Ooh La La!
Ask gallerists Ann Huff and Meg Harrington the secret to a well-decorated space and their answer is simple: Buy what you love. The pair brings this fuss-free philosophy to life in their new home furnishings and lifestyle boutique, Huff Harrington Home at 102 West Paces Ferry Road. “Trust yourself. When you buy what you love, it will always work. And that’s exactly what this shop is,” explains Huff of the airy boutique that embodies their love of all things French.
A guided tour through the space—an industrial-meets-Parisian market—reveals a curated treasure trove of furnishings, accessories, books, soaps, scents and more, all carefully handpicked by the charismatic duo and their close-knit staff of five. “We felt strongly that everything needs to have a story,” Harrington says. “We’re carrying these incredible foutas that Ann had found in a market to use in her pool house. There’s a trick to washing them so that they come out feeling as soft as cashmere. We love telling these stories; it gives all our products such personality and soul.”
Inspiration for the shop’s stock of rarities also stems from the pair’s cultural immersion trips that they host throughout the year in France’s picturesque town of Provence. “It’s so much fun to see what appeals to our clients at the markets, where they’ll spend hours looking at everything from tablecloths to candles and figuring out how they’re going to fit it all into their suitcases,” Harrington observes. “Exposing people to French sensibilities is exciting. I mean, where else but in France would you find tear-off linen napkins? It’s brilliant.” It’s this belief of effortlessly combining beauty and convenience, elegance and comfort that the long-time friends are eager to share with Atlanta.
For Huff, the renovation and decoration of her stylish, sun-soaked Parisian flat played an important role in the creation of the duo’s shop. “I purchased two gorgeous mirrors and chandeliers for the apartment, and was immediately petrified when I first hung them, thinking I’d just recreated the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles. But the minute I started adding furniture around them, it, of course, came together beautifully,” she says. “That collected feel is what we strive for at Huff Harrington Home. It’s about buying what you love, mixing it together, throwing in touches of color, glam and surprise, and bringing it all home.”
Secrets de France
Ann Huff has residences in both Paris and Provence. Here, she shares a snapshot of life in France, along with helpful hints and haunts.
The perfect day in Paris involves a little shopping, a lot of walking, a feast for the eyes in a museum, an impromptu concert, a “coupe de champagne” on the terrace of a favorite café, a wonderful dinner in a local restaurant and a sparkling light show from the Eiffel Tower after dark. The perfect day in Paris is any day.
Always carry with me: Metro tickets and the weekly “Pariscope” that has all the cultural listings for the week, along with shows, markets and events. And an umbrella—even on sunny days—because the expression “wait five minutes and it will change” is truer than ever in Paris.
Favorite exercise: Walking—it’s why I never gain weight when I go to Paris! There is so much to see and appreciate, from the architectural details of the buildings and the store windows to the views along the river and the open sky in the many parks. I could walk for hours in Paris, and often do.
Always on the search for: Comfortable shoes, preferably dark-colored with a slight heel and hidden under a pair of jeans so that there is just a little element of chic. To take the edge off cold weather: Wool socks! I can’t believe it took me all these years to appreciate the benefits of wool socks, to coddle those feet when they’re walking for miles a day.
Best mode of transportation: The Metro. It’s easy, efficient and can be fun, with impromptu concerts in many of the metro stations. But
My favorite way to get around is either by bus (Number 69 is like having a private tour of all the best sites in Paris!) or by Velib, the bicycle rental system that has pick-up and drop-off points every 300 metres. C’est formidable—and a boon to
the environment and thigh muscles!
How to look French: It’s the old cliché but ever so true—a scarf. Parisiennes wear them any time of year, elegantly tied with complete insouciance. In the winter, they are a must for comfort; in the summer, they’re just a fashion necessity!
The perfect Parisian accessory: A dog! It doesn’t need to be one of those dogs that follow their owners around the rue Cler, but a cute, well-trained little pup is the perfect best friend to accompany you at all times—including dining at restaurants, of course.
Where to buy antiques: There are several antiques shows held every year, and you can almost always time your trip for one of them. My favorite is Chatou, held in March and September, but I also love Bastille (May and November) and the weekly Vanves, held on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Then, of course, there is also the famous Marché aux Puces de Clignancourt, which is also open on weekends. And we’re just a quick train ride to Belgium, which is another great source for antiques!
Favorite shopping street: For food, rue Cler. For shoes, rue de Grenelle. For hardware, the basement of the BHV department store. For everything else, rue du Bac. This long, narrow and unassuming street is one of my favorites in Paris, filled with marvelous home decorating stores that feature everything from ultra modern to retro chic.
Always bring back with me: It used to be that I would fill my suitcase with favorite soaps, scents and lotions for which the French are famous, but now that we’ve opened Huff Harrington Home, where we carry lots of these items, my personal suitcase can be a lot lighter. There’s still one thing I can’t live without, and that I haven’t figured out how to carry at our store: Compeed bandages—the best blister medicine ever and an immediate cure for those poor, overworked feet!
Huff and Meg Harrington host intimate shopping trips to the South of France. “Our week-long trips to a perfectly gorgeous spot of Southern France are, quite truthfully, an exhilarating immersion in all things French and Provencal,” says Harrington. Here are more of her thoughts:
Les Murets is home base for the week; it’s a charming, rambling house lovingly and tastefully renovated and decorated that captures the essence of that French je ne sais quoi. There are six bedrooms, a pool, a tennis court and a lovely terrace that overlooks valleys, mountains and villages. It’s a hop, skip and a jump from the beautiful village of Gordes.
The days run something like this: Wake up to the sun rising, roosters crowing and birds singing. A light breakfast in the kitchen or on the terrace might be a farm-fresh egg, a slice of perfectly ripe Cavaillon melon and a crisp croissant, still warm from the oven.
• Then it’s off and running to the market, armed with baskets and cameras. The French (especially in the South) plan their weeks around the daily markets that take place come rain, shine, snow or ice. If it’s Sunday, we’re off to Isle sur la Sorgue to scour the brocante (picture Scott’s Antique Market transplanted to a 16th-century French town). After lunch (either at Jardin de Quai, which is very chic and full of Parisians and plenty of Atlantans, or the more low-key Carre des Herbes), it’s fun to meander through the many mews that line the main drag. That’s where the high-end antiques dealers are and they’ve got the really, really serious stuff. What a feast for the eyes.
• After a full day, its back to Les Murets for a restorative glass of bubbly from Domaine de Bastidonne, a lovely little vineyard that happens to be about 30 seconds from the house. Weather permitting, dinner is served on the terrace and is usually a local specialty whipped up by Gordes caterers, Anne or Chantal. We never skip a huge green salad (served après le diner, of course) and a cheese course.
• The days follow with visits to Gordes (a spectacular Roman-built village perched into a limestone cliff) and uber-chic St. Remy. We might decide to go to 6 p.m. vespers at L’Abbaye de Senaque, a nearby 12th-century abbey that will quite literally take your breath away. We might pop into an olive oil mill for a tasting, stop by the asylum where Vincent Van Gogh stayed (its old stone walls are decorated by art created by mentally-disabled patients who still use the facility) or maybe take a peek at the latest wares offered by French tastemaker Edith Mezard. Lunches are long and leisurely. Another favorite day trip is to Cassis, a charming little fishing village on the Mediterranean. We’ll explore the village and do a little shopping, then eat bowlfuls of soupe de poisson—a heavenly mix of fish and broth served over a slice of bread and a dollop of rouille, which is an addictive blend of garlic and herbs.
• It’s all fun and games: The evenings on the terrace are great fun and full of lively conversation. One of our favorite things to do on the last evening is to play “Show and Tell.” Everyone rushes to their rooms to artfully and tastefully display their purchases from the week. We’ve been known to give prizes for clever merchandising and it’s fun to hear “where did you get that?” and “I didn’t see that vendor!” and “I’ll trade you the espadrilles for the set of linen napkins that I missed in St. Remy!”
For more on Huff Harrington Home, as well as Huff and Harrington’s favorite hotel in Paris and the best pomme frites in France, visit atlantahomesmag.com/frenchfinds.