This is a story of what happens when we hold on to our dreams. It begins with a steamer trunk. An enormous trunk with a 1950s sticker reading “Liberté,” to be exact, that once belonged to Anne Sheldon-Duplaix’s grandparents and accompanied them on countless moves back and forth between New York and Europe. On ocean liners bound for Geneva, Washington, Rome, New York, and Paris, her grandparents hauled the trunk along, storing their worldly possessions in it. Anne’s parents later inherited the trunk and placed it in their country home in the North of France. The family heirloom was passed on to Anne, who moved it to her home in Paris. There she began filling it with fabrics, “an ikat from a trip to Bali, ginghams from the Marché Saint Pierre in Montmartre, indigoes friends brought back from Japan, handwoven khadis sent from a friend in India… At the time, I was a writer but I longed to make clothes and nestled my dreams into the trunk.” Anne and her husband Nicolas, a designer and consultant, eventually moved with the steamer trunk from Paris to San Francisco where Anne studied fashion design. Anne continued collecting fabrics, storing them in her beloved trunk. In 2008 the couple moved to New York City. But Anne was still too busy, now designing for companies, and continued putting off her dream. “One day, I’ll do something with these fabrics, I kept telling myself. One day!”
And then one day Anne opened the steamer trunk. She took out the fabrics she had so lovingly and thoughtfully collected through the years and began sewing clothes for her daughter Emma. Eventually, she made clothes for others. Today Anne owns an online shop, L’Éditeur, where she sells children’s clothing made from the fabrics in her steamer trunk. Anne’s once nestled dream has become a reality. Each dress or shirt she designs and sews in her East Village, NYC home is a treasure, the result of years spent hoping and holding on to her “promising fabrics.”
It should come as no surprise that Anne, Nicolas, and Emma’s home, located in a 1928 Art Deco building, is itself a thoughtfully collected treasure. The apartment has windows in every room, including the two bathrooms and closet, and faces south. “Even though we’re in the middle of Manhattan, it’s really quiet. We face the backyard and we can hear the birds singing from the trees growing in front of our windows, and the bells from the church nearby… Closing your eyes, you could be in the countryside (with a few sirens in the distance).” The couple also loves that they can walk everywhere downtown, taking the train or a cab only when going uptown to a museum or Central Park. Inside and out, their home is a creative weaving of city and country.
But the tranquil, luminous space Anne and Nicolas have created was once a patchwork of colors and textures. There were at least five different floor finishes and colored walls everywhere. Anne and Nicolas worked with a contractor and stripped down the layers of floor finishes to the original concrete. A super thin layer of fresh concrete was poured throughout the home (with the exception of the bathrooms). They also painted the walls, beams, and steam pipes a uniform white, Benjamin Moore’s Decorator White, and installed an IKEA kitchen. The result is a foundation that is both simple and versatile, drawing one’s eye to walls filled with art made mostly by family and friends and objects that have traveled with Anne and Nicolas across ocean and nation, following in the legacy of her grandparents. Anne’s story is proof of what happens when we hold on to our dreams, nestling them someplace safe and sacred, until the day we can finally open them up. —Liberty
Photography by Anne Sheldon-Duplaix