Talking With Betty Lou Phillips About French Refreshed: Why Simplicity is the New Luxury

photos by Danny Piassick

Meet the author as she signs copies of French Refreshed, Wednesday, October 2, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Ralph Lauren in Highland Park Village. Ten percent of sales during the event will be donated to Children’s Health hospital. RSVP to curtis.gribble@ralphlauren.com.

Betty Lou Phillips has written 30 books, 14 of which are on French and Italian design. The prolific, award-winning interior designer’s work has been featured in countless glossy magazines and newspapers, and the Dallas-based designer has also been on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Clearly, she loves design work and loves writing about it.

Betty Lou Phillips

But, did you know, she first started her career writing about football and cheerleaders? 

That may help explain how Phillips’ latest book proves so perfectly that simplicity is the new era of design chic. Icy formality and the overly ornate are gone, passé. Far from the stuffy extravagances and opulence associated with three French kings, whose chairs none of us find very comfortable anyhow, clean beautiful design is the true reflection of the culture of French design.

Oh, how we hope so many people read her book. Required reading indeed for every high-end luxury agent!

Through stunning photography by Dallas’s own Danny Piassick, a photographic genius who has beautifully shot all of Phillips’ books, and her always clear prose, French Refreshed (Gibbs Smith, $50), focuses on clean-lined, French-inspired interiors that incorporate sumptuous colors with contemporary art and furnishings. 

“People do not respect the French when there is highly unusual taste,” says Phillips. “More-is-more no longer works. Even the grandest dames of Parisian hotels gleam now with pared-down sophistication. Rooms we are fashioning today are a lot less formal.”

Even French rooms, and even Dallas. Our city, says Phillips, is a sophisticated metropolis and we are building on tradition with a definite emphasis on pared-down decor.

 

Though Phillips has covered the gamut on homes loaded with so much lavishly gilded furnishings and crystal one almost needed a Hubert de Givenchy ballgown to enter them, she has also penned about, and designed rustically elegant Italianate villas. My point: there is no one better to ask about current styles and where we are going with all this Midcentury and moderne influence.

I had to ask: is traditional design truly morte?

Mais non!

“There could be a reversal to traditional style,” says Phillips. “The design flavor of this year’s Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse, always a bellwether for design, was traditional both this year and last.”

Now Swedish design, says Phillips, is making an appearance, probably because Swedish can be less costly than French.

“But French design reigns supreme as tastemakers,” says Phillips. As she writes:

“Today’s chic settings are sleek, fresh, and brimming with contemporary flair. French leanings are visible –passionate attention to detail, balanced proportions, and kingly artisanship. Quality matters. Fussiness, has lost its panache.”

“Harmony is more important than conforming to all these past ideals,” says Phillips. “We like introducing & acquiring pieces from distant different periods. Bar carts are replacing skirted tables. Not so large curtains are no longer puddling on the floors. Furniture is floating, not hugging the walls. People ARE using traditional furniture, but with a more current look.”

Think pendant lights, contemporary art. French Refreshed demonstrates how to fuse French glamour and comfort with upscale design sensibilities that better meld with 21st century American life. And no one shows it better than Betty Lou Phillips.

Again, meet the author this evening as she signs copies of French Refreshed, Wednesday, October 2, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Ralph Lauren in Highland Park Village. Ten percent of sales during the event will be donated to Children’s Health hospital. RSVP for the event to curtis.gribble@ralphlauren.com.