The dazzling colors and patterns of a French region whose natural beauty inspired some of the greatest modern artists - Cezanne, Picasso, Renoir, Matisse, Chagall and Van Gogh - to do their finest work is the inspiration today for a new European-style fine linen shop in the Village.
Besides fine linens, Sylvie Jourdan at 1137 Prospect St. also carries home accents and accessories, as well as bath products, primarily from France and Italy.
"We are the exclusive retailer of these products from the Provence area in the south of France," said Frederic Nottoli, store manager. "We are importing all the fabrics, linens, tablecloths, etc. It's not the type of product you can find everywhere. We have good prices because we are a wholesaler, too. Our collection is huge."
Provence, France is noted for the remarkable hues of pewter, bronze, dark green, deep red, lavender and orange which paint the countryside of the province that includes the famed cities of Avignon and Marseille. The heart of Provence is in the hills that bind the sea to the Alps, with its sloping vineyards, cultivated lands and colorful scenery that charmed Cezanne, Van Gogh, Chagall and Giono.
Nottoli noted the store also carries art work by a local French painter, Catherine Dauphin, whose paintings of flowers and birds complement the retail space's charming and engaging ambiance.
The product line at Sylvie Jourdan also includes accessories like seat cushions, placemats, bread baskets, kitchen aprons and dish towels.
"I also have different lines of French cosmetics," said Nottoli, "soaps and lotions and ceramics from the south of France and from Italy too."
The linen boutique carries specialty items like Laguiole knives and servers which are distinguished by their superior craftsmanship. Said Nottoli: "The products, which have been made since the 17th century, are forged by hand. It's one piece of metal from the beginning to the end. They use surgical steel."
The front of the shop features an array of designer beach bags for women, plus other accessories like seat cushions and bread baskets. Along with the bags is an assortment of ladies' broad-brimmed sun hats. One table in the front sports a colorful ceramic tea service.
Tablecloth lines carried include several varieties for formal occasions, as well as less costly cloths that can be used for outdoor patio tables. Tablecloths start at about $29 and go well above $100 in price, largely depending on the type of fabric used.
What's the main difference between French and domestic linens? According to French painter Catherine Dauphin, its the long history behind the European product. "The French have a tradition for linen," she said. "It takes a long time. In France they've been making fabrics a lot longer than in the United States. French linen has very fine threads. Women also prefer the colors of linens from Provence, which is a textile manufacturing center."
Nottoli added French linens use only Egyptian cotton. "It's the best quality you can find," he said. "It's washable. It doesn't shrink."
Dauphin added the boutique jogs some customers' memories. "People say, 'Oh, it reminds us of France,' " she said.
Another section at the linen boutique features spices and herbs like rosemary. There are oil and vinegar sets, and serving trays. The boutique even carries a kid's line of aprons named "Petite Cook."
In the rear of the store is the bath section with oils and lavender sachets and monogrammed dishtowels.
The product line at Sylvie Jourdan includes tablecloths galore in cotton and polyester, even coated to make them weather-resistant for use outside. The company also offers lines of clothing including kimono-style robes, long- and short-sleeve pajamas, night shirts, camisoles with shorts and sleep dresses.
Nottoli said he got involved selling French linens in kind of a roundabout way. "I was trying to find something to do here," he said, "and I'm from this area (Provence) and I started importing these products. I've been in business about seven years."
Sylvie Jourdan will ship merchandise anywhere.
Hours at Sylvie Jourdan are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Sunday the store is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
For more information call (858) 551-5125 or visit www.sylviejourdan.com.