Debi Lilly is a creative force of nature: She is the name behind a mini empire which includes A Perfect Event, the top event planning company in Chicago, a spokesperson and product designer for a line of home decor products for Safeway/Albertsons, author of the book A Perfect Event, owner of a design and home shop, and editor in chief of the quarterly online magazine A Perfect Event.(I have contributed articles to the magazine in the past). Debi was recently named Best Wedding Planner 2015 in the US by Martha Stewart Weddings, Top Event Innovator 2014 by Biz Bash, Top Pinterest Expert 2015 by Refinery 29 and worked for more than ten years on the Oprah Winfrey show as her favorite pro in addition to planning many of her events.
Debi comes to Paris every summer for a month to soak up inspiration and ideas for her business. I sat down with Debi for an interview at her new favorite design shop and cafe, L’etre Ange (which I introduced her to)while she indulged in their sinful hot chocolate. Enjoy!
When was the first time you came to Paris and what were your impressions?
I spent a semester abroad in college, at Richmond College, London. We came over to Paris for a great, big beautiful Bastille Day holiday weekend and I feel so madly, deeply in love. Paris is so beautiful in every way – magnificent architecture, history at every single turn, art and music everywhere we look. The French value history, and so do I. Every single hotel or 17th Century home on Ile St Louis has a plaque stating when it was built, artists and composers who lived there and when…I just love it.
You have come to Paris every summer for a month for the last eleven years. What is it about Paris that makes you return every year?
The inspiration found in Paris truly feeds my creative spirit for my daily design projects. France invented Haute Cuisine – so menu ideas, food and cocktail trends here are unlike any other I’ve seen in travels. Paris is the apex of fashion, style – so floral, color and pattern trends are gleaned from window shopping along the fabric and textile streets of rue de Mail, Place Furstemberg in St Germain, and of course chic St Honore or Marais boutiques.
Maison et Objet is the gold standard design show each January/September, and is truly one of the most beautiful few days I have each year. Your head could explode there is so much incredible color, style and creativity in every building. And then, when you leave the show, the romantic streets of Paris Design Week, an overlapping textile expo, literally explodes happy out onto the streets of design houses and shops with live music, cocktails, editors, designers, and more.
Plus, even more beautiful is the deep culture France has around celebrating meals together at the table. We spend evenings together with friends, and with the children, sit at the table talking, laughing, sipping, tasting for 3+ hours. Time spent together at the table here is sacred, enjoyed, and the essence of family and friends. I try very hard to carry this tradition back to the states with me each trip.
What inspiration have you found in Paris this summer so far?
I’m currently designing a new Fall Winter collection for Debi Lilly Design – our floral and home décor collection for Safeway Alberstons Grocery in the US/Canada – and always fall in love with new flower, color, design trends here – like tiny nano bouquets inside Happy, a florist on rue Montorgeuil, or the beautiful bouquets in Dani Roses on rue St Honore. Dani’s mixing muted, antique hued pastels in coordinating metal containers – like a soft, dusty lavender rose with a burnished, antique silver vase.
What are some of the French trends and styles you adapted into your events in the last few years?
I could talk endlessly about menu and cocktail inspirations I use daily in our events. Candlearia, in the Marais, “spanks” (or slaps) their herbs on the wrist to release the natural oils and scents before placing them into cocktails. We don’t throw a party without spanking Candlearia style at the bar. With all credit given to the origin – of course!
Verrines (tastes layered in a glass) is another huge trend we brought back – you don’t see these in the states – from savory to sweet, starters to desserts – it’s one of my favorite party trends.
What are your favorite home and design shops in Paris?
Tresorerie in Place Republique for housewares, Gien on rue Jacob for new tabletop/china trends, Merci for trend ideas, BHV for the mecca housewares floor, The Conran Shop on rue de Bac for incredible new product designs, Le Bon Marche for gourmet everything, Laduree for patisserie and product display inspiration…plus the gorgeous history of products at Marche Vanves, Marche St Ouen…
Who are some of your French style idols?
Christian Dior, now Raf Simons (Did you see Dior and I? Obsessed!) Philippe Starck (I always stay in his hotels, eat in his restaurants) Louis Vuitton, Karl Lagerfeld, Coco Chanel, Carla Bruni, Ines de la Fressange, to name but a few.
You recently opened DL Loft, a Parisian style event space. Can you tell us about the space?
Oh, this space makes me so happy. It’s our own little bit of Paris brought to Chicago. We’ve created a space to replicate the famous Salons of Paris in the 17th Century – where like minded friends, artists, hosts, gather to share inspiration, to create, to celebrate.
It’s a fully styled Parisian Loft for anyone to rent – to gather friends, throw a party, style a photo shoot, rent for the weekend and live there.
We spend as much time there as we can – it’s just so beautiful.
If you could create an event for anyone in history, living or dead, who would it be and what kind of event would you plan?
Oh – that’s easy – who doesn’t want to throw a Champagne and cakes party for Marie Antoinette in the gorgeous gardens of Versailles?
Photo credits- Anthony Tahlier, Carasco Photo, Simply by Suzy, Amy Boyle Photography First photo Richard Nahem
Come experience Eye Prefer Paris live with Eye Prefer Paris Tours, which are 3-hour walking tours I personally lead. Eye Prefer Paris Tours include many of the places I have written about such as small museums & galleries, restaurants, cafes, food markets, secret addresses, fashion & home boutiques, parks and gardens and much more. In addition to my specialty Marais Tour, I also lead tours of Montmartre, St. Germain, Latin Quarter, in addition to Shopping Tours, Gay Tours, Girlfriend Tours, Food Tours, Flea Market Tours, Paris Highlights Tours, and Chocolate & Pastry tours.
Tours start at 225 euros for up to 3 people, and 75 euros for each additional person. I look forward to meeting you on my tours and it will be my pleasure and delight to show you my insiders Paris.
Check it out at www.eyepreferparistours.com
Click here to watch a video of our famous Marais tour
New! Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes
I am happy to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes. Come take an ethnic culinary journey with me and chef and caterer Charlotte Puckette, co-author of the bestseller The Ethnic Paris Cookbook (with Olivia Kiang-Snaije). First we will shop at a Paris green-market for the freshest ingredients and then return to Charlotte's professional kitchen near the Eiffel Tower to cook a three-course lunch. After, we will indulge in the delicious feast we prepared along with hand-selected wines.
Cost: 195 euros per person (about $210)
Time: 9:30AM- 2PM (approximately 4 1/2 hours)
Location: We will meet by a metro station close to the market
Class days: Tuesday,Wednesday, Thursday,Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
Minimum of 2 students, maximum 6 students.
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