by Saxon Henry
When the Bernhardt Jet Set Buffet flowed through the raucous column of my Tweetdeck during the #HPMkt Twitter chat on the evening of March 12th, I chased down the image until I could steady it on my computer screen. Then, I did what any self-respecting girl involved in a French fantasy would do: I RT’d and Tumbled it! The piece of furniture in its setting had the undeniable je ne sais quoi a stylish Parisian woman would have appreciated, and I found myself wishing I were ensconced in an airy space in one of the City of Light’s arrondissements.
Three weeks later, Carmen Natschke and I were given a tour of the Bernhardt showroom during High Point Market and my fantasy deepened, shifting from the daydream that I was living amongst the Jet Set vignettes to imagining a quintessential French femme as she begins her week—the slim skirt with its flirty kick-pleat she would she be pulling from the wardrobe as she rushed to dress for her day; the unopened letter she hastily plucked from her stylish desk and tucked into the outside pocket of her clutch with little more than a pouty regard for the man who’d carefully pinned it in the hopes of a liaison.
As the end of the week drew near, I saw her sashaying around the highly polished floors in her stockings in search of the necklace she’d hastily dropped onto her dining table the night before, the heavy gem encased in gold sliding across the Caviar finish of its top as she retrieved it. Finally, the elegant points of her kitten heels clicked along as she picked up the pace and closed the boiserie door behind her, the edge of her filmy scarf the last piece of her ensemble to disappear.
My musings flirted with actresses like Jeanne Moreau in Bay of Angles, the sexy couture she wore as she moved around that glamorous coastal setting the epitome of chic. Her vivid sensuality morphed to Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour, her attire the counter opposite as her slim figure was encased in the tailored lines of the clothing her refined life afforded her as she experimented with her sexuality. But there was a slight disconnect from those starlets to our modern times evoked by the materials and contours of the Jet Set collection, the textiles used for the upholstery and finishes on the wood are seriously au courant. I made my way through a short list of femme fatales that came after these two iconic actresses but I just couldn’t pin her down.
As I watched the debut of the final season of Mad Men this past Sunday night, I gleaned my strongest sense of her yet: she is a more confident version of Megan—not Megan Draper but Megan Calvet, the shier mademoiselle preceding the California girl we saw bounding from her convertible to retrieve her husband from the airport this past week. Somewhere between the leggy, toothy beauty Jessica Paré portrayed as she was stealing Don Draper’s heart and the vulnerable, apprehensive woman we saw on Sunday is the star of my musings.
I thought about how she would sometimes show up as the ingénue was being usurped by the determined actress. There were a number of transformative Mad Men moments: think her performance of “Zou Bisou, Bisou,” the short black shift with its billowing sheer sleeves and her highly teased bob hairstyle an earthy version of late 1950s French bravado. I have to say it’s a testament to Bernhardt’s design team, headed up by Ron Fiore, that the furniture and interior architecture could stand up to my fantasies running the gamut from classic French cinema to the “it” girl of modern-day Paris.
In case I’ve confused you: we’ve left the Midcentury Modern Megan, a lady of the Canyon, behind to find a self-assured young professional with big dreams curled up on her buttery soft chaise on a rainy weekend afternoon. There’s a winter chill beyond the windows looking out over the Tuileries and a steaming cup of tea sits on the chest beside her, misting the fog-muted air. She’s a bit restless as she pulls that unopened letter from the pocket of her velvet robe and pauses, still undecided as to whether she will open it or ignore it and book that trip to join her friends in Gstaad. That’s the Jet Set girl. She has choices. And they are all good ones!
I have a feeling this collection will be one of Bernhardt’s legacy lines due to the timeless feel of the furniture in it. I will be creating a Pinterest board in the fall when these beautiful pieces will hit showrooms across America. I’ll add a link to the board when I have it live. Happy Jet-Setting, everyone!
I’m tapping the Jet Set buffet as a Signature Piece for the home in my DesignStudio series; to see others, type “Signature Pieces” into the search bar. Text of this “Leaving a Legacy” post © Saxon Henry, all rights reserved. Saxon Henry is the founder of The Literary Blog to Book Movement and author of Home of the Brave and Four Florida Moderns. Her creative writing blog is Improvateur and she posts snippets of design she comes across during her escapades on Saxon Summarily by Design.