Lessons in Living a French Life

Everyone deserves something beautiful

The Inherent Beauty of Everyday Objects

Karen Kriebl

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. - William Morris

I love simple, old things. I take great pleasure in sipping my morning tea from a vintage French bowl. Not only is it practical; for, it provides more room into which I dip my croissant. It is also beautiful and feels perfect in my hand. I notice such things and they make me happy.

My French café au lait bowl represents the qualities I look for in objects I consider worthy of purchase. First, I love things that are utilitarian, beautiful but serve a purpose. Second, I look for objects with patina, a history that you can see and feel. Finally, not everything has to be old; but I want to see the maker's hand, something artisan and handcrafted from natural materials that are simple in design.  I don't feel good in a cluttered space, so I have to curate my collection carefully. Let's examine these three characteristics and see how they infuse everyday objects with a sense of beauty.

 I have started putting together cream and gold place settings for our future home. It is getting harder to find French "boules" or bowls at the brocantes or fleamarkets so when I find one or two, I buy them.   

I have started putting together cream and gold place settings for our future home. It is getting harder to find French "boules" or bowls at the brocantes or fleamarkets so when I find one or two, I buy them.

 

 The beauty of a simple teaspoon. Attention is paid to detail. Even the back of the spoon is adorned. An everyday object that is both useful and beautiful.

The beauty of a simple teaspoon. Attention is paid to detail. Even the back of the spoon is adorned. An everyday object that is both useful and beautiful.

"Form ever follows function" was coined by an American architect, Louis Sullivan in the 20th century. But he was inspired from the English Arts and Crafts movement a century earlier. William Morris was the most celebrated artist and designer of that movement. Morris was very clear that everyday objects needed to be well-made, crafted by hand with quality materials, and be beautiful as well as functional. He outlined the modern belief that utility was as important as beauty. I am not fan of tchotchke-filled shelves. While I can't say that everything in my home serves a specific, daily purpose, photos and artwork for example, most items do. For those things that adorn my walls or exist purely for aesthetic reasons, they still offer delightful memories or spark joy just in their presence. For the simple daily things, I think, "Why shouldn't something you use every day be pretty and make you feel good?"

 

Which brings me once more to the allure of my French bowl. I am particularly drawn to everyday objects that are old. There is something about wrapping yourself into the story of a vintage item that just opens one's imagination and connects you to a past moment. Each imperfection in the glaze of a porcelain cup or the fading of a handwoven textile, reveals its history to its owner. We want to invest in things that have survived time. In a world dominated by poorly-made plastic everything, antique and vintage finds give individuality to both the item and the owner. A single addition of the "right something" to a space can add character and personality. The most common items can spark special memories of distant places and dear people.

 A simple lip balm I designed and created with extraordinary ingredients. Every detail was important to me. I researched medieval Japanese textiles to create the paper for the hand-folded box. Every step in its production was thoughtfully considered and crafted with love. Yes. It is just a lip balm. But hold it and you know it is so much more.

A simple lip balm I designed and created with extraordinary ingredients. Every detail was important to me. I researched medieval Japanese textiles to create the paper for the hand-folded box. Every step in its production was thoughtfully considered and crafted with love. Yes. It is just a lip balm. But hold it and you know it is so much more.

Finally, I find beauty in everyday objects that are well made, often by hand, with quality materials. Something created with dedication and commitment to being both useful and beautiful. When you hold an object made by hand, you carry the memory of the artist with you. Their time and expertise and effort is contained within. A handcrafted ceramic mug is more than just a cup. It's a little piece of art.  I appreciate artisan products that have a well-considered simple design and are made from quality materials. I'd rather have fewer things but make them count. The time has come for us to find our way back to objects that are well made, authentic, and lasting.

 

 

I  am not a collector. I enjoy bringing beautiful and useful things into my life that serve a purpose, contain a story, and are lovingly created from quality materials. I am drawn to everyday objects: A cup, a spoon, a duvet cover. Things you touch each day when you prepare your morning tea, make your bed, or just drink a glass of water. To me, the beauty of these items elevates ordinary tasks and makes them special. Quite simply, they add joy to my day.

Ordinary things can contain profound beauty. You just need to take a moment to notice it.

À bientôt,

Karen

I add a blog post quarterly - more or less with the changing seasons. For a weekly dose of something "short and sweet" and a nod to French culture, be sure to subscribe to my Weekly Voilàs on this website. For those that have already subscribed, merci. Your support encourages me to take the next step in living a french life. If you have any questions about our online collection or if I can provide further information, please feel free to drop me a note. I enjoy the conversation. As always, it is a privilege to share this journey with you.