Thursday, September 06, 2007

Rouge et Vert, Red - Green

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.
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 vert or the RED/GREEN combo.
It's the best pair of color compliments of all 3.
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.

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 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 RED + GREEN.

I'll 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 all important cafés in Paris have their own proprietary chaise 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 all-time master of the red/green combo is Pierre Hermé. 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 might have a 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".
*Reposted from August 31,2006


  1. Anonymous7:04 AM

    I could re read your blog a hundred times and never row tired of it. Red or Green, Pink or Blue you ring true!

  2. Anonymous8:03 AM

    I agree with that color combination, a true winner (that also makes maple leaves stand out against other still green other trees in early fall).
    To me the traditional cafe chair however is the 1900 blond and brown, round back from Gatti that can still be seen at Le Nemours place Colette.
    Gatti is one of the last few companies making cafe chairs.
    The rest come from Asia.
    Other than this, I enjoyed your posting as always.

  3. What a great way to start my morning! Color and cafe! Could use some cafe and a great cafe view....or just some of that naples yellow, and a croissant. Merci encore.

  4. Anonymous9:28 AM

    Chere Carol~

    I enjoy your "repost's"
    (riposte?) what a great idea~

    And, my living rooms and dining
    rooms and green. I
    never tire of them.

  5. Anonymous9:29 AM

    I can never get enough of red and green peppers.
    Is it the colors or the taste?
    Nice to know the GREEN grocer has the same idea!

  6. Enjoyed your post this morning. Color is a powerful tool. I have bought more things because of color combinations. The red and Green chairs ARE more appealing to go sit in.
    We all can use refresher course's in color theory. Thanks.

  7. In April I ordered the breakfast basket with coffee and fresh orange juice. I ate all 8 baked items and never noticed the Naples yellow I was sitting in...

  8. Color, color...oh how the world would be without color! I love all your photo's showing the vibrant colors, how beautiful it all looks.

  9. What I learn here... I can see it in the first two pictures, I can actually see it!!!! The energy. The second is lovely, but not the vibrancy of the first... wow!

  10. p.s. but when I am there... if there is no open table at rouge et vert... and the beautiful calm of lemongrass yellow is wide open... that is where I will be sipping my coffee and nibbling my croissants...

  11. I agree with all you say about colour, and what a pleasure to read. Adam Gopnik’s Paris to the Moon was poetry to my eyes... now I just can't wait to get on a train to Paris and see it all for myself (especially the cakes!).

  12. I couldn't agree more. I was doing art direction on a photo shoot on Tuesday and the kitchen we were shooting looked drab so I placed a bowl of mint. red peppers and a 1/4 water melon and the whole room changed.
    So les deux magots doesn't have the best colours but we are meeting there for breakfast next month so we will brighten the place up for them. We need to fix a date.

  13. The Harvey above is ME. He had logged into Google on my computer and I hadn't noticed.

  14. Great post. Love that pepper picture.

  15. I did have that sense of déjà vu ... ;-) I loved that post the first time around and am glad you showed it again. ;-)

  16. I'll bite here...I read your blog every day, but today I wonder...if red peppers are in the grocery store display, the odds are that they will always be near something green because so many vegetables are green in the first place.. It's true, right? Are the majority of vegetables green?

  17. Anonymous11:20 AM

    Carol - I am so glad you posted that one again, with so many blogs to check out, I really don't get a chance to go into the archives. Reading your blog is such a pleasure, it heightens my awareness of the colors around me, thanks so much...

  18. Anonymous5:35 AM

    Pleased not to be colour-blind !!! Those 2 colours would be a problem for me!

  19. Hello, I've just discovered your blog and love your beautiful watercolors. This theory is intriguing and I'm pretty sure that you're right - Café de Flore is definitely the most desirable of the two.


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