My grandmother is the master collector. When you walk into her home, you’re not sure where to look first but you’re going to need a few hours because you don’t want to miss anything. Every piece is laced with history or a story and she knows them all. Everything I have learned she has taught me, and while we may have our own distinct tastes, we share the thrill of the hunt. Here are all of the little things I collect, from my coffee table at home to stocking the shelves at the store.
1. Limoges Boxes
My grandmother has a wooden cabinet in her house. The small armoire has been in her family for many years, since before the Nazis occupied her home in France. During the war they used the cabinet to store their beer, warping the original wooden shelves now replaced with glass. There was a skeleton key that unlocked the fragile doors and when I was a little girl those doors were like Narnia. Encased in glass were my grandmother’s collection of Limoges boxes. Limoges is a city in France famously known for its porcelain. They produce beautiful hand-painted trinket boxes of all shapes, sizes and affinities and my grandmother spent a lot of time collecting them to see the joy in my face opening each one up every time I would come visit. Sometimes there was a little something inside, like a baguette inside of the picnic basket, or a passport inside of the little luggage bag. While I am still awaiting the cabinet, she has passed down my favorite Limoges boxes that will now sit in a similar case in Sterling’s room. I have added to her collection, and hope she has as much fun discovering these one day as I did. We also sell Limoges at Paula Rallis Home and a few are from my grandmother’s personal collection. You can shop them here.
I don’t smoke (only the very rare cigarette when I’m in Paris or a late night in NYC and really feeling my alter ego that I call Maxine), but little vintage ashtrays have always caught my eye. The first I purchased was about eight years ago at a vintage shop in Virginia that carried china and flatware from hotels around the world. I spotted a tiny white porcelain ashtray from Hotel Monaco and had to have it. Since then I have added quite a few, including one from the Ritz Paris, and an old Harvard one that I ironically found in a flea market in Paris. I spread them out on my coffee table or next to the guest beds and love when I find new ones. And I have a few friends that get a kick out of actually using them. A beautiful Lalique ashtray is now available at the store.
3. Fitz and Floyd Green Dragon China
I have never liked china. I wasn’t the girl that went to the store to pick her pattern and registered for every piece. I actually despised the thought of a formal dinner with every piece. But then I was in a vintage shop and spotted this china pattern with a green dragon on it. It was Fitz and Floyd from the 70’s and I had to have it. I started scouring for it, searching Ebay for pieces to bring my collection together. Then I went over to my mother’s and she served me dinner on nothing else than green dragon china. We will continue fighting over it until one of us gives up and hands the other the collection.
4. Hermès Turbans
I no longer remember which Hermès was my first, but I now have five. I am not much of a scarf person (which I also collect), but I can get down with a turban. I collect the vintage ones, most of mine are from the 40’s and 50’s, sewn together with the cap inside and the Hermès tag. I love them all and each time I find a new one I have to have it.
5. French Confit Pots
I don’t need many, but my French confit pots bring in the right mix of old to my modern and new. Originally used for food storage (meats, usually duck), they were buried in the ground to preserve. The tops are either mustard yellow or green, the bottom half left unglazed. I’ve come across a few in French flea markets and I pick them up when I can. They are more rare than my other collectibles and usually quite expensive when I find them, so I’ve kept a few and currently have one available at Paula Rallis Home.
My grandmother and mom collect the more rare glass and sterling silver versions, but I prefer the all white or Limoges versions of the French match striker. These are so fun when I find them and I try to keep them stocked at Paula Rallis Home as much as I can!
It started with the menus handed down to me from my great grandfather, a French chef. They were menus from family dinners in France, one from my grandmother’s communion. I love them, they are framed next to a photo of him in his restaurant, and beside that his copper pots. I now love finding old, handwritten menus and thinking about the meals, the combinations and flavors and the conversation that may have happened around the table. I may have even swiped a few menus from my favorite restaurants in Paris after a memorable evening…
8. Leather books
My grandmother has a huge collection of leather books, most of them carried back from London when she was doing interior design projects. I have a few of hers, and others that I have started adding. They look beautiful on a bookshelf or styled on a table. We also have a few collections at Paula Rallis Home.
While all of my vintage rings are family heirlooms, I feel like they are my favorite item to be handed down. When I’m at my mom’s or my grandmother’s, I love going through their rings and asking what I can add to my stack. My current line up is a mix of my great grandmother’s ring, my grandmother’s ring, a family crest piece, my Harvard class ring and my baby rings. I always look at rings when I’m at flea markets and could spend hours staring at them. Finding one small enough is always a task, but when I do I feel like it was meant to be. There is still one I regret not making mine at the Chelsea flea market in New York.
10. Vintage coupe glasses
My obsession with vintage coupes started at a dinner in New York City. I have always loved a cocktail in a coupe glass, but the owner’s collection at the bar at JoJo is next level. I don’t know if my collection will ever be to this level, but one can certainly dream.
11. Veuve Clicquot related things
Yes, I love Veuve Clicquot. It’s the only champagne I drink and I have started hoarding brand related items. From the yearly VC Polo Classic I have my limited edition skateboard and a few umbrellas. From the vineyards in Reims I have four glasses and two vintage bottles – one from 1979 and one from 1989, the years Ron and I were born. And from the flea markets of Paris I have champagne buckets that I love, and a few currently at Paula Rallis Home.
12. Willy Guhl planters
Another Paris flea market love story – my Willy Guhl planters. Willy Guhl was a Swiss designer that worked with Eternit, and made stunning pieces of furniture, his most famous being his chairs and planters. I have brought a few back from Paris, and found a few in the states. My favorite is the handkerchief planter. I have three at the house and a few at the store. I also love the hourglass planter, I have them on either side of my front door, and one by the front door of the store. We have a few of each available at Paula Rallis Home.