Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Walter Lees, A Scot in Paris

I wasn't lying when I wrote that I had added many titles from Adam Lewis' book list to my own wish list. In fact, I purchased one that arrived over the weekend, The Finest Houses Of Paris by Jean-Bernard Naudin and Christiane de Nicolay-Mazury. Let's just say that I totally understand why Lewis considers this a favorite book. The featured homes are absolutely stunning in that very French, opulent, sumptuous kind of way. And while I find these kind of interiors mesmerizing to look at, it was a different kind of home that captured my attention: the Paris apartment of Walter Lees. It's not quite as layered and heavy as some of the other homes. I would call it the palate cleanser of the book.

Lees, a Scotsman who died in February of last year, led a fascinating life that included being captured as a German POW during World War II, venturing to New Delhi as part of Mountbatten's staff, and later serving as attaché to the British Embassy in Paris, a position that he held for decades. Hubert de Givenchy was one of Lees' closest confidantes, though Lees also counted Sir Duff and Lady Diana Cooper, Dame Margot Fonteyn, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and Alberto Giacometti as friends. Based on what I have read, it doesn't seem that he let this heady group of friends go to his head.

As I said earlier, what caught my eye was the restraint that Lees exhibited when decorating his apartment- a far cry from the lavish homes shown throughout this book. Perhaps we could credit this to his Scottish upbringing, or perhaps it was because Lees had a "good eye." When Christies auctioned off Lees' treasures last year, Givenchy wrote the following in the corresponding catalogue: "Walter, who was such a dear and special friend, had perfect taste- sober, simple, elegant, and refined." And that is exactly how I would describe Lees' Paris home as well.

Image at top is Walter Lees greeting guests on a rainy day in Paris.

The small living room would not have looked out of place in New York. The mirrored walls made the small space seem bigger than it was, while the David Hicks rug added a shot of pattern to the room. The sofa was covered in white piqué.

The bath. Notice the view out of the window that was reflected in the mirror. Charming.

Even the storage area oozed style. Look how fantastic the orderly array of plates, crystal, and wine look against the glass brick wall.

Lees liked to entertain and did so with great flair. What I'm taken with are those embroidered napkins. His rooftop apartment overlooked Les Invalides, which appears to be the building embroidered on Lees' linen. If your home looks out onto something interesting, you should consider having your table linen embroidered with that landmark. I overlook a duck pond, but I don't think that would have quite the same effect as an embroidered Les Invalides.

All images from The Finest Houses Of Paris, text by Chrstiane de Nicolay-Nazery, Jean-Bernard Naudin photographer.


  1. A gorgeous apartment....I cannot wait to have an in depth look at this book....Thank you for the recommendation....xv

  2. This apartment is so attractive! I have etched in my memory an earlier view of the bathroom with a blue-gray curtain at the tub with Greek key trim along the leading edge as it was pulled back to reveal the art-filled mirrored bathing alcove. Whether the curtain was silk or nylon is irrelevant; it was the peak of chic!

  3. Fantastic!
    I love everything, the table setting is exquisite!


    Thank you so much for the book lists...as I was able to check down the list...'yes, got that' and 'not for me' and 'got that'...and on down..'got that'... two lists. Excellent.
    I agree that this lovely former Scotsman has fabulous fabulous taste...a word I avoid but in this case his sense of style and consistency and placement are all just perfect. Must be a tiny apartment--and I love the gold everywhere, elegant and sparkling.
    Cheers to you, as always, DIANE

  5. the tabletop was definitely set for a photo shot--one would never have a coffee pot set before the dinner began.

    I too love the embroidered napkins, and the blue thread to match the other table pieces.

  6. Jennifer,

    Thanks for sharing, such a swellegant post!