Style | The Aesthete

Jane Birkin talks personal style: Part Two

The actress, singer and film director reveals more of her tastes, temptations and indulgences.

February 19 2010
Maria Shollenbarger

My style icon is my mother, for her class. She really made an effort: she sometimes changed her clothes three times a day.

The site that inspires me is my brother Andrew’s wild place in north Wales. He has a laboratory for chemical research and perfume discovery, and a library full of gothic sculls and strange mementos, where I listen to the music he’s discovered, and his stories, and all his knowledge.

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Vuillard, or Bonnard. I like their nudes for the Proustian velvet décor, with the Turkish carpets, and the surprising compositions audaciously framing half a body. Also for the humour – the moving faces, the shocked cats. I have posters of their work taped up all over.

The last meal that truly impressed me was just recently, in Mulhouse, Alsace; so at once German, French and Swiss. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but I had a sort of dumpling in broth and boiled beef with horseradish sauce.

The people I rely on for grooming and style include Jacques Moisant for hair colour and Moulié et Savard for flowers. Jacques Moisant, 93 Rue Seine, Paris 75006 (+331-4633 5121; Fleuriste Moulié et Savard, 8 place du Palais Bourbon, Paris 75007 (+331-4551 7843).

The best souvenir I’ve brought home is not a choice I can make! There are tiles from Lisbon, Canadian bacon for all three girls [daughters Charlotte Gainsbourg, Lou Doillon and Kate Barry], cheese for all the kids and grandkids from Switzerland (I go on tour with a crate of it), water gourds from Greece, sponges from Istanbul, hubble-bubble narghile pipes from Palestine…

An indulgence I’d never forego is dark chocolate. And kissing.

My favourite room is the kitchen. I have a little table for five and a high chair, a banquette, Turkish carpets lining the walls, a tiny chandelier... it’s cosy, and I love feeding people.

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose my own – Paris’ Sixth Arrondisement, around the Rue Jacob. There’s Yveline Antiquités on the Rue Furstenberg for eccentric objects. Opposite is Braquenié, where all the wallcovering and fabrics I’ve bought in the past 40 years come from. Isabel Marant, who makes good jerseys and tees, has taken root on the corner, and just near my flat is Michelle Aragon, an interiors shop with beds, coverlets, old Victorian cushions – I’d just like to go to sleep in her window. And down the street is Pharmacie Zagorski, where Saad, who is the kindest man, makes his own herbal teas and creams. Braquenié, 1-2 Rue Furstenberg (+331-4633 7300). Isabel Marant, 1 Rue Jacob (+331-4326 0412; Michele Aragon, 21 Rue Jacob (+331-4325 8769). Pharmacie Zagorski, 6 Rue Jacob (+331-4326 9969; Yveline Antiquités, 4 Rue Furstenberg (+331-4326 5691).

The last music I bought was the new record from Charlotte. I ran to Fnac to boost the sales – and it was number one! IRM by Charlotte Gainsbourg,

If I didn’t live in Paris, the city I would live in is London, to be near my sister. I’d try a different spot from Old Church Street in Kensington [where I grew up], though, as I miss Ma and Pa too much. But Highgate, or Hampstead; maybe a mad old vicar’s house... dream on.