufacturer.
Your work inspires many, including myself. Where does a talent like you get your inspiration?
Wow, thank you! I get inspiration everywhere, from nature to magazines, graffiti and architectural details.
I read everything I can and watch old films, listen to 20’s music and surf the web. I love to learn about other cultures’ dances, traditions, colors and heritages.
What advice can you give other creative souls out there about making a career out of doing what you love?
Don’t judge it by how much money you make, judge it by whether you want to do it everyday.
I’d suggest getting someone to do the books while you’re out being fabulously free and focused on your art.
Follow your instincts and you’ll create a signature that’s completely unique.
Get as much publicity as possible and try to focus on something specific you can be known for. Be a big fish in a small pond!
Can you share a debacle or a lesson you learned from a bad experience?
Oh, well I face and try to dodge debacles everyday! I guess my greatest lesson is to put things in writing.
Quality control has been my biggest challenge because I manufacturer all over the world and can’t always see the finished product before it goes out. If there’s an error, it’s a domino effect creating mega debacles.
And I loathe debacles!
We all know you love flea markets. Which is your favorite and why?
I adore the NY flea but it’s in peril and may close this year. In Paris I’d have to say Clignancourt cause after all these years I’ve finally learned all of the nooks and crannies.
Now I know where the bargains are, and they’re the best in the world!
It’s a city of its own with a history and heritage that’s treasured by Parisians. I’ve been collecting early pictures of it for a book…See, just another work in progress!
What has been your most fabulous, most extraordinary, deal of the century bargain from a flea market? What did you do with it?
Everything at the Paris fleamarket is an extraordinary deal of the century in my mind! But for the really wild stuff, I always seem to find those pieces when shopping with clients.
I try to be gracious not let them know I’m freaking inside! Last week I finally scored a pair of chairs for $20 each from a ratty FL thrift shop.
People were offering me hundreds for them on the way out but I think I’ll enjoy them at home for a while.
How about the strangest thing you have seen at a flea market?
Fleas are microcosms for strange things aren’t they? For me it was a 70’s photo album of a woman who was a sort of sex symbol wanna be. She was lounging all over her very fancy and frilly apartment.
The one consistent prop in every shot was her taxidermy stuffed cat. She put it everywhere from on her lap to the top of the highboy. Seeing it in the same position over a hundred times was a dead giveaway!
When you see something you love when shopping for a client, do you have a hard time parting with it? Do you often keep it and look for something else for the client instead?
I’ve tried not to get too attached to things and if there’s one then there’s probably another somewhere close by. I always let the client have the piece cause I can’t keep it all!
Where else have you lived besides NY and Florida? Do you ever dream of living in Paris?
I grew up in NJ (my parents are still in the house) and went to college in PA. I lived as an au pair in Paris after college but since then I’ve been stateside.
I do dream of living there, or at least having an apartment when I visit! But then again, everywhere I go in the world I think, “I could live here”!
Are you fluent in French?
Not at all, but somehow I manage, it comes pretty easily. I brush up before I go by watching French movies and listening to it on the radio.
What are the things that you can’t miss doing when visiting Paris?
Laduree, hitting every single flea, the Marais, croissants, BHV, a picnic on the bridge, exploring a new neighborhood, and riding the bus aimlessly.
What is your favorite area/arrondissement of Paris?
I’d have to say the Marais because it has so much history as it’s the oldest part of the city. It feels like a little village and has at least 3 glorious mansions that were homes to the great Salon Hostesses of the day.
What is your favorite food to eat in Paris?
I love sandwiches on baguettes. I usually get tuna or egg and tomato. Not sure how I don’t gain weight cause everyday I get a croissant, a café au lait, an entire baguette and bottle of wine.
Sometimes I share that! I love to cook when I’m there so I make pasta salad or fish if I’m renting an apartment.
Do you have a favorite restaurant or café?
I love all the Costes Brothers’ restaurants and cafes. There are a few at the Hotel Costes, the Louvre, and Le Boudoir on Rue de Rivoli.
There are tons of others too, we find them everywhere. Some are designed by Jacques Garcia so there’s the double pleasure of beautiful decor and a great meal.
If you could have dinner with one person dead/alive who would it be and why?
Tough question! Probably Josephine Baker. I love her life. Her spirit and struggle and the way she broke barriers and boundaries inspires me.
I’d like to ask her about her life and times. Of course, Madame Pompadour ties with her and I’d ask her all the same questions!
Of all my accomplishments, I am proudest of…
Hmmm, that’s interesting cause it’s a bit therapeutic. I guess I should feel I’ve accomplished something, so let me think.
I guess that I haven’t given up and have managed to work on this just about every day for over a decade.
And it’s been a job I created and maintain, so there’s that.
There’s so much I want to do and don’t seem to ever really accomplish much of anything in my opinion. Maybe I’ll rethink that, thanks!
The economy has taken a sharp downturn here in the US, what advice can you offer folks on a tight budget about decorating rooms in their homes in The Paris Apartment style?
*Minimize and edit. It’s a good time to downsize to just the things you adore and have meaning to you.
*More than adding to a room, sometimes what’s needed is to take something away (same principal when Coco Chanel says to take off one piece of jewelry before you go out)
*Even in a bad economy you can have the best of everything. Start with your bedding.
*Satisfy your shopping urges by supporting the fleamarkets where you can get bargains on vintage pillowcases and linens.
*Shop for linens and dishes at places like Marshall’s and Ikea for staples like rugs and bookshelves.
*At local fabric shops, cottons, velvets, shirting are just a couple dollars a yard. You can completely change the vibe by making curtains yourself (use ironing tape if you don’t want to sew). If you’re in NY then there’s the garment district, in the burbs there’s Wal Mart or Jo Ann fabrics.
*Paint your ceiling an old traditional color like turquoise or Chinese red, or just pearly over white.
*Add a great plant to set a tone. Potted Bamboo is really striking and mod.
*Rearrange what you have and use items you normally save for special occasions. Everyday is one!
Thank You so much Claudia, for agreeing to the interview. It was a pleasure learning more about you! We have so many things in common (keeping books!?), it is no wonder we are friends.
Now comes the fun part. It is your turn to leave a comment or a question for Claudia below and you will be entered into the drawing. Claudia has graciously agreed to give away a signed copy of her extraordinary book, The Paris Apartment!
You have until midnight EST on Saturday, December 13th. The winner will be announced on Monday December 15th!