Whilst designing the interior of this Parisian ‘bistrot du quartier’, Elliott Barnes found his inspiration in the alchemy between Chef Daniel Rose’s Chicago origins, details from traditional bistro codes and the locale’s history and name which was conserved from the previous owner.
But first there is a story to tell…
‘It was a grey blustery late October afternoon in a now forgotten year. A young chef in a steel blue pea coat, originally from Chicago, walks into a well-known local bistrot at 12 rue de Vivienne in Paris, just behind the Palais Royale. As he enters and moves to take a seat he is confronted by an aged hooded malfrat, who coarsely barks out to our unsuspecting diner, “la bourse ou la vie” or “your money or your life”! Taken aback but with a bit of Cook County insolence our chef reaches into his pocket for a few aged francs. With a smirk on his face our chef extends his hand and tosses over a few sous. But unable to catch his heist, the aged thief watches as the coins fall to the floor. As the resonating sound of metal hitting stone fills the sparsely occupied establishment the impetuous gaze of our clever chef fixes the beady scowled eyes of the discombobulated thief. Before the tings of clinking change had the chance to fade away, our failed scoundrel ran off. Content that he had foiled this petty crime and most certainly avoided grave bodily harm, the chef turned and bent down to pick up the dated coins only to find that they had magically become part of the establishment’s floor. Quizzically looking around our chef saw the owner approaching. He was asked if he needed help and if he was the person coming to see about purchasing this local eatery. When the chef answered yes, the owner began to explain the history of the place. But with complete conviction in his voice our chef cut him off mid-sentence saying « pas besoin de m’expliquer… je le prends tel quel; et surtout ne toucher à rien! » And so inspired by the curiousness of the event and happy to have escaped with his life, the chef re-baptized the bistro: La Bourse et La Vie – Your Money and Your Life.’
The nature of the bistrot is closer to the mise en valeur and assemblage of known processes and products than the creation of a new culinary expression. Thus, the esprit of the interiors proposed for La Bourse et La Vie turns more around the orchestration of various trouvailles or found objects than the imposition of a homogenous and perhaps abstract novel interior design concept.
The process began by the chef’s decision to conserve the existing name, but with a slight meaningful adjustment, and to conserve the existing mirrored and molded wood interior. With that as the recipe the interiors of the project became an assemblage of details from the codes of traditional bistros. The details used were: the voilage at the vitrine to provide intimacy from the street and to help forget the day; a velour entry curtain rendered in blue as a reference to the blue of Chicago; globe light fixtures, from Gino Sarfati designed in1965 and found at the Gallery Kreo in Paris; a central ceiling fixture, here treated a plat as if the hanging object had been recessed into the ceiling; the comptoir with a zinc countertop and stained oak skirting, all expressed with a contemporary simplified line that speaks primarily about its form and function; the ardoise for the daily specials; the mirror at the vitrine banquet to see your guest arrive before they see you; the open glass cabinet for digestifs; the oak tables with a modern thin brass pinstripe that prevents the wood edges from wear while also referencing traditional bistro tables with their brass cerclage; the aged oak floor with a brass frame and a resin cement border that is carried through from the kitchen; and the traditional bistro chairs which were found at a brocante in Lille. The only truly contemporary creation is seen in two wall textured inserts placed where two mirrors once sat in former times. Taking cues from aged mirrors but also evoking 18th century pittoresque scenes, these two original works were realized by the decorative painting company Fresco of New York. The color for the wood interior and the graphite and gold rechampie were executed by AC Matières Paris.
“A bistro is about a narrative, a process rather than an idea.” – Elliott Barnes
Through the orchestration of traditional details, techniques, and contemporary interpretations, and by juxtaposing modern and traditional objects, La Bourse et La Vie maintains its position as a true ‘bistro du quartier’.