Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Style Guide: French Colonial Design And Native Indochinese Crafts

Traditional French Colonial design and native Indochinese crafts come together in a New York kitchen

"Imagine it is about 1900 and you are a Frenchman who is moving to Vietnam, which was then called Indochina," proposes Jennifer Ellenberg, a designer at Jane Victor Assocs., a commercial and residential design firm in New York. "Your trunks are packed and you think you're going to visit a crude culture. But when you arrive you find all the comforts and amenities you are used to, complemented by the pure simplicity and honesty of native design. It's like yang meeting yin." That's what the designer and her colleagues tried to achieve when redesigning this urban kitchen and breakfast room -- a blend of cultures, materials, history, and practicality.

Cultural Center

The breakfast room develops the themes established in the adjacent kitchen. Circa 1820's French folding chairs and formal French porcelain plates and glassware contrast with Vietnamese twig place mats, reed and flax window treatments, and reed area rug. The walls were treated to 11 coats of plaster slip colored with a pigment derived from reduced lemongrass, rubber-plant root, bamboo leaf, and green vegetable curry. The reed and wrought-iron wall sconce and painted shrimping basket -- both traditional Vietnamese objects -- add visual interest to a corner of the room.

Placid Tones

Soothing shades of green and gold create a peaceful feeling in this kitchen. At the sink, the gooseneck faucet with porcelain-sheathed handles replicates French designs from the turn of the century. The fresh and dried herbs on the counters and windowsill -- thyme, rosemary, lemongrass, and sage among them -- are essentials in both French and Vietnamese kitchens. Sink and faucet: Franke. Kitchen accessories: Grace's Marketplace, Dean & Deluca.

For Asian Cooking

In the cooking area, the Gaggenau range was devised with a simple addition so that a wok can be utilized on the stove top. Copper stockpots wait to be used; pots like these outfitted many a French Vietnamese kitchen. The reflective doors of the oven reveal the tumbled limestone flooring which was also typical in Vietnamese interiors

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