Decorating apartments in Paris is one of our greatest passions, and is one that involves many details – and often many hands. Over 12 years ago, we began a wonderful friendship with the talented designer Ann Huff from Huff Harrington, who has collaborated with us on the design of many of our Paris Perfect vacation rentals and with Paris Perfect Shared, our fractional co-ownership program. Together with Madelyn, Paris Perfect founder, it’s the dream team that adds the perfect finishing touches our guests and owners love.
While every detail is perfection, there’s one element that has become a much-loved feature in our Paris Perfect Shared properties. This is the signature Hermès scarves that have simultaneously inspired and become an integral part of the decor for each apartment. While you might just think of scarves for wearing, they can also add a beautiful touch to your home. For the story behind how we started decorating with vintage scarves, we sat down with Madelyn and Ann to chat more about this unique design inspiration, tips for shopping for scarves in Paris and more!
Where did the idea for using vintages scarves as the symbol for our Paris Perfect Shared fractional apartments begin?
Ann: It’s interesting how it all started. Maddy and I come at things a bit differently and she always approaches things from the history and loves the history behind the scarves. I approach things more visually, and so often I will be shopping for antiques in markets and will come across scarves where the colors really speak to me. I’ll bring those out and look at them and then Maddy, if she’s with me, will often recognize them and dives right into the history behind the designs. It’s great!
Maddy: One of the first vintage Hermès scarves was in the Cairanne fractional apartment where it makes a beautiful statement above the bed. It's the Bride de Cour pattern designed by Françoise de la Perriere, which was first released in 1969. I love how the signature equestrian accessories have been stylized into a beautiful decorative pattern. You paired the intricate designs from the scarf beautifully with gold sconces on each side. That was when we saw how a signature scarf influenced the elements and really tied the room design together. And it was a success immediately! The owners loved it and it very quickly became a signature for Paris Perfect Shared. Now we couldn't imagine designing one of our fractional apartments for sale without this design element – our owners are always anxious to see the Hermès scarf that inspired their apartment!
Ann: Yes and after Cairanne there was Conti, where the scarf definitely drove the design. The pattern of that scarf really caught my eye with its striking black, white and gold designs that are just so beautiful. Of course, Maddy went nuts over it because the historical pattern and themes and I went nuts over the design and planned the entire apartment around those colors. Looking closer at Conti, if you notice the tassels in the design on the scarf, that drove the design of the sconces on either side of the fireplace mantle in the living room, which have tassels on them. And the same with the black shades, they were inspired by the distinctive black from the scarf. Cairanne and Conti were really the beginning of the scarves.
Maddy: Yes, and those two scarves have so much history for Hermès in their designs. The beautiful scarf in Conti is the iconic Memoire d'Hermès with a design by Caty Latham that pays homage to Hermès founder Thierry Hermès. In the center you'll spot a portrait of him surrounded by objet d'art that have come to represent Hermès. Latham created many iconic designs for Hermès including much of the equestrian series, the Egypt series, and designs with keys and tassels.
What part does a signature piece likes a vintage scarf play in creating a theme or feel for an apartment? And which comes first – the scarf or the room design?
Ann: It’s funny and I’m sure Maddy will agree with this. We probably look at hundreds of scarves every year at least. Because we look at them in every market that we go to – and we go to a lot of markets. Out of hundreds we probably pick out like three that we like. So it’s really a very selective and intuitive feeling—when you see the right one you know—and you know okay that’s what the apartment is going to look like.
After the experience with Conti, some of the scarves that we found drove the decisions for the colors and the tone for the apartment. Very rarely do we have the opposite happen where we’re excited to find a scarf that will match the décor that we’ve found. I would say that in the apartments that we’ve done—Conti and Armagnac and Syrah—all the designs were driven by finding a scarf and that “aha” moment when we found the right one.
With Vivant, we had an “aha” moment with the scarf, which was so beautiful with its gold and pale pink colors. But when we got it in there we decided that probably it would be better to play off of it but to keep it a little more subtle, so we put it in the hallway. Interestingly enough, our latest Paris Perfect Shared apartment project is the first and only one so far where we’re doing the opposite. With this one, the design got driven first and then we had to set out to find the right scarf. And that’s been really fun!
So far, you’ve featured only Hermès scarves. What makes these scarves so special?
Madelyn: Hermès is the gold standard of scarves. The are among the most cherished scarves in the world, the most interesting from a design perspective and, of course, a historical perspective. This is why the Hermès scarves are the perfect signature for our fractional apartments in Paris. They are the best of the best, they stand the test of time. The is the whole philosophy of how we operate, how Ann decorates, how we remodel – to create something that stands the test of time. That has always been our philosophy and one of the elements we love is how perfectly this has become the calling card for our fractional apartments.
Ann: Hermès is iconically French – it just oozes French style. The quality, the history, the patterns are everything that embodies French artisan design. The patterns are also full of symbols that resonate for the fractional apartments in Paris. The scarf for Vivant is the iconic Les Clefs design by Caty Latham that was first released in 1965. With all the keys, I thought that was really meaningful for Paris Perfect Shared. You’re going to get your keys to your own apartment in Paris! And that pattern is also a pretty popular design. Some were really famous and were done in multiple colors and some have notable designers and are signed – those are real collector items.
The one that we’re putting in the fractional apartment we’re currently decorating is the oldest scarf, I believe from the 1960s. It’s actually quite fragile and the framer has to be really careful framing it. It’s exciting. Our framer always gets really excited about the scarves that we bring in and we always talk about them – they’re like our friends.
That brings up a good question: to frame or not to frame? Any suggestions for framing a vintage scarf?
Ann: First of all, I think it’s very interesting that the scarves are never square. While you might think they’re square, they’re actually not quite square – usually they’re off by about a half an inch. Make sure your framer measures it really carefully in order to get it right. The framer has to be super careful about how they do it. This is where you’ll want to do your research and find an experienced framer. Our framer does batting underneath the scarf, that is, a layer of batting and then she puts the scarf over it.
Just recently we’re starting to frame them without glass on top, because you don’t really need glass. They are pretty color safe and I prefer them without because then you don’t get the glare and they’re also lighter. They do end up getting really heavy with the glass, so I’m excited for this transition. The first one we did without glass was for the Syrah apartment and we’re doing another one without glass for the project we’re working on right now. All you have to do is gently dust it every once in a while with a feather duster.
The other tip is for cleaning and preparing your scarf – to wear or hang. First of all, when you take them to the dry cleaner, make sure that you tell them to write down on the receipt that it’s an Hermès scarf and what it is of because dry cleaners have been known to swap them out with other scarves. The other thing is to make sure that they know—especially in the US—not to iron the edges, because the edges are hand rolled and hand stitched. You want them to be rolled and ironing will flatten them down and destroy them forever.
Can you share some tips for buying vintage scarves? How do you know if you’ve found a real Hermès scarf at a market?
Ann: The most important thing is that hand rolling we mentioned. You’ll want to look closely since it’s always rolled toward the front and is hand stitched. The telltale is the feel of the silk and the signature. There’s always a Hermès signature and it has to be spelled correctly. That sounds so obvious, but a lot of them don’t have the grave accent over the second e and you know automatically that it’s a fake if they don’t.
But the feel is distinctive and just takes some experience. For instance, I bought a bunch of scarves one time at a market and I was in a hurry. I bought five at the same time. I just knew I liked them all so I took them. When I got home and was unpacking and folding them to put them away, I picked one up and immediately could tell that it was a fake. I could just tell by the feel – it didn’t have the same feel as the other ones. And then I washed it just to see what would happen and it completely bled and I knew. You make mistakes, but that’s how you learn too.
Madelyn: After identifying that you’re looking at an authentic Hermès scarf, you’ll have to look for the designs that speak to you – the ones that grab your attention. And here is also where Hermès designs are so special. They choose designers for their seasonal scarves, and each one is full of symbols and has a story that adds to the richness of the design. This is what made it so cool when Ann thought, hey this could be a great base for designing a whole apartment around, because they are truly works of art.
It’s very rare to have fashion pieces that gain in value like that over the years. Some of them are so sought after by collectors that they are impossible to find. For instance, I’ve been looking for a Pont Neuf scarf for years. I’ve got it on watch at different auction houses, but none ever come up. Some scarves are so popular that they sell out and you never see them again. The limited edition aspect really adds to the cherished aspect of them. Once they do a scarf they rarely repeat it and when they do it means it’s one of their iconic patterns.
Where do you hunt for your vintage scarves and décor in Paris?
Ann: The flea market Puces de Paris Saint-Ouen has three or four vintage shops and some of them are kind of hidden while others are well known. There’s one or two in Paul Bert Serpette, but if you walk along Vernissage—that’s the part of the flea market with all the little alleys where it’s easy to get lost—you may come across some people who may just have five or six of them. I think those are just as much fun to look through as the piles and piles that you can find elsewhere. You just never know when you’re going to come across that little jewel that you have to have.
In the 7th arrondissement there are a few shops, including CORNER LUXE at 45 avenue Bosquet, where I bought one scarf recently. That’s a great spot right in the center of Paris.
Madelyn: Yes, the flea market is a must if you’re shopping for vintage Hermès scarves. You can also check out the popular consignment stores around Paris. There are also many excellent vintage shops in Paris.
Now that the Shared experience is moving to Italy, have you thought about what the design symbol might be for Italy?
Madelyn: We’re very excited about expanding our successful fractional co-ownership program to Italy. Our first stop is Florence—the birthplace of the Renaissance and one of Italy’s most beautiful cities—and the properties are going to be extraordinary. Stay tuned for more news about Italy Perfect Shared in Florence coming very soon!
Ann: We’re still developing ideas, but one thing we will be doing in most, if not all, the Italy fractional apartments is that we’re having some beautiful chandeliers made that are a combination of wood, crystal and metal. They’re very Italian and really pretty. They’re handmade and I’m really excited about them.
Madelyn: Italy is a design dream, with incredible artisan companies that produce the most beautiful linens and decor as well as incredible antique shopping as well. Stay tuned for more news about Italy Perfect Shared in Florence coming very soon!