Book List of the Week

Unquestionably Addicted to Paris: Penny Drue Baird’s Book List

By Steve Kroeter September 27, 2011

Penny Drue Baird

Interior designer Penny Drue Baird: Dessins LLC (New York and Paris)

Profile     Book List

“I made my first trip to Paris when I was 18,” says Penny Drue Baird. “Unlike what all my friends and clients believe, it most certainly did not result in a coup de foudre. It was when I was there about three years later, when I was crazily ‘in love,’ that I became unquestionably addicted to Paris—and, truth be told, especially to those sauces! That was the true beginning of how the City of Light got to be an ongoing part of who I am and what I value.”

Baird shopping at a flea market in St. Tropez, France

That Paris has been central to her life is evident in so many ways. Baird has kept a residence there for 11 years. In addition to her interior design studio on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, she has a companion studio on rue Jacob in Saint Germain. And then there are the books about Paris—those on the list she compiled for Designers & Books and also those she herself has written, on designing interiors in the French style.

The book list Baird gave us includes Paris Was Ours: Thirty-two Writers Reflect on the City of Light by Penelope Rowlands. Baird comments on this book, “What is obvious is true—visiting Paris is not even remotely related to living there. These incredibly sensitive essays strike right to one’s heart. They capture the essence of French life and have made me rethink more than one or two serious ideas about life.”

The New French Interior, 2011 (The Monacelli Press)

Among several books on Baird’s Designers & Books list whose subject is cuisine and the (important) subject of dining in France is Michael Sternberger’s Au Revoir to All That: Food, Wine, and the End of France. Baird singles out a passage in which Sternberger “speaks about his all-time favorite food treat in Paris—the praline millefeuille (napoleon) from Ladurée and Pierre Hermé.” She says, “All who know me, know it’s been my number one favorite for the last few years.”

In the first book that Baird wrote, Bringing Paris Home (The Monacelli Press, 2008), she shared her insights into and interpretation of the complex layers of design elements that make up elegant traditional French interiors. Her latest book, The New French Interior, released today (September 27, 2011), also by The Monacelli Press, features an approach that remains traditional in its core values yet reflects the clean, modern lines and craftsmanship originating in the work of French designers associated with Art Deco (the name derives from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, which took place in Paris in 1925), such as Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann, Jean-Michel Frank, Jules Leleu, and Jacques Adnet.

Traditional rotunda setting with center table—executed with streamlined moldings, a modern take on a stone floor, and pilasters functioning as standing lamps. (Photo: Durston Saylor)   A pair of glass panels found in the Marché aux Puces are used as swinging doors and mark the entrance to this dining room. (Photo: Durston Saylor)

Naturally, we were drawn in particular to the chapter on libraries that Baird designed (and could imagine sitting down in them with two of Baird’s book list “favorites”: Madame Bovary and The Count of Monte Cristo).

“However modern the overall look of an apartment, residents frequently want an element of coziness in the library,” says Baird. Here the cabinetwork is clean and bleached gray and the lines of the furniture are straight and structural, but the color palette and personal collections create a warm and inviting atmosphere. (Photo: Durston Saylor)

Traditional dark polished wood is juxtaposed with a 1920s French iron chandelier and Fortuny silklights to create a sanctuary for enjoying books. (Photo: Durston Saylor)   A Jules Leleu table, shagreen lamp and boxes, a Chinese papier-maché cocktail table, and Holland & Sherry pillows create a modern feeling while using period elements. The books are covered in vellum calligraphed with the titles. (Photo: Francis Hammond)

In the books she reads, the books she writes, and in the way she integrates books into the lives of her clients, “ Baird’s words about books ring true: “They feed our fantasies, nurture our souls, and basically enlighten every aspect of our journey on earth.”


Note: All photographs and captions are taken from The New French Interior.

comments powered by Disqus