Thursday, August 31, 2006

Rouge et Verte

Laura of Lauralines asked me yesterday, "I'm amazed there are still photos coming from your last trip to Paris!! Did you pre-plan your blog entries and are now unveiling them, bit by bit, till the end of your stash?"

I wish I was that organized. It's more of a stockpile of Paris images randomly recorded. I love going through them - like being there again when I need a Paris fix, and ideas pop into my head in the process. Just made-up theories...

I mentioned there's a bit of a controversy over which is the more "Parisian" of the two cafés - Café de Flore or Les Deux Magots? In Adam Gopnik’s Paris to the Moon, he wrote at length, going into historical factors and issues of snobbism.

He calls it , "the Two-Café Problem". It seems Parisians only want to be seen in the "right" café of the moment, even if it means waiting for a table when there are plenty of empty seats in the café across the street, says Q+a Magazine.
Well, here is my hypothesis, and it's based solely on color theory and nothing else. Color acts on us in unconscious ways and drives us to do things we hadn't planned. The absolute winner of color combinations is rouge et verte or the RED/GREEN combo. It's the best pair of color compliments of all three.
red + green turns up where ever you look. Go to your corner grocery or Farmer's Market. The grocer intuitively understands color theory and never painted a color swatch or had to sit in color theory class for hours.

The RED tomatos are ALWAYS next to the GREEN peppers, lettuce, parsley etc. Christmas, who can avoid it, is a RED/GREEN holiday. RED roses have green stems and you see them every Valentines day, particulary in the hands of those who almost forgot ? Florists understand this intuitively. Red cherries have green stems, making them so much more appealing...someone up there gets color theory.
So what does any of this have to do with "the Two-Café Problem" you ask? Because the Café de Flore has the winning color combination - RED + GREEN. Les Deux Magots, malheureusement (unhappily), chose for their signature colors a creamy Naples yellow (my favorite color) + a deep forest GREEN. It's a classy combo, but it doesn't have the pulling power of the all-time winners, RED + GREEN.
Maybe I should explain a bit more about complementary colors. They enhance each other and effect the brain too. Complimentary colors sit across from each other on the color wheel. So what?

Well, if you have a predominantly green color environment and than add a touch of red, the brain will make that green vibrate like crazy and the red will sing out like Callas. Get the picture?
Café Flore's use of green as an accent color enhances those red chairs and makes it all the more appealing. Did you know that all important cafés in Paris have their own proprietary chaise (chair) designs and their own proprietary rattan weave as well? Maison J. Gatti is responsible for these. You can find them stateside at Cafe Society in San Francisco.
The master of the red/green combo is Pierre Hermé. I left a Kremer Pigments red color chart in his rue Bonaparte shop and realized belatedly that I'd forgotten to bring along the green color chart. Quelle disastre! Next visit in 52 days...

So, sorry Deux Magot, your signature colors are très classy and I'd take a set of your breakfast crockery anyday over Flore's. Your chocolate chaud is hands down the winner on the boulevarde, but you can't compete with the red/green combo. Adam Gopnik would have a good giggle if he read this... Nevermind color is powerful and even trés chic Parisians are not immune. So that's my theory on "the Two-Café Problem".


  1. I adore all the colors of "real" they relate the "wheel" is even more enchanting.

  2. Anonymous5:09 PM

    This is an interesting theory. I love colours and the influence they have on us.

  3. Anonymous5:23 PM

    Hi colorful Carol,
    For those of us who live in the country, the very first peeps of color in the early Spring are the compliments of yellow and violet in crocus, daffodils, forsythia, etc. At this time of year (in the Northeast)I know summer is over when I hear acorns pinging as they drop onto my neighbor's metal shed...a "colorful" sound, at the very least.
    S. Jersey Boy

  4. Wow, your theory is most intriguing. I can't wait to visit newyorkdely in late september hopefully and we'll scrutinize cafe de flore's use of color together!

  5. Cityfarmer - it's hard to know which came 1st, a chicken/egg situation. But historically the colorful REAL food has the upper hand on the color wheel, a recent addition to most artist's studio - food for thought...

    Hi Britt- yes, color is so strong where you live. It tends to get played down in NYC-too much grey and black around for my taste. The grit seems to take I look for it elsewhere.

    Jersey Boy, it's true that spring is full of pastels and maybe that's why the strong colors red/green predominate in the winter months - to cheer us up and pull us through. I can't recall which color family an acorn belongs in, but certainly Autumn's falling leaves, turning from green to red/yellow are in the primary first family.

    Moi - please do test out my theory with newyorkdely, though I think she should change her name to newyorkDelpy..separated at birth etc.

  6. OMG, the colorful vegetables and fruits are vibrant and enticing to look at and I love the chairs at the cafes. You took some great pictures

  7. Anonymous10:34 PM

    I am so happy that you discovered my blog! I have been lurking on yours for a while now, your work and shared information is wonderful! In regards to Flicker... do you use it? has it been helpful? I don't really know where to start, any info or ideas you could share with me would be greatly apprecited... Thanks again, lets not stay strangers!!!

  8. most interesting. I have often speculated to myself why the Flore is still branché but the Deux Magots left to the tourists. I'll have to reread Gopnick's essay, for sure. But I really like your color theory idea. To a large extent I think (French) people go to the Flore because it's still very "m'as-tu vu" but perhaps the tastemakers go there because they're hypnotized by the red and green woven chairs...

    here's a question for you. why is it that the walls of all the hipstery/bobo cafes in Paris are all painted the same shade of beat-up maize? if you haven't noticed, I invite you to take a look around you next time you're in le pause cafe or any of its ilk!

  9. Maitress-
    Beat-up maize walls? You've got me stumped there. A faux look for nostalgia's sake? I haven't made it to these haunts. Too much chocolate shop investigating. But I will à la prochaine in 51 days for sure.

  10. I read somewhere that pumpkin yellow/orange is a welcoming colour in terms of decorating. It was in one of my colour harmony books. Psychologically, one tends to feel at home when ensconced in a yellow/orange room. Apparently.

    BTW, thanks for the Dewey book heads up, PB. It has one of the best colour theory explanations I've seen yet.

  11. Anonymous6:09 AM

    A wonderful series of photos and thoughts! I remember one of the first photos of yours I saw was the cherry one, where you pointed out the juxtaposition of red and green. Maybe Flore is where you and Red Shoes and I should meet! Of course, you and I will have to wear green shoes, if we do ;D.

  12. i found you here through your flickr profile (you made me a contact, so I headed over to see who is making me a contact) ... and I'm glad I did - you have a wonderful upbeat writing style on your blog -- I like this post about your two cafe theory blended with classic color theory. What I like best is looking at food with color theory and color psychology in mind -- and your photos sprinkled in the mix, like flecks of fresh ground pepper, spice up the text perfectly. wonderful photos! I will most definitely be back.
    Maureen (aka MontanaRaven on flickr)

    btw, I've been having trouble with the beta-version of my blogs, so if you can't leave comments, come back to visit my blog in a week or so hopefully blogger will fix the problem soon.

  13. Love all of these marvellous things! Your blog is so pretty and the colour scheme is divine!


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