Let’s play pretend for a moment, shall we? We’re in Paris strolling around and run into graphic designer and stylist Fifi Mandirac who so nicely invites us back to her home and studio. Her world is so colorful we can’t help but linger… in fact, we find it hard to say goodbye. Must be her joie de vivre. One cup of tea turns into another… Her home is filled with nooks of artfully arranged things – things we know that if owned by us they’d most likely not be in such fine arrangement. Fifi has that magic touch, unique and quirky, honest and joyful. Look around and see for yourself…
But before we go any further I have a question — I’d love to learn about YOUR first impressions — when you think of the overall French design aesthetic, what do you imagine? Do you see this? Or something else?
I see lush, smoky interiors with rich colors like plum and red, lots of texture (especially velvet for some reason), and very ornate decadent things from drapes to wallpaper and furniture. On the flipside, I imagine country French design too. Bright sunshine and lavender fields. Lace on windows. Toile, yellow, red, blue, soft ocean tones and rustic. I also imagine some French design to be a bit quirky and graphic and I guess that’s where artists like Fifi fall in to place for me. I think of tastemakers like Nathalie Lete and Ateliers LZC in this mix. And of course children’s characters like Barbarpapa come to mind too.
This, of course, is based on living outside of France my entire life — unless you’ve really lived somewhere I think your impressions of an area may be partially influenced by outside factors and not based solely on personal experience within that culture. So again I ask… when you imagine France and modern day French design, what do you see?
After you’ve thought about that for a moment, maybe you can share those thoughts here with me. There is no right or wrong answer. Now back to the charming Fifi Mandaric who lives in Saint Denis (northern suburb of Paris about 6 miles from city center). As a side point: all of these photos are from her former apartment in Paris and her current one in Saint Denis. While visiting with Fifi let us ask her a few questions, because we can’t possibly visit someone else’s home without inquiring as to their tastes and inspirations.
What inspires your decor? “I gather a lot of vintage stuff, it can either be family heritage or flea market finds. I particularly like vintage toys using them in my decor like I would do with sculptures. To add a more modern feeling I also have major design pieces from Knoll or Eames. Actually, everything inspires me ! I use things I like without thinking if it works together or not, and most of the time it works.”
What do you love about being born and raised in France? “Tough question… I would say the rich artistic background. Very young my parents took me to museums and I have great memories discovering Paris with my grandmother. Is it because of my family or because I am French ? I don’t know but this is how I was raised.“
What are you most proud of about your life and why? “I am proud because I always knew what I wanted to do and I managed to do it even if it was not that obvious… I also feel lucky because I manage to keep the balance between my family life and my work. Having different spaces (a big studio in the back of the garden) for both makes that possible.”
Do you ever feel stuck in a creative rut and if so, how do you get out of it? “When I feel a creative rut is falling upon me, I quickly quit my studio work for a walk in Paris. Or if it’s a moody rainy day, then I make myself a steaming cup of tea, and I read design and decor blogs… But every now and then, I can feel tired and this is when I need to travel. My trips to India and Mexico for example were very inspiring. When I travel like that I always take an empty suitcase with me (which makes my husband crazy!), so that I can bring back plenty of new stuff that will end in my home decor and will inspire me all year long.”
What are your favorite colors and why? “I need colors like I need a beam of sunlight. I love pure colors like grassy green, sunshiny blue, warm yellow, bright pink… And I also love red! Recently I painted a wall in my garden with red, and it makes a real statement. Actually, I love all colors! It is more a thing about assortment. I don’t feel comfortable with “half tones”, those you can’t tell if it’s gray or green for example. I don’t mean I don’t like it, but I don’t know how to use them.”
What are some things in your home that you cherish? “I love the dressing table that my grandmother gave me when I was a child, the old 50’s refrigerator that was in my grand parents house for years, I saved it from trash and I use it now as a cupboard. And I also like my dining table which was in my other grand parent’s house. It’s a Danish table from the 60’s with a nice design and it’s great to have many friends for dinner. I bought Eames chairs to go with it and I just love it! What I cherish the most is objects which have great design and memories at the same time. I never keep an object I dislike even if it is useful. For example, I put my washing-up liquid in a nice bottle so that it looks nice. I know I am a little bit obsessive.”
Pretend it’s Saturday, you have some extra money in your pocket, no work to do, the sun is shining and a friend asks you to spend the day together. What will you do? “If the sun is shining, I don’t need anything else to have a great day ! But I will have breakfast in the garden and spend some lazy time with my husband and my daughter. Later we will work on the wood house we are currently building for her, unless some friends will come by to have a drink under the shade. At the end of the afternoon I will put on a dress and a fancy pair of shoes and go to Paris. After a little shopping session which I like on my own, I will meet friends to have diner in a nice restaurant with a terrasse of course (maybe at Le Saut du Loup?).”
If you’d like to see more of Fifi and her work, please visit her blog. If you have any questions for her, please ask them below.
Merci beaucoup Fifi for allowing all of us to visit your world today on decor8!
(images: Fifi Mandirac)