All posts by Lisa Anselmo

Author of My (Part-Time) Paris Life, branding coach, creative director. If I'm not in New York or Paris, I'm on a plane to one of them. Follow my story at: myparttimeparislife.com

5 Café Deco Trends We’re Over Already

by Lisa Anselmo

If someone were to say “Paris café style” to you, it would probably conjure up some immediate images: bentwood chairs, globe lights, wood paneling, maybe even a zinc bar. There’s a classic look to a café. A tad cliché, maybe, but it has stood the test of time, and somehow never looks dated, much like the American diner.

But even Paris cafés go through a relooking—makeover—every decade or so. Usually the changes stay somewhat within the vernacular: a new awning, a redux of their rattan Maison Gatti chairs, signage redesign. Mostly, it’s a much-needed refresh, yet it still feels Parisian: stylish, but not too trendy.

A Belle Epoque café captured by Ilya Repin in 1875. Wikimedia Commons

THE NEW DESIGN MOTTO: CONFORM OR PERISH

But we’re in a Pinterest world now, where design decisions are crowd-sourced. It’s not about creating a unique look based on your brand identity; it’s about fitting in. With cafés struggling to stay in business, they’re not just renovating, they are actually duplicating each other in a scramble to stay on the map. If one changes their red awning to blue, so does the next one down the street. Aided and inspired by social media, trends sweep the city from quartier to quartier like a contagion, stamping out the authentic and replacing it with the Instagram-able.

“Tropical Chic.” One of the hot trends on Pinterest right now that’s sweeping Paris cafés. Courtesy of Pinterest.

If you’re trying to attract customers, put that money into a good chef and better coffee, and keep the café as is.

Sure, you can argue that there’s a sameness to classic café style, but at least it’s timeless and uniquely Parisian, instead of this soulless caricature of Brooklyn that’s (super)imposing itself on the city. Everyone is conforming to the exact trends, churning them out with zero interpretation: the same industrial furniture, the same cold color palate, the same minimalist feel—like hipster McDonalds franchises—so the look is already played out, even before the paint is dry on that relooking.

GOOD DESIGN IS ETERNAL; BAD DESIGN IS FORGETTABLE

No one is saying modern is bad. We’re talking about bad choices. When you design anything based solely on the trend of the day, you risk a result that might not resonate longterm. It’s just bad business. Cafés spend a lot to renovate—money they can ill afford in this economy—and it’s heartbreaking when they choose styles that will look dated in a year, especially after they’ve gutted their original 100-year-old interior to do it, one that still looked perfectly on brand, and would have for years to come.

Designer Matthew Waldman is famous for saying “the future should not look like the past.” You could add that it also shouldn’t look like the fleeting moment. If you must modernize, think about how your makeover design will look in five years’ time. If it won’t hold up like your current interior, scrap your plan. At the end of the day, if you’re trying to attract customers, put that same money into a good chef and better coffee, and keep the café as is.

Behold, the top 5 trends in café deco that we’re over already:

1: THE NAKED EDISON BULB

An obligatory element in any café makeover. A cool look…5 years ago. It’s a café, not a lab in Menlo Park, New Jersey. Put a lampshade on that thing; you’re burning our retinas.

And speaking of lampshades…

2: THE GIANT WICKER LAMPSHADE

The first time we saw this it seemed sort of design-y, but after the 50th café, Paris is starting to look more like a cheap beach resort. Baskets are for bread.

3: THE METAL STOOL

About as comfortable as sitting on a barbed wire fence, mais non? We’re assuming you don’t want us stay long. Even more fun for your fanny after that thing has been baking in the hot sun all day. Youch!

4: THE TINY TERRACE TABLE

Oh, sweetie, no. Do you really expect two people to eat at this flimsy little thing? There are limits to how far to take a trend. You may have reached it.

5: THE TROPICAL WALLPAPER

Giant palm fronds, pink flamingos—it’s so oddly specific, and so woefully out of place. Yet there it is, hopping from café to café, like a conga line. Even my local has gone Copa Cabana bananas.

My local. With basket lampshades for the full Tropicana effect. Babalu aye!

Top photo: Courtesy of Croco, formerly Café Cassis. Ironically, the idea for Save the Paris Café was born in the defuct Cassis. Croco is an entirely tropical-themed café…except for the food (though it’s pretty decent). But go figure.

Is anyone doing these trends right? Check out Mon Coco, at 6 Place de la Republique. The decor is more thoughtfully done: classic bentwood chairs are paired with the “Brooklyn-style” industrial table; a whimsical straw chandelier (instead of the ubiquitous basket lamp) hangs over a plush blue velvet booth; instead of tropical wallpaper, a mural by a street artist nods to the area’s gritty vibe. It makes a unique statement because it’s an extension of who they are, vs. what’s trendy, so it has a far better chance of holding up as time goes by.

Which Paris café has your favorite interior design? Let us know!

LISA ANSELMO is a writer, branding expert, speaker, and coach, and has worked at such iconic magazine brands as Allure, InStyle, and People. She is the author of My (Part-Time) Paris Life: How Running Away Brought Me Home, (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press), and has been featured in New York magazine, Travel and Leisure, Bustle, House Hunters International, Expatriates Magazine among others.
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Introducing Café Photo of the Week

OPEN CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS

If you live in Paris or have visited Paris, you’ve got them: café photos. And if you got ’em, we want ’em. Send us a Paris café photo, and if we like it, we may run it here, in our new weekly column, Café Photo of the Week, which will post every Wednesday.

We’ll accept photos of anything related to a café: full facade in context; detail shot; view from your table—any photo that tells a story, celebrates café life, or showcases the café itself is alright with us. We’ll give you credit in the post!

Editor’s privilege for the first post. Yup, this one’s mine. Think you can do better? Good! Send it along. This was taken in 2015 at Café Manfred in the 3ème, before their “relooking” as they say in French—the makeover. ©Lisa Anselmo Instagram: @Lisa_Anselmo

HOW TO SUBMIT

Send your photo by email to savethepariscafe@gmail.com, with the subject “Photo of the Week Submission.” Include your name and the name of the café, along with written permission that we have free, non-exclusive use of your photo on the Save the Paris Café website and on our social media, in perpetuity. (Oh, come on, you give away much more to social media sites every day.)

WHAT TO SUBMIT

  • YES! An original photo taken by you
  • YES! Anything that showcases and celebrates cafés, and café life
  • YES! Color or black and white
  • YES! Shape format: horizontal, square, vertical
  • YES! File format: JPG (1050 pixels wide, 72 dpi); 1M max file size (larger files will be deleted)
  • YES! A cropped and retouched photo, prepped for Web.
  • YES! Name of café
  • YES! Your name
  • YES! Your social media handle for your photos, if you have one (i.e. Instagram, Flickr, Tumblr, Behance, etc. No Facebook or Twitter, please)
  • YES! Title of photo, and an optional brief description or caption (35 words max)
  • YES! Written permission to use your photo on our site and social media

WHAT NOT TO SUBMIT

  • NO. A photo that is not yours
  • NO. Previously published photos (or that’s already made the rounds on social media). We prefer fresh eyes.
  • NO. Straight-up food porn (unless placed within some context of the café)
  • NO. Portraits where the café is not the star, or there is no clear context
  • NO. Blatant advertising or self-promotion
  • NO. Watermarking or branding on the photo (your work will be properly credited on the page)
  • NO. Screen shots from your other sites (source files only, please)

Send submissions to savethepariscafe@gmail.com, with the subject “Photo of the Week Submission.” Make sure submissions comply with the above rules. Due to maximal work and minimal staff, we cannot notify you if your photo runs. To receive up-to-the-minute posts, subscribe to our newsletter, or like us on Facebook. (Cheeky, yes, but really it’s the best way.)

Apero at Le Nord Sud, 18ème. This from staff photographer, Patty Sadauskas. It works because it tells a story. What’s your café story? ©Patty Sadauskas Instagram: @parisonadime @geniunefrance

RIGHTS & USAGE
Submission of your photos to Save the Paris Café gives us the non-exclusive rights to publish your photo in perpetuity on our site and our social media. You affirm that all photos submitted are taken by you and that you have the sole right to submit for publication. Save the Paris Café is not responsible for rights abuses of any photos that were not submitted as per our rights and usage rules. Photos will be run with credit. You have the right to promote your post in social media, provided you link back to the page on Save the Paris Café. We cannot notify you if your photo runs.

SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER in the sidebar above left, and never miss a single post of Café Photo of the Week. Plus, get the latest articles, news, and more.

Cover image: ©Lisa Anselmo; Instagram: @lisa_anselmo

Welcome to Save the Paris Café

(Our First) Letter from the Editor

Hello, readers!

Well, we are officially launched. C’est parti, as they say: here we go! For those hundred or so of you who have already subscribed during our beta stage, what can we say but, “merci!” And, if you’re just finding us now: bienvenue. Welcome, friends.

Who are we? We are an ever-growing group of French and expat collaborators, all lovers of café life in Paris, who will be extolling the wonders of the Paris café, and sharing the latest café news. For more on that, and why we do what we do, go here.

Photo: Edith de Belleville

What will you find in our pages? In the coming weeks, we’ll be publishing articles from, and interviews with, notable locals, writers and authors, restaurateurs, and other residents sharing their stories  and backstories about their favorites cafés, café trends and news, and café culture in Paris. We’ll highlight new cafés, local favorites, cafés in danger, and more. Meet our team, and our growing list of extraordinary contributors.

We hope you’ll come along with us as we grow and evolve, and celebrate the Paris café. In a globalized world, where trends come and go at a breakneck pace, and local color can become whitewashed by commercialism and gentrification, Save the Paris Café is here to remind us that we can’t take for granted the unique and wonderful gems that make Paris shine, like her cafés and the diverse communities they  serve.

Enjoy the read, and join our café cause. Your table awaits.

Lisa Anselmo
Founding and Editorial Director

Lisa Anselmo at La Grappe d’Or, in the Montorgueil district. Photo: Geoffrey Guillin

Want to write for us, or contribute a photo or video? Here’s how.
Nominate your favorite cafe.
Alert us of a café closure.

Cover image: Edith de Belleville